5 Best Scottish lochs

Destinations | 12 April 2021

Have you been lately browsing websites and guidebooks in search for inspiring locations for your Scottish trip? Which cities to get lost in? Which munros to bag? Which castle to haunt? These are all valid questions when you’re designing an itinerary for when it’s safe to travel again. Today we thought we’ll help you by sharing our list of best Scottish lochs. No tour of Scotland is complete without a day or two on the bonnie bonnie banks of some green-blue loch, so sit back and enjoy a bit of Highland distraction.

Our list of 5 Best Scottish Lochs is obviously subjective. There’s a multitude of lochs worth visiting, but not all of them are easy to access and enjoy. Others can be a bit disappointing as part of a rushed itinerary, but will wow you if you give them some time. Loch Lomond – which we intentionally left out – is a good example: the famous route along its west bank is very scenic, but only hiking the West Highland Way from Balmaha to Inverarnan will let you appreciate the natural beauty of the longest Scottish loch. One of the joys of travelling is experiencing well known places for yourself, but when creating this list we wanted to go for the less obvious – have a peak and see if you find your favourites!

1. Loch Earn

5 Best Scottish Lochs - Loch Earn

Our first pick is an often overlooked loch on our northern doorstep. Seven-mile long blue waters of Loch Earn in Perthshire stretch from Lochearnhead in the west to St. Fillans in the east. Overlooking its southern banks stands the majestic pyramid of Ben Vorlich, which makes it a perfect place to enjoy both days on the water and hikes with stunning views. If you’re keen on active holidays, you can try sailing, water skiing and canoeing on the loch, but we’re much more into local legends. Want to hear the bloody story of Smooth John Macnab and his brothers taking revenge on the Neishes? Let us take you on a tour to Loch Earn!

2. Loch Ness

5 Best Scottish Lochs - Loch Ness

We were well aware that not including the most famous Scottish loch on our list would probably earn us some strongly-worded emails in our inbox. But we didn’t cave in under imagined peer pressure – we simply think that a certain spot on the loch is too iconic to omit it from our favourites. We’re talking of course about Urquhart Castle, the romantic ruin on the western bank of Loch Ness. Stepped in history of the medieval Wars of Independence, this site of royal visits and brutal raids by the island Clan MacDonald is one of those places where imagination takes over and you feel transported to its dramatic past. The stunning views of the blue waters (with its most famous, ancient inhabitant) only add to the picturesque scene.

3. Loch Leven

Scotland can boast of not one but two Loch Levens. Although the one with an island castle in Kinross region is certainly worth a visit, it’s the sea loch north of Glen Coe that made our Best Scottish Lochs list. What’s a sea loch you ask? It’s one of the ways to describe a sea inlet reaching inland – especially on the jagged West Coast. Others could call them estuaries or fjords, but the Gaelic word simply stuck to these waters thanks to generations of locals who lived and worked on their banks. Loch Leven was more commonly known as Loch Lyon in the past, probably due to the local Gaelic pronunciation Lee’ oon. Just north of scenic Glencoe pass, with picturesque villages of Ballachulish, Glencoe and Kinlochleven on its southern bank and head, Loch Leven is an unforgettable sight on the way north to Fort William.

4. Loch Peallach

5 Best Scottish Lochs - Loch Peallach

This wee gem of a loch sits tucked away in the northern part of the Isle of Mull, which as a whole is one of our favourite places in Scotland. South-west of the colourful island capital of Tobermory, Loch Peallach might seem unassuming. Its clear waters follow the road west, reeds cover most of its banks and if not for the boathouse and anchored boat, one could easily pass it without reflecting on for how long this perfect spot reflected the sky above. That’s one of the greatest things about Scotland: you find these special places and carry them away in you.

5. Lake of Menteith

The last loch on our list isn’t a loch at all – at least according to the official records. Situated just north-west from our hometown of Stirling, Lake of Menteith used to be more commonly known as Loch Inche Mahumo, but a clerical mistake changed its name in the early 19th c. It’s not the only “lake” in Scotland, but definitely the most famous one. In medieval times, one of its small islands used to house a residence of the powerful Comyn family, which in 1238 founded an Augustian priory on the nearby Inchmahome (Gaelic Innis MoCholmaig, meaning Island of St Colmaig). The priory hosted Scottish royals (King Robert the Bruce visited three times) and in 16th c. served as a refuge for the four-year-old Mary, Queen of Scots. The Reformation resulted in closure of monastic orders, but the 13th c. ruins are well preserved by Historic Environment Scotland and in non-pandemic times can be visited from March to September. And the best thing about it? The ticket price includes a boat ride to and from the island!