10 most beautiful lochs in Scotland to visit

Splashed over the map of our country, Scottish lochs and lochans are known the world over for their moody beauty and often romantic history

With the Glenfinnan Monument peering over its northeastern bank, Loch Shiel is one of the most iconic Scottish lochs (Shutterstock)
With the Glenfinnan Monument peering over its northeastern bank, Loch Shiel is one of the most iconic Scottish lochs (Shutterstock)

Though Loch Lomond and Loch Ness can count themselves as the most visited and most celebrated caledonian bodies of water, some of the most beautiful lochs in Scotland are more low-key affairs, only visited by the intrepid traveller.

In 2020, Scotland celebrates the year of coasts and waters – to commemorate we’ve rounded up a list of the best lochs to visit in Scotland.

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Here are 10 of the most beautiful Scottish lochs:

1. Loch Maree

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2. Loch Coruisk

3. Loch Quoich

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4. Loch Morar

5. Loch Shiel

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6. Loch Affric

7. Loch Lomond

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8. Loch Torridon

9. Loch Etive

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10. Loch Lochy

Note: Scotland currently remains in lockdown due to the coronavirus pandemic, and therefore this list should merely serve as inspiration for future trips.

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1. Loch Maree

The poster boy for the celebrated NC500 route, Loch Maree is situated at the foot of Glen Docherty in the Wester Ross region of Scotland. And it is from the A832, which runs through Glen Docherty, that road trippers can best enjoy the loch in all its splendour.

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A pleasant stroll along the loch’s banks can be had at the Beinn Eighe trails car park, which serves as an unrivalled vantage point to view-prominent Munro, Slioch.

In the seventh century it is said that Irish saint Máel Ruba built a chapel on one of the several islands which sit in the loch’s midriff. It is from him that the loch takes its name.

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2. Loch Coruisk

Better known for its rugged Cuillin Mountains and the sheer cliffs of Neist Point, the Isle of Skye is also home to the stunning Loch Coruisk.

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Perhaps less well known due to it being accessible only by boat or a (very) long walk, Loch Coruisk is arguably the most spectacular of all of Scotland’s lochs. Three-quarters of the loch are surrounded by imposing pinnacles, including the formidable Sgurr Alasdair and Sgurr Dearg.

Following a visit in 1814, Walter Scott described the loch as follows: “Rarely human eye has known / A scene so stern as that dread lake / With its dark ledge of barren stone...”

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3. Loch Quoich

Sandwiched between the wilderness of Knoydart to the west and Glen Garry to the east, Loch Quoich’s solitude is part of its charm.

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With its bank typically only frequented by Munro baggers and stags, the lone loch is surrounded by snow-capped peaks during winter and early spring.

Though one end of the loch is arguably spoiled by an hydro electric plant, untarnished views can be enjoyed from the summit of Munro Gairich, with a round trip taking up to five hours.

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The loch takes its name from the gaelic for cup ‘Quaich’.

4. Loch Morar

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Though many would hazard a guess that Scotland’s deepest loch was Loch Ness due to the evasiveness of its most famous ‘resident’ Nessie, it is in fact the lesser-known Loch Morar which holds the title, with a maximum depth of 310m.

Located in the western reaches of Lochaber the moody loch has become a go-to destination for Scottish photographers with the remote peaks of the region and the distinctive forestry that line parts of its banks, offering a unique photo opportunity.

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Like Loch Ness, Morar is also said to be home to a monstrous creature of the depths: Morag the Monster.

5. Loch Shiel

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This elongated loch is looked over by two Scottish icons: the Glenfinnan Viaduct (famously featured in the Harry Potter films) and the Glenfinnan Monument, a striking tribute to those who died in the Jacobite uprising.

The contrast of the natural beauty of the loch and the awe-striking charm of the man-made structures makes for a romantic and quintessentially Scottish scene.

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A short drive from Fort William, Loch Shiel has become an essential stop for tourists embarking on a roadtrip round the country.

6. Loch Affric

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Located a short-distance north of the Great Glen, Loch Affric is less well known than nearby Loch Ness, but in the beauty stakes it wins hands down.

Sidelined by portions of the ancient Caledonian Forest which once blanketed the whole country and hemmed in by some of northern Scotland’s tallest mountains, the loch is a popular spot for the nation’s hikers.

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The loch has been utilised as a Hollywood filming location of several occasions, recently appearing in Detective Pikachu, Victoria and Abdul, and Valhalla Rising.

7. Loch Lomond

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Immortalised in the rousing Scottish anthem ‘The Bonnie Banks o’ Loch Lomond’ it’s impossible not to be taken in by the great loch’s charm on a visit.

The freshwater loch is the largest body of water in the UK and serves as a gateway of sorts to the southern highlands.

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Located a short distance northwest of Glasgow, the vast pool has been attracting day-trippers for centuries.

If visiting by car, the best views of the loch are experienced from the pyramid viewpoint at Inveruglas. If you’re willing to hike, a walk along its east bank offers magical views of the Arrochar Alps.

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8. Loch Torridon

Situated in the northwest highlands, this sea loch’s situation is remarkable.

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Protected by some of Scotland’s most rugged and ancient mountains, including Liathach, Beinn Alligin and Beinn Eighe, it’s near-impossible to take a bad picture of the spectacular loch.

Punctuating the water’s banks are some of the most inviting villages in northern Scotland, including Shieldaig and Torridon itself.

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9. Loch Etive

Glen Etive has become world famous since it featured in James Bond film Skyfall, but the Loch which is reached by a long and winding single-track road remains relatively under-visited

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Looked over by the broad and jagged Ben Starav peak, the northern reaches of the loch are a blend of drama and peace so often present in Scotland’s outdoors.

The mouth of the sea loch at Connel is also well worth a visit for the ridal race, which happens when a high tide forms out of the loch.

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10. Loch Lochy

Imaginatively named? No. Unimaginably beautiful? Absolutely.

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Loch Lochy is another one of Lochaber’s deep blue gems, and is located a short distance north of Scotland’s loftiest peak, Ben Nevis.

Like Loch Ness and Loch Morar, Lochy has its own folklore tale, with a supernatural being known as the River Horse said to emerge from the loch and feed on its banks.