Monsters, mysterious waters, and an ancient myth….Loch Ness was made for imaginative kids! But, in reality it is also a destination better suited to adults than very small children. With the monster refusing to make an appearance, no matter how much we hunted for him, we were worried that it would all end in disappointment; after all, a trip to Loch Ness is a trip that you know (as a parent) will end with failure! But actually we needn’t have worried: the kids had a brilliant time and there was plenty to do! Here’s a quick run down of our trip to Loch Ness with kids:
Firstly, due to flooding, the Loch Ness Exhibition Centre, which is situated in The Drumnadrochit Hotel (which is, as you may have guessed, in Drumnadrochit) was temporarily closed: it’s due to open again later in the year. Nessie Land (which is billed as a more child-friendly Nessie-based attraction) was also closed due to Covid. So we didn’t spend much time in Drumnadrochit, which is normally the heart of the Loch Ness experience: we took some photos with the oversized monster statues outside Nessie Land, visited one of the many quaint gift shops to pick up some post cards and souvenirs, and then headed up the road to Fort Augustus, where we were due to take a cruise of the Loch.
The drive between Drumnadrochit and Fort Augustus takes around half an hour, if you don’t stop.
Tip: Allow plenty of time for the drive, because this is a narrow and windy road, which we drove on much slower than we normally would: it can be quite daunting if you’re not used to it!
But we did stop: on the way you pass Urquhart Castle and we parked up to wander to the viewing point where you can get a great view of the castle (and the loch) for free. The castle is a ruin, but you can wander through its walls and the grounds surrounding it if you pre-book a ticket. These cost £28 for a family of four ticket (or £9.60 per adult and £5.80 per child). According to the warden, you should allow between 1 hour and 1.5 hours if you want to explore the castle fully, but we were pushed for time as we had a date with a cruise boat, so we pushed on! And frankly – it just didn’t seem worth the money for us! We visit a lot of castles (we have English Heritage membership) but have never had to pay to walk around the ruin of one…
We arrived in Fort Augustus, and were instantly impressed with this small but perfectly formed village. As well as being situated at the mouth of Loch Ness, Fort Augustus is also home to the famous Caledonian Canal, which is an incredible feat of engineering. We had a lot of fun walking up the locks and predicting whether the next water level would be higher or lower than the one before it: and the sight of a boat using the lock system drew quite a crowd: all the kids in the area were fascinated! This was also the perfect place to stop for an ice cream, which always makes even the best days out a little better!
Mum tip: Pack binoculars! It really added to the adventure to be able to check everything up close and be absolutely sure that no monster tails were going unmissed.
From here it was time to cross the bridge and jump on our Loch Ness cruiser for the highlight of the day: a trip across Loch Ness. We booked with Cruise Loch Ness and I couldn’t recommend it more highly: the guides were funny, engaging, and great with kids! Telling them tall tales of the monster and answering all of their questions. They were also good at engaging all ages: for our five year old there were stories about our Nessie eating the orange leaves from the trees because they looked like carrots, whilst our eight year old was engaged in discussion about what the monster could be (a dinosaur? a pike, or other large sea creature?) The cruise lasted an hour, which was long enough for the kids, and cost £55 for a family of four ticket. There are smaller cruisers, and also much longer tours, but this worked perfectly for us: the boat had a live sonar tracker, which could be used to look for anomalies under the water (*ahem* monsters!) which our oldest just couldn’t take his eyes off. The folklore surrounding Loch Ness, and the monster, is fascinating and we certainly left the boat with considerably more knowledge than we had when we got on it. We would definitely use this tour company again!
We also managed to capture a photo of the monster, thanks to a strategically placed sticker on the window of the boat: a small touch, but one that I thought was fab!
Mum tip: It wasn’t a particularly cold day, but it was freezing on the loch! It’s almost like it has its own eco system. To avoid whingey, miserable kids, pack coats or jumpers (we ended up wearing both).
Besides the obligatory ice cream, you’ll notice there’s no mention of food in this post: That’s because we had a picnic on our journey, as we had dinner booked at the hotel that evening. This was a massive mistake: there was an abundance of tea rooms, fish and chip shops and cosy pubs surrounding Loch Ness, and they all looked (and smelt) so good that I wanted to eat in all of them! Next time we visit, I’ll definitely leave the picnic at home.
Have you ever visited Loch Ness? And did you see the monster?