They’re rugged, scenic and starkly beautiful. Some have legendary monsters swimming in them. And they’re everywhere. There are more than 31,000 lochs or lakes in Scotland in a variety of sizes. The lochs provide good fishing for anglers and great opportunities for hikers, not to mention an endless array of photo ops.
Located in Galloway Forest Park, Loch Trool is considered one of the most scenic lochs in southwestern Scotland. It’s said to be the darkest place in the United Kingdom at night. Close by is the highest peak in southern Scotland. Robert the Bruce fought the English on the shores of the loch in 1307; this battle is commemorated with Bruce’s Stone. The loch is popular with hikers, with a 9-km (5.5-mile) walk around the perimeter. The walk is strenuous, but can be done in about three hours.
Loch Morar, located in the Highlands, is the deepest freshwater lake in the British Isles, reaching depths of more than 300 meters (1,000 feet). One of the shortest rivers, the River Morar, in the British Isles is at the western end. The north shore is home to Swordland Lodge, which was a special ops training school during World War II. The lake also has its own monster, Morag who may be either a mermaid or a grim reaper.
Loch Arklet is a pretty, small loch located between lochs Katrine and Lomond; though the path is sometimes steep you can walk to Loch Lomond from Loch Arklet. The lake is popular with fishermen. Fishing for brown trout is permitted only from a non-gasoline powered boat since the lake is part of a public water supply. Loch Arklet is a good place to see osprey and wild goats, among other wildlife. The loch is located in the Loch Lomond and Trossachs National Park.
Loch Tummel is popular with anglers who are after lake trout. But it’s just as popular with visitors who come to enjoy the views, considered the best in Scotland. The best views of the Scottish countryside in Perthshire can be found at Queens View, made famous by Queen Victoria, though the view may have been originally named for Queen Isabel, first wife of Robert the Bruce. The loch is one of Perthshire’s most popular attractions.
Fans of Harry Potter may recognize Loch Shiel: it’s the fictional Black Lake near Hogwarts. The loch also was featured in The Highlander movies. The starkly, beautiful rugged lake is mountains at one end, bogs at the other, and is steeped in history. There’s a ruined chapel, a battlefield site where the Scots defeated the Norse in 1140, and it’s where Bonnie Prince Charlie was rowed the length of the lake so he could plant his standard at Glenfinnan in 1745.
The bonnie banks of Loch Lomond are famous for being the place where true lovers parted, never to meet again, at least according to the traditional Scottish folk song. Straddling the boundary between the Highlands and Lowlands, the 39-km (24-mile) long lake is the longest inland stretch of surface water in Britain and it home to the largest island, Inchmurrin, in the British Isles. Loch Lomond is one of Scotland’s most popular lakes with water sports enthusiasts.
Fans of Sir Walter Scott’s novels may enjoy a visit to Loch Katrine since it is the setting for The Lady of the Lake. The loch’s name is derived from a Gaelic word meaning cattle thief. Chief among them was Rob Roy MacGregor who was born at the end of the 18-km (11-mile) lake in the Highlands. The Stirling district’s Loch Katrine is a popular tourist destination, especially for day-trippin’ Glasgow residents who get their water supply from it.
Loch Maree, which is punctuated with five large and 60 small islands, is considered one of the most beautiful lakes in Scotland. Located in the northern Highlands, the lake also has its own legendary monster, the muc-shelich, which may be only a large eel. The Isle Maree has a chapel, graveyard, remains of a 7th century monastery, and stands of oak and holly that have been linked to the Druids. Soaking in the lake was one believed to be a cure for mental illness.
Famous for its trout fishing, Lake Awe is the third largest freshwater lake in Scotland. It is also the longest. The lake has several islands in it; some have remains of ancient castles on them. This includes Kilchum Castle, which is the most photographed castle in Scotland. Nearby is the village named for it, Lochawe. The Argyll district lake is the first one in the Three Lakes Challenge for relay swimmers; the other lakes are in England and Wales.
If you’re lucky, you just might catch a glimpse of Nessie, the legendary monster said to inhabit Loch Ness. If you’re not, perhaps because of poor water visibility due to high peat content, you can always hear about sightings from Inverness residents. Loch Ness is the second deepest lake in Scotland, giving Nessie lots of places to hide. For sure, though, you can see Urquhart Castle on the western shore and lighthouses at Lochend and Fort Augustus.