Can You Wild Camp Around Loch Ness?
Picture this. It’s a summer evening. The sun is setting over the Scottish Highlands and reflecting off the loch. You’ve pitched a tent on the water’s edge. You have a campfire lit and you’re smoking some lake trout while trading stories over the infamous monster said to live in the depths of Loch Ness.
Sounds like every hiker’s dream! This begs the question: can you wild camp around Loch Ness? Are there any restrictions and how can you make the most of this adventure? In this article, you’ll get some top tips on how to wild camp around Loch Ness.
Is Wild Camping Legal?
In Scotland, the Land Reform Act of 2003 permits camping on most public land. There are some limitations to this but ultimately this allows hikers to camp in National Parks and throughout most natural areas in Scotland.
This is a refreshing change from the rest of the UK where wild camping is still technically ruled an illegal activity. In Scotland, you will have no issues with where you pitch a tent. If you do decide to wild camp around Loch Ness, it’s no different!
As an exception, the Loch Lomond & Trossachs National Park has created some wild camping bylaws. Due to overuse, a permit is now required to camp in this area. Alternatively, backpackers must use designated campsites. This could be the same future for Loch Ness but for now, you can simply turn up and pitch your tent!
How do You Wild Camp?
Wild camping is different to a regulated campsite. There’s a lot more responsibility but there’s also more freedom. Wild campers follow a general set of guidelines. That way, natural spaces can be protected for other people.
Try to select a spot that’s away from any buildings or main walking paths. You want to find an area that’s remote and, yep you guessed it, wild! Thankfully, you’ll find many of these areas when attempting to wild camp around Loch Ness.
Search for a flat area of ground. Clear the space to make the floor as smooth as possible but try to avoid digging anything up. Don’t camp too close to the water’s edge as the ground can be damp and unstable. The same goes for rivers and any waterways.
Make sure not to overstay your welcome and try to minimise your impact. Don’t congregate in large tent cities and try to reduce the number of individuals in your group. Most important of all, leave no trace! After packing up camp, the area should be just the way you found it.
Where to Wild Camp Around Loch Ness?
Loch Ness is huge. It holds the largest volume of freshwater out of any lake in Great Britain. Loch Ness runs 23 miles from end to end and the dark depths of the lake are 240 metres deep.
Loch Ness is part of the Caledonian Canal and acts as a link to many other waterways. This makes for many fantastic wild camping and hiking opportunities. For any ambitious hikers, you can walk an 80-mile loop around Loch Ness, wild camping along the way. This remote trail will take a strong hiker 5-6 days to complete.
Alternatively, you can cherry-pick some scenic areas around the lake to camp for the night. Buy an OS map and scrutinise it for some suitable locations to try. Drumnadrochit is perhaps the most famous spot due to the sublime Urquhart Castle.
In general, the north bank is easier to access by car due to the A82 that runs along the water’s edge. Although, this arguably makes it less remote. If you venture to the south bank, you’ll find scenic spots that appear untouched by human activity!
Top Wild Camping Spots
The strange thing about wild camping is that it’s very hard to recommend spots to others. By its definition, wild camping is an unofficial area where you pitch a tent. For the most part, you must use your own intuition to find a good place to wild camp around Loch Ness.
However, that doesn’t mean you can’t be pointed in the right direction! Around the village of Abriachan, you’ll find many wooded areas to camp in. If you head to the towns of Fort Augustus or Invermoriston, you can park your car for the night and use this as a starting point for your exploration.
Almost anywhere along the shore from Foyers to Inverfarigaig can make for an excellent wild camping spot. There are also great swathes of remote land around Loch Tarff and Loch Knockie.
Wild Camping Tips
The closer you camp to the water’s edge, the more likely you are to encounter midges. For most of the summer in Scotland, midges and mosquitoes plague hikers in their thousands. To make sure they don’t ruin your night, bring insect repellent, and bug nets for your campsite.
You can fish for free on the banks of Loch Ness so why not bring a fishing rod? If you’re using light tackle and have the landowner’s permission, you can try your hand at catching some brown trout for your dinner!
As beautiful as Scotland is, the weather can be awful. When you wild camp around Loch Ness, be prepared for rain. Pack waterproofs in your bag and consider bringing an additional groundsheet to place beneath your tent to keep the floor extra dry.
If you want to wild camp around Loch Ness, you have plenty of options to explore. However, if this seems less appealing to you, there are lots of wild-ish campsites you can stay in as well. Although this may not provide you with the same freedom as wild camping, it does give you the security of knowing where you’re sleeping.
However, it’s this uncertainty that makes wild camping so exciting. You’re stepping into the unknown and going on an adventure. It may seem daunting, but that’s exactly what backpacking trips are all about. Where better to take this leap than on the magical shores of Loch Ness?