Vibrant green, lush underbrush climbed the trees and crept across the forest floor as soon as a left the main town of Fort Augustus in search of the best hikes near Loch Ness. Surrounded by national park, Fort Augustus offers easy access to hikes and it took mere minutes to leave my hostel and enter the darkly lit canopy.
Fort Augustus has six major walks accessible from town and without a car—each takes between two to six hours. The abundance of options was one reason I decided to spend a week in Fort Augustus. I generally like small towns better than large ones, and I’ve spent my time busing around Scotland in search of not only the touristy (Isle of Skye), but the classic (Edinburgh) and the historic (Stirling), too. I structured most of my days in Scotland around great walks each day, quiet explorations of the smalls towns in the afternoon, and finding great local pubs with music and entertainment in the evenings.
Walking Near Fort Augustus, Scotland
All roads lead back to town, essentially, so the woman at my hostel, Morag’s Lodge, told me to pick a direction and walk. In no time, you invariably find paths jutting from the road and into the surrounding forest. Many paths climb to great vistas high above Loch Ness, where you can glimpse views of the shimmering blue through the trees. Others lead down to the swift-flowing River Oich. This river feeds Loch Ness and serene paths through the woods are empty of fellow hikers—these were peaceful walks.
I love feeling lost and alone when I hike—empty paths are the perfect invitation to sing out loud (and off-key, I admit). Also, like any good hiker, I pack lunch and as I sing I search for perfect picnic spots, ones with great views, a dry shady spot, and no one else around.
River Oich Walk
This is an easy walk and one families would enjoy, as well as anyone else who enjoys hiking near the sound of burbling water. You can walk to the starting point from Fort Augustus (have someone point you in the right direction out of town, then follow signs for Auchterawe and then River Walk). There’s a steep-ish bit at the start, but for most of the walk you are on well tread forest paths, and ones alongside the river. When I did this one, I added in lunch by the river and it took about 2.5 hours, but it’s under two hours if you’re just hiking round-trip from town. Here’s a step-by-step guide to the walk.
Allt na Criche and Jenkins Park Walks
Part of the Great Glen Way, Allt na Criche is short and should be combined another nearby trail if you’re after a day out and a good workout, too—the Jenkins Park Walk is a good option. For Allt na Criche, there’s some steep at first, and you have a total ascent of 150m (492ft), but it’s short, so most anyone can make it. This trail starts two kilometers outside of town, so it’s accessible on foot, or there is a carpark for those with a car. For Jenkins Park, you’ll have some great glimpses of the lake and it’s quite pretty! Here’s a step-by-step guide to the Allt na Criche walk and a step-by-step guide to Jenkins Park, which easily links with the former.
Great Glen Way: Fort Augustus to Invermoriston
There are a lot of different ways you can hike the Great Glen Way, and you can always double back if some of these routes are too long. This walk is a good one if you want to combine a hike with some exploring of another town and then perhaps bus back to Fort Augustus (or walk back!). It’s 12km (7.5 miles), so give yourself about 3.5 hours to get to Invermoriston, where you can grab lunch at the one cafe. (To leave Invermoriston village, find Glenmoriston Millennium Hall, next to the main car park, where you can find toilets and the bus stop). Here’s a step-by-step guide to the walk.
If you have a car, or time enough to bus to nearby hikes, there are some great ones. Consider the Loch Affric Circuit for a moderate-to-easy four hour walk, the Carn Eige and Mam Sodhail Hike which is challenging and at ten hours is for the fit and knowledgeable.
Where to Enjoy a Picnic Lunch Near Fort Augustus
My favorite lunch spot was just a 15 minute walk out of town along the road, then a short walk across a cow pasture. I would like to say that it’s a secret spot, but a group of campers rowing the length of the lake actually found this gorgeous beach first. The spot, Borlum, is at the very tip of Loch Ness; the entire 23 miles of the lake unfolds into the far distance in a shimmery expanse of clam blue waters.
Huge shady trees dot the bank of the eight-foot wide pebbly beach and it’s hard to convey just how gorgeous it was to watch the sun begin to set and cast its warm orangey-yellow light over the water.
There are many tranquil walks in the region and I found Fort Augustus a pleasant and undeniably charming town, truly. It’s small but sweet and the town manages to nestle itself nicely between the forests, lake, and rivers. The gorgeous natural setting over-powers the chatter and bump of tourists that crowd the sidewalks (and there are charms to the tourists too, like meeting the famous Scottish piper who plays near the locks!).
Video Tour of Fort Augustus
Quick Tips: Planning Your Trip to Inverness
Where to stay: The Inverness Youth Hostel is one of the best budget options in Inverness—book ahead during high season, however, as Inverness can fill up quickly! The King’s Highway Wetherspoon is a solid option if you have a mid-range budget.
What to wear: The weather changes quickly not only in Scotland. You’ll be glad for waterproof boots and a raincoat, and I was grateful for the travel umbrella I carried with me around Scotland—it made waiting at the bus stop more enjoyable. Bring a scarf as well so you can protect yourself from the midges if they’re out in full force. And if you’re bringing expensive camera gear, bring your camera’s rain jacket and even consider a small dry bag.