Loch Lomond or Loch Ness? Two famous lochs – which to visit?

Should Loch Lomond or Loch Ness be the scenic waters on your Scotland must sees list? Here’s a side-by-side, fact-by-fact comparison.

Loch Lomond vs Loch Ness

Lomond and Ness are both large lochs with well-developed tourism resources and both near cities and airports. (Hint: but there are prettier lochs around!)

So, you are planning your route through Scotland and wondering if either of these two famous bodies of water are worth a visit? Loch Lomond or Loch Ness? Are they really worth a look?

Loch Lomond and its islands
Loch Lomond and its islands

(Pictured here) Looking north-west across the large island of Inchmurrin on Loch Lomond towards the Luss Hills. (Inchmurrin is the largest freshwater loch island in the British Isles.)

Visitors have heard of Loch Ness, of course, because of the monster myth, while Loch Lomond owes its fame at least in part to the well-known song ‘The Banks of Loch Lomond’.

Loch Lomond for shopping!

Urquhart Castle
A very popular Great Glen stopping place – Urquhart Castle by Loch Ness

Loch Lomond is also famous through geography: it’s in a part of the Highlands that lies closest to the Central Belt, most densely populated part of Scotland. So that makes it easy to visit.

Just below are a few options starting from Balloch on the ‘Glasgow end’ (ie the south side) of Loch Lomond. Easy to book, popular and you get a good impression of the ambience of the loch and its islands.

Loch Lomond or Loch Ness? This view of Loch Lomond from Duncryne Hill is hard to beat
Looking north into the Highlands and over Loch Lomond, from Duncryne Hill.

(Pictured here) Loch Lomond, looking north from Duncryne Hill. One of the very best viewpoints anywhere near the loch.

A view from the edge of the Lowlands into the Highlands. The Highland/Lowland demarcation – the Highland Boundary Fault – runs through the islands in the picture.

Loch Ness for that beastie

Well? Is it? Take a look at this short video!
Jacobite Cruises on Loch Ness
Jacobite Cruises on Loch Ness

(Pictured here) Jacobite Cruises offer a variety of excursions on Loch Ness.

Their vessels (especially when meeting others) sometimes create conflicting wakes whose hump-like contours can cause a moment of excitement…though mostly in the gullible. 

Loch Lomond or Loch Ness? Well, Loch Ness is further away for most folk!

Loch Ness occupies part of the Great Glen, for centuries a throughway between the east and west coasts of Scotland.

Because it is further away from the heavily populated Lowlands, it has not had the long-standing reputation for beautiful Highland scenery associated with Loch Lomond.

It is, however, quite straightforward to see Loch Ness from, say, Edinburgh, and return in a long-ish but worthwhile day. Naturally, from Inverness, visiting Loch Ness is an easy option. See suggestions below…

Instead of a reputation for scenic attraction alone, Loch Ness was the setting for the most successful press and PR coup in the Scottish tourism industry in the 20th century – the famous Loch Ness Monster Phenomenon.

(The phenomenon perhaps being that people only see what they want to see!)

Loch Lomond antique print
(Pictured here) With Loch Lomond’s reputation as a picturesque stretch of Scottish landscape dating back to the time of the Romantics, demand for illustration developed early. This print, for example, dates from 1835 and is typical of the exaggerated contours that contemporary taste preferred when viewing Highland landscapes.
Loch Lomond romantic watercolour painting
(Pictured here) The English watercolour artist E.W. Haslehust RBA (1866-1949) was just one of many who came to Loch Lomond. In this case for a series of paintings used as book illustration. This is Luss Straits. So, when it comes to Loch Lomond or Loch Ness, your romantic painters probably preferred Loch Lomond.
Loch Ness from near Foyers
Loch Ness from near Foyers
The former military road over Suie Hill on the east side of Loch Ness, hidden in the Great Glen 'trough'.
The former military road over Suie Hill quite close to the east side of Loch Ness, which is hidden in the Great Glen ‘trough’.

Lomond and Ness statistics

(Ness = LN : Lomond = LL)

**Size by volume?
LL- 92,000 million ft3 / 2.6km3.
LN – 263,000 million ft3 / 7.3km3.

**Size by surface area?
LL – 71km2
LN – 56.4km2

**Shopping Opportunities?
LL – Yes, massive, Lomond Shores at Balloch.
LN – Mostly at lochside visitor centres, smaller scale.

**Accommodation nearby?
LL – Yes, in countryside and also in small lochside communities.
LN – As Loch Lomond.

**Easy viewpoints?
LL – Plenty of stop-offs and viewpoints, some, like Firkin Point, very well known.
LN – Some, though less well-developed than Loch Lomond.

LL – Cuts through Highland Boundary Fault, embracing Lowland and Highland. Big hills like Ben Lomond close by. Fine deciduous woodlands in places.
LN – Fills part of a major geological fault line. Hills more uniform and less spectacular. Heavily wooded.

**Loch Cruising?
LL – Yes, plus extensive timetable of ‘water taxis’ and connections.
LN – yes, especially programme of monster spotting cruises.

**Bank traversed by busy main road?
LL – Yes
LN – Yes

**Alternative route on other bank?
LL – part-way by car (to Rowardennan) then good footpath.
LN – part-way by car (to Inverfarigaig) then all the way to Fort Augustus but not on loch shore.

**Nearest city?
LL – Glasgow, say, 30-40 mins by car.

LN – Inverness, say, 20 mins by car.

**Distance from Edinburgh (to nearest point)?
LL – 65 miles / 104 km (Balmaha).
LN – 158 miles / 253 km (Fort Augustus.)

**Public transport?
LL – Good connections by bus and train.
LN – Good service, lochside buses.

**Real Monster?
LL – No
LN – No

**Monster myth?
LL – Yes, but less well known than Nessie.
LN – Oh yes.

**Visitor attraction about monster?
LL – No
LN – Yes

**Alternative pretty loch in vicinity?
LL – Other lochs in nearby Trossachs: eg Loch Katrine.
LN – Loch Affric much prettier.

**In a National Park?
LL- Yes – Loch Lomond and Trossachs National Park

LN – No
**Features in well-known traditional song?
LL – Yes
LN – No. Ken Dodd’s 1960s hit ‘Happy Ness’ is not about the loch.

But Should I Visit
Loch Lomond or Loch Ness?

“Wait a second” (I hear you say), “you haven’t actually said which of the two you should visit.”

You noticed, huh? Well, both are on a well established tourist trail and neither are off the beaten track, (see links below) – far from it, actually.

If you are a first-time visitor to Scotland, you’ll tend to tick off the hot-spots first. So there is an element of  ‘unavoidability’ about both these lochs as they are both on well-established visitor routes through Scotland.

Hey – since you ask – I’d rather be on the shores of (say) Loch Maree, Loch Assynt, Loch Hope and a load of smaller lochs further north. I’d rather see (say) Loch Arkaig or Loch Affric if I was nearer Loch Ness, or enjoy a stroll along the shores of Loch Katrine if near Loch Lomond.

But, for sure, Lochs Ness and Lomond are bonnie enough…and are understandably popular

More on Loch Ness…and (yes, to be equal handed) more on Loch Lomond

Oh, and here’s a link to a company who checks all the car rental prices in the UK – so you can get the best deal. (And we get a small commission.)