Edinburgh to Loch Ness: Car, Train, & Bus Tour

Crowds at Urquhart Castle Beside Loch Ness shutterstock_159967904

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Searching for stunning Scottish Highlands landscapes featuring rolling hills, deep waters, and maybe a sighting of a mythical beast? This guide explains exactly how to travel from Edinburgh to Loch Ness by car for road trippers, by train for comfort, by bus for affordability, and by day tour for ease.

You may also enjoy our free 7-day Scotland itinerary.

Edinburgh to Loch Ness by Car

Driving from Edinburgh to Loch Ness takes approximately 3.5 to 4.5 hours, 156+ miles, depending on the desired route, sightseeing stops, and traffic conditions.

Hence why, the majority of tourists spend at least one night in the area before returning to the city.

Most driving itineraries drive across the Queensferry Crossing (Forth Bridges, image below) over South Queensferry to the Kingdom of Fife, joining the M90 and then merging onto the A9 through Perthshire.

If you want to visit some of the exciting Loch Ness attractions on day one of your road trip, take the A889 and then choose between the western towns and villages of Fort Augustus, Invermoriston, and Drumnadrochit with Urquhart Castle or eastern attractions around Foyers and Dores, keeping your eyes peeled for Nessie in the waters!

Loch Ness Map With Towns and Villages in Scotland

For those planning to drive straight to Inverness, using the city as a base for day trips around Loch Ness, the route will continue up the A9, passing through the popular town of Aviemore.

Note: Many Loch Ness businesses close down for winter, so plan accordingly by packing meals and snacks and topping up fuel/electricity whenever possible.

The route takes in a mixture of single and dual carriageway roads.

If hiring a car, you may find our guide to Edinburgh hotels with parking and parking in the city useful.

  • Edinburgh to Loch Ness Driving Time: Approx. 3.5 – 4.5 hours
  • Pros: Flexibility, independence, scenic
  • Cons: Driving single “A” roads can be tricky for first-time visitors, the weather
North Queensferry Fife at Sunset

Scenic Drive from Edinburgh to Loch Ness

If you have ample time and want to make a Scottish road trip out of your itinerary, there are many lovely locations on the way to Loch Ness.

For example, a popular route from Edinburgh also features the 100ft Kelpies in Falkirk along the M9 (28 miles) and the city of Stirling (38 miles), which you will see featured in our Edinburgh to Loch Ness day tour section.

Around Stirling, there is the Battle of Bannockburn Experience, Stirling Castle, and the Wallace Monument.

Or, the Kingdom of Fife route is home to Dunfermline, the country’s ancient capital, the seaside town of Aberdour, and it passes Loch Leven in Perth and Kinross, where Mary Queen of Scots was imprisoned for nearly a year in 1567.

Two 100 ft steel structures shaped like mythical Kelpies in Falkirk Scotland

Edinburgh to Loch Ness by Train

If driving in Scotland sounds daunting, there is a train that departs either Edinburgh Waverley or Edinburgh Haymarket and arrives in the city of Inverness in around 3.5 to 4 hours.

Some journeys offer direct routes, others require one change, so always check the app before booking.

The most economical way to travel by train is to book in advance using the ScotRail or Trainline App.

However, the bus is often cheaper.

Inverness Station (Academy St, IV2 3PY) is located in the city’s center, close to the bus station.

You still need to get to Loch Ness from Inverness, which will be addressed in a future section.

  • Edinburgh to Inverness Train Time: Approx. 3.5 – 4.5 hours
  • Pros: No driving, scenic, seat reservations, electronic charging points, on-board restrooms, cafe
  • Cons: Ends at Inverness, still need to get to Loch Ness, expensive option
ScotRail train stationed at Waverley Train Station Edinburgh

Edinburgh to Loch Ness by Bus

There are around 12 buses that run from Edinburgh Bus Station to Inverness each day, and the journey takes around 3.5 to 4.5 hours.

Some bus routes are direct, and others require a changeover, so, as above, check the schedule before purchasing a ticket.

As with trains, it is best to reserve in advance, and the two most popular bus companies that offer this route are Megabus and Citylink.

  • Edinburgh to Inverness Bus Time: Approx. 3.5 – 4.5 hours
  • Pros: No driving, scenic, on-board restrooms, affordable
  • Cons: Ends at Inverness, still need to get to Loch Ness, comfort restricted
Edinburgh Bus Station Buses Waiting

Inverness to Loch Ness Using Public Transport

How easy is it to get from Inverness to Loch Ness?

All you need to do is hop aboard the bus that stops at Dores (beach and viewpoint), Inverfarigaig (Farigaig Woods), and Foyers (Falls of Foyers).

However, you must be mindful of return bus times to ensure you get back to Inverness unless you have accommodation in a Loch Ness town or village.

Another option is to hire a taxi from Inverness to the attraction you want to visit in Loch Ness.

For example, an Uber taxi ride from Inverness to Urquhart Castle takes around 30 minutes (18 miles) and can cost anything from £24 to £50, depending on availability.

Crowds at Urquhart Castle Beside Loch Ness

Edinburgh to Loch Ness Tour

Alright, now the fun part!

If you want to let someone else take the wheel and find the public transport options a little too disjointed, consider one of the highly popular Edinburgh Loch Ness day tours.

For example, this jam-packed coach tour has over 7000 reviews on GetYourGuide and includes attractions at Kilmahog near Callander, Fort William, Urquhart Castle by Loch Ness, and then an optional cruise tour on the water.

The tour leaves Edinburgh early morning and returns 12.5 hours later.

Alternatively, this 1-day tour features Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park, Glencoe, Fort William, and lunch in St. Augustus with an optional boat trip to try and find Nessie.

Check out our guide to 1-day bus tours from Edinburgh for more ideas, including Loch Lomond, whisky, and Harry Potter!

  • Edinburgh to Loch Ness By Tour: Approx. 12.5 hours
  • Pros: Expert guided tour with driver, variety of sightseeing opportunities, additional cruise tour
  • Cons: Lack of flexibility in itinerary, long day
Glencoe from car window on Highlands day tour

Final Words

The beauty of having so many ways to plan your Edinburgh to Loch Ness day trip means that you can weigh up your travel needs, style, and budget and choose which option is right for you and your travel companions without having to miss out on the search for the long-necked Loch Ness Monster!

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