At the more scenic southern end of Loch Ness stands the village of Fort Augustus, originally set up as a garrison after the Jacobite rebellion of 1715, and headquarters of General Wade's campaign to pacify the Highlands. Today Fort Augustus is a busy little place; full of monster-hunting tourists and boats using the flight of five locks to enter or leave Loch Ness on their journey along the Caledonian Canal.
The village hosts Highland Gatherings in late June and July, mid-August and early September, featuring traditional dancing and piping competitions, tossing the caber and sheep dog trials.
The Tourist Information Centre, Tel.01320-366779, is in the car park next to the petrol station and Bank of Scotland. It's open April-June Monday-Saturday 1000-1700; July-August 0900-2000; September-October 0900-1800.
Cycle hire: Maggies Centre offers some first come first served cycle hire. Loch Ness Ferry Co Ltd used to offer cycle hire, but we think they may have stopped. They do have a great outdoor clothing website: http://www.lochnessferrycompanyclothing.co.uk/
Pony trekking Fort Augustus Riding Centre, Pier House, Tel. 366418. Also
Fort Augustus to Dores
The road winds its way up into rugged hills before returning to the lochside at Foyers, where there's accommodation at Intake-House, Tel. 01456- 482258, open April-October; and the small independent youth hostel Foyers House, Tel. 01456-486623. It's worth stopping here to see the impressive waterfall where the River Foyers plunges into Loch Ness. To get there, follow the steep (and slippery) track down from opposite the shops.
Three miles further north, at Inverfarigaig, is the spooky and sinister Boleskine House, once home of Alastair Crowley, who is said to have practised devil worship here. In the 1970s the house was bought by Jimmy Page of Led Zeppelin, but sold some years later after the tragic death of his daughter. Those of a nervous disposition may wish to pass on quickly and continue to the little village of Dores, at the northeastern end of the loch, where you can enjoy a good pint of ale and some decent grub at the Dores Inn.
You can then continue to Inverness, or return via the beautiful hill road that leads up to Loch Mhor and back to Fort Augustus via the Stratherrick valley. From Errogie, at the northern end of Loch Mhor, there's a dramatic section of road that winds down to the loch through a series of tight, twisting bends, reminiscent of an Alpine pass, and great for cyclists. There are also some interesting marked woodland trails around Errogie.
Augusta Tailor-made Cruises and angling trips on Loch Ness and minibus tours in the Highlands and all over Scotland. contact: Mrs Laurence Marquis-Northcote, Augusta Company, Fort Augustus / Tel: +44 (0) 1320 366579
You might also consider Tours with Celia based in Loch Ness area who offers tailored and guided one day tours. (+44 (0)1381 621151)
Local Sights & Activities for Fort Augustus
On the shores of Loch Ness is Fort Augustus Abbey, a Benedictine Monastery founded in 1876 on the site of the original fort. The abbey closed in 1998, but there are tours of the grounds and cloisters. Info - Easter-Oct daily 0900-1700; Nov-Mar 1000- 1600. Tel. 366233.
By the canal locks is The Clansman Centre, where young guides in traditional dress provide a lively and entertaining presentation of 17th-century Highland family life in an old turf house. There follows a display of weaponry and a mock sword fight in the garden. You can even have your picture taken wearing traditional Highland costume. There's also a craftshop selling the more tasteful kind of souvenirs. Info - Apr, May, Jun and Sep daily 1100-1700; Jul-Aug 1000-1800. Tel. 366444.
Loch Ness Cruises with Loch Ness Ferry Co Ltd, on board the Royal Scot, set off from the jetty in the abbey grounds. Info - Apr-Oct hourly from 1000. The trip lasts 50 mins. Also boat and bike hire. Tel. 01223-208939.
There are numerous good walks around Fort Augustus.