Walk of the month: Loch Ness is best where it's beastie-free

view gallery VIEW GALLERY

A hike on the quieter south side of the legendary loch throws up natural revelations but nothing monstrous, says Mark Rowe

Many moons ago, I used up the last couple of days of an Inter-Rail ticket by taking a half-price trip on the Caledonian Sleeper to Inverness. I woke up the next morning to the bewildering spectacle of a gaggle of Americans agitatedly looking out of the carriage windows at what they believed was the Loch Ness monster. With binoculars you could certainly make out a dorsal fin of some kind, though I hadn't the heart to tell them it belonged to a bottlenose dolphin, and the stretch of water they were looking at was the Moray Forth, not Loch Ness.

Nessie continues to beguile, frustrate and bore in equal measure and this year is the 80th anniversary of the first official "sighting" of her. Nessiemania achieved overkill long ago, which is why I was attracted by the opening of a trail along the south side of Loch Ness. In contrast to the traffic-clogged A82 that runs down the north-west side of the Great Glen and the loch, the southern shores and woodland are little visited.

I start this walk by taking the sleeper train again: you can't see Loch Ness from it but what you can see from the railway tracks is a wonderful, unheralded mountain range, the Monadhliaths, that will later accompany me for the length of the walk. They're substantial and roll away towards the Cairngorms. "The Monadhliath mountains are the least known, least walked, least explored in Scotland but they offer a wilderness experience second to none," says my walking companion, Graeme Ambrose from Destination Loch Ness. "They make you realise that Loch Ness is actually a stupendous place to walk, monster or no. People know very little about the south side," he adds diplomatically. "But that's OK – we're looking to bring the benefits of tourism to the area but not bring hordes of tourists."

So far, it seems the right balance has been struck. Although it's a Sunday morning, we pass just a handful of people along the seven miles of the route. We begin by the Whitebridge Hotel, two-thirds of the way down and a little inland from the loch. There's a historical curiosity to examine before we set off: the 18th-century Wade Bridge, a grassed-over hump-back, single-span delight that arcs over the River Fechlin. Its historical resonance is perhaps less pleasing locally – it was one of a succession of bridges on the road that linked the English barracks at Fort Augustus with Inverness.

The route is enchanting and peaceful. We spot roe deer and a cuckoo perched on a post, the sort of skittish creatures that steer clear of the bustling north side of the loch. We don't see golden eagles, but they are around, along with buzzards, red kites and goshawks. We leave forestry land, crossing boggy mires and streams to another delightful stone bridge near Foyers. A brief diversion drops us down to the Falls of Foyers, two graceful waterfalls, one dropping 33 feet, the other falling spectacularly for 100 feet into an exquisite pear-shaped lake. Ash, Scots pine and oak complete the picture, while the keen-eyed may spot otters, pine martens and bats at dusk. The setting has enchanted the whole spectrum of British poetry, from Robert Burns to Keats, Wordsworth and the less well peer-reviewed William McGonagall.

The views of the loch are fleeting, but beyond Foyers the path winds up among a mixture of pines and broadleaf trees to a rocky outcrop with superb views across the lake and Mealfuarvonie, the highest peak that overlooks the loch. "It feels like you're in the middle of nowhere, but you're just 20 miles from Inverness," says Graeme. The end of the walk is beautiful. We follow waymarkers down a sloping track to a small car park set below gorgeous woodland and overlooked by the formidable bulk of Dun Deardail. There is a seemingly impenetrable gorge at its base that makes me vow to return and explore further.

Travelling back to Inverness, my reverie of a Nessie-free day is broken at Dores beach. The view of the loch is sensational and it looks like something out of a Norwegian fjord travel brochure. Nearby is the clapped out caravan that has long been home to Steve Feltham, full-time Nessie hunter. Steve is an engaging chap and seems to sustain his lifestyle, in part, by selling quirky sculptures of the ever-elusive monster. He's been hunting for 22 years and, like everyone else, he's still waiting.

Distance: seven miles.

Time: three hours:

OS Map: Explorer 416, Inverness, Loch Ness & Culloden.

Start point: Whitebridge Hotel, Whitebridge.

Finish: Farigaig Forest car park.

The South Loch ness trail is well waymarked. Details at visitlochness .com/south-loch-ness-trail.

Travel essentials

Getting there

Mark Rowe travelled to Inverness with the Caledonian Sleeper (0844 556 5636; scotrail .co.uk/sleeper) which links London Euston with more than 40 locations in Scotland, nightly except Saturday. ScotRail also runs trains to Inverness from Glasgow and Edinburgh.

Staying there

The Whitebridge Hotel, Whitebridge, Stratherrick, near Inverness IV2 6UN (01456 486226; whitebridgehotel.co.uk). Doubles start at £86, including breakfast.

More information

visit scotland.com/natural

visitlochness.com

Sport
Mario Balotelli pictured in the win over QPR
footballInternet reacts to miss shocker for Liverpool striker
Voices
Sol Campbell near his home in Chelsea
voices
News
Kimi the fox cub
newsBurberry under fire from animal rights group - and their star, Kimi
Arts and Entertainment
Ella Henderson's first studio album has gone straight to the top of the charts
music
News
<p>Jonathan Ross</p>
<p>Jonathan Ross (or Wossy, as he’s affectionately known) has been on television and radio for an extraordinarily long time, working on a seat in the pantheon of British presenters. Hosting Friday Night with Jonathan Ross for nine years, Ross has been in everything from the video game Fable to Phineas and Ferb. So it’s probably not so surprising that Ross studied at Southampton College of Art (since rebranded Southampton Solent), a university known nowadays for its media production courses.</p>
<p>However, after leaving Solent, Ross studied History at the School of Slavonic and East European Studies, now part of the UCL, a move that was somewhat out of keeping with the rest of his career. Ross was made a fellow of the school in 2006 in recognition of his services to broadcasting.</p>
TV

Rumours that the star wants to move on to pastures new

Life and Style
fashion
News
Paul Nuttall, left, is seen as one of Ukip's key weapons in selling the party to the North of England
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Russell Brand labelled 'left-wing commie scum' by Fox News
TV
Arts and Entertainment
BBC's Antiques Roadshow uncovers a TIE fighter pilot helmet from the 1977 Star Wars film, valuing it at £50,000
TV

TV presenter Fiona Bruce seemed a bit startled by the find during the filming of Antiques Roadshow

News
people

Comedian says he 'never laughed as hard as I have writing with Rik'

PROMOTED VIDEO
Sport
Steven Caulker of QPR scores an own goal during the Barclays Premier League match between Queens Park Rangers and Liverpool
football
Arts and Entertainment
artKaren Wright tours the fair and wishes she had £11m to spare
News
i100
Life and Style
Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh been invited to take part in Women Fashion Power, a new exhibition that celebrates the way women's fashion has changed in relation to their growing power and equality over the past 150 years
fashionKirsty and Camila swap secrets about how to dress for success
Arts and Entertainment
Joy Division photographed around Waterloo Road, Stockport, near Strawberry Studios. The band are Bernard Sumner (guitar and keyboards), Stephen Morris (drums and percussion), Ian Curtis (vocals and occasional guitar), Peter Hook (bass guitar and backing vocals).
booksNew book on Ian Curtis sheds fresh light on the life of the late singer
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    SCRUM Master

    £30 - 50k (DOE) + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a SCRUM Master to joi...

    Franchise Support Assistant

    £13,520: Recruitment Genius: As this role can be customer facing at times, the...

    Financial Controller

    £50000 - £60000 per annum: Sauce Recruitment: A successful entertainment, even...

    Direct Marketing Executive - Offline - SW London

    £25000 - £30000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: A fantastic opportunity h...

    Day In a Page

    Oscar Pistorius sentencing: The athlete's wealth and notoriety have provoked a long overdue debate on South African prisons

    'They poured water on, then electrified me...'

    If Oscar Pistorius is sent to jail, his experience will not be that of other inmates
    James Wharton: The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

    The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

    Life after the Army has brought new battles for the LGBT activist James Wharton
    Ebola in the US: Panic over the virus threatens to infect President Obama's midterms

    Panic over Ebola threatens to infect the midterms

    Just one person has died, yet November's elections may be affected by what Republicans call 'Obama's Katrina', says Rupert Cornwell
    Premier League coaches join the RSC to swap the tricks of their trades

    Darling, you were fabulous! But offside...

    Premier League coaches are joining the RSC to learn acting skills, and in turn they will teach its actors to play football. Nick Clark finds out why
    How to dress with authority: Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear

    How to dress with authority

    Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear
    New book on Joy Division's Ian Curtis sheds new light on the life of the late singer

    New book on Ian Curtis sheds fresh light on the life of the late singer

    'Joy Division were making art... Ian was for real' says author Jon Savage
    Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

    Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

    The Bafta-winner talks Hollywood, being branded a psycho, and how Barbra Streisand is his true inspiration
    Tim Minchin, interview: The musician, comedian and world's favourite ginger is on scorching form

    Tim Minchin interview

    For a no-holds-barred comedian who is scathing about woolly thinking and oppressive religiosity, he is surprisingly gentle in person
    Boris Johnson's boozing won't win the puritan vote

    Boris's boozing won't win the puritan vote

    Many of us Brits still disapprove of conspicuous consumption – it's the way we were raised, says DJ Taylor
    Ash frontman Tim Wheeler reveals how he came to terms with his father's dementia

    Tim Wheeler: Alzheimer's, memories and my dad

    Wheeler's dad suffered from Alzheimer's for three years. When he died, there was only one way the Ash frontman knew how to respond: with a heartfelt solo album
    Hugh Bonneville & Peter James: 'Peter loves his classic cars; I've always pootled along fine with a Mini Metro. I think I lack his panache'

    How We Met: Hugh Bonneville & Peter James

    'Peter loves his classic cars; I've always pootled along fine with a Mini Metro. I think I lack his panache'
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's heavenly crab dishes don't need hours of preparation

    Bill Granger's heavenly crab recipes

    Scared off by the strain of shelling a crab? Let a fishmonger do the hard work so you can focus on getting the flavours right
    Radamel Falcao: How faith and love drive the Colombian to glory

    Radamel Falcao: How faith and love drive the Colombian to glory

    After a remarkable conversion from reckless defender to prolific striker, Monaco's ace says he wants to make his loan deal at Old Trafford permanent
    Terry Venables: Premier League managers must not be allowed to dictate who plays and who does not play for England

    Terry Venables column

    Premier League managers must not be allowed to dictate who plays and who does not play for England
    The Inside Word: Brendan Rodgers looks to the future while Roy Hodgson is ghost of seasons past

    Michael Calvin's Inside Word

    Brendan Rodgers looks to the future while Roy Hodgson is ghost of seasons past