North Loch Ness

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North Loch Ness

Although the River Ness runs from Loch Ness to Inverness and the sea, most visitors approach the loch from the direction of the town. The road parallels the course of the canal and river as far as Dochgarroch, where the two waterways join in Loch Dochfour. The first stretch to greet the road-borne visitor, Loch Dochfour is an ideal expanse of water on which to learn the knack of handling a newly-hired cabin cruiser, or simply to watch others having a go. The densely-wooded slopes of the eastern side start almost at the water's edge, and deer can often be seen moving among the trees.

The loch follows a narrow but clear channel past Abban Water, and finally becomes Loch Ness itself past Bona Lighthouse. The only inland lighthouse in Britain, Bona was once the departure point for a short ferry crossing of the river. Now it is a private house, but an automatic beacon can still be seen in the tower room.

It was in this northernmost part of the loch that the Wellington bomber R for Robert crashed on New Year's Eve 1940. After 14 safe missions over Germany the bomber had been retired to a training unit in Lossiemouth, and it was on a routine exercise when an engine failed, causing the bomber to plunge into 70 metres of water with the loss of one life. In 1985 a lengthy operation to raise the aircraft was successfully concluded, and it can now be seen, carefully restored, at the Brooklands Museum in Surrey, the site of its original construction. A commemorative plaque by the A82 marks its temporary resting place.

To the west of this point rises the bulk of the hillside around Abriachan, a small crofting settlement a couple of miles from the loch shore. Reached by a steep hill climb, the village is a true reminder of bygone days, and while still a thriving community sheds light on the rigours of life in the past. The crofters and hill-farmers then had no main road or telephone, and this area was far more isolated than it is now. A small museum of rural life is situated in the village, and can be visited by arrangement with the curator.

From Abriachan many small roads lead off into the high moorlands which extend as far as Strathglass in the west. Sparsely inhabited and little visited, they harbour every sort of wild creature, and are a dramatic contrast to the wild splendour of the surrounding glens. A small road eventually leads down into Glenurquhart, and swiftly into the village of Drumnadrochit.