Loch Ness

A historical perspective, drawn from the Ordnance Gazetteer of Scotland: A Survey of Scottish Topography, Statistical, Biographical and Historical, edited by Francis H. Groome and originally published in parts by Thomas C. Jack, Grange Publishing Works, Edinburgh between 1882 and 1885.

This edition is copyright © The Editors of the Gazetteer for Scotland, 2002-2022.

It has taken much time and money to make the six-volumes of Groome's text freely accessible. Please help us continue and develop by making a donation. If only one out of every ten people who view this page gave £5 or $10, the project would be self-sustaining. Sadly less than one in thirty-thousand contribute, so please give what you can.

Use the tabs on the right of this page to see other parts of this entry Arrow

Ness, Loch, a large lake in Inverness-shire, occupying a considerable portion of the bottom of the Great Glen of Scotland, 6½ miles SW of Inverness. It is a long narrow sheet of water extending from NE to SW, with a length of 22½ miles, from Bona Ferry on the NE to near Fort Augustus on the SW, and an average breadth of about 1 mile, while the surface is 50 feet above sea-level. The bottom slopes very rapidly, and reaches a depth of 40 to 60 fathoms at no great distance from the shore, while the depth in the centre is from 106 to 130 fathoms. The sides are very straight and even, that to the SE being broken only by the mouths of the inflowing streams; while that to the NW has, 6 miles from the NE end of the loch, Urquhart Bay, measuring 1 mile across the mouth, and ½ mile deep at the mouths of the Enrick and Coiltie, and, 10½ miles farther to the SW, Invermoriston Bay, at the mouth of the river Moriston. Both sides are formed by lofty heights, which, on the SE, nave an average height of 800 to 1000 feet, and on the NW of from 1200 to 1500 feet, while at many points both rise higher. The principal heights along the former side, beginning at the N end, are Tom Bailgeann (514- feet), Carn an Fheadain (1445), both opposite Urquhart Bay; Meall an Targaid (1016), opposite Invermoriston Bay; Beinn a' Bhacaidh (1812), Borlum Hill (000), and Creag Ardochy (1417). On the NW side, beginning at the N end, the principal heights are Carn a Bhodaich (1642 feet), Carn an Leitire (1424), Meall na h-Eilach (1525), Sron Dubh (1436), Meall Fuar-mhonaidh (Mealfourvounie, 2284), and Burach, S of the river Moriston (1986). The loch receives the drainage of an area of 670 square miles, the principal streams that flow into it being the Oich and Tarff, on either side of Fort Augustus at the SW end; the Moriston, Coiltie, Enrick, and a number of smaller burns, all on the NW side; and the Doe, Foyers, and Farigaig, with a number of smaller burns, all on the SE side. At the lower end it communicates by the narrow strait at Bona Ferry with Loch Dochfour, which is in reality only a continuation of it, and from which the surplus water is carried off by the river Ness. The Caledonian Canal, which links it at the SW end with Loch Oich, and at the NE end with the sea, is separately noticed. At the SW end the loch is in the parish of Boleskine and Abertarff, and the south-eastern half the rest of the way is in the parishes of Dores an d Daviot, and the north-western half in Urquhart and Glenmoriston and Inverness, all those meeting along the centre line. There is an excellent road-originally military roads formed by the soldiers under the command of General Wade-along each bank. At the NE end there is a ferry at Bona, and another 12 miles farther to the SW from Foyers to Ruskich Inn. From the great depth the waters never freeze. It is well known that there is a fault along the line of the Great Glen, and this seems to mark a line of permanent weakness in the crust of the earth, for at the time of the great earthquake at Lisbon, on 1 Nov. 1755, the waters of Loch Ness be came violently agitated, a series of waves rolling along the loch towards the upper end, and dashing for 200 yards up the course of the Oich, 5 feet above the usual level of that stream. The pulsation of the water lasted for about an hour, and after a huge wave had been dashed against the NW bank, the surface resumed its wonted calm.

Except at a narrow part at the NE end of the loch, where, on the E, there is a fine belt of low ground about Aldourie, the mountain ranges that flank the glen slope from 1000 feet steeply down to the water's edge, giving the narrow valley an unnaturally contracted appearance, and greatly heightening the effect of its length. Along considerable stretches these steep banks are finely wooded, and this, with the red colour of much of the rock, makes the scenery, whether from the water or from the banks, very beautiful. ` The profuse admixture, 'say the Messrs Anderson, with particular reference to the tract between Glen Urquhart and Glen Moriston, ` of oak with birch and alder, adds much to the richness and tone of colouring. Dark and dense masses of pine are frequently seen crowning the craggy heights above, while beneath, the rowan and hawthorn trees mingle their snowy blossoms or coral berries with the foliage of the more gigantic natives of the forest. The road is overhung by the fantastic branches of the yet youthful oak, while the stately ash, rooted in the steep declivities below, shoots up its tall, straight, and perpendicular stem, and with its scattered terminal foliage slightly screens the glassy lake or purple ground-colour of the opposite hills; and the airy birch droops its pensile twigs round its silvery trunk, "like the dishevelled tresses of some regal fair." Fringing rows of hazel bushes line the road; and in autumn their clustering bunches of nuts invite the reaching arm.' Of the opposite side, between Inverfarigaig and Dores, Dr Macculloch speaks in equally high terms. 'It is,' he says, 'a green road of shaven turf holding its bowery course for miles through close groves of birch and alder, with occasional glimpses of Loch Ness and of the open country. I passed it at early dawn, when the branches were still spangled with drops of dew; while the sun, shooting its beams through the leaves, exhaled the sweet perfume of the birch, and filled the whole air with fragrance.' The many points of interest and beautifully placed mansions around the shores come naturally under the different parishes, and will be found noticed there. Except with the net, the fishing is poor, though the loch abounds in trout; and, though salmon pass through on their way to the Oich and other rivers, yet they are never taken with the rod.—Ord. Sur., shs. 73, 83, 1878-81.

An accompanying 19th C. Ordnance Survey map is available, or use the map tab to the right of this page.

Note: This text has been made available using a process of scanning and optical character recognition. Despite manual checking, some typographical errors may remain. Please remember this description dates from the 1880s; names may have changed, administrative divisions will certainly be different and there are known to be occasional errors of fact in the original text, which we have not corrected because we wish to maintain its integrity. This information is provided subject to our standard disclaimer

If you have found this information useful please consider making
a donation to help maintain and improve this resource. More info...

By using our site you agree to accept cookies, which help us serve you better