The Best Known Lakes in Scotland

During the last ice age, massive glaciers gouged valleys into what would become the Scottish landscape. These would become Scottish lakes or lochs. Read on to discover more about the famous lakes of Scotland.

Travel and Exploration
24 November 2022

Lochs are an integral part of the Scottish landscape. From the Highlands to the Lowlands, there is a great diversity of these bodies of freshwater.

Lochs are essentially Scottish lakes. The word ‘loch’ is Scottish Gaelic for a lake or sea inlet. There are over 30,000 lochs in Scotland, and each one is unique. They vary in size, depth, and water quality, and are home to a wide variety of plant and animal life. Some of the most popular lochs in Scotland include Loch Lomond, Loch Ness, and Loch Tay, each with its own distinct beauty. So let’s explore these fabulous lochs, looking at the famous lakes of Scotland.

Loch Lomond, Argyll and Bute

Foliage and summer flowers surround Loch Lomond, Argyll, Scotland (Photo: By Eve Livesey via Getty Images)

If being the subject of one of Scotland’s most iconic folk songs qualifies as being a famous lake in Scotland, this freshwater loch has it covered. Nobody knows who wrote the song about the ‘bonnie, bonnie banks o’ Loch Lomond’, but it has been featured in many a film and TV show.

Not that Loch Lomond needed the publicity. It is, after all, the largest body of water in Great Britain, its surface area being 27.5 square miles.

Loch Ness, Highlands

A birds eye view of Loch Ness in Scotland (Photo: Edwin Remsberg via Getty Images )

The vast Loch Ness is arguably the most famous lake in Scotland and one of the best known in the world. This might have been thanks to the fact that it’s the second biggest Scottish lake after Lomond by surface area. Or even that its depth would easily cover the Golden Gate Bridge. However, it is most likely thanks to its legendary resident, Nessie, the Loch Ness Monster. Ever since the 6th century AD, there have been reports of a monster living in the lake. Today, people flock to the loch in the hopes of catching a glimpse.

Lochs of Harray and Stenness, Orkney

Ancient ruins, the lochs of Harray and Stenness (Photo: Helena Whittaker via Getty Images)

Split only by a slim causeway and surrounded by ancient ruins, the lochs of Harray and Stenness are some of the most picturesque lakes within Scotland.

Loch Maree, Highlands

Loch Maree (Photo: JOHN BRACEGIRDLE via Getty Images)

Stowed away in Wester Ross in the far north of the Highlands, Loch Maree is one of the least polluted lakes in Scotland. It’s not surprising therefore to find that it is a haven for a variety of wildlife and rare species, including the striking black-throated diver bird, which nests there. There are over sixty islands in Loch Maree, some containing ancient pine forests and historic ruins. Access to the loch and its islands is carefully managed by Scotland’s Nature Agency.

Loch Awe, Argyll

Kilchurn Castle on Loch Awe (Photo: krzych-34 via Getty Images)

A stunning loch with a name to match, Loch Awe stretches for 25 miles, making it the longest of all Scottish lakes. Fishermen flock here for the trout, while the lake is also home to two hydroelectric facilities.

Loch Morar, Highlands

Loch Morar (Photo: acceleratorhams via Getty Images)

When it comes to loch dwelling monsters, Nessie is not alone. Loch Morar is home to yet another cryptid, the mysterious mermaid-like creature known as Morag. Last reportedly seen in the 19th century, she shares the lake and its vicinity with otters, eagles, and seals, amongst other wildlife.

Loch Katrine, Aberfoyle

Reflections of Loch Katrine, Scotland (Photo: munro1 via Getty Images)

Some five miles east of Loch Lomond, Loch Katrine was famously sailed by Queen Victoria. Its beauty has inspired poets including Coleridge, Wordsworth and Sir Walter Scott. In fact, Scott’s ‘Lady of the Lake’ poem is said to have been penned after a visit here. And Katrine’s brush with fame doesn’t end there, having been the setting for scenes in TV sensation Outlander.

Loch Leven, Perth and Kinross

Loch Leven reflections (Photo: ALBAimagery via Getty Images)

Loch Leven is approximately 10 miles long and one mile wide, and is fed by the River Leven. The loch is best known for its population of brown trout, which were introduced in the 19th century. The loch is also home to a variety of other wildlife, including ospreys, otters, and waterfowl.

Lake of Menteith

Early morning at Lake of Menteith (Photo: Dennis Barnes via Getty Images)

In an article about the lakes of Scotland, the Lake of Menteith is the only one named as such. Also known as Loch Inchmahome, it is often called Scotland’s only true lake as all other bodies of water in Scotland with the word ‘lake’ in their title are man made. The 13th century Inchmahome Priory, situated on one of Menteith’s islands, famously acted as a refuge to both an infant Mary Queen of Scots and Robert the Bruce.

The Stunning Lakes of Scotland

Ducks swim in the calm water of the Loch Tay (Photo: Carlos G. Lopez via Getty Images)

So what have we learned about lakes in Scotland? We’ve seen how the beauty of Scottish lakes has made them the source of poetic inspiration and cultural wonder. They are a haven for wildlife and surrounded by history. And they are even the stuff of legend, with myth and mystery surrounding them to this day.


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