The 5 Most Beautiful Lochs in Scotland

Anyone who has seen the Scottish Highlands and Islands can tell you: they are breath-taking. Ask them what is it that makes them so special and they will tell you: perfect loch reflections.

Loch is the Scottish name for lake. There are many lochs and lochans (smaller lochs) in Scotland. The recipe for the perfect Scottish loch is simple: rolling slopes and/or proud mountain peaks, islets or islands and why not, a historic castle or monument on its banks.

Many tourists will wonder why Loch Ness is not among my favorite 5 or even 10 lochs in Scotland. While the Monster of Loch Ness does wonders for the local economy by attracting large numbers of visitors, the loch itself cannot possibly compare with these next 5.

My Favorite Five Scottish Lochs

1. Lochan na h-Achlaise (and Loch Ba)

A calm Lochan na h-Achlaise in the mist

Of all the lochs in Scotland, my favorite one is, in fact, a lochan. Lochan na h-Achlaise is located in an area of Scotland that's not so much remote, but feels remote. Rannoch Moor is as desolate as it is beautiful.

Lochan na h-Achlaise and Loch Ba are separated by the A82 road to Fort William. The lone trees and rocks with snow-capped peaks in the distance create one of the most atmospheric landscapes in Scotland. You'll have a hard time finding a calendar that doesn't have an image of Lochan na h-Achlaise or Loch Ba!

This area is, unfortunately, difficult to explore. Much of Rannoch Moor is marshland as far as the eye can see, which makes suitable clothing and footwear mandatory. Despite this, the sheer number and variety of photographs taken both in Rannoch Moor and Black Mount is impressive - clear proof that it really touches people.

More photos of Lochan na h-Achlaise and Loch Ba, Rannoch Moor
Lochan na h-Achlaise, Rannoch Moor
Lochan na h-Achlaise with Stob Ghabhar and Clach Leathad in the distance
Panoramic view of Lochan na h-Achlaise, Rannoch Moor
Lochan na h-Achlaise at dusk
Winter landscape

2. Loch Coruisk

Loch Coruisk symmetric reflections

Loch Coruisk is a sea loch tucked away at the heart of one of Britain's most impressive mountain ranges: the Black Cuillins on the Isle of Skye. It offers visitors an impression of the Cuillins without actually having to climb them. Even so, the best view of Loch Coruisk is looking down from the route up to the Cuillin ridge.

Access to the loch is via a boat - the Bella Jane - which does regular boat tours from Elgol, on the shores of Loch Scavaig. It's a great way to spend some time on Skye and if you're travelling with kids, they'll love the seals. There's a fair bit of walking from the boat to Loch Coruisk but once you're there, oh my, you can really feel nature on a grand scale.

More photos of Loch Coruisk, Skye
Loch Coruisk textures
Black Cuillins from Loch Coruisk
Loch Coruisk from Cuillin Ridge
Loch Coruisk, at the heart of the Cuillins
Loch Coruisk, Isle of Skye

3. Loch Eilt

Islet with caledonian pines, Loch Eilt

Harry Potter fans will love this. Loch Eilt featured in two Harry Potter movies (Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets and Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, to be precise) as the Hogwarts Lake. The loch is located along the Road to the Isles, a scenic stretch of road linking Fort William to Mallaig, the port which links mainland Scotland to Skye via ferry.

The loch is absolutely gorgeous with rolling green hills on the side and lone islets with ancient Caledonian pines. The reflections on the loch are often perfect. But there's one other thing which makes Loch Eilt rightly deserve its spot in my favorite 5 Scottish lochs.

It's the Jacobite Steam Train. Kids will no doubt mistake it for the Hogwarts Express but the Jacobite Steam Train has been around longer than any of the Harry Potter films (the rail line runs along the south shore). If Loch Eilt isn't beautiful enough all on its own, simply add a steam engine powering through the hills and you have yourself the perfect Highland scene.

But the best thing about Loch Eilt is its location. In order to get to it - whether by train or car - you pass through some of the best scenery Scotland has to offer. From the moment you leave Fort William the journey is a mix of lochs, rolling mountains, a spectacular, 21-arch viaduct, islands and islets, white sandy beaches, monuments and lone cottages. In some ways, Loch Eilt is merely the cherry on the cake.

More photos of Loch Eilt, Lochaber
Jacobite Steam Train near Loch Eilt
West Highland Railway, Loch Eilt banks
Islet with pine trees, Loch Eilt
Loch Eilt in spring time
Caledonian pinewood remnants, Loch Eilt

4. Loch Leven

Loch Leven and white snow

I've yet to come across a tourist who is not in awe and desperate to take out their camera the moment they pass the Ballachulish bridge on the way to Fort William. This is part of Loch Leven's charm, that it takes you by surprise. Once you come out of Glencoe, you come onto Loch Leven.

First there's Eilean Munde, the loch island, burial ground for the Clan MacDonald and then, just as you cross the Ballachulish bridge you see the Pap of Glencoe on your right rising high in the distance. For me, Loch Leven is the perfect Scottish loch because along with mountain peaks, islands and boats there's also a story, the tragic episode of the Glencoe Massacre.

NOTE: There are actually two lochs named Leven in Scotland. The one I'm referring to is on the west of Scotland (Ballachulish).

More photos of Loch Leven, Ballachulish
Loch Leven from Pap of Glencoe
Loch Leven island
Loch Leven Misty
A fine view of Loch Leven
Loch Leven reflections

5. Loch Maree

Slioch and Loch Maree

Loch Maree is one of the largest freshwater lochs in Scotland. Located in Wester Ross, it has everything, from the imposing Slioch mountain on the west shore often shrouded in low cloud, to woodland trails, islands and islets with lone Caledonian pine trees as well as an ancient wildlife sanctuary.

Scotland has many lochs and mountains which impress, but here, in the Northwest Highlands, everything is on a grand scale. And what's more, there's lots of things to do around Loch Maree, rather than just admire it.

More photos of Loch Maree, Wester Ross
Loch Maree, Wester Ross
Loch Maree colors
Lone pine trees, Loch Maree
Slioch, Loch Maree
Loch Maree shores

Other Scottish Lochs Worth Seeing

It was very difficult to decide which of Scotland's lochs should be in my 'top 5' list because there are many others which are equally awe-inspiring. Take these next few ones for example: Loch Shiel - Used as location for Highlander the movie, it boasts one of the most recognizable loch islands in Scotland, St. Finan's Isle; Loch Scavaig - Open sea loch on the Isle of Skye with amazing views of the Black Cuillins.

Then there's Upper Loch Torridon - Located in Wester Ross, Upper Loch Torridon boasts views towards imposing peaks like Liathach and adrenaline-filled, high, scenic roads on the North side, and good low-level viewpoints on its South shore; Loch Garry - One of the most photographed Scottish lochs (and almost always from the same spot) because a quirk of perspective makes it appear like a map of Scotland; Loch Lomond - Arguably the second most famous Scottish loch thanks to the song by the same name, Loch Lomond is close to Glasgow and is not only scenic but there are lots of things to do in the area.