The perfect place to experience the Highlands
Staying at Gruinyards, not only are you ideally placed for exploring around Loch Ness and the Highlands, you also have access to the facilities offered by the Highland Club within the old Abbey and its grounds, surrounded on three sides by Loch Ness, the Caledonian Canal and the river Tarff
As a guest at Gruinyards you are free to use the facilities of the Highland Club.
The newly opened club lounge, reached via the cloisters, is an impressive room in which to relax, with timber panelling, painted ceiling, stained glass windows and a minstrels gallery and a full sized snooker table.
WIRELESS BROADBAND IS NOW AVAILABLE IN THE HIGHLAND CLUB LOUNGE (logon details provided on arrival)
There are 11 acres of lochside gardens and grounds
A wide range of games – tennis, croquet, badminton, table tennis and petanque are all available
Fishing in Loch Ness or the River Tarff – guests are permitted to fish from anywhere within the grounds
Within the grounds, a minute’s walk away, is the Boathouse Restaurant located, as its name suggests, over the water in the old boathouse with views across the Loch. This serves modern cuisine using locally sourced produce (see sample menus and prices here)
Purpose-built barbecue overlooking the Loch
There is also a giant chess set in the cloisters and a cricket pitch on which matches occasionally take place
Fort Augustus is more of a large village than a town but with a distinct old world charm and relaxed contemplative atmosphere. Apart from the Abbey, its most notable feature is the flight of locks where the Caledonian canal rises up from Loch Ness on its way to Loch Oich.
The Clansman Centre, right in the centre of Fort Augustus, gives “live presentations on ancient Highland life with clothing and weapon demonstrations” in a reconstructed turf house. Worth a visit, if only to be kitted out in a proper kilt
Undeniably the most dramatic feature of the area is Loch Ness, it is 23 miles long, a mile wide and 750 feet deep and is reputed to contain as much fresh water as all the lakes and reservoirs of England combined. However its drama comes from its length receding into the distance and the way the hills rise straight up from the water.
Claimed sightings of the Monster seem to have dwindled to almost nothing since the 1970s, which probably means it has died, although Wikipedia still has plenty to say on the subject.
Nevertheless the A82, the main road to Inverness, runs alongside the Loch for almost its entire length, making it one of the most beautiful stretches of A-road in the country.
Boat Trips on Loch Ness
According to Loch Ness Cruises, who are based in Fort Augustus, Loch Ness was voted the most beautiful place in Britain. Anyway, they offer cruises from Fort Augustus around the Loch and up to Castle Urquhart and beyond.
Fort Augustus is at the centre of the Great Glen, which runs from Inverness to Fort William. The Great Glen Way has recently been established as a continuous 73 mile path which runs right through Fort Augustus. It can be picked up at the swing bridge over the Caledonian Canal, less than 200m from the Abbey. The Great Glen Way also has associated canoeing and mountain bike routes, details of which are available from the Rangers, who are based in Fort Augustus.
Urquhart Castle is a picturesque ruin perched on a promontory half way up the West side of Loch Ness. It is easily reached from the A82 and has, of course, magnificent views up and down the Loch
The Falls of Foyer
A dramatic local feature, with the upper and lower waterfalls where the water drops 140ft in two sections. The upper falls are easily accessible down a short winding path through the trees to a couple of viewpoints and lined with quotations from romantic poets who were much taken with the natural drama of the place.
There is also a nature reserve next to the falls for Red Squirrels, though the sign does admit you will have to be pretty lucky to see one.
Ben Nevis and Aonach Mor
Ben Nevis is half an hour away from Fort Augustus by car and is well known as the highest mountain in Great Britain. As such it offers some serious walking and serious views.
Aonach Mor is the next peak to Ben Nevis, of a similar height but with the huge difference that there is a cable car – the Nevis Range Gondola – that runs much of the way up and operates all year round. At the top there is the Snowgoose restaurant with, of course, amazing views.
The Falls of Foyer, half way up the east side of Loch Ness, are probably the closest, and potentially most impressive, except that often much of the flow is diverted to a hydro-electric scheme, reducing their impact. A path, lined with quotes from romantic poets, winds down through the trees to a couple viewing platforms. There is also a nature reserve for Red Squirrels, although a sign suggests you would have to be very lucky actually to see one.
Just beyond Drumnadrochit, a little further up on the opposite side of Loch Ness, are the Divach falls. These are more remote, but with a viewing points only a couple of minutes woodland walk from where you can leave a car.
Plodda Falls, on the edge of Glen Affric nature reserve, near Cannich to the west of Drumnadrochit, are probably the most spectacular, and can be seen from a projecting platform high above the river below. Also easily accessible from a small car park with a marked path through the woods.
Just before Loch Affric, within the Glen Affric Nature Reserve, are the Dog Falls. There is signposted parking and the falls are reached via a ten minute walk alongside the beautiful river Affric. While not very high, the river is pushed through a gap in the rocks into a cauldron of seething white water.
Corrimony falls, between Drumnadrochit and Cannich, are spectacularly situated in a steeply wooded valley but are more difficult to reach via a small unmarked path down the side of the gorge. This brings you out near the foot of the falls by a derelict water turbine from the 1920s. However on the way you also pass an RSPB nature reserve and a well-preserved neolithic burial chamber known as Corrimony Cairn, which is 4000 years old.
Steall Falls, in Glen Nevis, between Fort Augustus and Fort William
OUTDOOR ACTIVITIES NEARBY
Sailing and Watersports
The Great Glen Water Park offers all types of watery activities under the heading of Monster Activities, including white water rafting. Sailing, water skiing and windsurfing take place on the beautiful Loch Oich, canoeing on local rivers with archery, air rifle shooting and abseiling also available at the Water Park.
Fort Augustus has its own Golf club, just up the road from the Highland club. Apparently it is a “traditional heathland course and is widely regarded as the most challenging 9 hole course in Scotland”. It is open to visitors and
claims they will be made very welcome whatever their standard of play. Cost is £15 per round or £20 per day with juniors paying just £5.
Stalking and game hunting
Can be arranged through Colin Clark on 07990 903 065
Skiing and other snowsports are possible, at the appropriate time of year, on Aonach Mor, via the Gondola. The “Nevis Range offers great terrain for skiers of all abilities”, more details can be found here and see below:
There is good skiing at the Nevis Range with a a range of slopes up to 2km long of all levels of difficulty. It is found just off the A82 before you reach Fort William and is only about half an hour away by car.
In total it has 24 runs, 7 green, 12 blue, 11 red and 5 black.
Also known as Aonach Mor, is Scotland’s newest and most modern ski area, located next to Ben Nevis. It was opened in 1989 and has the UK’s only quad chair and six-person gondola, the latter giving it that ‘Continental feel’, although spectacular views over the West Coast are very Scottish.
There are 12 lifts in total, including the mountain gondola, which transports you effortlessly in just twelve minutes from the car park to 650m, where you will find the Snowgoose Mountain Restaurant and the ski area itself.
The beginner’s area is a stone throw away from the top station, with a variety of easy green and blue runs. The runs are predominantly wide and open with some challenging blue and red runs in the main Snowgoose bowl for intermediates and extensive off-piste black and red runs for the more experienced.
Here is the main Snow Report for the Nevis Range, with details of run availability.
Fort William is about thirty miles away, forty minutes by car, and enjoys a similarly spectacular location to Fort Augustus. However its main significance is as the nearest large town with a shops and a large supermarket and the railway station that is one end of the Fort William to Mallaig line.
Fort William Distillery
For those people for whom a visit to Scotland wouldn’t be complete without a visit to a Whisky Distillery, Fort William is home to the Ben Nevis Distillery, which offers tours and complementary tastings
During the summer there is a chance to take a steam train along one of the most beautiful stretches of railway in the world. From mid May to the beginning of October the Jacobite runs daily from Fort William (a 40 minute drive away) up to Mallaig (and back again), which would make a truly memorable day out.
Loch Linnhe stretches out beyond Fort William
The magnificent Glenfinnan Viaduct is about 20 miles west of Fort William
Munros – there are 30 munros within an hours drive of Fort Augustus
Championship golf courses
Loch Lomond is also about an hour’s drive away
Inverness is an attractive Victorian city with all the major shops amenities and entertainment that cities have to offer