The Weather at Loch Ness
The one thing visitors most want to know, before deciding whether to come, is about Loch Ness weather. It’s a question I am asked more than any other, “What’s the weather like at Loch Ness?” It’s important because you want to know what to pack, especially if you’re flying in. Now, most tourism business owners will be very careful about what they say here because you may decide against visiting, if we are too honest!! Right?
I don’t think so – I prefer to tell it as it is. Everybody knows the weather in Scotland is fickle at best – you just want confirmation of that ? Compared to other places on the same latitude, Scotland is surprisingly warm – that’s due to the Gulf stream, an ocean current that washes up from the tropics along Scotland’s west coast. However, it also brings with it much of our changeable and wet weather.
When asked, “What’s the weather like in Loch Ness? the usual local answer is, “Well, it’s unpredictable”. The only thing that is certain about the weather here is the unpredictability of it ! Another common answer is, “We frequently get days where you can experience four seasons all in the one day”. Yet another, “If it’s raining now, look again in 20 minutes, it will have changed”.
These answers are all honest and true but don’t really help you decide what to expect or what to pack!
I have lived at Loch Ness for many years and, with local knowledge, I will tell it as it is, if I can decide where to start !
Loch Ness is situated in an ancient fault line that runs south west to north east, called the Great Glen, with Loch Ness more or less in the centre of the Highlands. The steep sides on both sides of the loch do give it some protection from both wind and rain, so our weather is blessed a little by the geography. Only when the winds blow directly through the glen do we experience truly wild Scottish weather on Loch Ness side – thankfully that is not too often! Most of our wet weather comes from the west and we are well sheltered from that direction – much of the rain having fallen on the hills before it gets to Loch Ness.
One of my favourite times of year is spring, which is sometimes very short – blink and you could miss it! – but when we do get a spring-like spell (late April early May) it is a most wonderful time of year. A unique experience at this time is to walk or drive to one of the high points around the loch and just look around. In the distance you can often see cloud bursts, showers all around you but your day is beautiful. A view like that can stay with you for ever.
It’s a beautiful day, yes, but not if you happen to be out in the open under one of those showers – you may curse the Loch Ness weather, yet only half a mile away, it’s glorious. Just make sure you always have a lightweight raincoat with you and you won’t get caught out – it’s always raining somewhere, as they say.
At the north end of the Great Glen is Inverness and at the south end is Fort William, a distance of approx. 60 miles. It is said that for every mile you travel south down the glen from Inverness, the annual rainfall increases by one inch, something worth bearing in mind, when deciding where to stay – Inverness dry, Fort William wet!
Fort Augustus is, for many reasons, the best place to stay at Loch Ness for a holiday – that is my humble opinion. It’s situated in the Great Glen about midway between the two main towns of Inverness and Fort William but, as I hinted at earlier, the weather is always very localised due to the geography, so don’t despair if it’s wet where you are, just drive a short way and you will often find some sunshine.
Loch Ness weather in Summer
To be frank, the Highlands is not a place to come to, if you are looking for a sun tan and lake swimming – the water’s almost always too cold to even contemplate leisurely swimming – it’s only for the brave. If you want to swim, choose a place with a heated pool! If you get warm, sunny weather, look upon it as a bonus – it does happen, most likely in May, June, and July. At that time of year the days are long, with up to 20 hours of daylight and relatively mild nights, free of frost, though I once experienced frost in Glen Affric in August. Daytime temperatures are usually between 15 and 25c.
The weather has helped shape the dramatic scenery of the Highlands, so expect to experience that and you will have a truly memorable summer holiday. All the same, don’t forget to keep that raincoat close – just in case! and pack an insect repellant, the midges in some areas on some days during summer can be troublesome. See our article on how to avoid midges.
Loch Ness weather in Winter
From a local point of view, it is the dampness of everything that can get tiresome – the long winters can last for six months. October to March can be hard to take, especially as you get older – it’s not so much the cold but the dampness that gets to you over a long period. However, we have just had a very pleasant and warm October – you see, Loch Ness weather is unpredictable! For the young and active the winters can be great fun, a time for getting out on the ski slopes and the hills with ice axe and crampons, as I did a few years back, so it’s not all bad. In frosty spells, the trees can look absolutely wonderful in their icy coats and there are spectacular views all around Loch Ness in winter – camera’s at the ready – but wrap up warmly !
We can also have some wonderfully colourful autumns, which last through to November, occasionally. In bad weather, usually January and February, the main roads around Loch Ness (loch level and low) are very rarely snowed up for more than a day or so and travel for locals sometimes means descending from higher roads to the low roads in order to travel through the glen. The sheer size and volume of Loch Ness helps keep up the temperatures around the loch in winter.
Many of our trees are permanently covered with moss and lichen, which make them look greenish, even in winter when the leaves are all gone, a result of the constantly damp but clean air which the lichens need to thrive. Believe it or not, many bird species actually fly south to take advantage of the relatively mild Loch Ness weather to overwinter, including Geese, Fieldfares, Mistle Thrush and Waxwings to name a few – even Scandinavian Blackbirds are seen on our bird tables during winter. It’s a great time for birders!
I think the best time to visit Loch Ness is Spring, but if you don’t mind what mother nature throws at you and you want a quiet holiday at a bargain price with a heated pool and lots of indoor facilities try a self catering apartment in the Highland Club at Fort Augustus in the winter months.