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I’ve had a lot of guests in Edinburgh asking me if a day tour from Edinburgh to Loch Ness was worth it. Usually I would say that Loch Ness is too far to comfortably travel to in a day, but I’d never done it myself…until now. Thanks to a great trip with Gray Line Tours, I was able to find out firsthand.

Gray Line Tours

I found out that Gray Line was one of the very first tour companies operating in Edinburgh, chartered back in 1998. There are nearly two dozen companies now, with more staring every year. However, Gray Line is still the only company which makes individual pickups from your hotel or B&B throughout Edinburgh.

Gray Line offers 8 different one-day tours around Scotland…as far as you can get from Edinburgh in a day. Some of the options include Loch Lomond, the Borders, St. Andrews or a magical Highlands tour including a ride on the Hogwarts Express.

The coaches (buses) used by Gray Line are the bigger ones (40+ seats). This does limit where the bus can get to, and it can be a busier tour, but there are advantages too. Our guide Brian has been with the company for 18 years, and he knew more about Scotland and the tour route than any other guide I’ve had on other tours.

As attraction prices are not included, the cost of the tours are kept low. At each stop, you have the option of paid and free attractions. Gray Line picks cheaper attractions as well, while not sacrificing quality. But if you’re on a budget, you can stick to it and still see the country.

Gray Line Scotland

How Far is it From Edinburgh to Loch Ness

Loch Ness is one of the most impressive lakes in the world. Here are some of the facts. It’s so big that it has more water than all other bodies of water in the UK combined, and could hold the world’s population…twice. A constant temperature below the surface creates a completely unique biosphere, and underground caves could hold just about anything. Due to the peat (semi-decayed plant matter) that the water is filtered through, the water has a blackish color, and visibility is limited to just a few feet. Thus, Loch Ness’ primary attraction, the Loch Ness monster, can never fully be disproven.

Is it worth it as an attraction? Absolutely? If you only have one day in Scotland to get up and see the lake, should you? Definitely.

Loch Ness Reflection

Taking the most direct route, Loch Ness is 160 miles from Edinburgh. Driving in Scotland is not like driving on the freeways in the US. The direct route takes 3.5 hours on a good day without traffic. The better route is through Glencoe which is five miles longer but takes an additional half an hour due to the curving roads.

If you’re going to be driving, expect to spend at least 7-8 hours behind the wheel. If you conquer the right-side steering and narrow, windy roads in Scotland (which isn’t that hard to do), you’ll still have about three 3,842 spots along the way that you’ll want to stop at for photos. Besides, you won’t get the great information from a tour guide if you go on your own.

Selfie with Craghoppers at the Storr

Gray Line Loch Ness Tour

The Gray Line tour from Edinburgh to Loch Ness runs every day from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Pick up from your designated spot will be shortly before the tour leaves. A shuttle will take you to the bus. Food is not included on the tour, so bring some snacks or a packed lunch if you want. Just no fish and chips – have consideration for your fellow passengers.

The main attraction of the tour is to Loch Ness, where you will have enough time to take the cruise or to explore the town if you’re on a budget. The hour boat tour is with Cruise Loch Ness with their new catamaran for £13.50 ($19).

Read about taking a cruise on Loch Ness with Cruise Loch Ness.

Cruise Loch Ness

Depending on the time and traffic conditions, the bus will make a couple other stops around Scotland for photo opportunities. The best one is in Glencoe, one of the most beautiful viewpoints in the country.

The other stops on the route are the bathroom and coffee breaks (although there is a clean toilet on the bus). The driver will choose stops which are less crowded with other tours. My guide went to the Trossachs Woollen Mill outside Callander, Spean Bridge Woollen Mill and Pitlochry.

Booking with Gray Line

The Loch Ness and Loch Lomond tours run daily, while the other six tours run one day a week (except for the Harry Potter Tour to Alnwick Castle which runs twice). All tours leave at 9 a.m. except for the Edinburgh to Loch Ness tour (8 a.m.) and Hogwarts Express tour (6 a.m.). Most tours are £36 ($51). The Loch Ness tour is £47, Loch Lomond is £39 and the Hogwarts Express tour is £110 which includes the cost of the train ticket. Discounts are available for children, students and seniors.

  • Website: Gray Line Scotland
  • Phone: +44 (0)131 555 5558
  • What to bring: Comfortable shoes, waterproof jacket, and optional snacks and drinks.

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Edinburgh to Loch Ness Tour Pin

Activities in Edinburgh

Hopefully you’re planning to spend more than a day in Scotland. Here are some other activities to fill your trip.

Here’s some extra reading to save hundreds on your next vacation or stage of your journey.

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Author Skye Class

Hi, I'm Skye. Writer, photographer, adventurer, foodie, teacher, masseur, friend, dreamer, etc. I think "normal" sucks. Let's aim for extraordinary. SkyeTravels seeks to find the good around the world, focusing on adventures, food and wellness. Be inspired. Be yourself.


  1. I really want to see more of Scotland, especially the Isle of Skye and I have always been intrigued since I was a kid by Loch Ness, I think ultimately I’d want to make the time to spend longer in these areas, but it is good to know that you can do a day trip from Edinburgh with Gray Line Tours if you are pushed for time or want a snap shot of Nessie!

    • I hope you can make it back soon. It’s so beautiful here. And so much to see. I’m constantly finding new places to explore myself.

  2. We would love going and checking this out and definitely through longer route. Loch Ness is really attractive and meeting monster will be awesome. Great pictures.

    • Thanks! Hope you can make it soon. Scotland is getting really busy with tourism, so the sooner the better.

  3. Gray Line seems like a great way to do this if you can only afford to spend a day visiting Loch Ness, although ideally I’d love to spend more time there, it is so beautiful! I am quite used to long bus journeys so this actually is pretty manageable for me 🙂

    • More than a day is definitely better. Loch Ness is just a fraction of what Scotland has to offer. The Isle of Skye isn’t far away either.

  4. We’ve driven from Loch Ness to Edinburgh and it wasn’t tooooo horrendous a drive but yes, enough to ut into the time you have at the Loch a little if you do a day trip. But doable as a full day , I agree. I didn’t know Gray Line were the first tour company to operate in Edinburgh, that should give them a lot of experience to shape the right itinerary and know which stops are busiest with other groups.

    • I was actually amazed at how well the driver knew the other tours, and exactly when they would be at which stop. The Loch Ness tour has to catch the boat tour, so it really runs like clockwork. I’va made that drive a few times myself, but never there and back in a day. It defeats the purpose when you have to watch the road.

  5. I would definitely want to go. And I would take the 5 miles longer route to enjoy the scenic route. Lochness images have always fascinated me.

    • I feel like I’m underplaying how beautiful the scenic route is to Loch Ness. You would absolutely love it.

  6. Last time we was Edinburgh, we hired a car and drove to Glasgow via Stirling and Pitlochry. We had considered going to Lochness but ran out of time. Next time, I think we’ll just take the Gray Line tour!

    • Ooh, from Pitlochry it would have been a great idea to go down to Glasgow via Fort Augustus and Fort William. But next time for sure.

  7. I’ve never properly seen Loch Ness as the weather as quite horrible when I was there. I can’t wait to go back one day and I can totally understand why it’s worth going from Edinburgh

    • That definitely sounds like Loch Ness. I think it has something to do with having the name Skye that I often get sunny days when I’m there, but those are the minority.

  8. I did a Loch Ness tour from Edinburgh like 10 years ago or something and I remember being so amazed by the green rolling landscape along the road. It was 100% totally worth it!

    • Thanks. I’m wondering if you were with Gray Line back then. Not a lot of companies did that tour 10 years ago. Yeah, so much amazing landscape in Scotland. it’s good to be on a tour where you can see as much of it as possible. This is one of the few tours that will actually get you through both National Parks.

  9. Seems totally worth it by your description. However I’m a little skeptical. Why would people continue to go to lochness if the monster is no longer willing to come say hello 😛

    • Haha. Great question. But there are still sightings and other pieces of evidence popping up now and then, which you’ll find out about on the tour. Besides, the lake is absolutely beautiful, and so is the trip up to it.

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