Escape the hum of the city and get closer to nature by discovering one of Edinburgh‘s nearby lochs – beautiful, scenic bodies of water. Here’s our guide to the tops lochs close to Edinburgh.
Jump on one of the frequently departing trains to the historic West Lothian town, where you’ll find a large loch just a short stroll from the station. Standing in the shadow of a ruined palace, its vast size of over a hundred acres (40ha) provides ample opportunity for water sports, fishing and hiking. It’s owned by Historic Scotland and home to a wide range of waterfowl, as well as the Low Port Centre for canoe and kayak hire. Follow the waterside path to circumnavigate the loch on foot in around 30 to 40 minutes.
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While technically still within the city of Edinburgh, Duddingston feels like a country retreat. A quaint village borders the body of water on one side, with Holyrood Park meeting it on the other. Fishing is permitted, but as this has been a bird sanctuary since the 1920s, it’s not suitable for water sports or swimming. Look out for species including the Canada goose, mute swan, tufted duck, great crested grebe, sparrowhawk and the sedge warbler. Take a short stroll from here to one of the city’s finest traditional pubs, the Sheep Heid, for a pint and a game of vintage skittles.
St Margaret’s Loch
This is the easiest loch to access close to the city, just a 10-minute amble from the Old Town. Close to Duddingston Loch, it’s within Holyrood Park, on the edge of the Meadowbank neighbourhood. A deluge of friendly swans, ducks and geese patrol the area, making it perfect for a spot of bird feeding. It also has a car park right beside the water, ideal for in-vehicle lochside picnicking on rainy days. In better weather, you can pick up a cooling treat a few minutes’ walk away at the semi-permanent ice-cream van.
If you’d rather adventure off the beaten track, check out this hidden gem. It’s located in East Lothian, close to the pretty market town of Haddington, around a 30-minute drive from the city. It’s an easy one to miss and sure to be free from the hordes of tourists you may find at other popular sites. Be prepared for a short hike through the woods to reach the glistening waters. Look out for the charming stone loveseat, inscribed with the loch creator’s name and date of inception.
Home to more breeding ducks than anywhere else in inland Europe, this relatively shallow loch also receives visits from ospreys, otters, kingfishers and eagles. It’s a little further afield in Kinross but provides a 13-mile (21km) traffic-free Heritage Trail. Find the RSPB visitor centre at its southerly end, and if you’re feeling brave, take a dip in its icy waters from the slate shore. Look to Loch Leven’s centre and you’ll spy the MacDonald clan’s burial island.
If you fancy trying your hand at waterskiing or wakeboarding, this is the place to be. As its name would suggest, this loch is found close to the town centre of Dunfermline, also a short train journey from the capital. A water sports centre operates year-round on its shores, and there’s ample convenient parking. But it’s also a favourite with walkers, especially those who prefer a manageable and flat pathway. Warm up after a winter stroll with a cuppa at the café.
No list of lochs would be complete without Lomond. Made famous by an iconic song, it sits on the outskirts of Glasgow, rather than Edinburgh. But with access to a car, the journey can be made in an hour and a half, taking in some picturesque mountain scenery – or the cultural hub of Glasgow – en route. Park up at Ballater for boat trips, great restaurants and pubs. This epic loch is part of the Trossachs National Park and a must during a lengthier stay in Scotland.
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