The bucolic village of Drumnadrochit is about 1.6km (1 mile) from Loch Ness, at the entrance to Glen Urquhart. It's the nearest village to the part of the loch in which sightings of the monster have most frequently been reported.
Although most visitors arrive at Drumnadrochit to see the Loch Ness Monster exhibit, you can also take an offbeat adventure in the great outdoors at the Highland Riding Centre, Borlum Farm, Drumnadrochit (tel. 01456/450-220; www.borlum.co.uk). This is a 343-hectare (850-acre) sheep farm on moorlands overlooking Loch Ness; follow A82 for about 23km (14 miles) west of Inverness and make a reservation in advance. In summer, the stable's 45 horses are booked throughout the day. Depending on demand, tours depart almost every day; they leave between 9:30am and 4:30pm, last 60 to 120 minutes, and start at £23. Wilderness Cycles, The Cottage (tel. 01456/450-223), will rent you a bike so you can go exploring on your own. Rentals costs £12 for a half-day, £16 daily, and £35 to £70 weekly. It's open daily 9am to 6pm.
Fort Augustus, 58km (36 miles) south of Inverness along A82 and 267km (166 miles) northwest of Edinburgh, stands at the head (the southernmost end) of Loch Ness. The town became fortified after the 1715 Jacobite rising. Gen. George Wade, of road- and bridge-building fame, headquartered here in 1724, and in 1729, the government constructed a fort along the banks of the loch, naming it Augustus after William Augustus, duke of Cumberland, son of George II. Jacobites seized the fort in 1745 and controlled it until the Scottish defeat at Culloden. Now gone, Wade's fort was turned into the Fort Augustus Abbey at the south end of Loch Ness. A Benedictine order was installed in 1867, and the monks today run a Catholic secondary school on the site.
Fort Augustus is mainly a refueling stop for those who want to stay on Loch Ness itself -- perhaps in hopes of seeing the monster -- instead of dropping anchor in a larger town such as Fort William to the south or Inverness to the north. The only other reason to stop by is that it's the most panoramic place to see the locks of the Caledonian Canal in action.
Bisecting the actual village of Fort Augustus, the locks of the Caledonian Canal are a popular attraction when boats are passing through. Running across the loftiest sections of Scotland, the canal was constructed between 1803 and 1822. Almost in a straight line, it makes its way from Inverness, in the north, to Corpach, in the vicinity of Fort William. The canal is 97km (60 miles) long: 35 man-made kilometers (22 miles), and the rest are natural lochs.
Caley Cruisers, Canal Road, Inverness (tel. 01463/236-328; fax 01463/714-879; www.caleycruisers.co.uk), maintains a fleet of 50 cruisers (with skippers) that groups of two to six people can rent from March to October -- even if their marine experience is relatively limited. Rentals last for 1 week, long enough to negotiate the 97km (60 miles) of the Caledonian Canal in both directions between Inverness and Fort William. (There are about 15 locks en route; tolls are included in the rental fee.) Depending on the craft's size and the season, a week's rental ranges from £476 to £1,911; the cost of fuel and taxes for a week is £85 to £160, plus another £35 to £85 for a reasonably priced insurance policy. Except for the waters of Loch Ness, which can be rough, the canal is calm and doesn't pose the dangers of cruising on the open sea.