Fort Augustus Abbey, Loch Ness, Scotland

What it’s like staying in a converted abbey on the banks of Loch Ness, Scotland

[Disclosure: we stayed at Fort Augustus Abbey free of charge, for the purpose of this review]

“Mummy, is this Hogwarts?” asked Max, as we wandered the corridors of Fort Augustus Abbey on the first day of our trip there this Easter. “Because it really looks like Hogwarts?”

And, honesty, I could see his point:

Inside Fort Augustus Abbey, Loch Ness

This is just one of the corridors inside the Abbey, which was built in 1880, on the site of the former fort which gives the village of Fort Augustus its name. The fort became St. Benedict’s Abbey, and was later used as a school for boys, so the buildings have a long and varied history. Their latest incarnation, however, is as one of the more unique places to stay in the Scottish Highlands, and that’s how we came to find ourselves spending five days living in what felt like the setting of a real-life Gothic romance novel – or, as Max would have it: Hogwarts. 

Fort Augustus Abbey in the Scottish Highlands

(Seriously, though, look at it! I felt like I was letting the place down a bit in my winter coat and woolly hat: it was freezing when we were there back in April, to be fair, but I just feel like a location like this deserves flowing dresses and … well, non-wooly hats, ideally. Next time…)

The location 

Fort Augustus, Scotland

canal lock at Fort AugustusFort Augustus sits right at the end of Loch Ness, where the loch joins the Caledonian Canal, via the canal loch staircase. It’s a really pretty little village, with tons of restaurants, cafes and gift shops; we’d actually spent a couple of hours there during our last trip to the Highlands, and had really liked it, so we were happy to be able to spend a bit more time there. As well as being worth a visit in its own right, Fort Augustus is a pretty good base to explore this part of the Highlands from, being within driving distance of places like Fort William, the Glenfinnan Viaduct, and lots more.

The Apartment 

The abbey is, as I mentioned, right on the banks of the loch itself, and there are a number of different self-catering apartments available to rent via Abbey Holidays Loch Ness, who were our hosts for our stay. We stayed in the Major’s apartment, in the old Moat House, which dates back to the building’s days as a fort:

the Moat House at Fort Augustus Abbey

The moat house at Fort Augustus AbbeyThis is a two level apartment, with access via both levels: Max and I are pictured here standing outside what we referred to as “the duck door” – so called because of the little family of ducks who’d come wandering over to say hello as soon as we opened the door, and would’ve happily come inside if we’d let them. (I was very much up for this, naturally, but was over-ruled by the rest of the fam. Spoilsports.)

Inside, the apartment has a large living/dining area, with a small kitchen on the upper level:

the kitchen in the Major's Apartment

The major's apartment living room

Downstairs, meanwhile, there are three bedrooms. We stayed in the main bedroom, which has its own en-suite:

Main bedroom in the Moat House

the main bedroom in the Moat House

en-suite bathroom - Fort Augustus Abbey

Right next to us was a double room, which Max slept in…

twin room at Fort Augustus Abbey

… and just down the hall, another double bedroom for my parents, who’d accompanied us on this trip:

double room Fort Augustus Abbey

On this level of the apartment the building’s history is very apparent, with super-thick walls, and curved ceilings. Although the main bedroom has a large window, as you can see from the photo, this area has been converted from an old cellar/storage area – the room my parents stayed in used to be the gunpower store for the old fort, for instance – and none of the other rooms have windows, including the main bathroom:

main bathroom, Fort Augustus Abbey

There’s tons of space in all of these rooms, with plenty of storage, and everything you could possibly need for your stay, from hairdryers and toiletries to the incredibly well-stocked kitchen. One thing to be aware of, however, is that due to the age of the building, and the difficulties of installing lifts in it, not all of the apartments here could be said to be fully accessible: Abbey Holidays do have some apartments and cottages on the ground floor, but others – like the one we stayed in – have plenty of stairs to climb, so if you need an accessible option it’s definitely worth contacting them in advance to make sure they can accommodate you before you book.

The Abbey 

As well as the apartment itself guests of Abbey Holidays Loch Ness also have full access to the various amenities offered in the Abbey, which include things like a giant chessboard in the cloister grounds…

Forr Augustus Abbey, Loch Ness

… a lounge area complete with comfy chairs and snooker tables:

guest lounge at Fort Augustus Abbeyguest lounge at Fort Augustus Abbey

(This room used to be the monk’s refectory, and you can still see the little pulpit where they would be preached to while they ate)

… and even a swimming pool, with accompanying sauna and steam room:

swimming pool at Fort Augustus Abbey

I thought it was incredibly cool being able to swim in such a unique building, and the area just outside the pool was even more amazing:

Fort Augustus Abbey

Just look at those ceilings!

entrance to Fort Augustus Abbey

And the hallways! I don’t think I’ve ever stayed in such an atmospheric place – it’s just so different from the usual hotels and guest houses, and I loved the fact that the renovations that have been carried out have managed to retain the character of the old building. 

Not pictured, meanwhile, is the gym, and outdoor sports fields, which include a cricket pitch, tennis court, football field and bicycle track. The grounds also, of course, lead down to the banks of Loch Ness, which is best known for its monster, as well as for containing the largest volume of water in the UK. We didn’t spot Nessie during our stay, unfortunately, but we still thoroughly enjoyed our boat tour of the loch, which departs from just outside the Abbey and takes you on a guided tour packed with fascinating facts and info about the alleged monster, which I’m now 100% convinced exists. Do not try to tell me otherwise, I want to believe in mythical underwater beasts, and nothing’s going to stop me…

boat tour of Loch Ness

Want to enter a gothic romance story of your own? 

Abbey Holidays Loch Ness are currently offering 60% off if you book a stay of 7 nights or more (and trust me, once you’ve seen the place, you’re going to want those 7 nights…): click here to visit their website, and don’t forget to say hi to Nessie for me if you see her…

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