Loch Tay, Scotland, United Kingdom

Lake Locations:

United Kingdom - Scotland - Central - Perthshire -

Loch Tay is a long and narrow natural lake in the central Scottish Highlands that extends southwest to northeast in the country’s Central and Perthshire regions. Loch Tay is a wonderful choice for travelers looking for a less developed vacation area. There are several small villages bordering the lake, including Fearnan and Lawers along the north shore and Acharn, Ardeonaig and Ardtalnaig along the south. Killin, on the west end, and Kenmore, on the east end where the River Tay begins, are the larger towns associated with the lake; these two towns draw the most visitors and provide services such as equipment rental, lodging, shopping, restaurants, and local attractions.

The Rivers Lochay and Dochart, as well as various streams, feed Loch Tay. This glacial lake is generally 1 to 1.5 miles (1.6 to 2.4 kilometers) wide and 14 miles (22.5 kilometers) long, flowing southwest to northeast in direction, in the shape of a flattened “S.” Many crannogs have been found submerged in the lake; crannogs are ancient artificial islands, usually made of wood and stone, which were used for defensive purposes. These man-made features are common in the United Kingdom, but Loch Tay is fortunate to have a reconstructed crannog on view at the Scottish Crannog Centre on the loch’s south side to provide a glimpse into the architecture of the early Iron Age. The ruins of an authentic crannog are also on display at Killin Pier.

With the village of Killin at its head and Kenmore at its foot, an exploration of Loch Tay is an excellent choice for travelers and outdoor enthusiasts who are looking for something different. The nearby Falls of Dochart draw many visitors, as does Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park. Sightseeing and photography are very popular here, in part because the lake is somewhat inaccessible in places. Wildlife is plentiful in the area around Loch Tay: deer, herons, osprey, feral goats, buzzards and red squirrels make the undeveloped woodlands their homes. Nearby in Aberfeldy, the Fortingall churchyard showcases what’s thought to be the oldest living thing in Europe–a 3,000-year-old yew tree. Its impressive stature alone makes it worth the trip. Other points of interest include the ruins of a priory near Kenmore that was built by Alexander I in 1211 in memory of Sybilla, his wife, who is interred there. Loch Tay is also less than two hours by car from many other well-loved destinations, such as Oban, Glasgow, Edinburgh, and Saint Andrews.

Loch Tay is known for its excellent salmon fishing opportunities. Trout, perch, pike, char and roach are also sought after in this freshwater ribbon lake. With a maximum depth of 508 feet (154.8 meters) and an average depth of 199 feet (60.7 meters), this loch supports a variety of species. Other water-based activities that are popular with locals and travelers include canoeing, kayaking, paragliding, rafting, yachting, sailing, powerboating and water skiing. An unusual feature of this loch–and one to keep in mind when pursuing activities within it–is the shallow shelf that runs around the perimeter of the loch. The lake bed extends out about 100 feet (30.5 meters) before the shelf drops off and the water plunges to greater depths. Piers are found at Killin, Lawers, Fearnan, Ardeonaig and Kenmore, and ferries are located at Ardeonaig and Lawers.

For those interested in spending some time on a beach, a few on Loch Tay accessible by car, but they are limited in size. One is located between Killin and Fiddler’s Bay on the south shore; another is located at Kenmore. Mountain biking is also an agreeable pastime to those interested. Bikes for adults and children of all ages can be rented during vacations, with areas of different skill and exertion levels available, so anyone with a cycling interest should be able to satisfy the urge to bike in the area. For more relaxing activities, hill walking is becoming very popular, and golf is also played.

Ben Lawers is located on the lake’s north shore, rising 3,983 feet (1,214 meters). This Munro (a term for a mountain more than 3,000 feet [914.4 meters] high) is the tenth highest mountain in the British Isles. The loch itself is 355 feet (108.2 meters) above sea level. The north shore road is the main road for quick travel along the lake, but it’s certainly the less interesting route. The north road is much higher than the lake and runs quite a distance away, so the water can be seen only from afar. To get to the lake’s northern shores, determined visitors must do so on foot by crossing fields. The south shore road is the more scenic and more interesting route, although it is a lesser road and not as well maintained. It hugs the shoreline more closely and allows a greater appreciation for the many nuances of Loch Tay. It’s a slower drive, but it’s much preferred if time is not of the essence. The south road passes through the village of Acharn, which is known for its 1.5-mile (2.4-kilometer) pathway that leads to impressive waterfalls. This hike, though popular, is rather steep and not a good choice for the vacationer looking only for a leisurely stroll.

Most of the wonderful holiday rentals in this region are self-catering accommodations that fit snugly into the unspoiled woodlands surrounding them. Lakeside cabins, lodges and other renovated and cozy options are available for holiday rentals, as is some real estate that would be perfect for a retirement home. Most rentals feature modern amenities, with full kitchens, satellite television and modern appliances set in the relaxing and peaceful atmosphere that pervades Loch Tay and its surrounds.

The Breadalbane hydroelectric power project uses Loch Tay as an important component of energy generation. Breadalbane, Gaelic for “the high country,” is where the Scottish Highlands begin. Seven power stations are in place with this project, which has been fully operational since 1961. It’s a powerful system due to the large annual amounts of rainfall received by the high mountains around this area, which then flow into the river valleys and provide the system with plenty of water. There are three sections to the system, each involving a loch: Loch Lyon, Loch Earn and Loch Tay.

The Lawers section of the hydroelectric project, named for its proximity to Ben Lawers, was designed with a series of tunnels to funnel water where it needs to go, using a system of aqueducts to collect and divert the massive amount of water. These tools feed the water into Lochanna-Lairige, a reservoir that is contained by Lawers Dam, which is a very large buttress dam that conveys the water over the highest waterfall drop of any man-made hydroelectric scheme in Scotland–a plunge of 1,361 feet (415 meters). The water flows through a pipeline and is used by the Finlairg power station, located on the shore of Loch Tay. Operated by Scottish and Southern Energy, the Breadalbane hydroelectric power project is a significant source of electricity generation for the central Scottish Highlands, powering roughly 11,500 homes. This project demonstrates that Loch Tay is equally important for recreation and energy production.

Things to do at Loch Tay

  • Vacation Rentals
  • Fishing
  • Sailing
  • Swimming
  • Beach
  • Canoeing
  • Kayaking
  • Water Skiing
  • Golf
  • Cabin Rentals
  • Hiking
  • Biking
  • Waterfall
  • Wildlife Viewing
  • Birding
  • National Park
  • Ruins
  • Shopping

Fish species found at Loch Tay

  • Char
  • Perch
  • Pike
  • Roach
  • Salmon
  • Trout

Loch Tay Photo Gallery

  • SONY DSC

  • OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Loch Tay Statistics & Helpful Links

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Lake Type: Natural Freshwater Lake, Not Dammed

Surface Area: 6,528 acres

Normal Elevation (Full Pond): 355 feet

Minimum Elevation (Min Pond): 346 feet

Maximum Elevation (Max Pond): 363 feet

Average Depth: 199 feet

Maximum Depth: 508 feet

Water Volume: 1,297,952 acre-feet

Lake Area-Population: 1,100

Drainage Area: 232 sq. miles

Trophic State: Mesotrophic

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Trophic State | LakeLubbers

Trophic State measures the level of algae and nutrients in a lake.

An oligotrophic lake is very clear (blue in color) and does not support much plant or fish life. A hyper-oligotrophic lake is the clearest of all lakes, and is nearly devoid of plants and fish.

A mesotrophic lake is slightly green and supports a moderate degree of plant and fish life. A lake's most desired trophic state is generally this mid-point - the mesotrophic state.

A eutrophic lake is somewhat murky and supports a large amount of plant and fish life. A hypereutrophic lake is clouded with algae, plant life, and fish life. A eutrophic or hyper-eutrophic lake can be difficult to navigate by boat - and is often an unpleasant place to swim.

The use of phosphorus-rich and nitrogen-rich fertilizer on lawns and golf courses surrounding a lake can cause it to become eutrophic or hypereutrophic.


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Catchment or Drainage Area | LakeLubbers

This is the surrounding area that drains into a lake, including land, rivers and their tributaries. This is also known as the lake's "catchment basin".

Small lakes at the highest peaks of mountains have small drainage areas. The world's oceans have the largest drainage areas.


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Lake-Area Population | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated number of people who live in a house with a view of a lake, plus those who self-describe the lake as their home, for example: "I live at Smith Mountain Lake."


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Water Residence Time | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated time that it takes for an amount of water equal to the entire volume of a lake to flow out of - or evaporate from - the lake.

Residence Time can be as short as a few days for fast-flowing small lakes, and can exceed 100 years for slow-flowing large lakes.


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Completion Year | LakeLubbers

This is the year that a reservoir was first filled to the reservoir's normal elevation - or the year that a natural lake was first dammed. A large reservoir can take more than a year to fill after its dam is first closed.

The Grand Anicut in southern India is generally considered the world's oldest dam that still operates. Grand Anicut was constructed in the second century BC. It now impounds an irrigation network that includes roughly one million acres.

You can find many of the the world's newest reservoirs on LakeLubbers. Many of the world's oldest reservoirs appear on the last page of that list.


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Water Volume | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated volume of water that a lake contains -- measured at the lake's normal elevation. By this measure, the world's largest freshwater lake is Siberia's Lake Baikal.

You can find many of the the world's largest lakes (by water volume) on LakeLubbers.

Water Volume can be measured in acre-feet, in cubic miles, or in cubic kilometers. One acre-foot is the amount of water needed to cover one acre (43,560 square feet) to a depth of one foot. One cubic mile equals 3,379,200 acre-feet. One cubic kilometer equals 810,713 acre-feet.

1 acre-foot is equal to 325,851 US gallons. Siberia's Lake Baikal contains about 6,276,367,740,000,000 gallons of freshwater - nearly 1 million gallons for every living person on earth.

The other - and more widely used - measure of a lake's size is the lake's surface acreage. By that measure, the world's largest freshwater lake is North America's Lake Superior.


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Maximum Depth | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated greatest depth of the water in a lake -- measured at the lake's normal elevation. The world's deepest lake is Siberia's Lake Baikal; that lake's maximum depth is estimated at 5,314 feet.

You can find many of the the world's deepest lakes on LakeLubbers. If you select the last page of that list, you will find the (maximum depth of) the shallowest lakes in our database.


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Average Depth | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated average depth of the water in a lake -- measured at the lake's normal elevation. If the water volume and surface area of a lake are known, an estimate of the lake's average depth can be calculated:

Water volume ÷ Surface Area = Average Depth

Example: 1,000,000 acre-feet ÷ 20,000 acres = 50 feet average depth


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Maximum Elevation | LakeLubbers

This is a lake's highest water level, measured by the lake's surface distance above sea level, that can occur during flooding. A lake's highest possible maximum elevation is usually the top of the lake's dam or spillway.

At lakes that include residential development, government regulations usually forbid the construction of homes below a lake's maximum elevation.


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Minimum Elevation | LakeLubbers

This is a lake's lowest water level, measured by the lake's surface distance above sea level, that can be reasonably expected to occur. Low lake levels can occur due to deliberate seasonal draw downs for irrigation or impending snow melt, reduced water inflows, drought and evaporation, residential or commercial water demands, and hydropower generation.

Some lakes' minimum and maximum elevations are virtually the same. Lakes that generate hydropower may vary by several feet - according to power demand. Lakes whose primary purpose is to prevent flooding can seasonally vary by 100 feet or more.

When some lakes reach their minimum elevation, their boat ramps may not be long enough to permit boat access - and boats docked on shallow parts of the lake may end up on dry ground. In those cases, kayakers and shore-based anglers may be among the few happy recreational users of the lake.


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Normal Elevation | LakeLubbers

This is a lake's normal water level, measured by the lake's surface distance above sea level. For a reservoir, this water level is also known as "full pond" or "full pool".

You can find many of the world's highest-elevated lakes on LakeLubbers. Lakes with the lowest elevations (known by LakeLubbers) are shown on the final page of that list.


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Shoreline Length | LakeLubbers

This is the length of the exterior shoreline around a lake - measured at the lake's normal elevation. The shoreline length can be considerably shorter or longer when lake water levels are lower or higher than normal.

A lake with many coves has a much longer shoreline than a lake of similar surface area that is nearly circular in shape.

When known, the shoreline miles that we report in our statistics include only the lake's exterior shoreline, and exclude the shorelines of islands located within a lake's boundaries. In lakes with many islands, those islands' combined shorelines may exceed a lake's exterior shoreline.

You can find many of the world's longest-shoreline lakes on Lakelubbers.


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Surface Area | LakeLubbers

This is the area (acreage, square kilometers, etc.) of the top surface area of a lake - measured at a lake's normal elevation. The surface area can be considerably smaller or larger when lake levels are lower or higher than normal. North America's Lake Superior is the world's largest freshwater lake by this measure.

The other measure of a lake's size is the lake's water volume. By that measure, the world's largest freshwater lake is Lake Baikal in Siberia.

You can find many of the world's largest lakes (acres) on Lakelubbers. There is no widely-accepted minimum surface area that defines a lake. What Lakelubbers describes as a lake, you might call a pond. The smallest lake that Lakelubbers currently includes is Hawaii's 2-acre Lake Waiau.


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Water Level Control | LakeLubbers

This is the organization that controls water releases or outflows from the lake or reservoir. In the USA, this is often the US Army Corps of Engineers, a power company, a municipal water system, an irrigation district, or a paper manufacturing company. In the case of private or gated lakes, a homeowners' association may be the lake's controlling authority.

Many lakes cross borders, including North America's Great Lakes. The control of such lakes and their coveted freshwater may be amicably shared - or hotly disputed.

"Water wars" continue at many lakes as growing populations and crop irrigation needs compete for the freshwater that lakes contain.


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Lake Type | LakeLubbers

There are 3 basic types of lakes that are currently included on LakeLubbers. 2 types may be dammed or not dammed, producing 5 classifications.

- A Reservoir is a man-made freshwater lake that is usually created by damming rivers.

- A Natural Freshwater Lake occurs naturally - often by glacial activity - and has a salinity of less than 30 parts per thousand. It may be dammed to produce electricity or for other reasons.

- A Natural Saltwater Lake occurs naturally and has a salinity of more than 30 parts per thousand (ppt). It may be dammed.

"Brackish" water may be categorized as freshwater or saltwater, depending on its salt content (salinity). Oligohaline water has less than 15 ppt of salt. Mesohaline water has 15-29 ppt. Polyhaline has 30-335 ppt.


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