We hear its roar before we see it: Plodda Falls – a raging waterfall that plummets 151 feet to the forest floor below.
It may not be Niagara, but it is impressive and arguably the most thrilling waterfall in Scotland.
Cloaked in mist, we stand in awe at its foot before beginning the surprisingly comfortable climb to a viewing platform that offers monumental views, not only of the falls but also the treetops and mountains beyond.
Getting here was something of an experience too, via the enchanting Victorian conservation village of Tomich in Glen Affric – a short drive from magical Loch Ness.
We venture out from the chocolate-box village by car, eventually taking a winding dirt road and pulling up in its parking area to explore way-marked tracks on foot.
As we push deeper into the sun-dappled woodland, our youngsters fall silent, captivated by its stillness, the sound of bird song and the sight of a deer, silently nosing the forest floor.
The wind changes, the deer catches our scent and lopes off.
“Wow,” our wee townies mouth in unison, just as the grown-ups point to the heavens.
With their little necks craned, they take in the Douglas firs towering above us, some of which cannot be far off the height of the falls themselves.
These giants, introduced to the UK in 1827 by Scots botanist David Douglas, can grow to nearly 200 feet and can live for more than 1,000 years.
With our kids’ heads reeling at the stats, we head back to Tomich and its charming Coach House Cafe to formulate the plan for the rest of our stay.
The tiny hamlet – a cluster of pretty lead-windowed stone cottages, punctuated by Victorian street lamps – sits beside Guisachan Estate, also known as the ancestral home of the golden retriever dog.
People come from all over the world to see its now ruined but once grand house, the home of rich Victorian brewer and MP Dudley Coutts Marjoribanks, who later became Lord Tweedmouth. Having bought the estate in 1854, he founded the breed there in 1868.
Tomich today is a quaint holiday spot for those wanting to get away from it all. It has fully accredited horse riding available for all ages and abilities at Highland Trekking and Trail Riding at nearby Cougie.
And self-catering operation, Tomich Holidays, also offer stays in woodland lodges, holiday cottages and a former Victorian dairy (all with wifi).
They also boast an indoor swimming pool, kids’ play area, a games room, drying room and bike store with bike hire.
But we decide to base ourselves at the three-star gem that is the Loch Ness Clansman Hotel – said to be the only hotel smack-bang on the shores of Loch Ness. Here we can “monster-watch” to our hearts’ content – even during dinner.
Its newly refurbished and stylish restaurant has picture windows looking over the loch. The dining here is fit for the location, with The Clansman’s chefs “showcasing Scotland on a plate” – and all served by a friendly waiting team.
Guests can take a tour on the loch with Jacobite Cruises from the Clansman Harbour, just steps from the hotel, but we choose instead to meet the boat crew at Dochgarroch Lock for its two-hour Contemplation Cruise.
And we find ourselves in the wake of Queen Victoria as we cruise Thomas Telford’s famous Caledonian Canal and the legendary Loch.
Views of the Great Glen from the boat are spectacular, but they also include fairytale Aldourie Castle, the historic Bona Lighthouse, iconic Urquhart Castle and even the crash site of a Second World War Wellington bomber.
And the detailed commentary is peppered with tales of Nessie herself!
We relax with a glass of wine (soft drinks for the kids) as our guide – who doubles up as a member of the Loch Ness lifeboat crew – regales with fun facts about the 23-mile-long stretch of water (about one mile-wide on average and 755 feet in depth at its deepest point).
Did you know, for example, that the first ever sighting of Nessie was back in 565 AD by St Columba? Or that the water – whose temperature remains at six degrees all year round – is black because of the peat washed from the hills into the Loch?
Perfect cover for any prehistoric creature lurking in its depths!