The biggest mystery of all explained – what is the difference between Lock Ness and Loch Ness!

The biggest mystery to many visiting Loch Ness will not be ‘is there a monster’ but instead ‘why on earth to the Scots say Loch and not lake!’.  There are many words in Scotland that are different to words in British and American English and this article is going to explain why.

Many people don’t realise but we do in fact have our own language in the Highlands of Scotland called gaelic (pronounced ‘gah-lic’ as opposed to the Irish ‘gay-lic’). The Gaelic word for lake which is used in everyday language in Scotland is Loch and is one of the few Gaelic words used in everyday language by English speaking Scots – hence why we say Loch Ness. If the lake was in Ireland it would be called Lough Ness – which is pronounced the same only spelt differently!

Gaelic is an officially recognised language of the Scottish Parliament and in the Highlands of Scotland you also get bi-lingual road signs in Gaelic and English. Although you are unlikely to hear Gaelic in everyday use on the mainland, once you get over to the Islands there is always a good chance of hearing it spoken in grocery stores and on the street. Don’t worry though – you don’t need to learn another language as everyone (at least everyone that you are likely to meet) speaks English too!

The view to Loch Ness on a WOW Scotland tourOne of the main reasons that people get the spelling of Loch Ness wrong is that in Scotland we have a distict ‘ch’ sound which although similar to the ‘ck’ in ‘Lock Ness’ is in fact very different. For music aficionadas amongst think of the German composer ‘Bach’, or for the those with a bit of Spanish (or a love of wine) think of the  j in ‘Rioja’. For German speakers this is a very easy sound and is why Scottish people can often speak nicer sounding German than their English counterparts. However, for many people this is very difficult and it doesn’t matter how many times you try it will come out as Lock Ness!

Just to confuse you there are in fact many Locks near to Loch Ness. The Caledonian Canal which stretches from Inverness in the east to Fort William in the west links up Loch Dochfour, Loch Ness, Loch Oich and Loch Lochy via a series of lock gates. However the are no locks on Loch Ness!

If you are interested in learning how to pronounce Loch Ness and other Scottish words (as well as seeing some amazing scenery around Loch Ness and the Scottish Highlands) then why not check out the rest of our website to find out about our Lock Ness, Loch Ness and Lough Ness Tours