This is the first look at a “world class” new visitor attraction set to transform the experience of tourists at Loch Ness.
A complex of viewing platforms, shops and restaurants is being planned for Brachla Harbour between Inverness and Drumnadrochit on the north bank of the loch.
The developers believe it will offer “unparalleled” views of the world famous body of water – and solve the problem of there being a limited choice of viewing areas around Loch Ness.
The project, which will cost between £3 and £4million, will create around 20 new jobs for the area.
The facility is being developed by the owners of the Loch Ness Centre and Exhibition in Drumnadrochit who have now applied for planning permission for the development.
The proposal was previously granted permission in principle in 2014 – and managing director Robert Bremner said work could start within 18 months who said: “a world-class visitor destination deserves world-class visitor facilities.”
He added: “This will be a one of a kind facility.
“Loch Ness is famous around the world and visitor numbers are going up. They have high expectations and this will help ensure they are met.
“It will answer a long-standing demand from visitors for a comprehensive vantage point on the loch.”
He said at present there was an issue with “accessibility” on the loch, with only Dores Beach and Fort Augustus at the northern and southern end offering views over its length.
Brachla’s position roughly halfway between Inverness and Drumnadrochit would allow for more extensive views.
The attraction would sit just off the A82 Inverness to Fort William road which runs down the loch’s northern shore.
Mr Bremner added: “This development will enable visitors to see, touch and feel Loch Ness.
“For years, visitors have commented on the lack of access to the loch – something that a world-class destination like Loch Ness should offer. Brachla seeks to address that need.”
The facility has been designed by Highland-based architects HRI Munro and landscape architects Benton Scott-Simmons
The facility would include for a number of viewing terraces, outside dining and quayside areas, both above, on, and over the water.
It will also offer direct disabled access to the loch, and improved car parking facilities at the harbour.
Also included is new embarkation facilities for Loch Ness by Jacobite cruise boats, which already runs trips from Brachla, naming them after the nearby Clansman Hotel.
If approved, work is likely to start within 18 months and would be planned around the busy summer months.
Though the developers are using the name Brachla, the harbour is also known as Brackla, which is also a brand of whisky made near Nairn.
Mr Bremner said they are using the former spelling, which he said was the traditional version.
The project was welcomed by business leaders based around the loch, including Graeme Ambrose, chief executive of VisitInvernessLochNess.
He said: “Visitors tell us they want to get closer to Loch Ness, and Brachla Harbour is a welcome and exciting development.
“With its combination of a viewing platform and access to the loch, it will provide a crucial contribution that has been missing from the tourism offering on the north side of Loch Ness.
“I anticipate it will be very well received by visitors from around the world.”
Stewart Nicol, chief executive of Inverness Chamber of Commerce said there was a “pressing need” for a vantage point for tourists to stop at along the side of the loch.
He said: “The tourism sector has been extremely bouyant around Loch Ness and Inverness for quite some time.
“We’ve seen that with the trails and so on which are appearing around the area like the Great Glen Way which help bring people into the area.
“It’s good to see this development being brought forward, it would be a high quality addition to the mix around Loch Ness.”
He added: “We can’t make too much of Nessie and the loch.”