Written by Lynsey Oxton
Lochs in Scotland are ten a penny and there are around 30,000 of them dotted around Scotland. But not only is Loch Ness the most voluminous, it is arguably the most famous – thanks to its most sought-after resident, the Loch Ness Monster!
To be truthful, you simply can’t find yourself in the vicinity without taking a look at this magnificent Loch for yourself – whether that’s spending some time sat on its shoreline (weather permitting), or taking a walk through its adjoining forest.
First, some facts…
Loch Ness is 23 miles long, 750 foot deep and contains more water than all of the lakes in England and Wales combined! Loch Lomond may boast the largest surface area and Loch Morar the deepest water, but Loch Ness is the largest freshwater Loch by volume. Yep, pretty huge. The loch apparently maintains a 6° temperature all year round, irrespective of the temperature on land – meaning that it’s sometimes warmer to go for a ‘dip’ (not that I’d offer to test out the theory). There is also an annual Loch Ness Marathon that takes place, albeit this year’s plans were clearly curtailed due to the pandemic.
Believer or Sceptic?
Is there any truth that a huge monster could live in the Loch, or is it simply a big fib that makes for a good story and great publicity?
What do you think?
The first reported sighting may go back as far as 565 AD, however the ‘myth’ that is the Loch Ness Monster truly became a globally recognised phenomenon in the 1930’s when a London-based surgeon reported seeing a monster-like creature with a huge neck in the loch. Over the years that followed, Nessie was reportedly seen time and time again – with some describing the monster as having multiple humps and others claiming it was a Plesiosaur (dinosaur) or even a swimming elephant!
Some of the sightings were allegedly backed up by photographic ‘evidence’. Of course, these all turned out to be fake. One prankster used a toy submarine with a plastic monster head (how inventive) and many others have tried their luck with digitally manipulated photos over the years. Nobody has been able to prove that the monster exists, but equally, nobody can effectively prove otherwise either…
The Nessie Hunters
There are clearly big believers out there as many have dedicated their lives to the hunt for Nessie! The Loch has been scoured for the past hundred or so years by eager scientists and explorers, as well as those who rely more upon ‘sitting it out’ with a good pair of binoculars and a prime spot on the shoreline; one such person being the ‘Nessie Hunter’, Steve Feltham. He has patiently sat watching and waiting to see Nessie since 1991 – now that is dedication! He’s featured on lots of tv documentaries and now sells his handmade models to help fund his search. Being the typical tourist, I had to buy one.
On the hunt myself…
I wasn’t going to letthe small fact that scientists had tried to find Nessie, unsuccessfully, over the years deter mefrom trying to catch a glimpse myself! Fact is, if you’re at Loch Ness, you have to at least try.
We parked up at the Dores Inn (next to where the Nessie Hunter has his van). From here, you can take a 5k circular walk which takes you between the Loch and Torr Wood and takes around an hour. The route leads up to Aldourie Castle, although due to Covid restrictions, this path was closed when we visited. Be warned – walking boots are a must as the forest can get quite muddy and boggy in parts!
During the walk, the eagle-eyed wildlife spotter might see the native red squirrel, deer, pine martins, tawny owls, bats and woodpeckers, as well as a host of flora including ‘lucky heather’. Despite best efforts, my wildlife spotting was rather limited to a small mouse. Nessie, sadly, failed to show herself too.
The Loch Ness Centre and Exhibition
If you are keen to learn more about the hoaxes, illusions and eye witness accounts – as well as to see the exploration equipment up close, I’d recommend a visit to the Loch Ness Centre and Exhibition in Drumnadrochit (20 minutes drive from Dores – or for the ambitious walker, follow the Loch Ness Trail along the A82).
At just £8.50 per adult, it’sa must-do for every Nessie enthusiast.
The centre houses seven interactive exhibition areas that tell the story of Loch Ness and the mystery of the monster. You’ll learn about ‘Machan’ (the worlds smallest submarine), ‘Operation Deepscan’ and the Loch Ness timecapsule.
The exhibition encourages you to make up your own mind as to whether Nessie exists – or ever did – by presenting scientific rationale and plausible explanations to represent both sides.
If nothing else, it’s great shelter when it’s raining – and it has a cracking gift shop for your Nessie souvenirs! If you’re travelling with kids, there’s a more child-oriented option you could try just down the road, called ‘Nessieland’. I don’t think Mickey has anything to worry about.
There’s more to Loch Ness than the monster…
If you like Scottish castles and you’re in Drumnadrochit, you really shouldn’tmiss Urquhart Castle – an impressive ruin that sits on the shores of Loch Ness. If you want to drive, it’s five minutes – or you can do what we did and walk the two miles to take in more of Loch Ness (and work off your lunch).
The castle dates all the way back to the 13th century, is believed to be the largest medieval castle in the Scottish Highlands and was built by the son in law of King Alexander II. It’s definitely a must-see for history buffs.
In 1692 it was blown up by the English army (known as ‘the Government’) who were fighting the Jacobites at the time. Time and again, the castle was attacked and besieged. Now stands the ruins only, which is accessible over the rock-cut moat.
There’s a small entrance fee of around £11 per person which, given the current climate, must be booked online in advance to allocate a visiting time and allow for social-distancing. Go to the castle website to do this. Parking is free but must be pre-booked.
We spent around an hour exploring the castle and were lucky to get some good weather to do so. Highlights included the fabulous views from Grant Tower and the Great Hall where once great banquets were held. What a prime location this would have been in its heyday in the 1300’s!
If you have time…
We didn’t pack enough time into the agenda to take one of the Jacobite cruises, which sets sail from the Caledonian Canal in Inverness and goes all the way down the Loch to the castle – but it comes highly recommended, if you go by the guidebooks. Hop on, hop off – or just stay on for the ride – whatever suits. Speed demons may prefer the ‘Beastie’ high-speed motorboat ride!
So, there we have it – the famous Loch Ness that you’ve heard all the stories about!
I hope I’ve encouraged you to drop by if you’re exploring West Coast Scotland. After all, everyone should experience the mysterious Loch Ness once in their lifetime, eh?
Who knows, Nessie might just be waiting for YOUR visit!