You can’t visit the Scottish Highlands without visiting Loch Ness. Maybe the legend of Nessie is only folklore, but how can you pass up checking it out yourself? Even if you have absolutely no interest in the legend, Loch Ness is gorgeous. Sure, everyone says that about the places they visit, but really you guys, this place is one of the prettiest I have ever seen. We decided, yet again, to be all “touristy” and take a tour rather than go out on our own. Sometimes that is just the way to go.
We went through The Jacobite Experience tour, and we caught their bus in downtown Inverness. I loved that the tour guide was a friendly local woman. I really wish I could remember her name, because I really liked her. She was very witty and seemed really excited, telling us personal and historical stories, as she drove us around. She took us through the city and about 30 minutes southwest to the banks of Loch Ness, where she dropped us off.
From there we boarded a small passenger ferry. The day was cold and a little windy with a heavy mist lingering in the air. It felt more like a day in January, on the Oregon Coast, rather than what I would expect in June, but that’s Scotland weather for you. The dark misty atmosphere was the perfect compliment to the loch, its mysterious monster, and the castle ruins waiting on the western shore.
A few fun facts for you: Loch Ness is about 23 miles long and it has the largest volume of fresh water in Great Britain.
We spent the next hour wandering around taking in the amazing views offered in every direction. Simultaneously sipping some Scottish spiked coffee, of course. Yes, they were selling whiskey spiked coffee and hot chocolate on board. And yes, it was before noon, but it was also delicious and a great way to warm up out there.
The water was a deep blue with, from what I could tell, absolutely no visibility, just dark and murky with a depth of nearly 800 feet. Where else would you expect a creature like Nessie to live? No wonder sightings are rare, if she is in there, you couldn’t see her unless she wanted you too.
The legend of Nessie actually goes back much farther than the modern sightings, which began again in 1933. The earliest written reference to a monster living in Loch Ness dates back to the 6th century. Saint Columba, the Irish missionary who brought Christianity to Scotland, claims to have seen an unusual beast about to attack a man swimming in the loch, while on his way to visit one of the Pictish kings. He claims to have told the beast to go back into the water in the name of God, and it supposedly complied.
While the legends and stories like this are interesting, most of the sightings and evidence that have been found in regards to Nessie have turned out to be fake. I like to believe there is mystery left in the world, so that’s a bummer. When you are on the loch you can’t help but want to believe in it a little bit. Like I said in my last post, romance and mystery are just thick in the air in this country.
The ferry dropped us off on the western shore of Loch Ness, right beneath the cryptic remains of Urquhart Castle. The castle provided us with even more amazing views of the loch. We were able to roam the grounds for a little over an hour. It would have been a very serene place if it weren’t for hundreds of us trolling about everywhere with our cameras. Despite that, it was still stunningly beautiful.
The castle has a rich history as well. It was the sight of a lot of warfare– particularly between the 15th and 16th centuries. It was partially destroyed intentionally in 1692 by the English to prevent it from being used as a fortress by the Jacobites. All that is left of it are a few towers and walls, with scattered stone lying all over on the green hillside. I could have easily hung out there all day. I was entranced, as I usually am in old places. You have probably noticed by now, I am quite the history nerd.
After checking out the castle our tour guide picked us up again and took us to the Loch Ness Exhibition Centre, in the nearby village Drumnadrochit. There were an assortment of presentations and displays here on everything from the history of Nessie sightings, to the Loch’s own history and information about its eco-system. I was a little less thrilled with this portion of the tour and glad that it was short. I did finally get to see Nessie here though (see picture below). Better than nothing.