Monday, August 6, 2012

Visit Loch Ness and Search for Nessie the Loch Ness Monster


Facts About Loch Ness, Scotland:
  1. There is more water in Loch Ness than all the other lakes in England, Scotland and Wales put together.
  2. Loch Ness never fully freezes: it is too large and too deep.
  3. Because warm water rises, and colder water sinks, in the middle of winter Loch Ness can be seen steaming like a hot tub as the warm water hits the surface.
  4. And of course, Loch Ness is infested with a giant, humped-back water monster, nicknamed “Nessie”.  Or is it?
When my husband and I ventured to Scotland this summer, I made it a priority to drive up north to Loch Ness as a part of our adventure.  I was determined to stand at the lake’s edge and search for this infamous creature, and see what there was to see.

The journey from Stirling to Loch Ness was relatively smooth until our TomTom GPS unit decided to take us off the main highway and down a narrow country road to our BnB on the east shore of Loch Ness.  There are two things about Scottish roads I noticed: they are all paved, no matter how small or tucked away they are, and they are hopelessly narrow.  A two-lane road is really a one lane, often with sheer drop-offs to the sides.  Every now and then, a ‘passing place’ pops up, enabling one car to move to the side so that other vehicles can slip past, thereby averting certain death.  We once nearly had a head-on collision, but the other vehicle must have panicked and the car stalled on them, which allowed us to creep past.  Joey was just a little tense by the time we reached our BnB!

Watch for falling sheep!

We settled into our room just as the sun was setting over the hills surrounding Loch Ness, and the fog was creeping in across the water.  It was silent, peaceful, and just a little mysterious.   I can honestly see why the ancient Druids felt the area was a spiritual place, or how the legends of a magical creature came to be.   My husband and I sat and stared out the window for about an hour, watching the dusk shift and the fog slide in.


Beautiful, peaceful Loch Ness

The next morning, we drove around the southern tip of Loch Ness to Castle Urquhart, a Historic Scotland site (remember that dang “Explorer’s Pass” I’ve been harping about - well, this was on it too!  Free entrance - save £7.40 per adult! No lines!).  This castle was Joey’s favorite - he loved how it towered over the lake, the fact that it was in sheer ruins, and how we were presented with our first view.  Let me explain.


Our first amazing view of Castle Urquhart!

Urquhart Castle has a nicely developed interpretive center.  The gift shop and cafeteria are first, so you can get that “milling around” feeling out of your system.  Then you walk into a dark theatre, and watch a video about the history of the castle, which explains how it was built, taken over, reclaimed, abandoned, reclaimed, taken over, reclaimed, and then blown up by its own possessors, who didn’t want the castle used as an enemy stronghold again.  The video was quite good, and very clearly explained the castle’s past with a twist of humor.  The video ends and turns off.  The screen rolls up.  The dark curtains open - and there lies Castle Urquhart, sprawled out atop a sheer drop overlooking Loch Ness.  It took our breaths away.


Joey standing in the remains of the dovecot at Urquhart Castle.

Gorgeous view of the Urquhart ruins from atop the standing tower.

We explored every available nook and cranny.  There is a replica trebuchet, which mimics what might have been used to attack the castle back during its many sieges.    

Me with the replica trebuchet, ready to win some battles!

Partial remnants of rooms and towers still stand, but ultimately, Castle Urquhart is a pile of rubble. 


Standing atop my royal tower!

Remnants of some ancient rooms and fireplaces.

Of all the castles we’d seen during our touring around Scotland, Urquhart was in the roughest shape.  Ironically, though, it still held all of its majesty and dignity.


Beautiful ruins of Urquhart - yes, I took lots of pictures!

Once we were done bumbling around Urquhart, we hopped in the car and drove to Drumnadrochit to visit the Loch Ness Interpretive Center.  We’d heard good things about it, and it was relatively inexpensive to visit at £6.95 per adult.  We decided we should go through it, seeing as we’d driven all the way up north specifically to learn about Loch Ness and the Loch Ness Monster.  

Looking for Nessie... I did not see her.

The Interpretive Center was very well done.  There was no roaming about randomly from placard to placard, reading about artifacts or people involved with the search for the monster.  The museum was all interactive, done with audio and video, and led you chronologically from room to room, explaining the story of “Nessie” and the search for proof of her existence.  It began all the way back to the break-up of Pangaea, when Scotland was actually a chunk of land down below the equator and quite tropical.  It led you through the earliest sightings of a strange, large fish, which then grew to stories about a humped monster.  It broke down all the theories using science, including echo-location, temperature of under-surface waves, and mirages.  I left the Interpretive Center no longer believing, or hoping to believe, in Nessie - but I felt much smarter for the experience.

Replica submarine that searched for Nessie.

Our last stop in Drumnadrochit was to have lunch in a quaint restaurant called Fiddler’s, which was a ‘whiskey bar’.  I wanted to know what that meant.  What it means is that every available shelf or wall space in the establishment is covered with bottles of whiskey; whiskeys from around the world, in every language and flavor.  I did not drink any whiskey, as I am not a fan, but it was an interesting decor idea.


Mmm, Fiddler's! I recommend you go there.

We then drove around the northern tip of Loch Ness, through Inverness, and back down through the Caingorns.  We stopped every now and then at a tourist locale, such as the Dunkeld Cathedral, and our journey for the day ended in Glasgow, which I will regale you with in my next post!



Beautiful and fragile Dunkeld Cathedral.

12 comments:

  1. A friend of mine from childhood was obsessed with Nessie. He kept a Nessie keychain with him at all times! These photos are great, such a beautiful place. I love the old stones.

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    1. He would have loved the gift shop at the Loch Ness Interpretive Center then - such cute gifts there! We bought Nessie stuffies for all our nieces and nephews, for quite cheap as well!

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  2. Hey Marti,

    Loved the post and can't wait for the next part. When did you go to Scotland? Are you there now?

    Good luck and have fun!
    Cez

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    1. Hey Cez! I was there last month, and loved every moment of it. It is a gorgeous country, if not a little damp! (Probably not as sunny as where you are!) Hope to have the Glasgow post up tomorrow, so check back. ;)

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  3. I've always wanted to visit LochNess! But only during the daytime though. I do love the retouched photos you put in your post, BTW. Nicely done :)

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    1. Thanks! I felt like the normal pics just didn't fully capture the vibrant colors of Scotland. I'll try to not overdo it, though! I liked your article a lot about the value of "as-is" photography. I'll remember it!

      P.S. Loch Ness IS a little creepy at night. But magical.

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  4. I've always wanted to go there and search for Nessie. I'm sure he/she existed at some point!

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    1. They made a good case at the Interpretive Center for it being all a myth, but there ARE tons of deep, unexplored underwater caves all around Loch Ness... so you can't say definitively that it DOESN'T exist. It's nice to have a little mystery / magic in this world, I agree!

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  5. Beautiful photographs, especially the lake! Earlier today, I was actually talking with about husband about a trip to Scotland. Some of his roots are there and we would finally like to visit.

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    1. You should go! I promise you won't regret it. Be prepared to pay for every tourist site you visit, but overall, it is completely worth the journey.

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  6. Love these pics! I actually found Nessie the last I was there. I have the silliest pic of that. Your pics rally capture the mood of Loch Ness.

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    1. I would LOVE to see your Nessie picture! I didn't even see so much as a log that might have resembled a sea creature - such a shame! Oh well... :)

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