Exploring Loch Ness

Trip Start Apr 13, 2012
Trip End Apr 25, 2012

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Flag of United Kingdom  , Scotland,
Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Peggy has solved the mystery of Loch Ness.  Nessie is a sturgeon. More on that in a minute though....

 Unfortunately, Tuesday dawned extremely overcast with low clouds.  We considered taking in the Cairngorm Mountain Railway anyway but decided that the view that morning likely wouldn't be worth the detour.  Instead, we pushed on around the loch to Drumnadrochit, which is the usual visitor site for Loch Ness.

There's no official Loch Ness visitor center to speak of, but there are several attractions in the town.  We chose to bypass locations like "Nessieland" and head to the Loch Ness Centre & Exhibition.  While still somewhat of a tourist trap, we and our guide books give this place solid marks for presenting the history and science around Loch Ness (if in a somewhat cheesy way).  The exhibition starts by explaining why the Loch Ness Monster can't be a plesiosaur given Scotland's ice age history and geography.  Then it goes on to cover all the history, hoaxes, and real science that have gone on around Loch Ness.  Our favorite story was about a big game hunter hired by a London newspaper to find the monster.  He returned with what appeared to be monster footprints.  They were later revealed to be made by him using a hippopotamus foot ashtray he obtained on safari.  In any case, after reviewing all of the evidence, Peggy has concluded that Nessie is likely a sturgeon occasionally entering the loch while looking for a mate, which would still make claims of a prehistoric creature living in there true!

After solving this mystery (Jinkees!), we headed across the little town to visit Urquhart Castle.  Urquhart is a magnificent ruin.  Its location on the banks of Loch Ness and in the Great Glen has a sort of haunting beauty that's difficult to describe.  Like Edinburgh Castle, this site has a history that predates the castle with a Pictish (people predating the Celts in Scotland) fort recorded there around 580 AD by Christian missionaries. Urquhart Castle was strategically important so it was involved in a lot of military action between the 13th and 17th centuries.  It was finally abandoned in 1692, and when the last soldiers left they blew it up!  What remained quickly fell into ruins afterward.

After a great morning around Loch Ness, it was time for the next leg of our trip.  We were planning to drive an additional 4 hours north that day to near the northern most point on the Scottish mainland, making a few more stops along the way.

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