I can’t possibly pass Loch Ness without saying a few words about it… but the question is – how to describe it?… amazing centre of geological research revealing truths about the history of our planet?… overly commercial tourist blunder, sucking in conspiracy theorists around the world in an attempt to make lots of money?… area of outstanding natural beauty full of all the joys of nature?… den of loonies from the past with stories of illusions of great beasts which they probably got under the influence of something or other?… Everyone has their opinion or ideas about Loch Ness, but whatever anyone says or thinks there is no escaping the natural treasures which the Great Glen of Scotland is home to, and the huge stretch of water which is Loch Ness is just one of those treasures.
For the monster hunters amongst you, Drumnadrochit village, half way along the Loch’s northern edge, is the centre of all things Nessie. There are a couple of museums, but the one I recommend is the Loch Ness Exhibition – this is a multi media experience which takes about 35 minutes to get through and presents everything geological, natural, theoretical all from a factual point of view, and is not only enjoyable but pretty educational too. While the small village of Drumnadrochit is actually set back about a kilometre from the water’s edge, there are a few cruises which leave from here, taking you down to the jetty by minibus. The small boats and cruisers take between about 10-18 people each and generally offer a 45 minute circular cruise from Urquhart Bay, taking you out into the centre of the Loch with skippers (most of whom have lived here for a few years, and one or two with their own ‘monster’ stories to tell) who will share stories and information about the Loch’s geology and history. You will also come in close to Urquhart Castle which is a ruin but is often seen in pictures of the Loch (see above). The water can be a bit choppy even on a good day so take some warm clothes and waterproof jackets, and if you get remotely seasick then prepare for the worst!
The only other major settlement on the banks of the Loch is Fort Augustus which is at the Loch’s sout western end, also at the point of where the Caledonian Canal meets Loch Ness. Drumnadrochit has a cafe in a hotel which has a selection of food, and a small cafe or two, but Fort Augustus is generally a better stopping place for lunch as there are a few options of eat in or take out places, and a couple of small supermarkets. The huge Stalin-like locks (photo left) which bring boats from the Caledonian Canal into or out of the Loch offer a nice place to sit beside while you eat your lunch watching the boats pass through. There is also a pub and a fish & chip place, and in the summer months at least you’ll often find a piper playing near the car park.