Loch Ness Secrets
The Hunt for Nessie
During my stay in Scotland, I was thrilled to take the four hour train ride, through the center of the snow capped mountains of the highlands and Cairngorms National Park, to the northern city of Inverness. Quoted as being Scotland's fastest growing new city, Inverness, picturesque with its old town charm, immediately makes you feel at home, with scenic flashbacks similar to those from your favorite Disney movies. Cobble stoned streets, a mountainous backdrop, and ancient cathedrals are enough to make a nomadic gypsy want to purchase a small cottage and settle down with a few highland cows.
Built along the opposing banks of the River Ness, the city splits right down the middle- yet remains connected by a system of bridges, both pedestrian foot bridges and those for cars and buses. Not far from city center, you'll find the city's locally-famed Ness Islands walking path, where colored fairy lights illuminate the small river islands and their tiny connecting bridges. A great hike for a crisp morning or evening stroll, with plenty of puppies on leashes to smile and coo at.
When hunger strikes, you can get your fill of traditional Scottish meals from the many restaurants, primarily settled along the river. You can also choose an all-you-can-eat Scottish-Chinese buffet, however I suggest not (speaking from personal experience here). I had amazing venison and mash at The Mustard Seed and haddock and chips at the Castle Tavern, a corner tavern nestled directly across the street from Inverness Castle. I then topped of the night with a Guinness and then headed off to bed in a great little Airbnb down the street.
Inverness is beautiful, but the cathedrals and the Inverness castle that sits upon the hill, overlooking the city, isn't the reason so many flock to this highland treasure. It's the famed city's local celebrity that has people searching for days and then returning for more.
The river Ness flows the distance of the city, spilling out of other rivers and lochs, or lakes. There are four lochs, to be exact- and one of those you've probably heard of. The Loch that legends are made of, Loch Ness, sits only a few miles southwest of the city, surrounded by small rural villages.
I spent a full day exploring the famed Loch Ness, both by boat and by foot. It's not the scenery I was after- although it met and exceeded any expectation I had. It wasn't the dark, murky water- stained by high levels of peat found in the surrounding mountain soil that I fancied. It's the ever looming secret that is said to swim beneath its surface, Nessie, the Loch Ness monster.
After a boat ride across the frigid water, hovering depths deeper than any surrounding Loch, the boat docked at Urquhart Castle. The castle, which is now only the ruins of a settlement from the 13th century, sits at the widest point of the Loch, and the location of the most Nessie sightings... over a thousand documented. I explored the area, walking along its pebbled beach and climbing the remains of Grant tower, with its awe inspiring views of the Loch and surrounding highlands.
I spent hours peering out over the water, with hopes of seeing shadows rise from the surface. Every sudden ripple gave me butterflies, and I held on to the idea that I may be lucky enough to spot what many have before me. Unfortunately, there was no sighting of Nessie during my visit, as I'm sure it was its nap time. However, I got to ride back through the small villages along the banks and hear stories of those who gave up their normal lives to live there and remain dedicated to seeking out the monster for the remainder of their days. Whether a serpent like creature or that with a body and four fins- no one really knows the mystery of this famed Loch and its large, obscure resident.
Stories have been told, and passed through generations and across lands and seas of Nessie. Growing up, hearing the tales myself, it was quite the experience to sit on a boat, on the surface of depths filled with mystery and legendary history. It reminded me of why I do what I do... why I travel, why I explore, why I constantly seek to understand new cultures, people, and places. New experiences are what I live for, and they're what drive the windblown traveler in us all. The diversity of humankind and culture is beautiful, engaging, and worth exploring.