OK so we left the beautiful Isle of Mull and headed north to the gateway city of the upper highlands, Inverness. Loch Ness was on the way so we decided to see if we could catch a glimpse of Nessie. We decided to kill two birds with one stone by making our way to Urquhart Castle, the ruins of a medieval stronghold on the shores of Loch Ness. We figured that would be as good a place as any to try and get a photo of the creature and soak up a bit of history.
Before we hit the road we spent some time in Oban, a small coastal town, where we ate seafood (Julian’s treat) and toured the local whiskey distillery. I had never had the opportunity to really learn anything about the fine art of spirit making and the tour was as fascinating as it was informative. As a bonus I got to be the guinea pig for the end of the tour tasting session. I was a lucky, lucky boy!
We piled in the car and made our way to the medieval ruins of Urquhart Castle which is, in my opinion a great exhibit. Great Britain (and most of Europe I imagine) is dotted with medieval structures and they come in three basic flavors, ruins, restored, and rebuilt. Rebuilt structures are ones where government or private interests add on to the site, change it, or remodel it for modern uses like hotels, or just for simple aesthetic value. The problem is that it’s difficult to tell what the structure actually looked like back in the day and what is new. The restored structures try to mimic the way the structure might have looked if you showed up in a time machine (see the story about the Abby on the Isle of Iona in the last post). Ruins basically show you what is left of the original structure adding only those enhancements to make it safe for people to walk around.
Urquhart Castle has a very nice visitors center with a museum, some information on running a castle of that size in the middle ages (the various servants and craftsmen required to keep the place running), and a model of how the castle looked back in the day. The grounds had a full sized trebuchet on display, and a number of high spots which afforded a great view of the loch. They also had a pretty good sized gift shop (natch) which Julian took advantage of to buy a genuine Scottish viking hat souvenir made in China.
Now I know you really aren’t all that interested in history, castles or Chinese plastic goods, what grabbed your attention is the deal with Nessie and here it is.
We didn’t see anything other then the lake at the castle so we decided to press on. As we cruised up A82 with it’s winding roads along the loch I thought I saw something breaking the surface of the water. I screamed for Truly to stop the car. She squealed the tires, the van jerked to a halt, I bolted out while turning on my camera and stumbling to a clearing in some reeds I managed to snap this shot.
So here I was thinking that I would be rich beyond imagination when I made my way around the grass and lo and behold the “monster” was right there performing tricks for a huge group of happy tourists. The gag is that “Nessie” is a local attraction giving shows at 2 and 5 PM each day with a matinÃ©e on Sunday. There was the so called monster doing back flips, signing autographs for the local kids, and posing for picture by groups of Japanese tourists. The whole thing is a huge scam to keep the tourists rolling in. So there you have it, don’t waste you time trying to find the Loch Ness Monster, just get in line like everyone else.
More Pictures below the fold.
The town of Oban.
Urquhart Castle over looking Loch Ness
The castle interior
Dawn, Shaun, and Truly
The monster during the 5 PM show. Nessie took extra time to sign autographs for the kids after the show.