Welcome to our travel blog. We are Tabitha and Nic. In 2011 we 'retired' in our early 40s and set off to travel the world. We spent our first year in South America and have been lucky enough to make two trips to Antarctica.

Our blog is a record of our travels, thoughts and experiences. It is not a guide book, but we do include some tips and information, so we hope that you may find it useful if you are planning to visit somewhere we have been. Or you may just find it interesting as a bit of armchair travel.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

In search of Nessie

From Edinburgh we took the mega bus to Inverness.  For those of you that have never used a mega bus, they can offer some great deals if you buy early enough.  We just missed out on the best offer for this trip as we had to pay £5 each, but still much better than normal bus prices or the train.

Although it is the main town of the Scottish Highlands, Inverness is still only small itself.  It has its own castle, and sits prettily on the river Ness, but there is not much else in the town.  We did find a couple of decent places to eat out, and on our first night we had a free hearing of the Status Quo gig nearby, but on one day it rained so much that we decided to stick with the log burning stove in the hostel rather than go out and get wet.

I suspect that most visitors here use Inverness as a base for trips out into the Highlands.  You can get tours to various peaks, castles, islands, and distilleries, many of which we intend to get around to at some stage.  But for now, our primary objective in Inverness was to go and look for Nessie!
Loch Ness
Nessie, or more formally The Loch Ness Monster, is the reason that Loch Ness is famous.  The first alleged sightings of Nessie go way back to the 6th century, when St Colomba apparently saw something lurking in the Loch.  The first twentieth century claims of monster sightings began in 1933 with a Mr and Mrs MacKay.  Some photos have been taken, usually at dusk or dawn and always grainy and indistinct, so there is little chance of proving or disproving her existence from those.

The first photograph was taken by Hugh Grey in 1933 and was published in the Daily Mail, which then hired a big game hunter called Marmaduke Wetherell to find Nessie.  Unable to do so, he apparently faked some footprints in the sand, which were believed to have been made using a dried hippo foot, more than likely one of those old game hunter's souvenir umbrella stands!

Then in 1934 a surgeon called Colonel Robert Wilson produced probably the most famous Nessie photo, known as the Surgeons photo.  It appeared to show a definite head, a bit like that of a diplodocus dinosaur, rising out of the water.  

This got everyone quite excited and did a lot to further the legend of Nessie until in 1984, analysis of the photo appeared to show that sadly the 'monster' could only have been very small, so was unlikely to be Nessie.

Even worse for believers, in 1994 a man called Christian Spurling made a dying confession that in fact he had built the creature in the photo from some sculpted wood and a toy submarine.  The hoax was apparently the idea of his stepfather - none other than Marmaduke Wetherell.
Urquhart Castle
So is the legend true?  Well like countless others who have visited the Loch, we didn't see her.  We took a boat trip from Inverness, down the Caledonian Canal, and onto Loch Ness.  We saw Urquhart Castle and the old Bona lighthouse, and we heard about the old Wellington bomber that was pulled out of the Loch in remarkably good condition some 45 years after ditching there in 1940, but we didn't see Nessie.
Bona Lighthouse
But then Loch Ness is Britain's second largest surface area of freshwater, over 21 square miles, and so deep that it is actually by far the largest volume.  It is deep enough that you could completely submerge London's BT Tower in it, so the odd monster or two would certainly fit.  And because the water is very peaty, the visibility is incredibly poor, so it would be an easy task for Nessie to hide away.

They have made a number of attempts to either prove or disprove the legend, by trawling the lake with sonar but even then the results have been inconclusive.  Some suggest there is nothing, but others have hit some disturbances to the readings that could something entirely innocuous, or they could be a large creature.

So could there be a monster in the Loch?  Perhaps a last remaining prehistoric creature?  Who knows.  No one has found any real proof to say it is true, but until someone can categorically rule it out, the legend will remain.

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