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Scotland - Highlands

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3. Loch Ness and Urquhart Castle

Top 10 ten places to visit in Scotland - The Highlands

Loch Ness and Urquhart Castle

Loch Ness fills the northern half of the Great Glen fault from Fort William to Inverness, and is joined to lochs Oich and Lochy by the 22 mile Caledonian Canal designed by the engineer Thomas Telford (1757 – 1834).

At 23 miles long, a mile wide and estimated at up to 1000 feet deep (deeper than the North Sea) the scale of the loch is huge. Surrounded by heather clad mountains, even in summer the waters can appear dark and lifeless. Loch Ness is of course famous for “Nessie” the Loch Ness Monster. The first mention of this creature was in a 7th century biography of St Columba who allegedly claimed that an aquatic animal had attacked one of his monks.

Present day interest stems from the building of a road along the western side of the loch in the early 1930’s, after which the number of “sightings” increased.  Perhaps the most famous of these is the photograph of the monster taken by a London Surgeon called A.N. Wilson in 1934, which shows the head and neck protruding from the water. Publication of the image (later proved to be a hoax) by The Daily Mail lead to a massive increase in public interest in the subject which has since spread worldwide.

Other encounters range from glimpses of ripples by anglers to the famous occasion in 1961 when a group of thirty hotel guests saw a pair of humps break the waters surface and cruise for about half a mile before submerging. Unknown layers of mud and silt at the bottom of the loch, and the idea that it may be connected to the North Sea by deep underground caves feed the imaginations of those who insist upon the creature’s existence, and make it harder for the sceptics to disprove.

Still, the local tourist trade is not complaining. The village of Drumnadrochit, sited above a pleasant bay on the northern side of the loch towards Inverness is the centre of the mass-market Nessie tourism industry, with a cluster of souvenir shops and two rival Nessie Exhibitions.
 
Loch Ness Tourist Information Centre Address: 
Drumnadrochit Tourist Information Centre
The Car Park
Drumnadrochit
Inverness, IV63 6TX
Scotland, UK

T +44 (0)845) 255121

F +44 (0)1506 832222
 
 
Urquhart Castle on the western shore is the other main attraction at Loch Ness.  Now ruined, it was blown up by government supporters in 1692 to prevent it falling into the hand of the Jacobites. It looks particularly spectacular at night when floodlit.
 
Urquhart Castle Opening Times:
Daily, Easter to September, 9.30 am to 6.30 pm
October to Easter 9.30 am to 4.30 pm
 
The Loch Ness Exhibition, Drumnadrochit
Open daily
Easter to May, 9.30 am to 5.00 pm
June, 9.00 am to 6.00 pm
July and August, 9.00 am to 8.00 pm
September, 9.00 am to 6.00 pm
October to Easter, 10.00 am to 3.30 pm

The Original Loch Ness Monster Visitor Centre and Lodge Hotel, Drumnadrochit
Open daily
July and August, 9.00 am to 9.00 pm
September to June, 9.00 am to 4.00 pm/5.00pm
 
Cruises on the loch are run by both centres, Easter to mid-October, hourly

Deep Scan Cruises,
from the Loch Ness exhibition
The Nessie Hunter, from The Original Loch Ness Monster Centre
Accommodation and eating out near Loch Ness

Benleva Hotel 

Polmaily House Hotel  

Gillyflowers, B&B 

The Glen Café, Drumnadrochit

The Fiddler’s Café Bar, Drumnadrochit
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