Welcome to Loch Ness

Loch Ness is Scotland's most famous loch and one of the world's most famous lakes. Over 300 million years ago a collision of tectonic plates forced the land to bend and buckle, forming high mountains and deep gorges. In Scotland the collision is marked by the Great Glen which cuts across Scotland from Fort William on the southwest coast to Inverness on the northeast coast. The depths of these gorges were gradually filled with water and a string of lochs were formed; Loch Oich, Loch Lochy and Loch Ness. Here Scotland's soft light, diffused through shrouds of mist and clouds tumbling overhead and caught by the swells and eddies of the restless water, deceives the eye and inspires the imagination

The famous "Surgeon's photo" hoax of the Loch Ness Monster

Loch Ness is the one of the largest lakes in the British Isles: it is about 24 miles long, up to half a mile wide and 980 feet deep containing roughly 265,000 million cubic feet of water; it is fed by eight rivers, sixty sizeable streams and countless smaller streams. These rivers and streams, washing peat particles down from the mountains which line its shores, make visibility in the loch practically nil. Nonetheless, the Loch is free of pollution and teeming with life; sea trout, brown trout, salmon, arctic char, eels and pike can all be found in its murky depths. There have even been reported sightings of sturgeon and dolphins. However, the loch is famed for a larger creature which is said to live here, known as the Loch Ness Monster or "Nessie".

The first recorded sighting of the monster was in 565 AD. St Columba, while on a mission to convert the northern Picts, stopped off by the loch side to preach to some local people. While Columba was preaching there was a disturbance in the waters and the monster appeared. By some accounts one man was slain only to be returned to life by the divine powers of the saint. By other accounts the monster attacked a member of the congregation, at which point the saint made the sign of the cross and invoked the power of God to drive the beast away.

In 1933 an article in 'The Scotsman' newspaper cited a story from 1520 AD which mentioned the beast. It was the appearance of the article which seems to have stimulated interest in the loch and its wildlife. At the same time the construction of a new road on the northern shore opened up views of the loch which had never before been easily afforded. In any case, in the years that followed there was a spate of sightings. It was from this time that our modern image of the monster, pieced together from various eye witness accounts, began to emerge: a water dwelling dinosaur, probably some kind of plesiosaur. The story was published internationally, newspapers reported the monster as fact and journalists and photographers arrived from all over the world. Even the British Prime minister planned a monster spotting trip to the loch.

Castle Urquhart Loch Ness

Sightings of the Loch Ness Monster have continued to this day. While several high profile sightings have been proved to have been falsified, many more remain unexplained. And while rigorous investigations of the waters have failed to uncover the monster, they have not yet proved conclusively that the monster doesn't exist either! Regardless, interest in the phenomena shows no signs of abating; indeed the recent discovery of fossilised plesiosaur bones by the loch side has stimulated fresh interest.

To the cynic it must seem absurd that a place of such obvious natural beauty has been popularised by such a dubious claim to fame. They might point out that Loch Ness has so much to offer without Nessie. To some extent, of course, they are right. The Loch itself abounds with life, as do the mountains which surround it. The Great Glen is a flight path for migrating sea birds; buzzards, eagles and osprey can be seen soaring overhead while siskins and fieldfares can be spotted by the shore. The surrounding countryside is the domain of wildcats, foxes and red deer. Not only are there the attractions of nature: the loch is watched over by a number of ancient forts and castles, the most famous of which is Urquhart Castle, whose spectacular ruins sit on a rocky promontory which juts out into the loch. All the same, it is doubtful that even the hardest hearted cynic, on noticing a sudden disturbance in the waters, wouldn't wonder... about what could possibly be out there