You know her as Nessie and her myth has spread all over the world; the legend of the Loch Ness Monster has caught the imaginations of dreamers and scientists, children and adults, and everyone in between. I confess that I made a multi-day stop to the long and legendary lake situated in the heart of Scotland.
It’s not so much that I believe that Nessie exists, truthfully I’ve never really researched her much, but the story, legend, and subsequent commercialization of Nessie definitely intrigues me. And just because this is a Western legend doesn’t mean it isn’t worthy of piquing my interest on this trip! I say this because some backpackers and travelers scoff at stopping at such a touristy spot…but really, Gaelic mythology shaped the history development of Scotland so why discount this just this particular myth?
With that in mind I bused my way to Fort Augustus for many relaxing days of hiking, walking, and Nessie spotting. The locals have a certain amount of affectionate indulgence for the Nessie legend (after all, she brings in tourist dollars) and the woman at my fantastic hostel, Morag’s Lodge, was able to lead me on several hikes in and around Fort Augustus – many with ample vistas over Loch Ness (which literally means Lake Ness).
The lake itself is quite big, 23 miles long and just one mile across; several towns dot the shores and are ideal for visiting the lake and afternoon Nessie-spotting picnics. I actually embraced the “Nessie-ness” of the area. As a solo traveler I was on my own for a lot of the hiking and walking and she provided me with quite a bit of food-for-thought as I studied the icy-blue placid waters.
Now, not to upset any Cryptozoologists who might be reading the blog (they search for legitimate evidence of legendary and mythical animals…think Big Foot, Nessie, Yeti), but Nessie is regarded as a modern-day myth by the global scientific community. Even so though, that just hasn’t stopped the dreamers and skeptics alike from heading to the shores of Loch Ness to revel in the unknown aspect of such a legend.
Nessie-themed cruises are the main attraction in Fort Augustus and a lot of backpacker tours and families take the small boats out onto the lake for an afternoon of sunshine (or rain). I decided not too take a cruise…not because I’m cheap (though I am!) but because that just wasn’t my thing. Instead, the information office has a lot to tell about how the myth has evolved since it originated in 1933.
Nessie-believers claim that the sightings go back as far as the 6th century but those accounts are even less credible than the video footage, photos, and sightings that have come forth in the last 70+ years. Basically, there is no proof but a WHOLE lot of speculation. The scientific community has indulged the myth by taking out sonar testing equipment to the lake, and comparing sighting reports with prehistoric animals such as the plesiosaur and Google-Earth has even been used to prove Nessie’s existence as a huge dark blob in the middle of the lake.
Wikipedia has a LOT of information about Nessie that I am not going to push upon you, but it’s all pretty interesting to see how the myth has been shaped over the decades. And as is signature of our current times, the myth and legend mean that every tourist shop for miles around sells plush toys and figurines emblazoned with the traditional Nessie image.
Thankfully, it’s easy to escape all of that. Even in a town built around the legend, there was a lot more to see in do in Loch Ness. Subsequent blogs will look at hiking, walking, and picnicking in the area…all Nessie-free activities if you so choose!