Loch Ness (Facts, Figures and Folklore!)
Written by: Caitlin
Published: 5th March 2020
Loch Ness is one of the most iconic Scottish landmarks, I mean who hasn’t heard of Nessie the Loch Ness Monster? Tourists flock from far afield to try and catch a glimpse of her and to soak up the stunning surrounding landscape.
Loch is the Scottish Gaelic word for a lake or other body of water completely surrounded by land.
The beautiful Loch Ness is located in the Scottish Highlands and has long been shrouded in mystery, ever since the first alleged photo of the elusive Nessie emerged back in 1933.
The vast expanse of Loch Ness
Loch Ness Geography
Loch Ness is a large, deep, freshwater loch which extends for approximately 37 kilometres (23 miles) southwest of Inverness. Its surface is 16 metres (52 feet) above sea level. Loch Ness is the second largest Scottish loch after Loch Lomond based on surface area at 56 km2, and it’s deepest point is 230 m making it the second deepest loch in Scotland after Loch Morar.
Did you know that Loch Ness contains more water than all the lakes of England and Wales combined, making it the most voluminous lake in the UK?
It is connected at the southern end by the River Oich and a section of the Caledonian Canal to Loch Oich. At the northern end there is the Bona Narrows which opens out into Loch Dochfour, which feeds the River Ness and a further section of canal to Inverness, ultimately leading to the North Sea via the Moray Firth. It is one of a series of interconnected, murky bodies of water in Scotland; its water visibility is exceptionally low due to a high peat content in the surrounding soil.
How to get to the Loch Ness
The A9 is the main road to Inverness from the cities of Perth, Edinburgh and Glasgow is the A9, so this is the route most commonly travelled by car. But you can also catch the train to Inverness in approximately 3.5 hours from Edinburgh or Glasgow Queen Street. Once in Inverness, you can easily reach other parts of Loch Ness by local buses. Inverness also has it’s own airport which is located within 7 miles of the city centre.
How to get around the Loch Ness
It is possible to drive around the famous Loch taking in the views, but if you are feeling more adventurous, why not walk, cycle or horse ride on the new Loch Ness 360 Trail, a 80 miles long scenic circular route taking in the route of the Great Glen Way on the north side and South Loch Ness Trail on the south side. With many boat trips and Nessie tours from Inverness, Fort Augustus and Drumnadrochit, you can also cruise along the loch!
The Loch Ness Monster
The History of the Loch Ness Monster
Legend has it that a serpentine beast, the Loch Ness Monster, lurks beneath the surface of the Loch Ness. Affectionately nicknamed ‘Nessie’, scientists are baffled by her potential existence, and there have been over 1000 sometimes unexplainable eye-witness accounts and sightings.
The Loch Ness monster is usually described as being large, with a long neck, with multiple humps that protrude from the water. The first claimed sighting of her in modern was back in the 1870s when D. Mackenzie claimed to have seen something “wriggling and churning up the water”. But reports that a creature was living in the Loch Ness lake date as far back as the 6th century. The first written account was recorded in 565 A.D. in a biography of St. Columba.
But the best known early mention that attracted a lot of attention was an article in the Inverness Courier published on 2 May 1933, about a large “beast” or “whale-like fish”. The article discussed a sighting of an enormous creature with the body of a whale rolling in the water in the loch, spotted while she and her husband John were driving on the A82 on the 15 April 1933.
After this story broke, the possibility of a ‘monster’ became a media phenomenon, with London newspapers sending their correspondents to Scotland and even one offer of a £20,000 reward for anyone who could capture the beast. Thus began the start of the many years of obsessive searching for a long-necked, dinosaur looking, aquatic creature.
‘The Surgeon’s Photograph’
On April 21, 1934, the London Daily Mail ran a photo that forever changed how Nessie is seen. It was supposedly taken by respected London gynaecologist Robert Wilson, is to this day still referred to as ‘the surgeon’s photograph’, and it showed a half-submerged creature with a long slender back, craned neck, and pointed face. And it set off a craze unlike any other in cryptozoology’s history, sending tourists to the Scottish Highlands to see for themselves the creature swimming in the Loch Ness.
Sightings of the Loch Ness Monster
Sixty years later, it was finally established that the photo was a hoax. But since then there has been numerous other reported sightings of the legendary beat within the Loch Ness.
In the spring of 1938, South African tourist G. E. Taylor filmed something in the lake for a whole three minutes. The film was then obtained by popular science writer Maurice Burton, and a single frame of the film was later published in his 1961 book. But it was later concluded that it was just a floating object.
Then, in July 1955, Peter MacNab took a photograph that appeared to depict two long black humps in the water. But researchers suspected the apparent humps could be a wave effect resulting from three fishing boats that were travelling closely together.
In 1960, Tim Dinsdale an aeronautical engineer, filmed a hump that left a wake crossing the Loch Ness. Many people believed that the hump was a boat after the contrast was increased in the photo. But in 1993, a documentary was produced by Discovery Communications, called “Loch Ness Discovered,” which used a digital enhancement of the Dinsdale film. A shadow was spotted, by the person doing the enhancing, in the negative which had not been obvious in the developed film. By enhancing and overlaying frames, he found what appeared to be the rear body of a creature.
In the mid sixties a 10 year observational survey was carried out by the Loch Ness Investigation Bureau, which recorded an average of 20 sightings per year. And then in the 1970s some underwater photographs of what appeared to be a flipper became public.
Even sonar explorations have been used to try and find the beast, the most notable ones taking place in 1987 and 2003, but to no avail.
Many more photos have been taken over the years, but have since been discredited as fakes. In 2007 Gordon Holmes, a lab technician, filmed what he claimed was the Loch Ness monster, but a marine biologist said it was more likely to have been an otter, seal or water bird.
Then, in 2011, a boat captain on the Loch Ness photographed a sonar image of a 4.9 foot wide object which appeared to follow his boat for several minutes, but just a year later this was discovered to be a bloom of algae.
Most recently, in May 2018, researchers announced that they would investigate the waters of the Loch Ness using environmental DNA sampling to identify everything that swims in it. The results of this study in 2019 suggested that Nessie could in fact be a giant eel.
Popular Nessie Merchandise
Despite years of searching uncovering no tangible evidence, the Loch Ness Monster is still a massive tourist attraction. It was estimated in the early 21st century that she contributed nearly £40 million annually to Scotland’s economy by the way of monster merchandise and tours for fans. Today, travellers still cruise around the loch in hopes of catching sight of the mysterious aquatic monster by means of guided tours.
If you are interested in visiting for yourself and seeing if you could be the person to finally uncover the truth about Nessie, this site is a great place to start looking to plan your trip.
Visiting the Loch Ness
Inverness is a beautiful city placed in the North of Scotland, in the south of the Highlands, on the banks of the River Ness, and it is without a doubt the best location from which to begin your visit to Loch Ness.
A Brief Guide to Inverness
Places to Stay
If you are looking to make your trip into a holiday, we have a couple of recommendations of the best places to stay.
If a quiet location is what you are after, check out the Drumdevan Country House Hotel on North Coast 500 route, near to Inverness Castle. It is a gorgeous old building and great value for money.
Or if you are looking for a touch of luxury, why not check out the Rocpool Reserve. It is a Boutique hotel with concierge service, the stunning Chez Rouz Restaurant, city views and a central location.
The Loch Ness Centre & Exhibition
The Loch Ness Centre and Exhibition was established in 1980 and is a favourite for visitors from all over the world. It boasts the highest possible award from The Scottish Tourist Board as a 5 Star Visitor Attraction. Naturalist Adrian Shine, leader of the Loch Ness Project research team (for over 40 Years), wrote and narrated the Exhibition, which has been developed in 7 themed areas that tell the story of Loch Ness and its mystery, from it’s beginnings to now.
Loch Ness Tours
There are numerous companies that offer boat trips across the 23 miles of the Loch Ness, often with a tour guide to give you all the information about the famous expanse. There are also guided tours to be enjoyed by coach around the surrounding landscapes. You could spend a day Nessie-hunting, take a cruise on the mysterious loch, explore the village of Fort Augustus, visit the ruined loch-side Urquhart Castle, admire the Falls of Foyers and wander along Dores Beach all on one fantastic trip!
If this sounds like the kind of day out you might be up for, use the links before to check out some of the available tours.
10 Best Loch Ness Boat Trips
10 Best Loch Ness Coach Tours
It’s easy to get lost in the beautiful atmosphere surrounding Urquhart Castle, situated as it is on the North-westerly shores of Loch Ness with it’s spectacular views for miles around. It has become one of Scotland’s most popular attractions and offers it’s visitors a fascinating insight into the Loch’s dramatic history.
The castle is a ruin, dating from the 13th to the 16th centuries, though built on the site of an early medieval fortification. Urquhart played a role in the Wars of Scottish Independence and was subsequently held as a royal castle, being raided several times by the MacDonald Earls of Ross. This conflict continued even after the castle was granted to the Clan Grant in 1509. The castle was strengthened despite these further raids, only to be pretty much abandoned by the mid 17th century..
Urquhart was partially destroyed in 1692 to prevent it’s use by Jacobite forces and it subsequently decayed.Nowadays, the castle is owned by Historic Scotland and has a visitor centre, which was built in 2002, as well as car parks. The Grant Tower is the best-preserved part of the castle.
So as well as being entertained, amazed and informed whilst looking out for the illustrious Nessie, you also have the opportunity to explore Urquhart Castle’s present-day ruins and experience its attractive visitor centre. Whilst there be sure to take a trip to the top of the Grant Tower to enjoy jaw-dropping views over the loch and the Great Glen. Alternatively, you can simply enjoy your awe-inspiring surroundings with a refreshing drink from the cafe.
Loch Ness Wildlife
If you are a fan of wildlife spotting, the environment around the Loch Ness has an awful lot to offer. Often the real wildlife in and around the loch tends to get overlooked in the desperate Nessie mania, but there is a magnificent variety of scenes, plants and creatures. Within these varied scenes of woodland, forest, burn gully, shrubby ground, moorland, shoreline and the loch itself lies the beauty of wildlife
A gorgeous Pine Martin spotted by the Loch Ness
Majestic red deer, black grouse, golden eagles, osprey, ptarmigan, capercaillie, pine martens, red squirrels and otters are just a few that can be spotted in the area.
In terms of bird life, you might be lucky enough to catch sight of species such as the robin, chaffinch, goldfinch, great tit, blue tit, coal tit, long tailed tit, robin, blackbird, greenfinch, siskin, bullfinch, dunnock, goldcrest, thrushes and the tiny wren. However, this rich feast of birdlife also attracts the predatory sparrowhawk- which is amazingly agile and speedy to watch. To find out more about any of these beautiful flying creatures check out our comprehensive bird guide.
There is also a flurry of aquatic activity within the Loch Ness itself. The rivers feeding it are the autumn spawning grounds for the Atlantic salmon. Eels live in the loch in large quantities and can grow up to a whopping 6 feet long! And the carnivorous pike which also dwells in the depths can grow up to 1 metre long! Sticklebacks, minnows and charr can also be found in large quantities.
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