Although many make the journey to Scotland in order to taste fine whiskey, or live out their Harry Potter fantasies, I went with only one real goal in mind– see the Loch Ness Monster.
Scotland is renowned for their sexy plaid kilts and slightly obnoxious bagpipes, but any true fan of the highland heritage is also undoubtedly familiar with one of the world’s most infamous myths– the Loch Ness Monster (please note that to be pronounced correctly, it’s not “lock” but rather “lo–and then pretend you’re about to hack a loogie from the back of your throat).
Legend has it that the notoriously elusive monster lurks beneath the loch’s dark waters– evading sight and sonar detection by navigating the many caves and ridges of Scotland’s deepest loch. The origin of the myth is debated by many historians, but most agree that tales of the dinosaur-esque creature date back as early as the sixth century AD. Since than stories and sightings of Nessie have circulated countless newspapers and websites, even surfacing in pop-culture through Scooby-Doo specials and blockbuster movies (like 2007’s The Water Horse: Legend of the Deep). As an avid lover of all things mythic and mystic, I knew that visiting Loch Ness and going on a boat tour/Nessie hunt was something I HAD TO DO in my lifetime.
So, having already planned a trip to Edinburgh, Scotland’s capital city, and friend and I were easily able to go online and book a ticket for a bus tour of the Scottish Highlands. I ended up shelling out about $50 for a day-long trip with Ness Buss Tours. Besides Loch Ness, the trip also included stops at a whiskey distillery and the ancient Scottish settlement Glencoe (note that the optional boat tour and whiskey tasting is extra on top of the $50 bus fee). It was a rather expensive purchase for me (considering I usually stick to free-walking tours), but I conceded that an opportunity to see Nessie was priceless.
The stop at the whiskey distillery was really fun! Especially being able to get my drink on at around 11 in the morning (also worth mentioning is that my friend and the tour guide had some flirty chemistry happenin’ between ‘em). So even when she nearly held up the bus talking to him afterwards, I harbored no ill wishes. Honestly I still felt a little bad for making her circumnavigate the old town of Edinburgh with me the night prior in search of McDonald’s and a drunken Big Mac. Although, we did meet two awesome Dutch girls, one of whom I managed to take a picture with. I may or may not have cried when we said goodbye to them after the pub crawl ended.
I rode through the Scottish Highlands with a slight buzz, and maybe it was just my whiskey tinted vision, but the highlands are truly one of the most beautiful landscapes I’ve ever seen in my life. The rolling hills, open plains, and slight fog gave the wilderness an incredibly unique composition– one I haven’t seen anywhere else in the world.
Upon arriving at Loch Ness, we disembarked the bus and the group of us riding the boat made our way to the docks. The Loch itself isn’t very wide, and you’re easily able to see both sides of it. However, the length of the loch is incredible, and when looking out the horizon easily vanishes into the water.
The boat cruise began and our Captain spoke over the loud speaker, giving us various facts and figures about the loch. The first half of the tour is devoted entirely to the natural, geological aspects of the loch– which in my opinion acted as a scientific and educational backdrop for the second half A.K.A main event A.K.A THE FREAKING SEARCH FOR NESSIE. I was so excited I honestly thought I might have an aneurism.
Our boat was equipped with a sonar depth-measuring system, so we all huddled around the live-screen feed hooked up to a TV and watched for any sudden or large objects to appear beneath us. Our Capitan explained how all of the equipment worked (sound bouncing through the water and off the loch’s floor back the receiver– all that sort of jazz). My eyes were glued to the screen, ready for any drastic change.
To answer your question– no, our Captain was not a firm believer in the monster. Although he wasn’t opposed to the idea, and had indeed seen a few large, foreign objects appear on the screen throughout his lengthy career. But he preferred to believe in the more scientific explanations, such as large gas bubbles escaping from crevasses deep within the loch. He did however admit that there was something creepy and mysterious about Loch Ness– perhaps it was the aura of darkness it seemed to exude, pairing ominously with the usually overcast sky and constant light rain.
After about 30 minutes the tour was beginning to come to a close, and we slowly made our way back to the small harbor to dock up. I hadn’t seen anything startling on the sonar screen, and decided to make my way to the stern of the boat to look out once more on the vast, choppy waters of Loch Ness.
I gazed out onto the loch, arms outstretched before me (literally picture Rose from Titanic, that was me). I called to Nessie with all of my heart, begging her give me some sort of definitive sign of her presence. I didn’t see anything in the water– but I kid you not, the soft tune of a bagpipe melody filled the wind around me, entering my ears and filling me with pure hope of her existence. Well, at least until I recognized the tune as the much-overplayed Outlander theme song, then I just felt obligated to reduce Nessie to something the believer in me never accepted– a tourist trap.
On the real, I highly recommend taking a tour of the Scottish Highlands. Even if you aren’t a Nessie fan, the picturesque landscapes and fascinating natural history is enough to keep any cynic entertained. However, if you’re like me and therefore willing to defend Nessie’s existence until your dying breath, it truly is an amazing opportunity to immerse yourself in the myth– and revel momentarily in the possibility of seeing her yourself.
Also, at this point you may be like “But what went wrong?!” Or “Where’s the major road bump in the trip?!”
Well, basically it’s the fact that I didn’t see Nessie, and the completely-unrealted death of the greatest dream of my childhood. Is that catastrophic enough for ya!