**“Of course the monster is real, I saw her with my own eyes!”**
Loch Ness is the largest lake on the Caledonian Canal system, and the largest by volume in the British Isles, thanks to its depth. And even more fun, it’s famous for something that doesn’t exist.
We spent two nights on Loch Ness, the second docked at Fort Augustus. This story is about our anchorage next to Urquhart Castle.
Wednesday, the 24th of August.
We’d spent the morning in Inverness, taking care of some errands, including the very important one of ensuring our supply of gas for the stove! A walk along the river in Inverness was a scenic diversion, so we did not depart until 13:25 (that’s 24 hour time, or 1:25 p.m. for the USA). We traversed the 5 locks of the Muirtown Flight, already covered in the Caledonian Canal post and eventually reached Loch Ness after 16:00. Since the wind was in our favor and the lake is so wide, it was an easy sail to the first tourist attraction, Urquhart Castle, near the town of Drumnadrochit. There was a harbor available, with a charge for an overnight stay, but we decided to anchor near the Castle, and had the right spot picked out on the second try (anchoring is not always straightforward, the charts can only tell you so much). We were out of any wind, and close enough to the castle to see and hear the tourists who were still visiting it, and the temperature was warm enough to have dinner on deck. Of course those tourists were taking our picture, and vice versa!
This counts as one of my favorite spots of the trip. Dinner outdoors, at sunset, with one of the scenic spots of Scotland in the background. And — it’s not raining! This was magical. This is in my memory forever.
Thursday, the 25th of August
The night was calm and the temperature was moderate the next morning, so we could also take breakfast out on the deck. This was too early for the castle tourists to be around, so it was very quiet. Breakfast was just as awesome and delicious as it had been below deck and as we ate, we decided what to do for the day. We decided against the castle tour, and in hindsight this might have been a minor error, but you can’t do everything.
We “broke camp,” i.e., brought up the anchor, and motored the short distance to the aforementioned harbor, where we could dock for the day for not too many £££, walk into town, see the Loch Ness Monster museum, take in the local sights and also do a local hike that looked interesting.
When I first heard about it, the Loch Ness Museum, located in a former hotel in Drumnadrochit, sounded like a bit of a tourist trap, and I was skeptical. (After all, there is no such thing as the Loch Ness Monster). Stephanie had done more research than I had and had seen the reviews, mostly very favorable, so it seemed worth some time.
It was indeed, even after the mile+ hike from the harbor along a busy road with a narrow sidewalk. The museum was extremely well done, with timed exhibits in separate rooms, that told the story of the geological history of the area (one of the best presentations I’ve seen of continental drift), along with the stories of mysterious sightings in the waters. Much more engineering and scientific analysis had been applied to this interesting question than I’d realized. Very well done videos and rooms with realistic props, including a submarine, were all part of it. Definitely worth the visit.
From the museum, we walked to the center of the small town and got some cheese and meat and drinks for an easy lunch before we started on our planned walk. This was a busy place; it’s one where all the backpackers doing the Great Glen would stop and it’s also on a major road, the A82.
Lunch was great and then we headed for the trailhead, greatly aided by the “offline maps” feature of Google Maps.
Bruce had reminded me before the trip of this feature of the Google Maps iOS app (and I presume for Android as well), where you can download a significant amount of map data and do routing with it even if you don’t have an internet connection. I had downloaded the entire Caledonian Canal area before the trip, so had all that data available, even if my Vodafone data SIM was not finding any cell towers. This made finding the trailhead especially easy. We found the trailhead for the local trail and enjoyed its scenery, which included the shore of Loch Ness. We entertained thoughts that there might be an unmarked trail that would lead back to the harbor where Detour was docked, but that was not to be. Probably a good thing, as it turned out, as we stopped at a brewery on the way back for some nice “bird pints.”
What’s a “bird pint?” Well, simply put, if I see a life bird in Scotland, that counts as a “bird pint.” Since I’d never been to Scotland before, I was seeing quite a few life birds, since I’ve not ever done a lot of birding in Europe. So it was an easy excuse to have another pint of some fine Scottish beer!
After that, we ended up walking back the exact same way we’d come, back to the harbor. We cast off the dock, made our way out of the tiny harbor, and down to the southwest end of Loch Ness, the tiny but most interesting town of Fort Augustus.