My friend, Teresa, and I have flown to Glasgow. We are here mostly because of the cheap airfare, as Ryanair was offering a sale to the northern land. We’re excited to see Scotland, of course, but we’re more interested just to have a weekend getaway from London. When we stop to consider what to actually do, the only site we can think to visit is Loch Ness.
Like Lake Champlain in the northeastern US, Loch Ness was formed by a receding glacier during the last ice age. Also like Lake Champlain, Loch Ness is supposedly home to a cryptozoic animal. Nessie is said to dwell in the lake’s massive depths (745’ at its deepest point), a holdover from the time when megafauna ruled the world. Neither of us really believes in Nessie, but we’re still curious to see the home of one of the most famous mythical beasts in the world.
We leave the Glasgow airport on a bus to the train station. Teresa pulls the cord to let the driver know our stop is coming up. “Flershabarshber, hahahaha!” he yells in return, his thick Scottish accent completely unintelligible to our ears. We’re not entirely sure if he’s laughing or threatening us, so we hop off the bus as quickly as possible. For the rest of the trip, we will spontaneously yell ‘flershabarshber’ to one another and descend into giggles.
It is a long, three-and-a-half-hour train ride from Glasgow to Inverness, the town closest to Loch Ness. By the time we arrive, it is late at night, and we wander through empty cobblestone streets in search of our hostel.
The next morning we make plans to get to Loch Ness. There is regular bus service from Inverness to Drumnadrochit, a small village on the western shore of the lake. It’s a thirty-minute ride through beautiful, wooded countryside. Browning leaves tumble alongside the bus as the wind picks up on this blustery Autumn day.
Drumnadrochit is a quaint hamlet with stone, stereotypically British houses clustered around green lawns. We pass a few dog walkers on our way to the Loch Ness Visitor Centre, but we are clearly the only tourists on the village’s narrow roads.
We secure tickets for a loch cruise and hurry up to queue for the ride. Our wait is futile, though. While the boat seats perhaps 20 people, we are its only passengers. Nevertheless, as the vessel starts cutting through Loch Ness’ murky, cold water, the captain turns on the loud speaker and begins conducting the tour over his microphone. We are sitting directly behind him.
“Good day, ladies and gentleman!” he begins to recite. It takes about ten minutes of rote script before the microphone is turned off and we are spoken to in person.
The boat knocks us from side to side as it bobs through choppy waters. Immediately we see a craggy mass off the starboard bow: Urquhart Castle.
Our guide tells us about the medieval stronghold. It was an important military fort for hundreds of year, most notably during skirmishes between the English and the Scots. William Wallace himself once battled here in his fight for Scottish independence. Today, though, the castle is mostly rubble, supposedly having been destroyed by departing soldier in 1692.
We continue down the lake, our eyes glued to the sonar equipment standard on all Loch Ness tour boats. No Nessie yet.
For a moment, a rainbow peaks through the clouds for a picture. Then, the skies turn dark again and the wind begins to howl. The hills soon devolve into black blobs on the horizon. Still no Nessie.
As we wait for something to happen, Teresa and I begin chatting with the captain. We are delighted when he goes off script to explain to us that a real Scot would never be caught in a kilt after Prince Albert turned the clothing fashionable for the English in the 19th century. I have never heard this before and wonder if it’s true. ‘Flershabarshber,’ I think.
The cruise ends about 45 minutes later. The narrow strip of water has not been kind to us, as we’ve seen nothing more than a few sticks floating on its surface. I suspect that nobody has really had a different experience.
In the end, Loch Ness is simply a black lake cutting between rolling green hills. It is undoubtedly picturesque, but unlikely the home of a plesiosaur that has somehow survived for millennia. I am glad I can cross it off my list of things to see, though. One day I would like to go back so that I may concentrate on the history of the land rather than the alluring call of a mythical beast.
Have you been to Loch Ness? Did you see Nessie?