Our party headed for the small town of Drumnadrochit, situated on the shores of Loch Ness. As you might expect, it’s decked out with large amounts of touristy regalia and plays on the Loch Ness Monster theme pretty heavily. As you arrive, two seemingly identical Loch Ness visitor experiences – with accompanying museums and exhibitions – sit within a stone’s throw of one another. We opted for the second of the centres for no other reason than the lady who served us in the first one was possibly the most miserable woman working in the entire service industry today. Note to reader – first impressions almost always count.
And so it was, that after a pint of Nessie Ale, and with my companion’s seemingly insatiable appetite for tacky fridge magnets temporarily quenched, we headed out for our much anticipated cruise. The Loch is every bit as menacing as I’d hoped. The water, inky black due to large quantities of peat, chopped and rolled in the chilly afternoon breeze. A light rain started to fall, and as we pulled away from the harbour wall we were told by Edward, our Captain, that the Loch could become extremely rough in bad weather. Edward has worked on Loch Ness for nigh-on forty years, and he’s mapped and sailed every square inch of it. As well as taking visitors on pleasure cruises he also helps out with various studies into the ecology of the Loch. His commentary, as you might expect, is enthralling, wonderfully detailed and was rattled off purely from memory. Unbelievably, the Loch is over eight hundred feet deep in some parts; that’s five times the depth of the North Sea, and it contains more fresh water than all the lakes and rivers of the UK put together. Edward also had sonar onboard the boat and was therefore able to map the bottom and sides of the Loch as we went – fantastic stuff. My favourite statistic of the day however, was that if you drained all the water out of Loch Ness, there would be enough room to accommodate the entire population of earth, with room to spare. Well worth remembering in times of recession.
It wasn’t long into our trip before talk of the monster itself took centre stage. Edward has sighted the creature on numerous occasions, and early one morning in 1986, he even managed to snap a blurry, nondescript, picture on his camera. The photograph is pinned up around the boat with the option to purchase postcards of it to help with his continued research. According to Edward, the limited sightings, coupled with the relatively small quantities of food in the lock, pointed to a wholly aquatic, cold blooded, plankton feeder. Sounds plausible! And as Dinosaurs died out long before Loch Ness was even formed, the conclusion would therefore seem to be that it’s a fish of some kind – albeit a bloody big one. I lapped it up and spent the entire trip scurrying from cabin to stern so as not to miss anything.
The trip around Loch Ness was undoubtedly the highlight of my holiday; so much so in fact, that I may make beasty tracking a theme for future Baldwin excursions. I mean, Battlefields and Castles are all well and good, but nothing quite compares to the thrill of sailing on the murky waters of a monster filled lake, with the rain in your face, a Sean Connery soundtrack and a sack full of terrible fridge magnets.