When you look at a 3-D map of the Scottish Highlands , the first thing you notice is a long divide going south-west to north-east, from Fort William to Inverness. This is what is called the “Great Glen”(gaelic : An Gleann Mòr) , a large geological fault called the Great Glen Fault, caused by the sliding between the Grampian mountains in the south, towards south-east, and the Northwest Highlands, in the north, towards north-west.
You can go by boat from the Atlantic Ocean, near the Isle of Mull, up to the North Sea at Inverness, using the lochs and the Caledonian Canal, using beautiful locks to go up and down the Highlands. After Fort William, Loch Lochy and Loch Oich, you arrive at Fort Augustus, a beautiful little city at the south of Loch Ness.
The Fish of Loch Ness
Loch Ness is a deep loch of freshwater. It is one of the largest of Scotland, only beaten by Loch Lomond, but it has the biggest volume of water. It has actually more water than all the lakes of England and Wales altogether. Its deep waters contain several species of fish : eel, pike, stickleback, brook lamprey, arctic char, and of course atlantic salmon and trout.
On the western shore you can visit the mighty Urquhart Castle. At the entrance you are welcomed by a panel telling you that you are following some famous footsteps : St Columba of Iona (AD 580), Sir Andrew de Moray (AD 1297), Sir Donald MacDonald, Lord of the Isles (AD 1395), and Sir John Grant, chief of Clan Grant (AD 1509). There were numerous battles for this castle, which was eventually destroyed by the Williamites in 1692, to ensure it could not be used by the Jacobites as a stronghold. In the castle museum lies a beautiful piece of bronze : the Urquhart Ewer (16th century).
The Loch Ness Monster
Near the castle, at Drumnadrochit, you can find the Nessie museum and is a great place to visit to find out more about the loch and its history. The Loch Ness Monster (which could be the subject of an entire article) has been reported as early as the 7th century in the Life of St Columba written by Adomnán a hundred years after the facts. St Columba saw the burial of a man who had been attacked by a “water beast” while swimming the River Ness. Hearing this, St Columba sent one of his followers to swim across the river. The beast came to attack him, but St Columba made a sign of the cross and the beast disappeared in the waters.
If you are visiting Loch Ness, take the time to stop along the shores and look at the water.
Open your mind and heart, smell the odours and hear the whispers of the wind, and maybe if you are lucky, Nessie will come by to say to you a little Fàilte !
Where is Loch Ness?
Thanks to Philippe Boite for this excellent article.