I’ll tell you what I believe about Nessie if you like,’ says co-owner of Loch Ness Shores Camping and Caravanning Site Lyn. ‘I used to run the shop in the village, and many of the elderly villagers used to come in and tell me their stories.’ She leans across the desk and her voice softens, as she looks gently at L.
8 yo L’s eyes are ready to pop as she stands at the shop counter listening intently to Lyn share so many accounts of sightings. L’s come in for sweets and souvenirs, she wasn’t expecting a story, and a real one at that, about Scotland’s biggest tourism PR success, and this most fascinating phenomenon – to young and old visitors alike – the Loch Ness monster. We arrived at Loch Ness the previous evening, after a spectacular drive in our rented motorhome from Edinburgh, we feasted on Scotland’s spectacular scenery from the motorhome window, but now we want to really get inside it.
Next, I chat to Lyn’s husband Donald about what to do with our day at Loch Ness and ask him about hiring a boat, I’ve already decided I want to venture onto the misty Loch, but not everyone is convinced, so we warm up with a walk around the village and campsite, a short twenty minute stroll – longer if you stop to play – that takes us through trees, alongside the Loch and back to the site. All the time we are peeping through the trees, wondering if that ripple or shadow in the water could be Nessie.
It’s a fabulously eerie in the mist, especially walking through the graveyard to the path above the shore. We peep through the trees which cling to the sides of the valley. There’s a sharp drop down to the Loch and a view of snow capped mountains in the distance. The landscape is thrilling, from here you can sense the sheer size of the loch.
Through a bed of red leaves and down to the shore, the kids stumble on rope swings and spend time idly swinging out towards the Loch. We skim stones and stare out across the loch, marvelling at its size. There are wild camping spots here for canoeists and G finds the eco toilet in the middle of the woods thrilling (if a little smelly). We walk onto the shore in front of the campsite, there is something so marvellous about standing on a jetty looking out. I spend quite a few minutes here in quiet contemplation, it is hard to believe Scotland is part of the island we live on sometimes, I feel totally awestruck as I breathe in the incredible misty panorama of hills, water and trees.
We warm up with soup and bread in the cosy motorhome, which has powerful heaters, and take a little siesta after yesterday’s driving from Edinburgh.
When we wake the sun is out and the mist has cleared. The sun gives the land a new quality, the daffodils are glowing and the Loch seems less intimidating. We agree to hire a motorboat as it’s not quite kayaking weather.
Down by the shore Donald is busy preparing a boat for us. Donald has farmed the land all his life and knows everything about the area, 7yo G’s eyes boggle at the idea that all the water in the lakes and reservoirs in England couldn’t fill Loch Ness. It’s the deepest Loch, and yet no one quite knows how deep, there might even be tunnels linking the lochs to the sea.
We’re glad we have life jackets, emergency paddles, Donald’s phone number and a large slab of Scottish tablet as Donald tests the motor for us and talks us through the boat. Loch Ness Shores site is one of only a few places with shoreline access, giving campers the chance to launch a small boat.
With our head full of images of what lies beneath and the voices of the Loch Ness villagers, we set off in our boat across the gentle waves of the Loch. In high winds they can rise within 20 minutes, but Donald deems today’s conditions safe.
We set off in real trepidation, all slightly concerned that our tiny boat would offer little protection in the face of a giant monster rising from the loch. Every wave, bird, bouy, drifting piece of twig is suddenly Nessie about to arc her way gracefully in and out of the loch like a giant snake.
However, the shouting and pointing soon fades, we’re distracted by the loch’s beauty and by Mr A who made the kids scream with laugher making the boat do donuts. We share mouthfuls of Scottish tablet and a sense of a real adventure. What if we did catch a glimpse of Nessie? What if she is swimming under us?
It is a magical way to experience the Loch, if it was warmer I would also love to kayak, Lyn tells me it is as relaxing, if not more so, than an hour in the spa.
Donald meets us off the boat, we talk about his schooldays, his love for farming, and about kids needing the space to roam and be free. Over the Summer the site is visited twice weekly by a ranger who leads activities for children like den building and survival skills. Donald and Lyn are passionate about getting kids to experience nature – the bird feeders and white board where you can write down what wildlife you have seen are lovely.
It’s an amazing day of watching our two roaming so happy outdoors. They set off into the swamp like area between the Loch and river, fighting though trees and poking about at the very shallow edges of the Loch.
In the evening we light a bonfire in a fire pit by the shore – there are several pits by the shore and the WigWam wooden glamping huts all have fire pits as part of the site. It is the most magical evening, a dream like ending to an incredible day. We woke with no plan but the day unfolds so beautifully.
Chocolate baked bananas and toasted bread to eat, with delicious local cheese from the shop. The shop stocks lots of fabulous local produce. Donald is modest, but Lyn tells me the campsite was his bid to save the village, whose population had dwindled after the aluminium factory closed in Foyers in 1970. It is important the site doesn’t rival the local shop or threaten it – instead it sells artisan produce from local producers to complement it.
Visiting Loch Ness Shores is like visiting family, I catch myself nearly shedding a tear as we drive away, Lyn and Donald welcomed us with such a huge dose of Scot Spirit and a great sense of humour.
It feels like being welcomed by family, the thought of never returning to this site feels too final and sad! I know we would love to spend a week here, pottering, seeing the waterfalls and walking further. The South shore of Loch Ness is quieter, just as we liked it, but on the other side are museums about Nessie I know my two would love, and locally there is lots more to explore, Urquhart Castle, Fort Augustus, Cannich and Drumnadrochit, plus so many outdoor adventures to be had.
During our stay we read an article that suggests the Loch Ness monster is in London. Speculation over Nessie rages on all week in our motorhome is she or he real, imagined, extinct, in London, able to swim between Lochs using underground tunnels out to the sea, an eel or the last dinosaur? Their imaginations are completely fuelled thanks to Loch Ness Shores. I can’t tell you what Lyn believes about Nessie, but I think I agree with her – you will have to visit Loch Ness Shores to find out more – do say hello for us!
This of course is an adventure crying out to come alive via video…
The 99 pitch open-all-year-round site has excellent facilities with award winning eco credentials. There are hard standing pitches for caravans and motor homes. There are also ‘wigwams’ aka wooden glamping pods.
The toilet and shower block is state of the art, immaculately clean, warm and has won awards. It even has hair dryers. There is a handy family shower room and some facilities for disabled visitors.
The cafe/shop is a new building and hub for the site. You can get teas, coffees and ice creams as well as great books about Nessie, lovely travel friendly toys and games, and plenty of idea of things to do locally.
And wifi, although I quickly put aside tweeting, for watching the birds who flock to the bird feeding station.
Next stop: Skye via Eileen Doran Castle, Scotland’s second most photographed castle.
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