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Inverness, gateway to the Scottish Highlands, part 2
Text and photos: Eckart Winkler, Bad Nauheim, http://www.eckart-winkler.de
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Common and touristic Information about Great Britain


Around Loch Ness: Monster Exhibition in Drumnadrochit, Urquhart Castle, Fort Augustus - Drive to Durness in the north: Deserted areas, lakes, fjords, dream beaches

Travel data
Date of the journeyJuly 1994
Duration5 days
Report online since02.11.2019

Day 3: Loch Ness

The Loch Ness tour starts at 10.15am, so we do not rush with the breakfast. This time the journey is heading southwest, shortly after the gates of Inverness Loch Ness begins.

Certainly Loch Ness is the most famous Scottish lake due to the legend of the monster, which is usually affectionately called "Nessie". The first mention of a sea monster dates back to the year 565. And over the years numerous sightings are reported. Since the invention of photography, photos of an alleged monster, some of which had a natural explanation or were deliberately fake, appeared again and again.

The Loch Ness monster has also found its way into literature and film. So is probably in every well-stocked library a book and in every well-stocked video library to find a movie about Nessie.

Loch Ness is also the longest and after Loch Lomond in terms of area the second largest Scottish lake. Loch Ness is very deep. How deep exactly, is unknown. In any case, this fact ensures that the lake keeps its temperature throughout the year. No matter how warm the outside temperature may be, it will never be enough for a bathing lake. And no matter how hard winter may be, it never freezes.
Loch Ness
Dark and mysterious is Loch Ness.

In terms of traffic, Loch Ness is important as part of the Caledonian Canal, the ship's route that runs almost straight from the Firth of Lorne, south of the island of Mull, to Inverness, and into the North Sea. It saves to the ships the long way around the Highlands in the far north, creating a much more favorable link between the Irish ports and the ports of eastern Scotland such as Aberdeen and Dundee.

First stop is Drumnadrochit. After 10 minutes practicing you will usually succeed in pronouncing the name without error. In Drumnadrochit there is the "Loch Ness Monster Exhibition". Here you can learn all about the Loch Ness monster. What you can expect, you can imagine. To date, about 2000 film and photo documents are known that - fake or not fake - show a kind of monster that just emerges from the lake.

So there is an audiovisual show in the exhibition, you learn a lot about the genesis of the legend and the current state of Nessie research. Newspaper reports, photos and original diving equipment complete the collection. One thing is clear. Every Scotsman would do anything to uphold the myth, even if he does not believe in it. After all, many visitors come here just because of it.

Nevertheless, the exhibition does not necessarily have to be seen. If you are not interested in the topic, you can take a little walk. It does not have to do without Nessie. Because next to the building there is an artificial Nessie in a small pond. Just good for a souvenir photo.
Urquhart Castle
Photogenic ruins on the edge of Loch Ness: Urquhart Castle

The journey continues in a southwesterly direction. After a few minutes, a pier. And - as the bus driver explains to us astonished passengers - you can go diving here. Around 130 euros for an hour. Of course looking for Nessie, what else ??!

Only a few minutes later we reach Urquhart Castle, there is a photo stop. Excessively much is not preserved anymore. Nevertheless, a beautiful motif, the ruins with the still uncanny appearing Loch Ness in the background. Originally the castle came from the 12th century, in the 14th century the walls were strengthened. End of the 17th century most of the buildings burned down, and in this condition the castle still presents itself to its visitors today.

The southernmost point is reached with Fort Augustus. The town is located around the former fort, beginning of the 18th century built as a military station of the English. End of the 19th century Benedictine monks took over the buildings and built an abbey. Certainly an unusual story for a monastery.

The clergy, however, also moved out again, and the buildings were used as a museum. At least when we were there! Equipped with Walkman, you walked through the rooms and - with a bit of luck - could listen to the the explanations in your language. The tour was designed quite attractive. In between, there was a nine-minute slideshow with light effects, which began in the history of the earth and ended in the animal and plant world with the former inhabitants such as Picts or Scoti. Many original objects in the next rooms then led to the final show, which then went to the concrete history of the fort and the area. Yes, this exhibition was unfortunately closed in 1998, the building is waiting for a new use.
Fort Augustus
Changeable history of Fort Augustus: first fort, then monastery, then museum, now empty

What would a Loch Ness tour be without a boat trip? It is now on the program. But, to be honest, that's not great. The ship goes out ten minutes, the boat turns, and then it goes back again. More like a duty free ride, except that there is nothing to buy. But maybe it's a bit related to the weather, because it's rainy. And with Nessie, probably the least expected.

Back in the direction of Inverness, of course, it goes on the southeast side of the lake, because it is a circumnavigation. And here it is much more scenic. The road is a single track road, so one lane for both directions. However, few vehicles come to meet, and for such cases, there is still the next holding bay. Still always a funny thing with a big bus where you do not have to drive on your own!

Some time we go on the shore of Loch Ness, then it's time to "inland", past a few smaller villages. Photostop on the shore across from Urquhart Castle. Anyone who owns a telephoto lens has won. Last stop is in a factory again, with James Pringles Weaver. Here the famous Scottish checks are produced, the so-called "Tartans". These are then processed to the famous kilts, but also to shirts, scarves, etc. In various rooms you find also old weaving machines issued, there is even an explanatory sheet. And, of course, there is a small shop in which, strangely, most of the sales are not from here.

Back in Inverness, we book the trip to Durness in the northernmost tip of Britain. This time a trip without a tour guide, just the bus ride. And tomorrow it should start.

Day 4: Drive to Durness
Loch Shin
Deserted landscape at Loch Shin: meadows, lakes, mountains

So today the drive to the far north. 8 inhabitants share one square kilometer here. Although this is more than in Greenland, in the middle of Europe you will not find any area that would be nearly as deserted as here. First on well-developed road over the Moray Firth, further north over the Cromarty Firth to the nice town Tain with many old houses. Then the road is already narrower and curvy, we drive along the Dornoch Firth, another branch of the sea.

After crossing the Bonar Bridge, however, it becomes adventurous. 100 miles of Single Track Road await us, that means with every oncoming traffic: one must wait in the holding bay or even half a kilometer in reverse. Nice to see a castle near Invershin, the guide is unfortunately silent. There is an extra break for us tourists at the Shin Falls, because you can occasionally observe salmon on their way up the river. Not on this day though.
There are fjords in Scotland as well

From Lairg the landscape becomes truly breathtaking. We drive off the entire shores of Loch Shin. An elongated lake similar to Loch Ness, framed by up to 1000m high mountains. With Loch More and Loch Stack follow a few smaller lakes until we reach the coast. And this one is similarly rugged, as it is known from the Norwegian fjords. Only not so steep do the mountains rise out of the water.

There is also a detour to Scourie and Kinlochbervie, then at 1pm we arrive punctually at our destination Durness. The weather is fantastic, the sun is shining, it's warmer than you've ever hoped for from this area, what more could you want? A place to stay is found quickly, even a tourist information is here. The town itself is hardly recognizable as such. There are houses, but they are very far apart from each other. Sometimes 100 m, but sometimes 300 m.

We chose a hike north for the afternoon. However, Cape Wrath is not the destination, the northernmost point of the British "mainland". No, that would be a long way from here. We want to go to Faraid Head, a peninsula north of Durness. A bird paradise should that be, in the water one should also be able to watch seals.
Widely scattered houses: That's Durness

At first, there are only sheep pastures. And so that every sheep knows where it belongs, they are all surrounded by walls. But this is not an invention of modern times, because these walls look almost antique. We pass a ruined church, the Balnakeil Church, built in 1619. This includes a cemetery, which is still in use. Even here, sheep graze.

The peninsula is privately owned, as a sign informs us. A beautiful and very long beach we find on the west side of the peninsula. The water is very cold, as the foot test shows. We walk the beach to the end, then it goes over into a cliff. But there is a regular way above the cliffs. And now we go on green meadow between hundreds of sheep. They are quite trusting, but they do not let anyone closer than 5 m.

Arrived at the northern end, we see many seagulls, but we can hardly make out other birds. Probably because we are not ornithologists. Even seals do not come by. Maybe it's just too hot for them. On the same way we walk back and are in our bed and breakfast inn long before sunset.

Day 5: Return to Inverness
Smoo Cave
And here it goes into the Smoo Cave

The usual breakfast at a civilian time, then it goes to the most interesting point in the area, the Smoo Cave. Not even half an hour away, and we're there. A huge cave 67 m long and 37 m high was washed out of the rock over the centuries. The first holes are already showing on the ceiling, so the forces of ebb and flow do not seem to have completed their work yet. Two smaller chambers are still there, but you can only throw a side view, they are only to explore by boat.

The environment is similar to our yesterday's hike. Steep cliffs, lush meadows, grazing sheep. A beautiful, often rugged landscape.

We walk back to Durness. There are several smaller beaches here. All to look gorgeous. A few palm trees, and you could feel like in the Caribbean. However, yesterday we know that the water is very cold. Still, today the sun shines a bit more, so we dare. It takes a bit of effort to overcome it and you can not stand it for a long time. Definitely the northernmost bath in the sea of our whole life!
Dream beach in the north

Salty and sandy, we rush to the bus, which departs at 3:15pm again towards Inverness. We go exactly the same route as on the outward journey, but it does not get boring for a second. And again very punctually at 7.45pm the bus arrives at its destination. In the evening, the obligatory pub visit. Again there is live music, although not a weekend. As I said, Inverness is more interesting than the travel guides say.


Inverness is the last city before the Highlands. Its convenient location makes it an ideal starting point for excursions. This is especially important if you rely on public transport, as was the case with us. A lot is offered, mainly in summer, of course. The best way to get to the Tourist Information on Bridge Street near the River Ness, here you can book everything.

Of course, with such day trips, you always book a package program in which one or the other point may not be so interesting. But they are still relatively cheap. If you are traveling with 3 or 4 people, a rental car will probably be the cheaper option. Then you are completely independent and can choose your goals freely.

Either way, however you like it or can afford it, when visiting the Highlands, Inverness can not be passed!


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