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Loch Ness Centre & Exhibition

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by Belladonna (subscribe)
Loves going out and about, drinking coffee, eating chocolate, and writing about her adventures!
Published March 5th 2020
Discover the mystery behind the world's most famous monster
The year was 1933. In Inverness, Scotland, Mrs MacKay was working as the manageress of the Drumnadrochit Hotel, a sumptuous Victorian Baronial style hotel that stood facing the lake, Loch Ness. One day in April, Mrs MacKay was travelling on the road from Inverness when she spotted something resembling a whale in the lake. Her story spread and was picked up by Alex Campbell, a local water-bailiff. His article on Mrs MacKay's 'whale' was published in the Inverness Courier on May 2. And the modern legend of the Loch Ness 'monster' was born.

Like many people, I have always been fascinated and intrigued by the mystery of the Loch Ness Monster. And so when my family and I went on our European adventure last year, I made sure that Loch Ness, Scotland, was on our list of 'must-see' places to visit.

The best place to learn about the famous monster is at the site of the Drumnadrochit Hotel, where the modern legend of the monster (affectionately known as Nessie) began. The building in all its Victorian glory still stands today but it's no longer a hotel. It is now the wonderful Loch Ness Centre & Exhibition where you will learn everything there is to know about the Loch and its most mysterious underwater inhabitant. The Loch Ness Centre also offers deep scan cruises of the lake so you can get your chance to search for the monster yourself.

So did we see the famous monster? Read on and you'll find out!

The legend of Nessie
Over the centuries, there have been thousands of sightings of a monster inhabiting the dark, frigid waters of Loch Ness. As far back as the year 565 AD/CE, a Christian missionary by the name of St Columba was said to have driven away from a water monster from the lake. One of St Columba's followers had swum across the loch to collect a boat on the other side but was attacked along the way by the monster. St Columba was said to have made the sign of the cross and commanded the beast to go away.

Much later, Scottish Highland folklore spoke of an ill-omened Water Horse or Kelpie that inhabited lochs and that dragged unsuspecting travellers into the water to devour them. It wasn't until 1933 when the sensation of the monster began. Mrs MacKay's report of the monster in April was followed in August by the incredible report of a Mr Spicer who claimed that during a drive along the lake on a hot summer's day, he actually saw the monster for a few seconds as it crossed the road. But the monster didn't look like Mrs MacKay's whale. Mr Spicer's monster had a long neck and a ponderous body. This was the first recorded sighting of a long-necked monster. And so the Nessie we are all familiar with today- the long-necked, prehistoric plesiosaur-was born.

That same year, the Daily Mail newspaper sponsored big game British hunter with the big game hunter's name, Marmaduke Wetherell, to the loch where he claimed to have found large footprints that he believed belonged to a powerful animal about 6 feet long. (The footprints were found to be a hoax and belonging to a hippopotamus!). Then in 1934, the Daily Mail published the most famous, most iconic image of the Loch Ness monster. It is known as the 'surgeon's photograph', supposedly taken by Robert Kenneth Wilson, a London gynaecologist. Sixty years later, this famous photo was exposed by the Loch Ness Centre as a hoax.
Loch Ness

In spite of the hoaxes, the Loch Ness Monster has continued to cast its magic spell over us. In June 1965, Detective Sergeant John Cameron was fishing with a friend when they saw a whale-like object, between twenty and thirty feet long. In 1979, Alastair and Sue Boyd claimed that when they had parked in a lay by above Temple pier at the loch, they saw a huge hump the size of a yacht hull surfacing. In September 2019, New Zealand scientists concluded that the creatures behind repeated sightings of the fabled monster may actually have been giant eels. Today, Gary Campbell, keeper of a register of Nessie sightings, receives on average 10 reports a year of something unexplained being spotted in the loch's waters. "The Loch Ness Monster," he said, "has evolved into a worldwide icon."

The Loch Ness Centre & Exhibition
The Loch Ness Centre & Exhibition offers a unique insight into the world of the Loch over its 500 million years of history.

First opened in 1980, the Loch Ness Centre & Exhibition became the home of the Loch Ness Project. The Loch Ness Project took over the Loch Ness Phenomenon Investigation Bureau which had been developed in the 1960s to carry out serious organised, scientific research of the loch. Leader of the Loch Ness Project, naturalist Dr Adrian Shine, brought together decades of research into the award-winning Loch Ness Exhibition. It was quite a thrill when we actually met Dr Adrian Shine in person on the morning of our visit!
Loch Ness
My son was very happy to pose with Dr Adrian Shine, the Loch Ness expert!

The Loch Ness Exhibition is a high tech, multimedia presentation narrated by Dr Adrian Shine and that takes you through seven themed areas of history, natural mystery and legend, revealing the unique environment of Loch Ness and the famous Nessie legend.
In the exhibition areas, you'll explore and discover what the area that is now Scotland was like over 500 million years ago, as well as Celtic legends, Water Horse stories, the sightings and hoaxes, the eyewitness accounts, the underwater explorations of the 1970s, and Operation Deepscan and the Sonar Patrols of the 1980s. The exhibition is highly informative, educational and well-researched, helping to broaden visitors' knowledge and understanding of this very ancient loch and its many mysteries.
Loch Ness

No visit to Loch Ness is really complete without going out into the loch itself. The Loch Ness Centre offers cruises on the vessel Deepscan, named after the famous expedition carried out on the Loch in 1987. Cruises depart daily from the Centre on an hourly basis. You can see the splendour of Urquhart Castle and search the depths of Loch Ness on the sonar equipment on board. And if you're lucky, you could even get to drive the boat across the loch as my son did!

Loch Ness
Urquhart Castle. Wait a that Nessie in the water? No, it's just a duck!

And so...did we see the famous monster? My eyes were certainly glued to the water and the boat's sonar map throughout our cruise. I looked very hard at every wave, every ripple, every bit of flotsam and jetsam, every duck, every unusual thing pointed out by the sonar map...but unfortunately, to my very great disappointment, there was no long-necked, prehistoric plesiosaur attacking our boat that day.

However, we saw plenty of green, long-necked monsters in the souvenir shop! Called the Nessie Shop, it stocks every possible souvenir of Nessie that you can think of. And of course we just had to buy our very own Nessie to take back to Australia!

The Essentials
The Loch Ness Centre & Exhibition is located at Drumnadrochit, Loch Ness, Inverness-shire.

If you are travelling from Inverness, follow signs for Fort William and/or the A82 (heading south). You will pass alongside the loch itself for about 14 miles (about 22 km), and reach Drumnadrochit. The Loch Ness Center is visible upon entry to the village, on the right hand side.

Entrance fees to the Centre are Adult 8.45, Concession 7.25, Child 6-15 4.95, Children under 6 free, and Family(2 adults and up to 2 children) 23.95.

Toilet facilities including baby changing tables are available on site. There is also full disabled access and facilities, an ATM onsite, Cobbs cafe, souvenir shops, an ancestral names research centre, parking facilities, and exhibition translations in 17 languages.

The Loch Ness Centre & Exhibition is open all year round. For more information, please visit their website here.

"Loch Ness is a hidden world...with enough water to immerse every man, woman and child on earth more than three times over...there's room enough for a few mysteries...but at last we are beginning to understand it."

Dr Adrian Shine
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When: Open all year round
Phone: Tel 44 (0) 1456 450573
Where: Drumnadrochit, Loch Ness, Inverness-shire
Cost: Adult 8.45, Concession 7.25, Child 6-15 4.95, Children under 6 free, and Family(2 adults and up to 2 children) 23.95.
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