Nessie's Tale

June 17, 2010 Great Britain by Steve Martin Edit

“I saw her tail” James exclaimed. “I saw her, I saw her”. My son insists he has seen the monster of the Loch from the battlements of Urquhart Castle on the shores of Loch Ness. My only doubt is that with each retelling he seems to have seen more and more of the monster.... funny that! [he is only 3 after all]

After just 4 days in Edinburgh we decided to head north for a few days. The Caravan Club site was full for the next three days and we had to find somewhere else to park our home, so Inverness seemed as good a place as any to visit. As it turned out we had a day of blazing sunshine to circle the Loch and spend our time looking for Nessie.

 

 We had come to Scotland to pick up our Registration papers and insurance certificate for the car, and our Caravan Club memberships. The car documents are important to have if travelling in Europe. Without them you can run into serious trouble if pulled over by the police. Unfortunately only the Caravan Club was reliable and our registration and insurance certificates had not arrived.

Our official address in the UK is with my father’s-cousins-daughters mother in law... I think! Regardless of how we are linked, Molly has been excellent help for us and aside from picking up the documents, we were very keen to meet her and introduce ourselves properly.

Molly lives near the University which is adjacent to the old town water supply. That water supply was filled in as the city grew around it and is now magnificent parkland in the heart of the city. Edinburgh itself is equally impressive in the summer sunshine. The stone buildings and the hustle and bustle is all over seen by Edinburgh castle perched high above.

“Who owns the castle?” we asked. “Does the Queen stay there?”, “Oh no... it’s Ours!” replied Molly with some delight. That reply highlighted the fact that we were in a different country. Part of the UK, but we were in Scotland, and that is something of which the Scots are justifiably proud.

[I was reminded again some days later when a Welshman told me he would support England in the World Cup because “We aren’t playing”. It may be a United Kingdom in some respects, but in others it is an island of different countries. I recently been told some English shopkeepers don’t like accepting Scottish pounds!]

Now, I know I’ve said this in other pieces on this blog about other places we’ve been too, but Scotland, in the week we were there, is just fantastic. It was everything and a bit more of what I’d imagined. The highlands are postcard perfect [even if not that high], the lowlands so green it hurts your eyes and the cities feel like they are just the right size.

On top of that there was Loch Ness. During the of our visit the Loch went from a sunny, splendid place nestled between the mountains, to a brooding and vaguely threatening waterway as the weather  turned dark and colder. The sort of place portrayed in those second rate mystery style documentaries about monsters of the deep.

As we drove around Loch Ness the history of the region seems to jump out at you. While some buildings are relatively modern, others are clearly from hundreds of years ago. On the site of Urquhart Castle there is a history of settlement that dates back around 1000 years. The small point the castle sits on is a natural vantage spot to see both up and down the Loch. The ruins of the castle are under the control of Heritage Scotland and it’s one of the areas main tourist attractions. It’s also the place the “Monster of the Lake” was first recorded many hundreds of years ago.

Unfortunately after just a week in Scotland we had to head south again the catch the ferry to France. We have managed to secure a month in Normandy House sitting for a British couple who have been based in France for the best part of 20 years. 4 weeks in a cottage a few hundred years old feeding chooks and looking after the vegetable garden is very appealing after 2 months on the move.

While France is calling leaving Scotland was something we wanted to really do. We both loved the place and want to see and do much more there. I am determined to climb Ben Nevis, and we both want to stay for a few days at John O’Groats at the very northern tip. There are Highlands to explore and there’s the Hebrides and the west coast.

We have resolved that after our stint in Europe we will catch a ferry straight back to Edinburgh and spend a fair bit more time there before heading down south again. By the time we get back it will be the end of summer. But the light will still last until late into the evening and maybe that will allow James another glimpse of Nessie’s tail.... or head... or whatever bit saw believes he saw.