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Locals: Do you love or hate the Loch Ness Monster legend?

By Emma Harrison

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Thousands visit Loch Ness each year – is it to admire its natural beauty or for a chance to glimpse the legendary monster they’ve heard so much about?

Imagine being a tourist and thinking there might be a chance of spotting a gigantic creature swimming around the deepest loch in the UK. For locals, there could still be that possibility, but do you truly believe there is a monster in the depths of Loch Ness, or indeed is the monster just the reason we see a sea of green Nessie toys and a flock of tourists around the hotspots?

The question of whether or not a local loves or hates the prospect of a Loch Ness Monster is very subjective – for businesses in the area, I suspect the legend can be a golden gem bringing many people to the destination and a huge positive for our local economy. Locals certainly have mixed opinions – you’re either a lover, a hater, or see the possibilities but even as a hater, is all forgiven as we are proud to call the monster our own? Nessie brings us an identity, it puts our destination on the map and is a fantastic conversation starter! We have a story, and everyone loves a story.

We all know about the Loch Ness Monster and you tell someone you stay in the Highlands and the automatic response is: “Is that where the Loch Ness Monster lives?” The creature exists in some form, but is it a marine creature living in the loch or a monstrous myth? As residents, we’ve heard these stories so many times before, but it is up to you to decide what you believe. There are many reports of there being a monster dating all the way back to ancient times with the first written account appearing in a 7th century (565AD) biography of St Columba so whether you like Nessie or not, there is certainly history involved. Should Nessie stay in the past or should the local legend stay just that?

As a kid, I remember watching Loch Ness with Ted Danson, and ever since, I have wanted the monster to be real. It’s more than just a creature for many and we know all about people like Steve Feltham who has spent 32 years so far trying to solve this mystery. Packing up his old life, Steve moved to find the answer and in his first year as a hunter was lucky enough to have a sighting. Steve is even in the Guinness Book of Records for the longest hunt for the Loch Ness Monster, that’s pure dedication. With Steve on the shores of Loch Ness, many visitors come just to meet him and take home a figurine, complete with a visit to Dores to see the spectacular views.

With a new Loch Ness Centre recently opening, the monster has prompted the conversations among locals all over again. The centre informs visitors all about the sightings on the beast including one from Mrs Aldie Mackay, the manager of Drumnadrochit Hotel in 1933, who said she had seen something “black, wet, with the water rolling off it”. Scientists then began to think this could indeed just be a large eel and not an enormous beast as some may have hoped, but the unknown keeps Loch Ness at the heart of many people's bucket lists and perhaps some magic for the locals too.

There are other areas that are on what they call a cryptozoology hunt – studying and searching for mythical creatures called cryptids. For example, Champ in Lake Champlain in the United States and Canada that brings millions of visitors each year to search for the creature. Is this any different to visitors wanting to explore areas for other local legends, such as the Lake Bled cream cake in Slovenia? This poses the question of whether we are happy to be known for the Loch Ness Monster or if we should we be famous for something else.

It would be difficult to turn a blind eye to the Loch Ness Monster, and if you haven’t already had a look, there is an official Loch Ness Monster sighting register that shows that there have been 1149 sightings recorded to date. A quote by Daniel Cohen (1970) sums the conundrum up quite nicely: "While there are many people who do not believe that the Loch Ness Monster exists, there is practically no one who would not be overjoyed to find out that it did."

There are 10 webcam images reported from just 2021, and by simply searching the Loch Ness Monster on the internet, its clear to see that there are absolutely tonnes of data – 1500 years worth. According to the sightings register, 32 sightings were reported from Urquhart Castle, and 27 at Urquhart Bay. Fort Augustus and Dores are said to be perfect places to spot Nessie and most sightings were on either a Saturday or Sunday so make of that as you will. Tourists seem to be the main reporters on the sighting register, followed closely by residents and via webcams. For the lovers, Visit Inverness Loch Ness installed webcams on the loch that can be viewed any time at all if you’re looking for some therapeutic live streams, though be prepared for a major splash or two because you just never know!

As locals, we hear about and are questioned about the Loch Ness Monster so regularly – we drive through places like Drumnadrochit and see just how busy the place can get. With history and evidence, the monster is a great reason for visitors to come and see what we offer which poses a great opportunity to show what else we can do well too – our food and drink offerings and wonderful Highland hospitality as just a few examples. One thing is for sure, people will find that Inverness and Loch Ness is so much more than a monster.

This weekend, the Quest to find Nessie continues. With new equipment, an attempt will be made to find new evidence of the Loch Ness legend. Join the Quest this Saturday and Sunday as a volunteer and you can decide for yourself whether you’re a believer or not.

Sponsored by Visit Inverness Loch Ness.

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