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Pictures: First look as Loch Ness Centre set to reopen following £1.5m revamp


By Val Sweeney

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The revamped Loch Ness Centre takes visitors on a walk through 500 million years of history
The revamped Loch Ness Centre takes visitors on a walk through 500 million years of history

When hotel manageress Aldie Mackay encountered a whale-like beast on Loch Ness, it was to spark a global fascination which continues 90 years on.

Her story of the sighting of the Loch Ness Monster – first reported in the Inverness Courier in May 1933 – has now been brought to life in the very place where she once worked.

A screened re-enactment of her relating the story in a 1930s-style bar is at the heart of a £1.5 million revamp at the Loch Ness Centre – previously the Drumnadrochit Hotel.

The centre, which was taken over earlier this year by Continuum Attractions, is set to reopen on Saturday when visitors will be able to walk through 500 million years of history, delving into myths and mystery, the Nessie phenomenon and learning about the scientific research.

Paul Nixon, Continuum's general manager, said revamp was an opportunity to tell real stories about real people in real places.

"Back in 1933, this was the epicentre of the modern-day phenomenon of the unexplained mystery of what is going on in Loch Ness," he said.

"This is the actual place where Aldie Mackay came in to tell her story of what she had seen.

"We have retold her story in the new exhibition and shone a spotlight on that moment in the bar where she comes home and says she has seen 'the beast'."

Paul Nixon, general manager of Continuum Attractions, in the 1930s-style bar.
Paul Nixon, general manager of Continuum Attractions, in the 1930s-style bar.

The 45-minute tour, featuring actor David Tennant as narrator, takes visitors through a series of connecting rooms starting with Prologue where exhibits include speaking photographs of various characters including Adrian Shine, of the Loch Ness Project, who has been involved in numerous efforts to prove or disprove the "monster" theory.

As the room's bookcase swings open to reveal a cave-like room – The Majestic Place – visitors watch a short film depicting the area's stunning scenery and looking at the origins of the loch and the arrival of humans in the area.

Moving into Myths and Legends, a well bubbling over with smoke sets the atmosphere for an animated film highlighting traditional stories.

A recreated 1930s-style bar provides the background for People and Stories where a fictionalised version of Aldie Mackay's famous sighting is brought to life in film.

As she recounts her experience to the barman, Alex Campbell, the water bailiff for Loch Ness and a part-time journalist, wonders whether there should be a public warning and that he might have a quiet word with the Inverness Courier.

Visitors watch the ensuing global media frenzy unfold in front of them as press photographers turn up in search of the elusive monster while speaking portraits share their experiences.

Waters of the Loch and the Search for The Truth focus on the secrets hidden beneath the surface of the 23-mile long, 754ft deep water along with the scientific research carried out by Adrian Shine using scientific methodology, submarines, underwater cameras and sonar equipment in his lifelong search for answers.

Search for The Truth. Picture: James Mackenzie.
Search for The Truth. Picture: James Mackenzie.

In the Debate room, arguments are presented by those who have dedicated their lives to the legend of Nessie before a vote is taken on three options – I See Nessie, I See Nonsense, I See Possibilities.

Adrian Shine felt people would find the exhibition creative, imaginative, entertaining and accessible.

"It has moved with the times," he said.

He also said it included updated information on the latest research.

Steve Feltham comes face to face with himself in the Debate.
Steve Feltham comes face to face with himself in the Debate.

Long-time Nessie spotter Steve Feltham, who features in the filmed debate, was among those taking a preview tour of the revamped centre.

"It is such an upgrade," he said.

"It is inspirational. It brings together so much of the history of the mystery and it is so well portrayed."


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