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Tourism leaders say 'Lay off Loch Ness!' after criticism from US travel writer Cameron Hewitt who claimed the popular tourist attraction was boring and overhyped and that Nessie did not exist

By Ian Duncan

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Willie Cameron – AKA Mr Loch Ness – has defended the popular landmark after it was criticised by a US travel writer this week. Picture: Ian Duncan
Willie Cameron – AKA Mr Loch Ness – has defended the popular landmark after it was criticised by a US travel writer this week. Picture: Ian Duncan

Tourism leaders have hit back after an American travel writer was critical of Loch Ness and claimed Nessie did not exist.

Cameron Hewitt – who was driving from Inverness to Skye, past the loch – shared his thoughts via Facebook to his 36,000 followers in what can only be described as a rant of more than 1400 words.

Mr Hewitt described the loch as “the most boring, and most overhyped lake I have ever laid eyes on”. He said there was nothing remotely interesting about the loch once you were there and claimed “there is no Loch Ness Monster... period”.

He added: “It’s just empty hype, invented in the 1930s, kept alive by hoax after hoax, seemingly for no other reason than to get people excited about a little stretch of the nothingness contained within the Scottish interior.”

However, he did say that Urquhart Castle may be the saving grace of Loch Ness but added: “Which is less an endorsement of Urquhart Castle than it is an indictment of Loch Ness.”

The criticism made national and international headlines as coincidentally, yesterday, High Life Highland launched a campaign to promote the region. Loch Ness has recently been ranked as one of the top three most Insta-worthy landmarks – popular on social media channel Instagram – in the UK according to a recent survey.

Willie Cameron, who runs the Loch Ness Clansman hotel overlooking the loch, said Mr Hewitt was talking rubbish.

Mr Cameron, who is known locally as “Mr Loch Ness”, added: “There’s one way to get publicity – you be controversial and you will get publicity.

“There are lots of wonderful places in Scotland but the fact that he was calling Loch Ness disappointing, that was a lot of nonsense.”

He said the post was purely to grab the headlines and get his name known. He added: “It was just to get publicity for Cameron Hewitt Productions – who had ever heard of Cameron Hewitt before? Everybody knows about him now.”

Mr Cameron said he was totally wrong to claim that Nessie did not exist because 4000 people had seen something on the loch – whether it was something physical or something that appeared out of the ether.

He said: “Nessie is Nessie and the whole thing, as far as Loch Ness is concerned, is it is a global icon which attracts people from all over the world here.”

Jo de Sylva, chairwoman of local tourism group Visit Inverness Loch Ness, said: “Loch Ness and the surrounding areas hold some of the most interesting and thought-provoking myths, legends, stories and history.

“Loch Ness is more than just one road on the side of the loch – Dores beach offers a view down the loch that can’t be beaten.

“To spend time on the beach first thing in the morning to absorb the stillness that only exists in the quiet morning before everyone else has risen and your only company are the birds and the gentle lapping of the loch is something that can’t be described without being there.”

She said the Highlands could not be experienced on a whistle-stop tour and that was why so many people visited and then came back for an extended stay. She added: “That’s when the magic happens and you see and discover the gems we keep hidden for our special visitors.”

Freda Newton, managing director of Loch Ness by Jacobite, said: “I’ve been running Loch Ness by Jacobite for 20 years and never once have I tired of the views of Loch Ness. It is beautiful all year and certainly not boring. I know I’m not alone in this – 325,000 people come to visit Loch Ness on our cruises each year.”

Michael Golding, the chief executive of Visit Inverness Loch Ness, said: “Loch Ness remains one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world, with 1.6 million people visiting the area each year.”

He said that people visited because the scenery was stunning and there was a warm Highland welcome from people who loved living here. He added: “If you’re lucky, you might catch sight of Nessie or something you can’t explain.”

The new campaign launched by High Life Highland, in partnership with VisitScotland, highlights the natural and cultural heritage of the Highlands and Islands.

The Spirit of the Highlands and Islands project will encourage visitors to explore and experience the more remote and rural parts of the area, as well as inspiring them to attend and support festivals and events, workshops, visitor attractions and outdoor locations.

The project’s aim is to encourage visitors to holiday in the ‘shoulder months’ outwith the typical holiday season and to visit locations with growth potential.

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