Europe 2007 Day 12 – Loch Ness

It was a cold night in the hotel room and we woke up with the alarm ready to have breakfast. Last night, the receptionist told us breakfast would end at 10:30am so we decided to take the opportunity to sleep in just a bit and head down around 10 am. When we showed up, breakfast was already over. The greeter at the hotel restaurant told us, “well she lied to you then”.

Nothing like top quality customer service in the morning. We decided to walk through the city center of Inverness to see if we could get some bakery items and such, but the best we could come up with was Subway. So I grabbed a sandwich and Daniel took out some money, then we headed back to get our car to hit the road.

It did not take long to get to one of the places I have always wanted to visit – Loch Ness. It really is a beautiful place and you can see why it draws people year after year. We first pulled off the side of the road at a vista point where we could walk down to the shores of the Loch. I took some good photos, but it was really cold so we headed back to the car and went further down the road. Next we came to the Loch Ness Exposition Center, complete with a six-room experience on the myth of the Loch Ness Monster. It was only about 6 pounds to go in, so I decided that since we only live once we should go for it.

The exposition opened in 1999, but already looked shaky with some bad video image problems, but overall it was full of cheesy goodness. They basically disprove all of the theories of what the monster could be, but they leave it to us to decide whether or not to believe in the stories. A series of shops complete the experience, a Nessie shop, and trinkets shop, and the ever popular Scottish kilt and tartan shop.

It was then time to head to Urquhart Castle, the icon of Loch Ness. It was just a short drive down the A82 and before we knew it we had arrived. Urquhart Castle actually has a very nice visitor’s center complete with a brief movie on the history of the castle that ends with the opening of the curtains to reveal the ruins. For those of you up on your Nessie, this section of Loch Ness is the deepest and home to a bunch of sightings of Nessie. The castle is in ruins because the family who occupied it when the Jacobites attacked it in the 1600s decided to blow it up rather than have it fall into enemy hands. It still is a spectacular ruin. One thing that I thought was unusual is that Scottish Heritage omits any mention of Nessie from all of the displays in the visitor center. Talk about not acknowledging the white elephant in the room!

We then decided to stop off at another of the Loch Ness Visitor Centers, but it was a bit sub par. In the end we did not purchase anything at any center. With some time left to kill, I decided we should drive all the way across Scotland to see Castle Stalker. Castle Stalker you say? Why should anyone drive across an island country just to see a castle that you cannot go inside? Quite simply it is also known as Castle Aaaaagh, the resting place of the Holy Grail in the classic Film, Monty Python and the Holy Grail. While driving the 90 miles there on a two- lane road I was tempted many times to just stop and go back to the hotel. We have been running ragged over the last few days and it would be nice to just sit back and relax. But, I figured if I went all the way to Cardiff to see where they filmed Doctor Who, I could make it all the way to Castle Stalker. After two hours we were there. The shop was closed, but the overlook was still accessible and there was a group of photographers with expensive cameras poised for that perfect picture. Daniel and I braved the drizzle and posed for a few photographs and then we headed back to Inverness.

I marveled at the high beams on the B150, it was like using one of those CalTrans construction lights while I was driving, and it helped us make good time back. Arriving back at the hotel, we actually scored a parking spot in the car park of the hotel. We hoofed it around the city center trying to find something to eat and settled on Bella Italia, a chain Italian restaurant. We both enjoyed our dinners and some garlic bread and then headed back to the hotel for an early night. We sat around and watched the telly, including the British Family Feud and a show called Shooting the Past.
Tomorrow we will make sure we get to brekkie on time and then hit a few of the shops in town before we set off to Edinburgh on our last big road trip.