Looking for the Monster

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July 18th 2014
Published: June 25th 2017
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Geo: 57.4767, -4.23145

We started the day slowly with breakfast at So CoCo café just down the street from the apartment. It was okay, but priced a bit high and really nothing special so we'll look for another place tomorrow.

After breakfast, we stopped in at the tourist information centre to get advice on the best way to get to the starting point for our tour of Loch Ness and Urquhart Castle which was to begin at 2:00. The clerk there said it would be a nice walk along the banks of the river and take about 45 minutes.

Before the cruise, we had time to see Inverness Castle. It is not open for tours since it is used for city offices, but we walked around the outside for a look. It is a large castle, and it took some time to go completely around.

Next, we started our walk to the bridge where we were scheduled to meet the loch cruise. We strolled the west bank of the river in a beautiful park-like setting. When we got close to the boat dock, we started looking for a place for lunch, but didn't see anything. We came to Inverness Leisure, which is an indoor sports center, and went inside to their cafe for lunch. It was good that we stopped there as there were no restaurants in the area around the boat launch site. We both had sandwiches that were very quick and inexpensive before resuming the walk to the starting point of the cruise at Tomnahurich Bridge about a mile and a half south of the city center. We arrived early, but the boat from Jacobite Experience Loch Ness was open for boarding for the Discovery Cruise, and we went up to the top for a seat with a good view of the loch. I purchased tickets online several months ago since this was a "must do" in our opinion. The woman who exchanged my voucher for tickets commented on how early we had bought them. I guess we didn't need to make our plans so far in advance for the ride.

The tour began with a boat ride south up the Caledonian Canal toward the loch. We went through one small lock, the Dochgarroch Lock, that changed the water level by only about three feet. The canal parallels the River Ness and joins it at Loch Dochfour right before entering Loch Ness. When the boat reached the open water of the loch, the water looked very dark with numerous ripples moving through. I can imagine that people might have seen the humps and bumps of water in the ripples as a sea serpent with a wavy back. But other than that, we were not lucky enough to see the monster. We will have to go back for another try sometime.

Urquhart Castle was the ending point for the cruise. As we got off the boat, our driver for the return trip to Inverness met us and gave instructions on when and where to find him--the upper coach park, which turned out to be quite a hike up. The castle is in ruins, but beautiful. It is right on the water and must have been quite impressive in the middle ages when it was occupied. We stopped by the Visitor Centre which maintains excellent informational displays about the castle and the people who lived there and who raided it. Afterward, we walked up to meet the bus for the return trip to Inverness which turned out to be a smallish bus--about 24 passengers--and found our driver. He offered to make two stops on the return--one at the starting point and a second one in the center of town. We thought we were going to be walking back from the boat dock after the cruise, but, instead, he dropped us off right in front of our apartment.

When we got out of the bus, we walked across the street to confirm our dinner reservation at the McGonagall Steakhouse and Restaurant. Dinner was excellent with good service and wonderful food and wine. The restaurant was too warm, but it seems that no place has air conditioning. Even though they turned people away who arrived at the restaurant after us, there were a number of empty tables. I don't know if they did not have enough staff to handle all the tables so left some empty or maybe they had several no-shows. We had a good dinner. By the way, McGonagall's was named for the 19th century Scottish poet, not for the Dame Maggie Smith character in the Harry Potter series.

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