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Nessie, a castle, museum and boat tours… Loch Ness offers a monster day out

© Shutterstock / George KUZThe spectacular ruins of Urquhart Castle on Strone Point
The spectacular ruins of Urquhart Castle on Strone Point

Scotland is home to more than 30,000 freshwater lochs, but few that can match the renown of Loch Ness.

Spanning almost the width of Scotland, it bisects the Highlands. But Loch Ness is known for more than its size. The legend of the Loch Ness Monster, or Nessie as she is known, dates back to Pictish times, with the first written record of her found in the AD 565 diaries of St Columbus.

In modern times, Nessie attracts two million visitors a year from around the globe hoping to catch a glimpse of the monster, but also take in all the loch has to offer.

Apart from Nessie herself, the main visitor attraction is the Loch Ness Centre and Experience. Reopened by Sir Ranulph Fiennes in 2000, it is dedicated to the spirit of exploration and is split into seven sections that cover every aspect of the 263 billion square ft of water.

Debbie MacGregor is the centre manager and, over the years, has welcomed visitors from around the world.

She said: “The centre offers a wonderful day out, including hourly boat trips, great shopping and lovely refreshments.”

Through interactive displays and captivating exhibits, visitors can trace the story of the loch and its fabled residents during its 500 million years of history. With more than 1,000 Nessie eyewitness accounts on display – of varying credibility – you can decide what to make of Loch Ness’s greatest mystery.

For a truly immersive Loch Ness experience, nothing compares to exploring the water by boat. Jacobite Tours has been welcoming visitors aboard for more than 40 years and, thanks to the unrivalled knowledge of the crew, each tour is unforgettable.

Jacobite Tours has a fleet of boats and tours to cater for all visitors, whether interested in the loch’s history, geography, ecology or mystery. Kids will love their Nessie-hunting tours, whereas history buffs might be more excited by a cruise to take in Urquhart Castle.

Urquhart Castle, on Strone Point on the loch’s north shore, has a fascinating history and unrivalled views. The castle dates back at least until the 13th Century and was passed between English and Scottish control before it was ruined in 1689 by the English Garrison to prevents its use by the Jacobites.

The beauty of the loch alone is worth a visit but, with castles, museums and monsters too, Loch Ness is unmissable.