(Brief introduction by Mike Clark:
It’s not often I get email from a monster. And I would have ignored it, had it not contained such a heartfelt plea. But the obvious pain and suffering incurred in the arduous use of the keyboard with webbed feet, brought a tear to my eye. And the genuine love for Loch Ness and its environs struck a chord, as did the plea for peace and quiet, and the largely-unheeded cry that the Great Glen has so much more to offer than just an obsession with one shy creature.
I make no apology, therefore, for presenting in full, this email from Nessie.)
Forgive me for approaching you like this. But as you have an interest in things Scottish, and write occasionally on BritishExpat, I hoped you could publicise my plight.
My loch is famed throughout the world. Tourists come in droves, in a vain quest to catch a glimpse of my lumpy bits. When they fail, they retreat to the Monster Centre in Drumnadrochit, and buy stuffed images of me, or little plastic ones, or even life(!) size inflatable ones.
Then go home again, wearing “me” T-shirts.
They miss so much.
I would be eternally grateful, Mike, if you could draw to the attention of the world, some of the great attractions around Loch Ness which so many who seek only to invade my privacy, never see.
On the rocky promontory of Strone Point stands the ruins of Urquhart Castle. It dates from early in the thirteenth century, and was built by Alan Durward, son-in-law of King Alexander II. For a time, it was a strong-hold of Robert de Brus (the Bruce), and it met its end in 1692, when English forces blew it up to thwart the Jacobites. It is now in the care of Historic Scotland, and is open to the public.
Fairly regularly, you will find a lone piper by the Castle, playing “The Floo’ers of the Forest”, or “The Pibroch of the Dying Cat”. This disturbs my afternoon nap and wakes the monster-bairns. But the tourists seem to like it.
Urquhart Bay and the surrounding woods is a Site of Special Scientific Interest. The woods, lying between the Rivers Enrick and Coiltie, are one of Britain’s last remnants of swamp woodland. It is home to many endangered insects, dippers frequent the banks, and my unruly offspring sometimes wallow in the shallows.
The John Cobb Memorial
Two miles beyond Urquhart Castle, on the left side of the road, stands a beehive cairn. It was erected to the memory of John Cobb, who died on the Loch in 1952, during an attempt to break the world water speed record.
Cobb already held the land speed record of over 390 mph. His speedboat was recorded at 206 mph, before it bounced and disintegrated. Cobb was not killed outright, but died later, after being brought ashore, only a few metres from where this monument stands.
Situated on the A82 five miles northeast of Drumnadrochit, this place is a real find for the garden-lover. The gardens are laid out on a terraced hillside, with magnificent views over Loch Ness – a gardener like you would love it, Mike! (Note from Mike: I’ve been, Nessie, and you’re right! The plant sales area is full of treasures.)
Of particular note, the gardens contain collections of Primulas, Helianthemums and Geraniums.
Divach Falls are off an unclassified road just south of Drumnadrochit. The Falls are well signposted, and are well worth the detour. This is one of the highest waterfalls in the area, dropping over 30 metres. The surrounding woods are magnificent, and if you are quiet, you will discover that wildlife around here abounds. J M Barrie, creator of Peter Pan, stayed some time at nearby Divach Lodge, and loved the Falls.
I didn’t manage to get his autograph.
On the much quieter but no less scenic B862, which follows the south side of Loch Ness, you will find the village of Foyers. A marked path leads to the Falls of Foyers, immortalised in a poem by Robert Burns. He visited here, you know, when I was a youngster of, oh, probably only a couple of hundred years old. I didn’t get his autograph either.
The volume of the falls is much less now, because the water is harnessed to produce electricity. Foyers Power Station was once an aluminium plant, but was developed by (then) Hydro Electric as a pumped storage generating station. And if you think an old monster knows nothing about electricity, just listen.
High above Foyers is Loch Mhor. Huge pipes connect Loch Mhor to Foyers and thence to Loch Ness, creating a massive pumped storage system. During peak demand, water drops from Loch Mhor to drive the turbines and generate electricity, then passes out into Loch Ness. Then at night, excess power in the grid is used to reverse the turbines, and pump water back up to Loch Mhor. Repeat, cost effectively, ad nauseum. Great idea.
Not many monsters know that.
There’s so much more, but my little webbed toes are cut and bleeding writing this. I have persevered through the pain barrier, though, because it is so important to me. And if you think a keyboard is easy with webbed feet, ask yourself, how many ducks do you know who can type?
I don’t want to be found. I just want to live out my remaining centuries in peace.
I am a normal monster, not a circus freak. I enclose a photo, just to let you see I don’t look like any of these hideous replicas. Especially not the inflatable ones.
Love and tears
© Mike Clark 2003