Myth of the Loch Ness Monster is a big hit on a family holiday to Scotland

The mystery of Nessie, the Loch Ness monster, has fascinated locals, tourists and experts for centuries. The legendary loch is the largest body of freshwater in the whole of the UK, with deep, murky qualities making it the perfecthiding place for a mythical creature.

Despite thousands of reported sightings, and millions of visitors, nobody has uncovered Scotland’s most famous secret. But my three young sons have always been convinced they’d find indisputable evidence to crack the case so we thought we’d make a family holiday of it and headed for the Highlands.

And our perfect base for this exciting exploration was just seven miles outside Inverness.

On the outskirts of Kilmuir’s fishing village, a 30-minute drive from the loch, The Secret Garden at Old Drynie House, found with Sykes Holiday Cottages, was a charming hideaway surrounded by woodland.

The Secret Garden at Old Drynie House, near Inverness



Three comfortable bedrooms all with TVs, modern bathrooms, a fully equipped open-plan kitchen and dining area plus an amazing games room with a snooker table, football table and dartboard – it was perfect for families with kids who need plenty to do.

The closest shop or pub was a few miles away, but there were lots to investigate on our doorstep including a viewing platform overlooking the Moray Firth, where you could enjoy a drink while keeping an eye out for dolphins or even a prehistoric monster who may have lost its way.

But despite the luxurious home from home, our trio of intrepid explorers couldn’t get to the loch quick enough.

We started with a Jacobite boat tour, a one-hour voyage across part of the loch during which we learned about its natural history, myths and mysteries. With a depth of 788 feet and a length of about 23 miles, its dark, still waters due to the high peat content in the area, made it unlike anything we’d seen before.

And easier to understand why many locals talk of its mystical qualities.

The remains of Urquhart Castle on Loch Ness


Universal Images Group via Getty Images)

We were all mesmerized and spent most of the time optimistically studying the water. No Nessie sightings though.

After the boat tour we visited the Loch Ness Exhibition Center in nearby Drumnadrochit, which features a hi-tech presentation through themed areas and 500 million years of natural history and legend.

Again, no Nessie, but we picked up plenty of souvenirs in the friendly shops dotted around the area.

We also visited the beach at Dores on the northeast tip of the loch.

At one stage the kids – Charlie and Harry, 10, and eight-year-old Teddy – were paddling in the water in their attempt to beckon the beast, but still no joy. Although they managed to create a mysterious object for a photo in a cheeky bid to convince their pals they’d spotted the monster.

The world’s most famous Nessie hunter also lives in a converted mobile library on the very same beach. Steve Feltham moved from Dorset in 1991 to pursue his lifelong dream of finding Nessie and he’s been there ever since.

The Secret Garden at Old Drynie House, near Inverness



If you’re lucky enough to get the chance to chat to him, and we were, there’s nobody better placed to talk about the mystery of Loch Ness. Apart from being available to talk to tourists and families about his own sightings he also sells hand-crafted Nessies.

Although Nessie hunting was number one, two and three on our to-do list, the area had lots more to offer.

We visited the magnificent Urquhart Castle, situated on the loch shore, where we learned about dramatic tales of power struggles between the Scots and the English. It also provided a spectacular spot for a packed lunch. The Highland Nature Reserve in Inverness is also worth trying as are various boat cruises across the Moray Firth to catch sight of seabirds or even dolphins and seals.

And after taking advice from locals, we also drove to Chanonry Point, which is known as one of the best locations in the UK to see bottlenose dolphins from the land.

It was a beautiful spot to relax while the kids explored the pebbly beach and caught a few crabs.

No sign of dolphins though. Maybe they were with Nessie? We hadn’t had much luck, but it didn’t matter – it was a fun spot and worth visiting.

Wild dolphin at Chanonry Point, near Inverness, Scotland – but Tom and the boys were unlucky


Adam Gerrard / Daily Mirror)

Before going back to the cottage in the evenings, we spent time in Inverness. Regarded as the capital of the Highlands, on the mouth of the River Ness, it’s an impressive city with lots of restaurants, bars and shopping streets. We particularly enjoyed the Mustard Seed restaurant and Waterside pub, which both had
great food, excellent staff and a friendly atmosphere. Closer to us was the North Kessock Hotel, which has decent home-cooked food on the menu.

After long days of monster hunting and exploring tourist attractions, we were lucky to be able to relax back at the cottage while the kids used the games room. Even as dusk settled on our final evening, we tried the dolphin viewing platform in the hope that Nessie may pop up to say goodbye. Sadly not, but it did not take anything away from a magical trip. The legend remains compelling.

Meanwhile, I’m sure the area will continue to be perfect for family adventures for centuries to come.

History of a legend

The first recorded sighting of a creature in Loch Ness dates back to the 6th century.

An ancient text tells how Saint Columba, the man credited with introducing Christianity to Scotland, saw the monster about to attack someone. He bravely made the sign of the cross and banished it to the loch, converting many locals to Christianity at the same time, believing they had seen a miracle.

In 1933, a manager of a local hotel was driving with her husband along the road to Inverness when she spotted a “whale-like fish” in the water that was “black, wet, with the water rolling off it”. It is widely regarded
as the first modern sighting of a monster in the loch.

It led to a flood of people claiming they’d seen the beast and it became a boost for tourism in the area. The most famous photograph was taken in 1934 by highly respected British surgeon, Colonel Robert Wilson, showing a creature’s head and neck reaching out of the water.

The famous ‘sighting’ of the Loch Ness Monster, near Inverness, Scotland on April 19, 1934


Getty Images)

For decades the “surgeon’s photo” was considered evidence of the monster’s existence, although many dismissed it as driftwood, an elephant, an otter or a bird. It was later revealed to be a hoax – a toy submarine fitted with a sea-serpent head.

There have been at least four recorded sightings this year so far, including one by a couple in their 50s who saw a mysterious creature swimming just below the surface of the water around 150 yards from the shore, with a strong wake of water behind it.

“I really don’t know what it was in the water. It was something large. It was propelling itself with something.

“It wasn’t how a fish would do it,” the woman said.

The legend lives on.


Sykes Holiday Cottages offers a four-night self-catering stay at the Secret Garden at North Kessock, near Inverness, from £ 713.


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