In Search of Nessie: Loch Ness Centre and Exhibition

Scotland is a land of mythical creatures, spooky ghouls, and magical history, all set in the immeasurable beauty of a diverse landscape. Therefore, it is not a surprise that it is known worldwide for its storytelling, and there is no better-known story than that of the Loch Ness Monster – Nessie!


It is a tale that has fascinated our Wee Walking Tours family since we were all wee beasties, and we are still devoted Nessie-enthusiasts to this day. Thankfully, we are not alone, because by our nature, humans are a curious species. We all want to see and discover something new, previously unseen, and unexplained. We are also an imaginative and spiritual species and want to believe in something bigger and more mysterious than ourselves or something that cannot be scientifically rationalised.


Whenever we have family or friends visiting us from abroad, they are also keen on taking a road trip up to the Highlands, and Loch Ness, in the hopes that they will get a glimpse of our beloved Nessie. Usually, we make the trip to Loch Ness yearly, but this has been an unusual year. Therefore, this time we are going to make the trip up north virtually, and the benefit is that you are all invited to come along!



So, whether you are interested in Loch Ness with scientific curiosity, or with imaginative spirituality, or if you just want to come along for the ride for the awe-inspiring views of the Scottish Highlands – the absolutely best place to experience it all is with a visit to the Loch Ness Centre and Exhibition in the village of Drumnadrochit.


Before we head out on our journey to Loch Ness, we want to impart you all with some wisdom from the Ted Danson movie, Loch Ness- “Before you can see it, you must believe it!” We understand that there are many skeptics out there. For that, we simply like to remind people that many were skeptical about the stories of an elusive Bavarian lion, dressed in lederhosen, roaming around Edinburgh… well, we have already proven that to be true! 😉


Now that magic and childlike wonderment have been restored, it is time to head into Drumnadrochit!



On the western banks of the Loch Ness, just about 15 miles southwest from Inverness, we arrive in the picturesque town of Drumnadrochit. The Loch Ness Centre and Exhibition is easy to spot as it is set up in the beautiful Victorian-era building that used to be a hotel. The Centre complex is well set up and easy to navigate, with an abundance of parking.



A quick tip before we head into the exhibition – go and book your Deepscan cruise on the Loch right away, because they book quickly. We also recommend getting to the Centre as soon as it opens in the morning. That way you get to beat some of the bigger crowds and the tour busses that are on their way.


In any case we will get to the Deepscan cruises in a wee bit. For now, since we arrived so early, the Exhibition is not open yet, but it is the perfect time to go and enjoy a great breakfast and coffee at Cobbs Café, which is adjacent to the Centre.


Once properly caffeinated, it is time to go and enjoy the Exhibition. For information on booking your tickets, as well as the prices – check their Booking page. However, since we have our tickets – it is time to go!


While we wait for our turn to enter the first exhibition room, I want to share a bit about the history of the legendary Loch Ness Monster – Nessie!

The first written account about the monster dates to the year 565 AD, when Irish missionary, Saint Columba, was visiting the area of Inverness in the hopes of converting local Picts into Christianity. During this visit, he witnessed a water monster charging towards one of his followers swimming in the River Ness. However, before the beast could get to the swimmer, Saint Columba blessed and commanded the beast to leave the person alone and to swim away. The beast did exactly that, except for remaining in the local folklores throughout the many centuries afterwards.


St Columba in St Margaret's Chapel at Edinburgh Castle

Until the 1930s, Nessie did not get much notice or recognition beyond the locals. However, this all changed after the increased use of the Caledonian Canal, and the construction of new roads around Loch Ness. As the number of visitors increased, so did the sightings of Nessie. Then, in 1934, one of the most famous photographs was published – the 'Surgeon Photo':

Image Credit: Christian Spurling 1934

It is after that that the myth and the lore of the Loch Ness Monster really got some wings, or should I say flippers, and took off! People flocked to Loch Ness in hopes of catching a glimpse of the monster. It drew mystics, skeptics, and everyone in between. The interest in Nessie has ebbed and flowed like the autumn seiches on the Loch itself, often resulting from some evidence of Nessie’s existence being debunked – like the Surgeon Photo being deemed a hoax in 1994. Despite that, the interest and curiosity about Nessie has never completely faded. In fact, as the various technologies have developed, so has the search for her existence.


But it is time for us to step into the Exhibition, and we promise you that you will learn a lot more about the history of Nessie, and the history of searching for her in the Exhibition. So, let’s go…



The Exhibition is divided into the following six sections, or rooms:

1. From the Beginning of Time

2. Legend of the Water Horse

3. Hoaxes, Illusions and Eyewitnesses

4. The Secrets Beneath

5. Operation Deepscan and the Laser Effect

6. The Loch Ness Time Capsule


As we move along from room to room, we are greeted by the audio tour, narrated by no other than Mr. Adrian Shine – the Godfather of Loch Ness! Now some of you may be thinking – who? Well, I promise you that if you have watched any documentary in the last few decades about Loch Ness – you will have seen Mr. Shine. He is easily recognisable, because of his timeless elegance, but more so as he is a world-renowned expert of Loch Ness.


Mr. Shine started exploring and studying Loch Ness in the 1970’s and he has been active in countless scientific studies of the Loch ever since. He even contributed to the most recent environmental DNA study conducted in 2018. In addition to studying the Loch, he (along with the Bremner family) founded the Loch Ness Centre and Exhibition and has been responsible for the Exhibition from 1980 to the present day. In fact, Mr. Shine not only narrated the exhibition, but he also designed it. Additionally, he famously organised the 1987 Deepscan project – the largest sonar scan completed on the Loch to this day. If you are interested in learning more about Mr. Shine’s projects – please visit:


https://www.lochnessproject.org/


Because of Mr. Shine’s experience and involvement in numerous scientific studies, it is not surprising to find various objects in the Exhibition that are related to those projects. For example, you can find submersibles that he and others have used to study the depths of the Loch, as well items like the ROSETTA Corer from 1994, a machine that took 6-metre-long core samples of the sediments that settled on the bottom of Loch Ness in the last 10,000 years. The core samples are incredible time capsules that show the impacts of climate changes and floods, and even catastrophes like the Chernobyl disaster.



Right now, you might be thinking this all sounds very scientific, and that I came here for the magic! Well hang on, because here is the great truth about the Centre- no matter what you were looking for at Loch Ness, or where you stand in your beliefs about Nessie – The Loch Ness Centre and Exhibition does not judge anyone! In fact, I would argue that no matter who or how old you are, you will be educated and entertained here- 'edutained' as they describe it.


The Centre is a place of learning history, biology, ecology, meteorology, mythology, etc. It is true that they expose the hoaxes of Nessie for what they really were or are, but they also leave room for new discoveries as well as some unexplained occurrences. Most importantly, they never judge people and their eyewitness accounts of something bizarre on the Loch. Of course, we can rationalise and argue that it could be logs, wakes, water birds, large fish, seals, etc., that people have seen. Yet, the magic of Loch Ness is that if you believe – then you will see your monster!


Rather than me going into more details of the exhibitions, we believe that this is a good time to bring you on a brief virtual tour of the Centre – with the following video, courtesy of the Loch Ness Centre and Exhibition. It is about four minutes long and we will see you in the shops after the video…



We hope that enjoyed that wee video tour and hopefully you can see why the Centre is a must-stop attraction for anyone visiting the Scottish Highlands. Now that we have made our way through the award-winning exhibition – it is time to exit through the gift shop! And we promise you that even if you are not a fan of shopping – you will enjoy the Nessie and the Whisky Shops at the Centre! You can bring a stuffed Nessie home with you, but you can also find great selection of gifts and keepsakes ranging from kilts to whiskies and everything in between for yourself or for family and friends as souvenirs. They even have a “What is Your Name” outlet that will trace the history of your family name and perhaps reveal some of your ancestors, family crests and clans. So, who knows, you might find out more about yourself and not just about Nessie on your visit to the Loch Ness Centre and Exhibition.


After we have finished with our shopping spree, it is time head out for our Deepscan Cruise on the Loch! We are picked up just outside the shops and Cobbs Café by a friendly Scottish gentleman – Alistair Matheson. We load into the van and take off towards the marina. At the marina we hop on board the vessel called Deepscan, named after the 1987 project. Before we know it – we are off – cruising on Loch Ness! If this is your first time on Loch Ness and you are excited – don’t worry – no matter how often we have gone on a boat on Loch Ness – we still get excited every time!



We cannot recommend this cruise enough! The views are absolutely stunning, especially around Urquhart Castle (I have so many pictures from around and on the Loch that I haven’t even seen them all yet. Who knows – I might have even captured Nessie without realizing it yet)! Aside from the views, the cruise is always such a wonderful experience because of the knowledge and humour of Alistair – Skipper Ali! He will entertain and educate you through the cruise and he can also answer just about any questions that you might have about the Loch.



As we circle around the Urquhart Bay one last time before heading back to the marina, we urge you to check out one more brief video below. It is just a short video (only a few minutes) courtesy of Google. It introduces you to Mr. Adrian Shine, (in case you did not know him already) and to the project that he worked on with Google. We wanted you to see it because we hope that it will encourage you to live and travel like our motto: Explore and Discover!



We sincerely hope that you have enjoyed our virtual trip to one of our favourite spots on the planet – Loch Ness! We highly recommend for you all to add it to your bucket lists. During that Highlands trip, be sure to visit the Loch Ness Centre and Exhibition, where you can meet their friendly staff who will make sure that you will experience the magic of Loch Ness. Just remember to believe it – and you will then see it!


Until next time – Explore and Discover!