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Sunday, November 25, 2012

Scotland IV: Loch Ness & Urquhart Castle

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No visit to Scotland is complete without seeing Loch Ness. Loch is Gaelic for lake, so pretty much every lake in Scotland is called loch. Loch Ness might be the most famous lake in the world. It has a mystique charm that has drawn in generations of people and I am happy that I can count myself to those people.

Loch Ness is Scotland’s second largest lake (number one is Loch Lomond) and the deepest one in the UK – allegedly, it is possible to pile in the whole world’s population three times. The lake is not very wide, but very long (37km) and is bordered by semi-high mountains on both sides. Loch Ness also marks the most northern part of the Caledonian Canal, a man-made connection from the North Sea to the Atlantic that goes from Inverness to Fort William.

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We took the bus from Inverness and we were both speechless once we reached the northern shore of the lake. It was suddenly there, a dark and mysterious lake that seems to have no end. Loch Ness is not the kind of lake that invites you to take a swim. The waves are high , the wind is whistling and the water is turbid. Immediately, one understands how the legend of Nessie came about.

Nessie is one of the world’s most famous monters and perhaps the number one reason why Loch Ness is known all over the world. Some people insist it exists, while others are only annoyed by what they consider sensationalism and others again just can’t be bothered. We didn’t catch a glimpse – you would have heard by now! – and apparently so has nobody else, but in my opinion there are far more interesting (and approachable) things to do than look for this sea monster.

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Perfect example of Scottish wheather: One minute the sky is grey, the next the sun is beaming. 

One of these is Urquhart Castle, one of Scotland’s most famous ruins right at the shores of Loch Ness. I have seen my fair shares of castles in my life (living in Europe will do that to you) and I would argue that Scotland has the most stunning locations.

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The grounds of the castle have already been settled in the 6th century AD. Saint Columba, a missionary from Ireland, had come to Scotland a evangelized the Picts and started the long-winded story of the Loch Ness Monster when he – according to legend – defeated a beast that came from the lake.

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The castle itself is thought to have been built during the 13th century and was conquered by a variety of different clans over time. At last, it was destroyed at the end of the 17th century when the last inhabitants left, so that nobody else could come in and use the castle as a stronghold.

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Urquhart Castle is a typical tourist spot, but all those tourists are there for a reason. The castle – or at least its remains – are magnificent and are well worth a visit. And while it is in ruins, there is still enough to see to make up the entrance fee. Also, don’t plan to little time for your visit – this is not the kind of castle you just float through.


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