Inverness - Inbhir Nis - also known as Inversneckie,
Can't escape its monstrous publicity

Inverness, Scotland by night

Do There Be Monsters?



Saint Columcille (Columba) was the first human to spot the old triple humper they call "Nessie." In 565 A.D. he came from Ireland to Inverness, Scotland with the mission of converting the heathen Pictish chieftains to Christianity. While the Saint was out for a contemplative walk along the shores of the River Ness, a monster rushed up with a great roar and opened his horrible mouth at him.

Or so that's how Saint Adamnan described Saint Columba's face-off with the Loch Ness Monster, and there's been a hullabaloo over the 10,000 odd reported Nessie sitings ever since.

And with the sitings, marine biology expeditions to plumb the cold dark peaty depths of Loch Ness -- all 24-miles and 975-feet deep of the largest lake/loch in Britain.

Brrrrrr....!!!



One odd Loch Ness Monster publicity stunt was organized by the BBC - not the British Broadcasting Corporation, but the British Bacon Curers federation! This odd BBC exploited the Loch Ness monster mania by sponsoring a young Englishman to float over Loch Ness in a hot air balloon -- trailing a humongous hunk of cured ham as bait!!!



You have to hand it to the Loch Ness sea monster for spawning a whole industry of tourist cruises, books, docu-dramas, websites, bookmaker's bets, and uproarious postcards, tee-shirts and fridge magnets.

But, you ask, is this Nessie stuff all just taradiddle? Or are there really creatures resembling a Plesiosaurus that have survived in Britain's largest fresh water body since the Last Ice Age?

Loch Ness gets the all monster publicity, but that 565 A.D. siting of Nessiteras rhombopteryx - "Nessie" - was actually on the River Ness, where King David I some centuries later founded the Royal Burgh that grew into the scenic city of Inbhir Nis, capital of the Scottish Highlands.

You'll admire the city's riverine setting in the Great Glen, the geological fault which splits Scotland from East to West. Inverness is an outdoor recreation gateway throughout the year, attracting hill walkers, bird watchers, mountain bikers, kayakers, and rock and mountain climbers.

Seasonal extremes in Inverness are not so much between wet vs. dry, as between dark vs. light. Winter brings 18 hours or more of darkness, and summer brings 18 or more hours of energising daylight.

In summer you can pack two days' outdoor activity into one, but in winter Invernessians compensate for the short days and long nights with social and cultural events.
Surprising for its northern latitude, Inverness benefits from the tempering effect of Gulf Stream and the sheltering effect of the Great Glen. Palms and Monkey Puzzle trees thrive here along with roses abloom in February. The presence or absence of wind, and its direction and force determine how warm or cold it feels. The mercury can drop as low as -30C in winter and reach as high as 30C in summer - but that's very rare indeed!

Nessie or no Nessie, Loch Ness and the City of Inverness into which its waters flow get more press about this beastie than they'd like, considering all the other things there are to do around here, like hiking The Great Glen Way, or cycling along the Caledonian Canal - or taking a scenic cruise along it. And there are ceilis, and Highland games and dancing, and informal sessions of traditional Scottish music.

Inverness Hootananny Pub music session, fiddles and pipes galore!

And there is shopping till you're dropping, of course.

Scottish weather is the butt of many Scottish jokes, but as comedian Billy Connolly points out, there's no bad weather here in Scotland, only bad clothing. This is even truer in the Highlands. A gorgeous sunny moment in Inver Nis can turn into a blustery one, with hailstones even in July. If you come in summer, pack a warm sweater, jacket, hat and raingear with your shorts and sandals. Don't expect a suntan, but fascinating ancient history, Gaelic culture, theatre, traditional music, fine dining, and more shopping, of course.

In Inverness, history and memory live long and the sense of humour and love of sport and play runs strong. Locals tell how the Irish St. Columba, who came here to Christianize the Pictish King Brude and his pagan kinsmen, made the sign of the cross when the sea beastie appeared in the River Ness, and bade it retreat. King Brude, impressed with this new magic, converted to Christianity.

St. Columba wouldn't recognize the River Ness today, with its towering church steeples and Castle, grand Victorian hotels, lacey metal pedestrian bridges and glittering Eden Court Theatre. But King Brude's Pictish fort and the fairy hill of Tomnahurich are still here, and the gobsmacking scenery of the Moray Firth and Cairngorm Mountains.

On the lush Ness Islands, filled with cyclists and picnickers, St. Columba would laugh to see the Log Ness Monster, an eel-shaped fallen log painted with a silly face - looking like it just crawled ashore where Columba spotted its nasty ancestor.

Inverness Ness Island King David I knew a prime location when he saw one. He'd salute this trading hub buzzing with caffein and traffic - latte bars, wine bistros, music pubs, classy restaurants, tapas bars and tartan shops crammed with kilts and crafts; whisky emporiums and pedestrians brandishing mobile phones instead of broadswords as they scout the Victorian Market and Eastgate Shopping Centre for cool gear.



Inverness High Street, copyright Nancy Lyon

King David would see Highlanders in kilts, mums with prams and tourists with backpacks in all seasons and weathers. Invernessians love to soak up the low Northern sunlight, but a bit of rain never stops the action, even golfing at the city's three courses, kayaking and boating on the Caledonian Canal and angling for salmon in the River Ness. In Inverness, the Highland sense of fun and humour weathers all.

Inverness' peak tourist season starts at Easter and wraps up after Samhain, the Celtic Halloween. November is quiet but mid-December lures shoppers from all over the Highlands. Christmas and Hogmanay (the Scottish New Year) attract celebrants from around the world. The low season from January to late March is good for independent travels and lower accomodation prices, but many small local museums are closed at this time of year.

In summer tourist shops and certain restaurants stay open later, but prices for tartan goods, jewelry and crafts and dining remain about the same throughout year.

Summer highlights are Inverness Highland Games in July, with the Gathering of Clans, pipe bands, and Caber Toss and other heavy events; the Caledonian Canal Ceilidh Trail traveling traditional music fest in July and August, Literary Festivals, regattas, and the Blas Festival of Gaelic culture - with Gaelic songs, storytelling, and theatre. And boat life whirls all up and down the Cally Canal.
Autumn is a great time for hiking and berry-picking along Canal, savoring the offerings at the Highland Food and Drink Festival, although in Inverness, every day is a festival of food and drink.

Inverness(Inbhir Nis) is Britain's newest city. You might consider this "Weeopolis" a holiday destination in itself, monster or no monster. And we assure you, if you take a riverside stroll through the lush Ness Islands along the Ness River in Inverness, you will see Nessie.