Do you believe in Nessie? That iconic photo has captured our collective imagination for years, and there are fervent believers still. It’s easy to understand why the belief prevails, wouldn’t it be fantastic to be the person who spots the beast in the dark waters of the loch?
It’s certainly a sizeable body of water, some 22 square miles, and due to its great depth is the largest by volume in the British Isles. It contains more water than all the lakes in England and Wales combined. So it’s easy to believe that a secretive animal may be hiding in there, somewhere...
It remains a beautiful part of Scotland, and we were thrilled to be heading back to the Lovat Hotel in Port Augustus. As we opened the door, the smell of a real wood fire greeted us, and we immediately felt at home.
Our comfortable room, with the highest bed I’ve ever been on, was in the newer extended part of the hotel. After freshening up we headed to dinner.
At present the hotel is offering either a set menu or a tasting menu, so we had the set menu (£42 pp) on the first night and the tasting one (£65 pp) on the second night. The food here is absolutely amazing. Chef Sean Kelly owns the Lovat with his wife Caroline, and his passion for food and the inspiration he draws from the locality shines through the menu. The service was friendly, charming and good humoured throughout. After dinner we were able to relax in the lounge by that wonderful fire.
If you’re a gin lover, like me, don’t forget to pick up a bottle of the gorgeous Loch Ness gin. If you aren’t able to visit the distillery/shop (you must arrange this in advance), it’s available from the shop in the nearby petrol station, as odd as that might sound.
The age of steam was long over before we were born, and so the chance to ride the Jacobite train (the Hogwarts Express in the Harry Potter film) was not to be missed. This 84-mile round trip is described as one of the great railway journeys of the world. The train starts near the highest mountain in Britain, Ben Nevis, and then travels along part of the legendary West Highland Line, between Fort William and Mallaig.
There were lots of excited children on the platform, and quite a few excited adults too! I’d tried to book the first class carriage, but with the social distancing restrictions in place, it had sold out quickly. But this actually worked out really well; we were seated in the last carriage, which meant that we could see the engine ahead of us when the train crossed the iconic Glenfinnan Viaduct. It paused here for a few minutes to let the scores of train enthusiasts gathered on the hillside to take some photos.
The Jacobite then continued to Mallaig, where we had a couple of hours to wander around and find somewhere for lunch. We hadn’t pre-booked, so we were lucky to find space in the Steam Inn. I was very happy to be treated to mussels, whilst Alex tucked into a hearty portion of fish and chips.
We returned to Fort Augustus for our final night by Loch Ness. It would be lovely to stay here a few days longer to get some walks in, and really experience the beauty of the landscape. We were lucky enough to spot a couple of shy red squirrels in the morning, and a gorgeous Highland cow, but Nessie remained elusive.
Please join us again for the next leg of our trip to the Outer Hebrides for Neolithic standing stones, stone-age burial chambers, whale-bone arches, stunning beaches, and more gin!