Category Archives: Loch Ness

Living overlooking Loch Ness

Ivor Newby

It is with deep regret that I have to report that my friend and loch researcher Ivor Newby has died. He was just about the most genial and friendly of all of the loch researchers it has been my pleasure to know.

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Monstrous Commotion? Not at its launch!

imageI was invited to the launch of Monstrous Commotion at Waterstone’s in Inverness last night. I’d had a chance to read it prior to the launch. Not impressed. Will read it again and then do a review. It is available from Waterstone’s locally and also from Amazon price £20.

On first speed-read, it’s biggest plus is that the author has cited all of the references to the early sightings and on into the seventies. The references, indices, bibliography etc. took up what must be close to 30% of the book. Anyone studying the subject seriously might find it useful, but his repeatedly going into depth about exaggerated sightings and reports which, for anyone who knows the subject, have no credibility whatsoever, was the most annoying aspect of it and I found that extremely tiresome. This was the very reason why I didn’t include all of these irrelevant sightings in my own book. However, now they are all referenced, perhaps we can let them die a natural death.

The author’s exhausting and repeated references were so brilliantly comprehensive I think his next project should be an in depth publication on how to write an academic book. I learned nothing new from the first read although it did confirm many obvious opinions I and others have had over the years.

His conclusion was so timid he didn’t want to express it in the book or at the launch, but reading between the lines, he thinks the whole thing was dreamt up in a London pub to boost tourism, but this just demonstrates that academics really have no idea about how difficult it is to market a region. If, and it is a HUGE “if” anyone did invent the monster we can only credit Alex Campbell with that achievement, but even his efforts to promote the beast cannot fully explain its origins.

Anyway, I’ll come back with a longer review after the second read. Unfortunately I found it dreadfully boring the first time around so not looking forward to the second read.

Disappointed. I was hoping Adrian Shine would eventually cover the early period of the monster’s history himself, and I am sure it would be in a more engaging manner. It is a shame it has perhaps been pre-empted in such a boring tome.

Tony Harmsworth, 13th November 2015

Link: You can buy my book on this link if you don’t have it already.

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Nice New Welcome To Drumnadrochit Sign – thanks Council!

Drumnadrochit Visitor Information SignNO, NOT THE ONE ON THE RIGHT.

When you work hard to improve business in the area by taking voluntary posts with organisations like the Drumnadrochit Chamber of Commerce and Destination Loch Ness, it really makes you feel good when you see that hard work being supported by thoughtful help from local government.

So, having spent money and a great deal of time refurbishing the Information Board (above) in the main village car park it is so good to see it being augmented by the Highland Council.

As you arrive in the village and see our nice looking information board, the attractive Visitor Information Centre and the lovely planted verges, what brand new sign do you see as you turn in? Well here it is – what do you think? Do you think the “NO” is big enough? Is it RED enough?

Drumnadrochit Visitor Information Sign

We all know that fly tipping in lovely areas needs to be stopped (USA & Canadian readers need to know that this does not mean giving gratuities if you find a fly in your soup). We had a problem with people dumping rubbish beside the recycling bins in this car park and our local councillor, Margaret Davidson,  with Pat Veitch, has managed to get an improved regime in place beside the bins. No doubt she also asked for a sign and there is one now by the recycling bins. It seems some helpful person thought it would be a good idea to put a warning sign at the entrance to the car park, too. Thoughtless overkill.

Tourism is the most important industry in the Highlands of Scotland, but people not in that industry don’t seem to think about how their actions can hurt the industry. Here we have a typical situation where an absolutely thoughtless action has been taken by someone who has not thought, even for a moment, of the impression such a sign gives to our visitors. Especially the giant word “NO“.

Perhaps it is time for courses for council staff on what tourists expect in regions like ours. How would they like it if they were entering a car park in Spain and the main sign they saw was a Spanish version of this sign? Bad first impressions are very difficult to correct.

It happens all the time. “NO OVERNIGHT PARKING” is another example found in laybys. Surely something more positive like “CAMPER VANS – NEXT SITE – 5 MILES” instead should not be beyond the wit of these people.

For sure Margaret will get this sign removed, but why was it put up in the first place? Thoughtlessness by someone! I wonder who this genius was and what position he/she holds?

Glen Affric – the most beautiful glen in Scotland – CLOSED TO VISITORS

We pride ourselves in our position as the number one exclusive tour in the whole of Scotland on Trip  Advisor (scroll down to best tours – only a free bus tour stops us being number one overall).

When people book with us they can be sure that we will plan and execute our tours with utmost professionalism and the knowledge of our guides is second to none.

However, tour operators also rely on the professionalism of their partners. We expect Jacobite Cruises to provide a great cruise, and they do; we expect Urquhart Castle to be clean and tidy, and it is; we expect Drumnadrochit to provide cash machines and shops, and it does; we expect Corrimony to amaze our visitors and it does that, too.

So, with two prestigious groups we then headed off towards Glen Affric. We believed our groups wanted sandwiches on the hoof, but when we got to Corrimony they changed their minds and wanted a sit down meal. We are not talking a coach party here, we are talking one group of five and one group of four. Seven prize winning scholarship students and two professors.

No problem, we thought.

ShutWe arrived in Cannich and turned into the Bog Cotton Cafe which, as it happened, this group used two years ago. The food was great on that occasion. Unfortunately, although they had been opened in the winter in the past, on this occasion they were closed for the winter. Is a Saturday after the middle of March still winter?

ClosedSo, next stop was the Slaters’ Arms where I had once stopped for tea with the ex Prime Minister of Sri Lanka, Ranil Wickremesinghe,  and his party. Fine on that occasion, but on Saturday 17th March they were as good as closed. When asked to provide lunch at lunch time for a group of four and a group of five they said we should have booked in advance and summarily turned us away.

Now I was starting to get worried. My co-guide, John, suggested we try the Glen Affric, but many years ago this had been a not very salubrious establishment. However, we turned in and I was pleasantly surprised to see a refurbished, bright, welcoming entrance area which proclaimed, as did the Slaters’ Arms, that we could get food. Co-guide John went inside and asked the barman, with some trepidation, if he could help us.

Turning up in the middle of the Scottish rugby did not bode well, especially as we were losing to the Italians. But, we were met with a beaming smile and within minutes he had extra staff on hand and orders were being placed. What a difference to the Slaters’ Arms. This was a real Highland welcome.

The clients loved the home-made soup, pudding, lasagne and curry. Brilliant and the tea was good, too. Excellent all round and you can guess where clients will be taken if they want a sit down meal on a Glen Affric tour in future.

So now, later than normal, we headed into Glen Affric itself. Normally we stop by the suspension bridge just before Dog Falls, let the clients off, and then meet up with them again at the Dog Falls car park after their short walk. Because we were late, we decided to skip Dog Falls and go straight on to the River Walk car park at the end of the glen.Chisholm Bridge

Imagine my horror when we got to the Chisholm Bridge (see image) and found a sign which said “ROAD AHEAD CLOSED”.

There had been no previous warning that the end of the glen was not accessible. What sort of people let you drive, what, six or eight miles of single-track roads without warning you the road would be closed at a particular point along the way? So thoughtless and uncaring.

Did this mean at the bridge or further on. Then I saw that the bridge was full of potholes which, in turn, were full of water so there was no way of knowing how deep they were.

Road Closed

After checking that the potholes were no deeper than about five or six inches we gingerly crossed the bridge and continued, avoiding an increasing number of potholes, all the way to the River Walk car park.

At the car park we saw around a dozen other vehicles which had also taken the risk and a lot of heavy plant. These machines could have dealt with these potholes in no time at all and I now suspect that the Forestry Commission had deliberately decided not to repair the road until these vehicles had gone.

This was my first tour to the end of Glen Affric this year so, while our clients were enjoying their riverside walk, I looked around to see what all this plant had been doing.Glen Affric Parking Meter

There was a huge metal parking charge machine and sign telling us how the money we put in it would help maintain the glen! There was a new interpretation board surrounded by a beautifully constructed low stone wall. The car park had been extended and resurfaced. The River Walk paths had been improved and laid out to follow a slightly different path. There were new toilets which should remain pristine as they were locked!

So, the Forestry Commission, in their ultimate wisdom had done everything except repair the access road and bridge. What a bunch of Wallies? (Apologies to my friend Wally.)

Surely the absolute number one priority is to keep the access open. Everything else – parking area, paths, signboards and definitely parking charge machines are secondary. Someone in Forestry is not living in the real world. I could not believe what I was seeing.

However, I suppose it follows their usual ineptitude. The toilets they commissioned last year were provided by an English company who then went bust meaning that local firms had to come in and rescue the situation. Why weren’t local businesses used in the first place? Too obvious, no doubt.

The previous year, 2010, they demolished all of the interpretation boards without any plan for when they might be reinstated. Well, now we know, two YEARS later.

When is this bunch of civil servants going to appreciate that they are in partnership with professional outfits like us? They are letting us down, the Highlands down and the people of Scotland down.

Disgraceful and unforgivable.

GLEN AFFRIC – CLOSED FOR BUSINESS – SORRY!

Finally Some Sunshine At Loch Ness

Sunshine at Loch Ness at lastAs I looked out of the window across the silver grey mass of Loch Ness this morning, the sky looked as grey as it has been for the last month or so.

Then while taking in the first mug of tea of the day and listening to David Cameron’s plans for telling Scotland how to conduct its affairs, I was hit in the face by the rays from a huge ball of light known as Sol.

Could it be that finally, the run of awful weather could be coming to an end? Slivers of powder blue were making their way eastwards and by the time I took this photograph the whole of the loch was bathed in sunshine.

However, I regret to inform that by the time I decided to pen something about it, the grey, albeit a bright grey, was spreading from the west again contrary to weather forecasts and hopes.

In fact, on Saturday, the forecasts all promised the Highlands around Inverness a lovely day with just an odd scattered shower. In fact it turned into almost continuous torrential rain. How can they get it so wrong?

Anyway, finishing off this blog item I can see brightness fighting its way through again.

We live in hope, if not expectation.

Looking Back Over The Festive Season Before Looking Forward.

The wetness of the Christmas and New Year period is almost legendary. The cats have been camped out in various locations around the house and niggling each other.Me, Wendy, Alistair and Wally

With Angie in the RNI we were back to our own quiet Christmas Day with a great turkey and lots of presents.

On Boxing Day Terry (who took the photograph), Alistair (our house sitter when we go away) and Wally came for lunch.

I like to show off when I’m cooking so decided to do something really ambitious.

For a starter I de-shelled three lobsters and cut up some small sweet peppers. I sliced the peppers like squid rings and cut each lobster tail into two or three pieces to try to make it divisible by five.

Half a finely chopped onion went in the pan with some herbes de Provence and smidgeon of garlic. Once the onion was well under way the peppers went in to ensure they were cooked. Next the larger pieces of lobster were put into the pan and as they began to heat through I turned them and introduced the lobster claws – what a pain they are to get out in one piece.

This cooked for about three or four minutes on medium high.

Meanwhile I had put the more crumbly lobster meat and a claw which was damaged on extraction into a tin of Lobster Bisque which was heating on another ring.

We had small bowls and the bisque managed to fill all five bowls and these sat on the main plates which had been warming. A sprig of dill capped them and the lobster and peppers were served up on the plate. The final touch was to dribble Mirin over the lobster and peppers.

Went down very well.

Main course was, guess what, turkey with Wendy’s fantastic chestnut stuffing made in the manner of her father who was a chef in Bude.

We followed all of that with Christmas pud with ice cream and brandy butter.

Although they didn’t know it, Terry, Wally and Alistair had brought our old favourite Heidsieck Dry Monopole. I think the only better champagne we have found over the years was the legendary Dom Perignons of 71, 75 and 76, but a DP these days would be close to £100 per bottle. Rather sad really that people who probably don’t appreciate it have bought it for its name or cudos thus forcing the price beyond the pocket of most people including us.

Anyway, the Monopole was a really terrific surprise and went down really well.  We were going to start with “Blue Meanie”  cocktails, but this was far more palatable and probably less intoxicating.

We killed three bottles of Gewurztraminer during the meal and accompanied the pudding with a desert wine.

I think we all ended up having a pretty merry evening.

On 30th we saw our friend Angie settled into a care home for the winter and hope he finds it comfortable. We also had a fish and chip meal in Wetherspoons which was the first meal out he’d had for some weeks. The new home seems just fine and we’ll see how he settles in. I set up his TV and we hung some pictures and a clock from the house. More tiring than it seems organising the move. Both knackered at the end of the day.

The beach en route to Chanonry PointOn Hogmanay we went over to our friends Keith and Carola for a light lunch.

Interesting course planning … we had a starter of crispy rolls with a dip and then went for an exhilarating and windy walk along the Chanonry peninsular towards the lighthouse. That’s the others looking suitably windswept in the picture below. Great fun!

Ex chef and IT consultant, Keith runs Hexwar.com which has digitised a number of famous battles and they have just been launching a tank battle on FaceBook.

Back at the house we welcomeWendy, Keith and Carolad smoked salmon on bread with lemon and miniature quiches accompanied with Ginger Beer and other beverages.

Carola had created a terrific desert with ginger nuts soaked in sherry surrounded by cream and topped with more ginger. Brilliant!

However, it started a row over what comprises a ginger nut, ginger snap and brandy snaps.

Not sure who won, but Carola was outvoted.

After lunch we played Scrabble. Wendy has been playing computer Scrabble for a couple of years and wiped the floor with the rest of us, although I was pleased with my “exhumed”, but I never seemed to land anything on a triple or double word score.

So now we’re in 2012. Time to move forward and the first order of the year is to add another guide to Inverness Tours, so I start on that next week.

Boxing Day – can I do any good with this blog?

TailgatingI wonder whether I can put an argument to you … yes all of you.

This is a great shot, but there is a real story here.

I have always taken great care not to drive too close to the vehicle in front and I have been observing drivers for many decades. What I am going to describe here has been gradually and noticeably getting worse.

From observation of drivers, not one person in  a hundred reading this blog is innocent. Seriously almost every reader is guilty. Why is that? Why do so many  people take their lives in their hands almost every day.

Driving too close togetherMany years ago, the government ran a campaign to try to stop people tailgating. They simply asked drivers to watch the car in front and when it passed a lamppost, or mark on the road, they were to say the words, “Only a fool breaks the two second rule” and if, before they had finished that sentence, they passed the same mark or lamppost then they were driving too close.

It seemed to be a very effective campaign and I have followed it ever since.

However, people are following it less and less. The next time you are behind the wheel just test it a little. Watch the two cars in front of you. Monitor the first one passing a landmark then the second one. In my experience the average gap being left is, “Only a”. Often it is “On” and rarely as great as “Only a fo”. Check it. I’m not making this up.

In fact I get so sick of people tailgating me that if I get the opportunity I will flick my left indicator to get them past me or even pull into a layby briefly. What is fascinating is that I can then watch that car drive right up behind the next car in front and sit 0.25 seconds behind that … even if it is a truck. This is SO dangerous.

Do you really want to end your life like this? And what of your passengers? And what of all the people’s journeys you will be disrupting as the police close the road for YOUR fatal accident?

Interestingly, the other day, I was driving into Inverness with Wendy and was holding a good two to three seconds between us and the car in front. We were both doing a steady 55mph and I noticed that there was a car behind holding a good two second gap, too. This really is a very rare occurrence, but it does happen occasionally.

UNTIL another car came up behind him. Some sort of Lemming madness took over and he started to close the gap with me until both of them were around “Only a” behind me and each other. Why did he do this? Was it some subconscious fear that the car behind him was going to cheat him somehow, perhaps try to steal his place in the queue.

So they followed me like that until we got to the bus stop at Dochfour Estates and I could enter the loop and get rid of both idiots, then following them into the city at a safe distance while both of them got closer and closer to the original car in front.

As is  usual in these instances, the cars rarely try to overtake the car in front and, along the mile straight to Inverness, with nothing coming the other way, neither of the two vehicles tried to pass the first one.

Are these drivers insane? There seems to be no other explanation than a death wish. They even do it behind trucks in situations when it is obviously impossible to overtake.

In fact the overtaking drivers close the gap too, but they are alert and looking for the gap in the traffic to let them get by. They should be helped to overtake, not find you deliberately and dangerously closing the gap with the car in front to make life difficult for them. It is absolute madness. It is not illegal to overtake so why not facilitate it and make everyone’s day that much safer and less hassle. Open the gap … you shouldn’t be that close anyway!

So, it is only 364 shopping days to Christmas. Would you like to see next Christmas? Or would you like to kill yourself and your other front seat passenger in the most horrible way.

The truck or car you are following at a distance of “Only a fo” suddenly has a deer jump out in front of him and slams on the anchors.

You don’t see it, of course, but when the brake lights go on and the gap starts to narrow, your brilliant reactions come into play and you slam on your brakes.

The gap is still closing … it is obvious you are not going to stop in time  … five yards, four, three … your passenger screams … you cover your eyes … the back of the vehicle in front impacts … your engine crumples, pushing back into the driver’s compartment crushing your passenger’s legs (is it your wife, mother, child, sister, friend?) … the windscreen smashes …. your head stops short of the windscreen as it is at the extent of your seatbelt … the back of the truck forces its way into your car … the truck and fragmenting windscreen impacts your head and that is the last you know … but it continues to crush your chest and leave you and your loved passenger as bloody dead heaps.

Perhaps the kids and the dog in the back will survive, but how you died will be imprinted on their minds for the rest of their lives.

“Only a fool breaks the two second rule!” – you know it makes sense.

If just one of you changes your driving method then I know I might have saved a life or serious injury. Driving close to the car in front really does not get you to your destination any quicker … well except maybe by two seconds!

99.9% of drivers are risking dying this way!Do yourself a favour – check it next time and every time you are in a car as passenger or driver and insist that the one in control of the car does not break that rule unless actively overtaking.

Otherwise you could be the mangled corpse behind the white blanket!

We wish you a very merry Festive Season

After some sixty years, it never ceases to amaze me how Santa can visit some seven billion people in a single night.

Last night, despite gale force winds and horrendous rain, he still arrived. We actually heard the reindeer struggling for a footing on the corrugated roof of our croft house and when I went outside this morning I could see several scrapes on the roof from when they must have pushed off back into flight.

Christmas Presents under the tree - December 2011Somehow Santa managed to squeeze down the chimney loaded with presents, ate the minced pie and drank the brandy (we thought he’d like an upgrade) and still remembered to put the granny back on the chimney when he left.

What a heap of presents. Famous Names liqueurs, a megaphone for calling errant clients back to the car, pen tablet and a magnifier because I’m having trouble reading tiny print. Also some Amani Code, a railway mug and some chocolate buttons.

Wendy got a cashmere sweater, long knitted jumper, chocolate orange, toy money, a Monet puzzle and Tony Benn autobiography. No reflection on particular politics. She likes autobiographies.

Friends gave us a bottle of champagne, more chocolates and a fiery sauce. Got an Oliver apron and a basset candle. Thank goodness for no more ornaments!

The turkey is about an hour from ready and the Gewurztraminer just being removed so it is not too cold. The fire is live and if you’d like to waste a minute watching it click this: SHORT FIRE VIDEO.

So what is happening around the world this Christmas 2011?

The pope, surrounded by gold candlesticks on gilt mounts, jewels and cardinals dressed in fantastically expensive and ornate robes had the cheek to tell us we need to see beyond the glitter of a commercial Christmas.

The archbishop of Canterbury was drifting around looking as if he is in a marijuana haze from an overindulgent Christmas Eve. He tells us society is breaking down.

Obama praises the troops who have returned from Iraq with hardly a mention of the deaths which occurred just days later seeing more Iraqi civilians being blown up.

Cameron goes to Afghanistan to praise the British troops who continue to be slowly depleted by roadside mines and bombs.

God has been up to his usual tricks too. He managed to let a family get blown up in Liverpool, a gunman go on the rampage in the states and a churchload of worshippers get blown up in Africa. Of course, children saved from death are seen as God working miracles while those who die … well they are dead so will not live to say how prayer saved them. Such total nonsense. It is always the people who have miraculous escapes who speak about their faith and miraculous rescues. Well, let me speak for the 70 billion people who died in the last 2,000 years and never had their prayers answered. How many “God save me” pleas went out before they fell to their deaths, got burned alive or blown up, murdered or hung in error. The lack of their voices is just one of the many proofs that God does not exist.

An outdated bible calls for stoning of adulterers, even worse for rape victims in other religions and it will never cease to amaze me how otherwise intelligent people can accept that Christ was the son of a supernatural being who created the entire universe.

Pretty hopeless planning that. Not only did he fail to get the message to the world’s entire population, but he has signally failed to demonstrate his existence in any tangible way. Of course believers accept the childish myth that he requires faith, when we all know these myths are not real.

Oh, yes, now back to Santa …

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year – make the most of it, because the afterlife is a fantasy invented to suppress the masses.

Wonder what comments I’ll get to that post!