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.
I 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.
LuLu are giving 29% off my print books until midnight on 2nd March. Go to the following link to see the selection and use NOLEAP as the promotional code when checking out. It only applies to print books, not the eBooks. Loch Ness Understood is the latest version of my Loch Ness book.
Ever been annoyed that your road hasn’t been gritted? This was our trip to the shops today with fallen trees, snow-laden gorse bushes, deer and wild tups. You’ll never complain again!
NO, 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?
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?
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.
We 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?
So, 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.
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.
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.
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!
As 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.