Guest blog from Emily Wilberg

“The inclination to believe in the fantastic may strike some as a failure in logic, or gullibility, but it’s really a gift. A world that might have Bigfoot and the Loch Ness Monster is clearly superior to one that definitely does not.”
Chris Van Allsburg

When we decided to go to the United Kingdom, I KNEW a visit to Loch Ness was non- negotiable. We first took the train to Bath and did a tour of Stonehenge, Avebury, and crop circles (more on that in a future post) and then flew up to Edinburgh.

First, a word about Edinburgh- if ghost tours are your thing you will love Edinburgh; there is a ghost tour opportunity on every corner. One of the most popular is a tour of Greyfriars Kirk Graveyard (see my post on Cemetery Safaris) but we did not do that one. Instead, we chose to visit The Real Mary King’s Close.

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Back in the medieval day, Edinburgh was a walled city with many, many, small alleyways (called “closes”) and houses crammed closely together and even on top of each other up to eight stories high. When Edinburgh built their Royal Exchange City Chambers in the 18th century they just kicked the residents out and built on top of Mary King’s Close. This 17th century warren of streets was closed off and largely forgotten, although tales of hauntings continued. In 2003 it was reopened as a tourist attraction. I thought the hour-long tour with a costumed guide was fantastic, if a little cheesy with a costumed interpreter “from the 17th century” guiding us through the underground mazes and telling us stories of plague victims and hauntings. Buy your tickets a few days ahead of time; it sells out quickly. Mary King’s Close has been featured on many ghost hunting shows but we saw no ghosts that day.

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While you are in Edinburgh, pop in to Deacon Brodies pub on the Royal Mile- it was named after the man who inspired Robert Louis Stevenson to write “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.” William Brodie was a respected cabinetmaker and town council member during the day, but due to his excessive gambling and the need to support a mistress with five illegitimate children, he ran short of money and he turned to thievery during the night. He would make copies of the keys of wealthy houses he was doing woodwork in and return at night to rob them.

We always debate renting a car vs. taking a tour, but this trip we took the Loch Ness & Inverness Highland 2 Day Tour with Rabbies and it was a good choice. Our guide was full of information, and once he discovered he had some Outlander fans onboard he went out of his way to make sure we made a quick stop at Cragh na Dun, a stone circle (spoiler alert- it doesn’t look like the one in the movie. Also, no Jamie Frasier anywhere in sight.)

After a night in Inverness we headed out for a cruise on Loch Ness and a stop at Urquhart Castle. Reports of a monster at Loch Ness have been made since the 7th century when a monk reported being attacked by a “water beast.”   Despite many monster-chasing expeditions “Nessie” has not been found. More than twenty reports are made each year and each report is investigated thoroughly. Oftentimes they are debunked as optical effects, waves, floating objects, or other items such as eels, catfish, or seals. However, every year there are a few that cannot be explained.

You would think that the best Loch Ness giftshop items would be at Urquhart Castle. You would be wrong. The best selection of Nessie stuff was either on Edinburgh’s Royal Mile shops or the shop where we got on the Loch Ness cruise by Jacobite. I did not buy this t-shirt and still wish I had.

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There is a nearby Loch Ness Exhibition Centre that we did NOT visit on this trip. I’d be interested to hear from anyone who has done so.

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