Deep in the Great Glen south-west of Inverness, Loch Ness is famous as the home of ‘Nessie’, the legendary Loch Ness Monster. It has less controversial claims to fame. This spectacular loch is 23 miles (37 km) long, with the largest volume of freshwater in Britain. It is the second deepest in Scotland (755 feet/230 metres), second only to Loch Morar on the west coast.
By surface area, it is the second largest loch in Scotland (after Loch Lomond) with a surface of 21.8 square miles/56.4 square km. And it holds more water than all the lakes in England and Wales combined.
The Great Glen is aligned along the Great Glen Fault that runs from south-west to north-east, between Fort William and Inverness. Loch Ness is one of three basins formed by glacial erosion.
A handful of villages are dotted around its shores. Of these, Fort Augustus lies at the southern end of the loch and Drumnadrochit sits on the western shore near Urquhart Castle. There is only one island – Cherry Island, actually a man-made crannog (an ancient home or refuge) near Fort Augustus.
In modern times, the legend of Nessie dates from the 1933 sighting,from the newly completed lochside road, of a mysterious object in the water. In the 1960s several British universities launched expeditions to search for a monster using sonar: they detected large underwater objects that were moving and that they could not explain. Some sightings have been explained as natural phenomena, but Nessie-watching has proved an enduring pastime. The discovery that the famous 1934 photograph was a hoax need not deter those who seek mystery in these waters.
In September 1952 a different kind of strange object appeared on the waters near Drumnadrochit. British racing car drives John Cobb in his jet-powered boat ‘Crusader’ attempted to break the world water speed record. Sadly he was killed when his boat struck a surface wave near the Urquhart Castle headland while he was travelling at more than 200 mph. A roadside memorial to him stands by the A82 a few miles south of the castle.