Visitors to a new-look Loch Ness exhibition are being invited not just to enjoy the experience but be part of the ongoing monster story.
Immersive tours allow visitors to walk through 500 million years of history to explore the myths and hear scientific research surrounding Nessie.
The one-hour experience dispels myths, tackles hoaxes and examines more than 1,000 eyewitness accounts and recorded sightings.
And no Nessie story would be complete without some “unexplained evidence” to keep the mystery going.
The start of a monster phenomenon
The upgraded exhibition is housed in the former Drumnadrochit Hotel. The centre piece is a video reconstruction of the moment the most famous Nessie sighting took place 90 years ago.
While St Columba is said to have encountered the monster in the 6th century, it was when manageress Aldie Mackay announced in 1933 she had seen “a beast” that the worldwide phenomenon took off.
Since then hundreds of locals and visitors have reported sightings which have helped develop Loch Ness’s reputation and tourist industry.
And while science may have ruled out many possible inhabitants, the message is clear – Keep Looking.
Paul Nixon, general manager of the centre, said: “We want to celebrate real people real stories and real places and here we encapsulate all three of those things.”
Is there enough of a mystery left? “Absolutely. As big as the loch is, there are plenty of places for things to hide and for questions to remain unanswered.
“Science has gone a very long way explaining some of the things in the past and what they might have been.
“But there are still so many mysteries out there that remain unexplained. I don’t know if we will ever get to the end of it, which is great for us.
“Everything here is factually based and heavily researched, but we want guests after leaving the site to keep looking.
“It’s so easy in this day and age to keep your eyes glued to your phone. But the real beauty of the Highlands and the mystery going on is all around us.”
Help us discover what is going on
He is encouraging people who catch sight of Nessie to report it in the official register at the centre.
“It will be followed up and investigated. I hope lots of people will see different things that we can either help to explain or will add to the mystery.
“We want people to continue their quest as they leave here to help us discover what is going on.”
An air of mystery is evident from the start of the exhibition with visitors waiting in the prologue room seeing no obvious entrance.
All is soon revealed as they step through millions of years of the loch’s evolution, narrated by the former time traveller David Tennant.
Framed portraits come to life as characters connected to the loch’s history tell its story down the years, helped by artefacts and a variety of vessels and equipment used to explore the depths, such as a mini submarine, underwater cameras, boats and sonar equipment.
In the end, it is up to individuals what they believe and the exhibition gives people the chance to decide which of the ‘sightings’ are a possible monster or a non-starter.
‘We don’t like to let go of myths’
Guests’ hunt for the truth doesn’t end after the tour. Tickets include an optional 12-month membership to The Loch Ness Quest, giving exclusive access to the latest Nessie sightings, events and news.
For the more adventurous, there is the chance to scour the loch in the ship Deepscan, named after a famous 1987 expedition.
Up to 12 guests at a time can take in the sights and sounds above the waves including Urquhart Castle, but also below the surface using specialist sonar equipment.
Guiding visitors through the science in video form is naturalist Adrian Shine who has been investigating Loch Ness since the 1980s.
He says the exhibition is “imaginative, creative, entertaining and accessible”.
But not definitive? “Stories like this are seldom definitive.
“But it has moved on. We don’t like to let go of our myths, but we modify them in the light of information we get.
“We can hold on to the myth and still be reasonable and that’s the fun.”
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