Loch Ness is one of the world's most famous lakes, made so by the Loch Ness Monster known as "Nessie." The lake is the source of the River Ness that flows into the nearby city of Inverness and then empties into the sea. There are writings about a creature inhabiting this large, deep lake that date as far back as the seventh century in The Life of St Columba. The story of St Columba was written more than a century after it supposedly occurred, and it appears to have occurred in the river, not the loch. Many believe that this story can therefore be explained as involving a walrus or similar mammal that swam upstream from the ocean.
It wasn't until the 1930s that the Loch Ness Monster made international news when sightings began to be reported. In 1934, one of the most famous images purporting to be the creature was published. Subsequently, there have been sporadic reports of sightings, supposed sonar contact by boats, home film and video, and numerous expeditions mounted to definitively locate the beast. Explanations range from a possible real surviving plesiosaur from the age of dinosaurs, to natural phenomenon, to a very large fish, to just plain hoaxes.
Whatever the truth about Nessie, the Loch Ness Monster has been responsible for a large increase in visitors to Loch Ness and to other Scottish lochs scattered around this remote and rugged region of the Scottish Highlands. Virtually all of these lakes have a castle, most of which are picturesque ruins dating to the sixth to thirteenth centuries. Loch Ness boasts is own iconic ruin. Urquhart Castle was possibly a fortified site as early as the fifth century, the castle ruins seen today date to the thirteenth century. Many of the monster sightings have occurred around this castle.
Loch Ness is the second largest lake by surface in the country, but the largest by volume because of its extreme depth (something that helps to feed stories about the possibilities of a monster). There is one island (Cherry Island) in the lake, and that is a crannog—an artificial island constructed during the Iron Age. There was another island that was submerged with the building of the Caledonian Canal, a navigable waterway connecting Inverness on the eastern coast of Scotland with Corpach on the western coast.
Another of the more famous Scottish lochs is Loch Lomond, made famous in popular culture by the song about the high road and the low road. This is the largest of the lakes by surface area and is a very popular boating and water sports destination. There are more than 30 islands in the lake; some of these are crannogs. Both lakes offer golfing opportunities, only natural in the country that is the birthplace of the modern sport.
Most people who visit Scottish lochs will visit either Loch Lomond, staying in Glasgow hotels, or Loch Ness, staying in Inverness hotels. However, there are wonderful hiking trails and footpaths throughout the Scottish Highlands, and it is possible to book stays in country houses and bed and breakfast inns while enjoy walking or cycling tours. Include historic lighthouses at Lochend and Fort Augustus and the Loch Ness Center, a museum chronicling the monster controversy, at Drummadrochit. There are also boat cruises available from several locations around the lake.