Just 8 miles down the road from my home is Loch Ness, the Scottish lake known worldwide for its mythic monster. A few weeks back I set out on this road I’ve traveled so many times to scout a walk I’d never done before. “A walk at Loch Ness you’ve never done before?!” exclaimed my neighbor, “Surely you know them all by now, you’ve been there a zillion times!” I assured him it was true, this one was new to me, and so I was excited to get my feet on the trail. Soon the lake revealed itself in front of me. In the North of Scotland the winter sun lies low on the horizon so cast a long reflection of light across the loch toward me standing on the shoreline.

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I headed to the village of Drumnadrochit. “Drum,” as the locals know it, is “Nessie World” and to get through here without an encounter of the stuffed, ceramic or fiberglass kind of Nessie is an impossibility! As a guide here I’m often asked if I believe in Nessie, to which I reply, “Certainly I do. My livelihood depends on her!”

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Moving on from Nessie, I reached Craigmonie Woodlands. Now managed by Woodland Trust Scotland, it was once part of a grand estate. In the Victorian years exotic trees such as giant redwoods and Douglas firs were introduced and many are still growing strong. The woodland is quite open so a rich variety of heathers, grasses and mosses carpet its hillside. I strode easily along the path breathing the crisp air as I slowly gained altitude.

At a clearing I looked down over the sleepy village of Milton below. Milton sits on the banks of the River Enrick whose waters powered the mills of the past, mills that famously made the black and white tweed of the Urquhart clan. There was still a wee bit more to climb so I pushed on, following a crumbling dry stonewall that remains from Victorian-times, richly decorated with lichens, moss and ferns.

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Craigmonie Crag gave a view towards Loch Ness from under a canopy of Scots pine with their wispy needles fringing the horizon. A light mist fell on the distant hills, but it was dry where I stood and there was a solid wooden bench so I brought out my flask of soup and sup as I took in the vista. Nicely warmed up, I followed the circular walk down through the mixed forest back to Drum.

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Before heading back I dropped by Urquhart Castle, the 2nd most famous thing at Loch Ness and one I can guarantee a sighting of!┬áRuined since 1692 during one of the Jacobite Rebellions, it now calmly stands as a reminder of this area’s troubled past.

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As I turned homeward I reflected on my neighbor’s morning comments and realized despite this being my own backyard, there will always be new things to explore in my beautiful corner of Scotland. This walk turned out to be a perfect introduction to Loch Ness, Nessie, and our lovely home and I’m eager to share all of this and more with everyone who comes to visit!

-Photos and text by WT Trip Leader Skye McDonald, Highlands and Islands of Scotland

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