I Found the Loch Ness Monster in Scotland.

Driving to Fort William takes at least 7 hours from Bradford.  When you get there, however, there’s a pretty decent Morrison’s (supermarket) and it’s right next to a McDonald’s.  On both of our driving holidays around the Fort William area, we saw a lot of this part of town because it’s the only supermarket in town as far as I know, and it sells things you can eat without having to cook them.

We didn’t actually make it to Fort William on the first night, because we didn’t set off at a reasonable time of day – I’d stupidly decided at 8pm the day before that life was slipping by without anything interesting happening, so I convinced my future husband that we absolutely had to pile into the car and find the Loch Ness monster (or rather, go to see Loch Ness).  I felt it was deplorable that I’d never been the entire time I’d lived in Scotland, and now I lived 7 hours away it was suddenly imperative that we go.  I get like this sometimes.

Before we got to Glencoe, as the road started to incline and about ten minutes after that point on the A82 (the main road) where my ears always pop, I got too sleepy to keep driving so we pulled into a layby and reclined the seats in my VW Golf (aka VW Rabbit in the USA) then caught some Z’s.  FYI, the VW Golf is a very uncomfortable place to kip, and I awoke with a crick in my neck, sleep in my eyes and a bladder full to bursting.  Luckily, around the corner from the layby we’d stopped in, there was another one which was surrounded by three spectacular waterfalls.  Not only that, but there was also a brick wall on one side.  I climbed over it, with difficulty due to what the rushing sound from the waterfalls was doing to my psyche, and I took care of the bladder problem (why is it that those of us with female anatomy get so embarrassed about urinating in public but people with man parts just do it at the side of the road in full view of traffic?  We should get over it already).  Anyway there were quite a few good waterfalls because it was the right time of year for them to be really big with the snow melt and rainwater off the mountains (in summer most of them are nondescript) and this was my favourite (all photos taken on Samsung Galaxy SII as this was early 2014 before I got a camera):

A beautiful waterfall near Glencoe in Scotland, next to the A82.
A beautiful waterfall near Glencoe in Scotland, next to the A82.

We carried on up to Fort Bill, stopping along the way to take some photos of the beautiful waterfalls and surprising rainbows, which formed from the clammy Scottish morning mist in the Highlands:

A rainbow in the West Highlands of Scotland on the A82 on the way to Loch Ness.
A rainbow in the West Highlands of Scotland on the A82 on the way to Loch Ness.
Another rainbow in the West Highlands of Scotland on the way to Loch Ness.
Another rainbow in the West Highlands of Scotland on the way to Loch Ness. It looks out of focus – that’s actually the mist that’s also causing the rainbow.

When we arrived at Fort William, we grabbed some breakfast from McDonald’s; my future husband had some sort of bacon McMuffin and I had three hash browns and a pot of Barbecue Sauce, all washed down with a nice cup of tea.

We headed upwards some more until we reached Fort Augustus, about which I remember nothing, and appear to have taken no photos, so I suspect it was just a main road, a roundabout and possibly a primary school.  It looks bigger on the map.  The significance of Fort A. is that it lies at the southernmost tip of Loch Ness, which was what we were there to see.  From here onwards, we were driving with Loch Ness on our right and a bunch of trees on our left.  The trees seemed oppressive, cloying, like they were clamoring to just reach out and push us off the road and into the Loch.

Loch Ness shores
The shores of Loch Ness: The trees looked malevolent, like the only thing preventing them from reaching out and pushing our car into the Loch was that we weren’t worth their time.

There was something very primal about this part of Scotland.  The temperature stayed quite chilly around Loch Ness in the early morning, and we pulled over a couple of times to get a look at the water.  I can confirm that it’s much longer than it is wide.  And it’s very wide, too.  Like, I could see to the other side, but I couldn’t make out what was there beyond distance-trees.  And I definitely couldn’t have swam to the middle let alone the other side.  We pulled into Invermoriston with the intention of walking around on the shores of the Loch, but we found this to be impossible because a) Invermoriston is a lot further away from Loch Ness than it looks on the map and b) the road is the only thing between the trees and the water.  So we had a better view from the car.  Having said that, Invermoriston is a place of spectacular scenery and if we were staying in the area for a few days, I would probably have wanted to stay in Invermoriston because its scenery kinda looked like Rivendell:

Invermoriston looks like Rivendell
Arrgh! My phone’s lens must have gotten dirty all the pictures of Invermoriston HAVE no focus. Invermoriston: Looks like Rivendell. Black thing in middle is my future husband.
Invermoriston looking like Rivendell Highlands Scotland
WHAT HAPPENED FOCUS YOU USED TO LOVE ME??? I think it was too bright for me to see the screen and realize what had happened else I would’ve cleaned the lens! Invermoriston looking like Rivendell again (can you even see the second bridge?), although you might just have to take my word for it 😦
Invermoriston
Invermoriston from inside “The Summer House” an abandoned building from a bygone era.

In all honesty I have to say Invermoriston was a nicer place to look at than Loch Ness.  Loch Ness was a black, inky, deep place of mystery.  I’m sure you know the story – that it’s a deep fissure in the land, that separates the top of Scotland from the bottom, that they’re just attached at all because of tectonic plate movement.  Somehow, even though I could only see the surface, it *looked* deep.  I certainly wouldn’t want to swim in it.

We climbed around Invermoriston for a while then got on.  Having reached Loch Ness, we weren’t really sure what we were doing here or where our end point was.  It was impossible to walk around Loch Ness and to be fair, the Loch was so big that it was entirely probable that a giant monster of the deep could live under it’s pitch black waters and never be found.  Perhaps there would be a clue at nearby town Drumnadrochit.

I’d at least heard of Drumnadrochit from that episode of Count Duckula where the Count and his BFFs teleported their castle to Drumnadrochit and had some sort of episode involving both of the townspeople.  Count Duckula was very good at taking Londoners’ perceptions of the rest of the world and playing with them.

In real life, Drumnadrochit is a reasonably sized village, with a post office and three Loch Ness visitor centres, all of which, I believe, are privately owned.

Me outside one of the Loch Ness Visitor centres (the Loch Ness Monster Centre) in Drumnadrochit.
Me outside one of the Loch Ness Visitor centres (Nessieland) in Drumnadrochit, next to a large model of the Loch Ness Monster.
The Loch Ness Monster Centre, Drumnadrochit, was closed when we went.
The Loch Ness Monster Centre, Drumnadrochit, was closed when we went because it was out of season.

 

We went to the first one but it was closed (despite a roadsign claiming “open every day”) because apparently it was the wrong time of year.    The second one was also closed for the same reason.

Nessieland visitor centre scotland drumnadrochit Loch Ness
This Loch Ness visitor centre is closed… but the sign on the left clearly states “open every day.” Most peculious. It didn’t stop us taking photos with their Nessie sculptures.

The third visitor centre took itself very seriously and had a cinematic entrance (and correspondingly high ticket prices).  It looked like a proper museum.  I think they were catering to fancy people with plenty of holiday money (of which I believe there is a steady supply in the tourist season).

Loch Ness visitor centre Drumnadrochit Scotland
This one looked like the best Loch Ness visitor centre… but be prepared to pay correspondingly high prices.
Sock ness Loch Ness Drumnadrochit
Sock Ness.

We weren’t feeling very fancy, and we didn’t have lots of money so we just walked around to the gift shop which was free entry, and where I *finally* found the Loch Ness Monster.   She’s now sitting upstairs on one of my bookshelves with her friend who is a Loch Lochy Monster but was visiting Nessie at her home in Loch Ness when they both got caught and put in a gift shop:

The Loch Ness Monster
I found the Loch Ness monster and adopted her and her friend.

After that we drove on, following the road beside Loch Ness until we reached Inverness.  The Loch really is spectacular and I highly recommend seeing it out of season when you don’t have to worry about hitting someone because they’re trying to take photos whilst driving (I narrowly missed crashing into a lot of distracted drivers last summer when we used this road to get from Fort William to Aberdeen), and out of season there are also far less entitled angry Audi drivers, talking on their phones and speeding on the wrong side of the road as well.  For the best of both worlds, most things in the Highlands are fully open in April and it’s still fairly quiet by then.  If you’re looking for an actual Loch Ness monster, it’s also far more likely that you’ll spot one off-peak because everyone knows that Nessie is scared of tourists.  Here’s what Loch Ness was looking like:

Loch Ness after Drumnadrochit.
Loch Ness after Drumnadrochit.
Loch Ness after Drumnadrochit.
Loch Ness after Drumnadrochit. as you can see it’s impossible to get closer than the road.
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11 words British people don’t actually say.

This article is about the “British” words and phrases we don’t actually use in Britain, so if you’re planning a holiday to England, Scotland or any other part of Britain, and trying to learn some colloquialisms, scratch these from your list – the consequences of saying some of them can be a fist to the face (which, curiously, we tend not to call “fisticuffs”). This article has occasional use of the f-word etc.

This article about British words came about after an American blogger mentioned how if he ever came to the UK he’d be sure to tip a bob to the waiter. That was shortly followed up with someone (also American) commenting on a page on dialects with some sense of authority that British people said “sitting room” or “parlour” instead of “living room” or “den.” If you’re writing a British character for a book, these words will throw up a big red flag that kills suspension of disbelief for anyone British reading the book, and if you’re coming to Britain for a trip or travel, you will be mocked for using these words.

So here’s the words and phrases we just don’t say (or very, very rarely) in the UK:

1. British Accent – we rarely classify ourselves as “British” as opposed to our individual countries. For example, I’m English, my mother was Irish (which ISN’T part of the UK), my father was Jamaican (we say Afro-Caribbean not Afro-British, BTW), the man on my birth certificate was Scottish, my best friend at uni was Welsh. So we would start by saying “English accent” or “Scottish accent.” Then we’d get more specific, such as “Northern accent” for people from the north of England.

2. Bob – we call it money or cash, we use the word quid to mean pounds, or p (pronounced “pee”) to mean pence (multiple of penny). If you say “pennies” (multiple of penny) to anyone from the UK who speaks Polish, they will laugh at you because that’s how you pronounce the word “penis” in Polish.

3. Ta – Nowhere do people in the UK say “ta” for goodbye. That’s an Americanism you have imposed on us. “Ta ta” might be said by a posh elderly aunt (or a young lady with adorably misguided aspirations) from time to time, and “tara” (pronounced ter-rah with a long a at the end) is another word for goodbye, but we don’t say “ta” to greet someone’s departure. Ta is an informal way of saying “thank-you” in the North of England (as in, ‘ta very much’).

4. Cheero – Nobody’s said this since the second world war. Cheerio is sometimes used by older people, but again it’s dying out and it’s considered more old fashioned than roast beef. The last time I heard it was in the lyrics to a song in Oliver Twist, in the context “so long fare thee well, pip pip cheerio…” and we also don’t say “thee,” so it shouldn’t be considered an accurate representation of our modern language (it was made in the 1960s, after all).

5. Codswallop – Another old-fashioned term, we tend to say “bullshit” “bull” or “crap” (crap has three meanings – excrement, something that is really terrible, or something that is untrue). Our favourite, however, is “bollocks” when we want to call out something as untrue. The only time in living memory that a British person’s said codswallop was when Hagrid says it in Harry Potter and the Sorceror’s Stone (we call it Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, BTW) – and that’s set in 1991 (if you do the math from the gravestones etc this adds up).

6. On your bike (actually, it was always “on yer bike”) – Very dated to the 1980s. We tend to say “fuck off” these days or, if we’re being polite, “sod off” or “get lost.”

7. Fitty – this isn’t a word. I’ve lived in Britain for 29 years, I’ve travelled all over, I’ve voraciously devoured literature, and nobody has ever used this word in any context. It’s made up. Some people would say someone is “fit” meaning attractive (or “she’s well fit” or “he’s dead fit”), and there’s the very outdated and generally offensive word “totty” which again no-one has used for a very long time, but we just don’t have the word “fitty.” It even sounds made up. Referring to someone as “fitty” will probably have people wondering whether you think they’re epileptic. If they buy into fear-of-rape culture, they might even use this opportunity to make a scene.

8. Rumpy Pumpy – if you suggest having some ‘rumpy pumpy’ to any woman under 45, she will tell you to fuck off. AVOID! Nobody’s used this word since 1995, and even then it was only in an ironic sense. Nobody actually uses this word to describe sex that they have had or are going to have.

9. Sweet Fanny Adams – no, we say “fuck all” to mean the same thing. Nobody’s used “Fanny Adams” to mean “Fuck All” since World War II.

10. Toodle Pip – again, the only time this gets used is by people who are being ironic. It’s a joke. People are taking the piss when they say this.

11. Cack-handed – I got this claimed as “I’m not co-ordinated” from this page but actually it’s a derogatory term meaning left handed (the hand that you wipe your arse with if you’re right handed), from the days when schools were run by a certain type of nuns (and other pro-social psychopaths) who thought that left-handedness was a sign of the devil. There are plenty of British people out there who hate on lefties due to their subconscious cultural conditioning. Use it anywhere near a left-handed person and prepare to get bitch slapped. It’s as offensive to a left-handed person as the N-word is to most human beings.

12. Fisticuffs – another one from Oliver Twist, people tend to call a fight a “scrap” a “punch up” a “brawl” or a “fight.” Then they tend to call the police. Assault is a crime in Britain, and is defined as “any unwanted physical contact” but people still do it and the police are utterly arbitrary in whether they choose to enforce it or not, like most other things here. I know someone who got a criminal record for putting their hand on someone’s shoulder, and I know someone who got away with trying to kill their child after years of abuse. It varies.

Generally when looking at British words and phrases, when faced with the choice between a bigger or smaller word, we will use the smaller one. Water will always find it’s lowest level, and it’s the same with language – think about what the minimum is that you need to say to make yourself understood instead of trying to dress it up with loads of words or phrases that might be inaccurate. Communication is about understanding, and the only real rule of communication (at least, general communication, not specialized e.g. academia) is that if most people can’t understand you, you’re doing it wrong. I stated “most people” not “all” because you can’t please everyone and some people will just never understand you.

Cities I’d LEAST like to visit AGAIN

It’s Travel Tuesday and I’d like to share the cities I’d least like to visit again. Obviously, this was limited to places I’d already visited.  I don’t have much in the way of photos as they weren’t the kind of places that inspired me to get the camera out.  Before you put pen to paper about the North getting a bad rap, stay tuned for next week, when I’m going to look at my favourite cities in the North of England.  I love a good city adventure, somewhere with style, romance, undiscovered cool stuff or great places to eat.  The following cities failed to deliver on more than one level.

#9  Boulougne Sur Mer
This is a seaside town, slightly off the main route to Calais, and there is literally nothing of interest here. Usually you can be surprised by an interesting place such as a random church or something. This had nothing.

#8  Reading
I kept misreading the signs, because it calls istself “City of Reading” instead of “Reading City” and I thought that was an accolade. Like international city of culture or city of lost dreams. Nope, it’s not the city of reading, it’s the city of Reading, (pronounced Redding), and their library and university are so-so.

Also it has far too many roundabouts and not enough traffic lights.

#7  Modena
Its traffic management system is akin to three drunk penguins trying to run away from a walrus.

#6  Milan
It’s a northern Italian city that’s renowned as the home of high fashion. Do you know why they invented such beautiful clothing? Because the city is really boring. There is nothing to do but worship at the altar of consumerism.

#5  Newport, Gwent
I had the dubious fortune of staying here a couple of years ago on my way to the Brecon Beacons. It’s had a facelift. but that doesn’t stop the skanky drunk women from shouting racial slurs at anyone who looks European.  I think if I’d stayed here longer, I would have learned to hate it with the same passion that I dislike Luton.

#4  Paris
Bleeeeeeeuuuuuuuuurrrrrrrrrgh. That is all.

#3  London
I hate my birthplace in a way you only can if you lived somewhere then got forced out by gentrification and riots. London has PROBLEMS.  You have to be uber middle class to live here and like it, or you will just keep getting kicked in the face until you get your head back under the poverty line.  It’s saturated with people who just grab at everything and leave nothing for anyone else, it’s the most needy, desperate city of human misery, decay and lost opportunities which I’ve ever been to.  But it doesn’t get the number one spot because I am aware it has several redeeming features such as the Natural History Museum.

The underground tube network: One of London's redeeming features.
The underground tube network: One of London’s redeeming features.

#2  Doncaster
It’s grey, it’s dull, it’s a shit northern town whose inhabitants like to shout racial slurs out of car windows at people who “look foreign” (i.e. Eastern European, i.e. anyone who doesn’t have the features inherent in the narrow gene pool from which Doncastrians draw their mates). Then they laugh about it with their friends later. It’s also the AIDS capital of the UK despite having none of the risk factors – they’re anti gay and anti foreign – because they’re so securely inbred that they refuse to take precautions so when one person got it, it spread like wildfire. The only good thing about Doncaster is that it was the birthplace of Jeremy Clarkson. Why do you think he learned to drive? To get the hell out of there!

Barnsley, Preston, Kingston upon Hull, Middlesbrough: More grim northern cities. I could quite happily go through my entire life by never seeing them again, as well. They’re all pretty much the same as Doncaster.

This is what it's like to cycle around Doncaster.
This is what it’s like to cycle around Doncaster.

#1  Luton
It’s got an airport. That’s its only redeeming feature. And Luton is on negative points to start with, for reasons such as the Labour MP used to put racist electoral propaganda through our door, and the Lib Dem opposition candidates tried to topple her by doing the same, because people in Luton are just that racist against a particular minority group, and it has no character or class, and their council is run by a goldfish who can’t talk to you on the phone because he lost his glasses. Oh and if you’re female and blonde? Expect to be sexually harassed on a daily basis. The whole place is a dump.

As you can see, racism, poor traffic management, and other completely arbitrary reasons earned many cities a spot on this list. My experiences are just that – my experiences, and Your Mileage May Vary. But what is travel writing, if not a way for people to share subjective experiences with other people for mutual benefit?

Where would you least like to visit again? Let me know in the comments.