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Book Review: MYSTERIOUS LOCH NESS by Geoff Holder

Posted on: July 29, 2013

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Or, to give it the full title “The Guide To Mysterious Loch Ness And The Inverness Area”.

Most books about Loch Ness that I’ve come across have usually been written by cyptozoologists, all banging on about what type of creature may (or may not) live in the depths of Loch Ness. I’ve read them because it’s the area of Loch Ness which endlessly fascinates me, not particularly because I’m interested in “living dinosaurs”, giant eels or strange fish. Cryptozoologists can debate until the cows come home about what sort of monster Nessie is, (and they do), but that’s not my focus.

Geoff Holder’s “Mysterious Loch Ness” is the guidebook to the area that I seem to have been waiting for all these years. If you’re open to a good story, like history, and anything a bit offbeat then this is the guidebook for you. He takes us on a fully illustrated circular tour of the Loch from the Drumnadrochit area on the north side, around to the lovely little town of Fort Augustus (where I bought this book) on the south shore, and then along the south shore, through Foyers and Dores, back to Inverness again.

I love Loch Ness because, for me, it has everything. Beautiful scenary, fascinating history, ghosts, UFOs, Aleister Crowley … and the monster of course. Holder is particularly interesting when talking about Boleskine, where Crowley lived, on and off, for a few years. The dark legend of Boleskine House took on mammoth proportions during Crowley’s tenancy, and ever since, with tales of dark rituals, hauntings and endless bad luck on anyone living there. I wasn’t aware of the experiences of Malcolm Dent, who took care of the house for Jimmy Page in the 1970s and 80s. Dent claimed to hear the snorting and snuffling of some huge beast one night at the house, and described whatever was there as “pure evil”.

Holder also relates the tale of the UFO sightings in Foyers woods (which I describe in my book ‘Strange Tales’). The curious aspect of this case was Jan-Ove Sundberg’s claim that he had seen a strange craft in the clearing there. Foyers woods are densely-packed, there are no clearings. So what did Mr Sundberg see? Holder concludes it was either a hoax or a hallucination.

Mention is also made of monster-seeker Steve Feltham, who lives in a caravan on Dores beach. I finally got to buy one of Mr Feltham’s Baby Nessie ornaments when I was there in July 2013. Sadly, I didn’t get a chance to chat to him, as it was a hot day, and he was hemmed in on all sides by pleasure-seekers (and I was feeling shy). I was spurred on by a woman who urged me to buy one of the ornaments, as “it might buy him a bag of shopping at least”.

Another of the colourful characters attracted to the Loch is ‘Doc’ Shiels. I’ve read some who adore this person (usually cryptozoologists), to me though he feels like the kind of Local Character who would snare you when you accidentally stroll into his local pub, and treat you like an unwilling stooge to his comedy routine. The sort of guy you politely humour, and then breathe an almighty sigh of relief when you finally get away from him. Holder describes him as “a wizard and a showman, and his spirited, surrealist engagement with Fortean topics has added greatly to the gaiety of nations”. Indeed.

When I returned home at the end of the trip, my elderly neighbour said to me “I don’t think there’s really anything in Loch Ness do you?” Well I’m sure many would argue that point … at great length no doubt. For me though, I honestly don’t care whether Nessie exists or not, it’s the unique area that I love, and Mr Holder’s book does it full justice.

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