Lost between truth and legend
When you step ashore from your MSC cruise in Invergordon, you’ll be enthralled by the Scotland’s Northwest Highland region, which covers the northern two-thirds of the country and holds much of the mainland’s most spectacular scenery.
You may be surprised at just how remote much of it still is: the vast peat bogs in the north, for example, are among the most extensive and unspoilt wilderness areas in Europe, while a handful of the west coast’s isolated crofting villages can still be reached only by boat.
The only major city, Inverness, is best used as a springboard for more remote areas where you can soak in the Highlands’ classic combination of mountains, glens, lochs and rivers, surrounded on three sides by a magnificently pitted and rugged coastline. Inverness Castle is closed to the public, but the Inverness Museum and Art Gallery offers an insight into the social history of the Highlands, with treasures from the times of the Picts and Vikings.
A shore excursion on your MSC Northern Europe cruise can also be the opportunity to discover Loch Ness. Twenty-three miles long, unfathomably deep, cold and often moody, Loch Ness is bounded by rugged heather-clad mountains rising steeply from a wooded shoreline with attractive glens opening up on either side. Its fame, however, is based overwhelmingly on its legendary inhabitant Nessie, the “Loch Ness monster”, who ensures a steady flow of hopeful visitors to the settlements dotted along the loch, in particular Drumnadrochit.
The first mention of a mystery creature crops up in St Adamnan’s seventh-century biography of St Columba, who allegedly calmed an aquatic animal that had attacked one of his monks. Nearby, the impressive ruins of Castle Urquhart – a favourite monster-spotting location – perch atop a rock on the lochside.