Fort Augustus Locks
One of the nice things about the last two weeks in the Highlands was that it was a more leisurely jaunt than a typical coast-to-coast walk on the TGO Challenge; we even took the train and the bus on a few occasions! The advantage of more leisurely travel was that we were able to linger in and poke around places that we usually storm through (or more accurately hobble through) without stopping.
Fort Augustus is a pleasant little village at the southern end of Loch Ness and as a result of this it is well established on the tourist trail. We were there at the end of the season but this meant lots of lock activity as boats made their way from the East to the West coast for the winter. We had a lovely leisurely lunch at the Lock Inn and a pleasant mooch around.
At one gift shop I found myself looking at something that described itself as a bottle of Nessie Water. This was simply a bottle filled with water from the Loch; the water did look a bit muddy. This bottle of water came with a certificate of authentication, in other words, a cheap piece of paper proved that the water came from the loch and not a tap. I smiled and thought about Lourdes water and the priests that I have regularly seen at Pyrenean airports carrying large water containers of the stuff back home.
And then I saw the price.
Each bottle of Nessie Water was selling for £7 (over $11). A few seconds later I watched as three coaches pulled in; a large group of elderly Japanese tourists disembarked and set out to explore the village. The group did not seem to have much English between them and I suppose western culture might have ben quite as confusing as well. Half an hour later another group of coaches appeared carrying a group of retirement age Chinese tourists.
These tourists were, of course, the real target for those who package water from the loch and sell it for £7 a bottle.
For me Nessie Water is an exploitative product that reflects badly on this otherwise lovely Highland village. Tucked away in the back pages of a search engine I found a reference to the website for Nessie Water; this may have started as a joke but it has gone far too far for me. I would hope that as a tourist in other parts of the world I wouldn’t have my own ignorance of local culture and customs abused like this. As a local tourist I even found myself wondering how else the village was planning to rip me off!
I’m sure (all I hope) that Nessie Water is a one-off. It really is time for the village of Fort Augustus to kill this nonsense off. I plan to walk through the village again next year. I shall not be giving any custom at all to any business selling this rubbish.