|Where's Devin? Scotland (3)|
Discover Scotland: Part 3
An intrepid traveler's search for the otherworldly at Loch Ness turns up an unexpected surprise.
By Devin Janosov
If you've joined me on my journey through Scotland, (you can read parts one and two to catch up!) you'll know that I have been to some of the finest hotels, dined on some of the most excellent foods and seen some of the most famous sights Scotland has to offer. My trip down Loch Ness and my stay at Scotland's finest hotel rounded out some of the highlights of those previous articles. But this, the third and final installment, is where I get down to brass tacks and take the opportunity to speak with the man who devoted his life and career to the famous Loch and all that may, or may not, reside beneath its murky waters, personally met and dined with the country's most famous chef, encounter what can only be explained as true proof of life after death, and reach my final conclusions regarding all that Scotland has to offer. Please enjoy this final exciting installment and, as always, take advantage of the helpful hints and tips Johnny Jet offers his travel-loving readers. It was, of course, my honor to travel and investigate on your behalf ...
MEET ADRIAN SHINE
Adrian Shine is an eccentric-looking individual. He wears a tweed jacket as proudly as he wears his long grey beard and speaks both eloquently and candidly about his past, present and future endeavors. You may have seen him in a recent Toyota Tundra commercial where Adrian is assisting U.S. scientists in the hunt for Nessie, when she surfaces, grabs the Toyota and spits it back out. If you haven't seen it, you can view it online at YouTube. It is quite amusing and shows Adrian's humorous side. But then again, when a man dedicates his life to searching for a mythical creature, he probably needs to have a healthy sense of humor.
Adrian began his hunt for the Loch Ness monster after reading a book of witness accounts penned by Constance White, and after a report of a monster ramming a boat out on Loch Mora. Adrian had a naturalist background and decided he would go to Loch Mora, drop anchor and float around until he himself was struck. Unfortunately, nothing ever struck his boat. Adrian then joined the Loch Ness Investigation Bureau and has since dedicated his life and time to the study of the Loch. As Great Britain's largest body of fresh water, and because it was formed during the ice age, there is plenty to study about the Loch ... above and beyond the mythical creature. As such, Adrian has used sonar, underwater photography, submarines and just about every form of underwater investigation equipment and technique available to learn about the Loch. He began with us by addressing what it means to find the truth, and the many different mental avenues he has traveled in his quest for the truth about Nessie. He made an interesting distinction between subjective and objective truth; a distinction I, as a lawyer, acknowledge and exploit every day. Perhaps that's why, when Adrian realized I was an attorney, he began to direct his conversation at me. You see, as an attorney, when I prove truth, I rely on both forms. I use scientific data and expert witnesses, to convince my jury of my case. But, when it is all boiled down, I am actually finding a subjective truth because that is the way our legal system is designed. The final say as to the truth in a court of law is the subjective word of judge or jury. The fact that we will sentence a man to death based on subjective truth begs the question: shouldn't it then be sufficient to prove the existence of the Loch Ness monster? According to Adrian Shine, it is the best evidence out there.
FACT OR FICTION?
The gist of the debate is simple enough to explain, but actually brought me no closer to discovering the "truth" about Nessie. Adrian acknowledged the two types of proof, or truth, he has acquired over the years. The scientific proof, or data, can be classified as objective. It is the hard evidence that he can produce, and at this point it is decidedly inconclusive. The other proof, the more compelling yet subjective proof, is the witness statements. Adrian points out that the people who have sighted the monster are usually respected members of the professional community. They are not drunks or drug addicts, they are not common criminals or glory seekers seeking out their fifteen minutes of fame. They are people who actually have much respect and credibility to lose in the eyes of their peers for making such outrageous claims. Yet, they make these claims regardless. It is the existence of this evidence, more than anything else, which keeps Adrian Shine searching.
Adrian tells us that either seals or sturgeon swimming close to the surface in the loch can explain most of the sightings. In fact, my own photo and a video filmed by Rab on a prior trip down the loch are both easily explained away (mine as a duck and Rab's as a seal). Indeed, even the famous photos from the 1960s have been discredited as hoaxes. Floating toys intentionally taken out of perspective by a crafty photographer, shadows, seals, sturgeon and various other explanations leave us with no real objective proof, save for the strange sonar readings and the most recent sighting. As such, I left our meeting torn between the dearth of scientific evidence and abundance of eyewitness accounts. So, is there really a sea creature trolling around in Loch Ness? I don't know for sure. But what I do know, thanks to another point made by Adrian Shine, is that if there is, there has to be more than one, so that they can procreate.
GLENCOE VISITOR CENTER
My next stop, which ultimately is my first stop on my return voyage home, is to the Glencoe Visitor Center. The center is another entirely eco-friendly location and it is actually built as a biodegradable structure that incorporates the wooded environment in which it stands, right into the structure itself. Basically, there are trees growing through the floor and birds nesting in the rafters. Inside the center are displays explaining the significance of the canyon both naturally and historically. There are testimonials about how various people were inspired by Glencoe's natural beauty and there is even a video game where you choose supplies and then set out for a walk up the canyon. I played and barely survived ... apparently, I am not much of an outdoorsman.
The true significance of this location, other than its natural beauty, is purely historical. The story explains why whenever anyone says the name "Campbell" in Scotland, they are required to spit over their shoulder. Some restaurants actually go so far as to ban Campbell's entirely from their establishment (the Clachaig Inn, for example). Though every story has two sides, this one is fairly consistent no matter who tells the tale.
Apparently the British King William was at war with France and couldn't devote enough attention to controlling the highland clans in Scotland. Refusing to give up, William issued a blunt ultimatum: swear allegiance to England in a formally executed document, or be massacred where you stand. This ultimatum was time-sensitive, and once the offer expired, so would any clan not signed up. One particular clan chief, McCeon, head of the McDonalds, waited until the last second and arrived at the designated location to swear the oath before the sheriff. Unfortunately for McCeon, he had gone to the wrong location, and it took him an extra couple of days to get to where the sheriff administering the oath was residing. McCeon signed the agreement and returned home believing his clan was safe. Unfortunately for, and unbeknownst to, McCeon, his signature was deemed ineffective and a troop comprised of a rival highland clan, the Campbells, was sent to pay a visit to McCeon. Now, the highlanders had a creed that dictated that, even if it were your worst enemy at your doorstep, you would provide shelter and hospitality to them regardless. So, when the Campbells arrived, McCeon did just that and welcomed them into his home.
The Campbells remained with McCeon and the McDonalds for thirteen days. They ate, drank and carried on with each other as friends. However, on the 13th day, Friday, February 12, 1692, the Campbells received orders from William to kill every single McDonald. Well, the Campbells did as ordered, but failed to kill everyone. They managed to assassinate McCeon while he slept in his bed, but many of the other McDonalds escaped, despite the rocky and frozen terrain. When word of the massacre spread, all the clan chiefs who were undecided rushed to sign allegiance to the King and William successfully got the clans in line. An inquiry was conducted and it was determined that the king could not have played a role because he was too far away. The Campbells were hung out to dry and have been hated in the highlands ever since. So, if you're planning on visiting Scotland and your surname happens to be Campbell, either stay out of the highlands, or only introduce yourself by your first name. For more info on Glencoe, visit glencoe-nts.org.uk.
THE ARDEONAIG HOTEL AND RESTAURANT
Awarded Good Hotel Guide's "Inn of the year for Great Britain and Ireland 2007", the hotel is the epitome of a romantic getaway, an aspect I couldn't really take advantage of and I knew I was going to be spending my night alone in bed after dinner. However, I actually did get some unexpected and uninvited company in bed that night, a story I will get to later. Prices for rooms range from £90 per head per night to £150 per head per night. For more information, visit ardeonaighotel.co.uk or call 01567 820400.
Everything about this place was gorgeous. The grounds went on for an eternity, the rooms were decorated tastefully with class and elegance and the owners were two of the nicest people I have ever met. Peter Gottgens, the owner, is rated Scotland's number one chef. He was the personal chef to Nelson Mandela when he regained his freedom and even cooked for Bill Clinton at a White House dinner in honor of Mr. Mandela. Peter is originally from South Africa and he tries to blend his heritage into his cooking, which is nothing short of divine. He works out of a tiny kitchen, with little to no staff and creates gourmet masterpieces for up to three seatings an evening in the restaurant's quaint dining room. He is so popular, in fact, that people drive from all over the country just to get dinner, with or without reservations. His wife Sara is a former fashion buyer and obviously brings her touch of class to the decor. She is the maitre d' as well as our personal guide and she showed us each to our rooms.
The first thing I noticed when I entered my room (affectionately titled Ashley II) was the missing television set. There was a large wooden armoire across from my bed and I hoped there would be a set inside, but all I found was a bathrobe. It turns out the hotel is so far back into the woods that they don't get television or Internet reception. Thankfully, I had brought a good book on trial law with me, because I knew I was going to need something to help me sleep. While I would not recommend this to a lone traveler, unless of course they are in search of utter solitude, the Ardeonaig is just the type of place for a romantic getaway. I quickly showered and got dressed because I knew this evening's meal was going to be nothing short of spectacular and Peter certainly didn't disappoint.
A DINNER FIT FOR KINGS
At the table we allowed Peter to cook us whatever he felt like making and allowed him to also pair wines for us from his wine cellar. Most of the wines (if not all) were products of South Africa, but they went exceptionally well with his cooking, and no one left a drop on their plate or in their glass. For a nine-course chef meal it is £49 per head, £17 of which accounts for the chef-paired wines. They offer a standard a la carte menu, but I would recommend letting Peter take the reins. He will take very good care of your taste buds and they offer a vegetarian selection for those who don't eat meat.
The first course Peter brought us was Pan Seared Loch Tarbet Scallops with a Madagascan Vanilla Broth. The scallops melted under the knife like warm butter and the sauce developed the perfect amount of sweetness from the scallop's natural flavor. In short, it was delicious. The second course was Smoked Scrabster Haddock, braised Leeks, Wholegrain Mustard sauce and lightly fried quail egg. The fish was as fresh as anyone could get from their own rod, and the quail egg produced a nice complement to the flaky fish. Again, it was a masterpiece. For our third course we were presented with a Pan-Fried John Dory, Border Asparagus and Hebridean Surf Clams. Again, it was nothing short of heavenly. The next two dishes comprised our entrees and each was a delicious presentation of game caught and killed on the hotel's grounds. The first, Hare, Shallots, Sweet Potato Mash, Garden Peas and Kidney was tender and juicy, without any gamey aftertaste. The second, my favorite of the whole meal was the Filet of Highland Beef, Buttered Broadbeans, Caramelized Onions and a Pinotage Sauce. It left me speechless and still, I cannot think of a way to describe it except to say that it was heaven on the tongue. For dessert, we were served the same dessert he served to Mandela ... Chocolate Mealie Meal Pudding. Essentially, it is a flourless chocolate cake filled with rich chocolate and hazelnut sauce. It likened to a chocolate soufflé, and by the time I scraped the last drop off my plate, I had completely forgotten that I was going to be without my usual sleep-aid – the BBC.
After dinner we all retired to the library for a coffee and brief Q&A with Chef Peter. We were even treated to some bagpipe music by our new Haggis tour guide Archie. (Rab had to switch to another group in the middle of our adventure.) After the festivities, we slowly made our way up to our rooms. I arrived at my room tired but wired from the coffee. I crawled into bed at about 11:30pm with my book and began reading in what I thought was a room I had all to myself.
THINGS THAT GO BUMP IN THE NIGHT
At midnight precisely, that big armoire across from my bed started shaking violently. I thought we were having an earthquake, until I realized nothing else was shaking in my room. Next thing I know, the armoire is moaning as well. I assumed it was the plumbing and went to check the pipes in the bathroom. There was nothing wrong, no water running, and no sounds coming from the pipes. At this point, I assumed that a person had snuck into the hotel through one of the unlocked back doors, found his way upstairs to my room and was now hiding in my armoire. I went to my window and looked outside to see if there was anyone outside, like Archie, playing a joke on me, but the parking lot was empty. So, I decided to address the armoire formally. I explained that I was an attorney, well versed in the law of self defense and that I would have no problem beating an intruder to within an inch of his life. The moaning persisted despite my warnings and that's when it crossed my mind that I might be dealing with something otherworldly. I asked whatever was in my armoire to come out and say hi. I offered to photograph and interview said entity and I got up to approach the armoire. As I got within arm's reach, the shaking and moaning stopped. I opened the door and found only my bathrobe. I turned out the lights and went to sleep, wondering what logical explanation could exist for the experience.
I awoke the next morning refreshed but still puzzled. I went downstairs and met Chef Peter and Sara to say goodbye and thanks. As I was walking out to our big blue bus, I asked Chef Peter if he had ever had complaints that the hotel was haunted. He stopped and looked at me and said, "As a matter of fact, yes." Apparently, a room in the hotel was at one time a barn. The daughter of the then-property-owners had fallen from the rafters and died at the tender age of eleven. Since Peter and Sara had taken over the premises they had lost three housekeepers because of that room. Apparently, each had gone in to turn down the sheets for the guests, only to watch the sheets turn themselves back up. I guess they ran out screaming as a result of this and never returned. Chef Peter assured me that, while there is definitely something in that portion of the hotel, not to fret because they would never have put me in that room. When I pointed to the window from which I had looked out the earlier evening and told him the name of my room his face dropped. Apparently, I HAD BEEN put in the haunted room. I assured him that I was not bothered by it at all, and that I was actually on this trip looking for the strange and curious, and told him he should charge extra because the room comes with company. He informed me that everyone may not share my outlook and reluctantly, I conceded his point as we loaded onto the bus and said goodbye.
ARDKINGLAS HOUSE IN ARGYLL
My final stop on the journey back to Glasgow was at the Ardkinglas House. This is the Scottish location for the filming of The Water Horse. Without divulging too much of the plot, the Ardkinglas House was the setting for the young boy's bedroom in the film. The 60-room private home is a veritable mansion and currently has a family of four residing within. The rooms are dark and brooding and the public gardens are nothing short of spectacular. The house, originally built in 1905, has hosted a few smaller budget films prior to The Water Horse, and our guide/general manager of the home, Jean Maskell, has survived through many of the filmings. The house was ultimately recreated in New Zealand because it was cheaper to film there than it is to film in Scotland (the British pound is a real kicker), but three weeks of filming actually did take place at the Ardkinglas House.
The house's fireplace is the largest single piece of granite carved in a dwelling; the oyster traps for the successful Loch Fyne Oyster Company, started by the previous owner, can be viewed out the back windows, a painting by Seibert, the man many believe to be "Jack the Ripper," hangs in the drawing room; and the grounds boast the tallest tree in all of Britain. Most impressive however, especially after last night's meal, was the fact that the last person to cook on the original gas stove located in the first floor kitchen was none other than Hell's Kitchen's own, Gordon Ramsay.
All in all, the house was impressive, especially when I imagined the two children who reside there playing hide-and-seek in a 60-room mansion with multiple secret passageways. As I left I wondered how long it would take to discover a person hiding within, and realized the game could probably go on for days. As we headed to our final stop in Glasgow, I closed my eyes and imagined living in such a monstrosity.
RADISSON SAS HOTEL IN GLASGOW
A five-star hotel by all accounts, there really isn't much to say about Glasgow or the hotel. My room was a modern day office suite, with wireless internet, a desk and a cylindrical command center running from ceiling to floor in the middle of the room. I was given fresh fruit and a warm bathrobe. Glasgow is the former industrial center of Scotland and feels a lot like Manhattan, just not quite as tall and broad architecturally. Archie and I stopped at a local pub for a few beers before bedtime and said our final goodbyes in the lobby. I must say, Haggis Tours made the trip all it was, and I don't think it would have been half as enjoyable but for their learned guides. I took the funky glass elevator up to my room and began my late-night packing ritual. Radisson SAS Hotel, Glasgow, 301 Argyle Street, Glasgow G2 8DL, United Kingdom, Tel: + 44 (0) 141 204 3333.
As I laid my head down for my final night's rest in Scotland I thought back to my departure from the States. I thought about the Loch Ness monster, The Grey Man, The Clava Cairns, the ghost in my armoire and the general feeling of natural wonderment that fills the Scottish air. I realized that, while I was not able to produce conclusive proof of the existence of anything supernatural in Scotland, or elsewhere for that matter, the search for truth is often more important than the actual discovery. I rolled over to the big empty space where my girlfriend usually resides in bed and thought about how the adventure of searching for truth so often shadows the excitement of conclusive proof. It is that very lesson that I have brought home to my law practice and to which I now impart to you, dear reader. Regardless the outcome or desired result, keep hunting for the truth … because, though you may never reach an answer, you will definitely make unexpected discoveries on your voyage. And with that, I bid you all a good night and advise you to look inside that armoire before turning off the lights ... I know I will.
Devin Janosov is a University of Connecticut Graduate and holds a Juris Doctorate from Quinnipiac University School of Law. He is currently the managing litigation associate attorney at DiScala DiScala & Papcsy Trial Lawyers in South Norwalk, Connecticut, where he spends his days in court, and his nights wherever the wind takes him. He moved out of his parent's house when he was sixteen and has been a lone rambler ever since. He welcomes emails and questions. Feel free to contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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All information presented here is accurate at the time of publication but prices, dates and other details are all subject to change. Please confirm all information before making any travel arrangements.
Note: This trip was sponsored by Visit Britain.
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