Whether you believe in the monster or not, there’s something eerie and mythical about Loch Ness at six in the morning, fog swirling above the deep, dense black water and wind howling past your ears.
The Scottish Highlands have a mysterious allure. With jagged, dramatic peaks and vast, purple heather-strewn hills, you feel very small and so far north and remote that it’s easy to wonder if you’re in Scotland, Scandinavia or Nova Scotia. This is wilderness – less than half an hour’s drive from the busy city of Inverness.
Cold and isolated (at least until you get into the villages and meet the locals), these wilds are the perfect setting for a dark murder mystery – and ITV drama The Loch brings an acclaimed cast (including Laura Fraser, Siobhan Finneran – pictured above), north to make the most of the scenery.
For Fraser, originally from Glasgow, it’s been a revelation. “Until last year I was living in the woods in upstate New York, so I’m used to being in the country, I like being remote,” she tells RT on set, huddled indoors in a hut on the bank of Loch Ness. “But I discovered parts of Scotland I didn’t know and have never been to. This area has such atmosphere, the light changes every second. It seems to have this magical feeling – you can feel the history.
“Glencoe is the best part of Scotland I’ve seen – along with Skye and Uist. Seeing it in the summer at 11 o’clock at night is inspiring. Now I’ve seen how gorgeous it is, I’m going wild camping there this weekend with my husband.”
From Inverness, it’s a stunning journey by car or bus towards Fort William. The Highlands’ second-largest town sits by Loch Linnhe, and though its small main street is full of pubs and shops selling everything under the sun emblazoned with a hairy Highland cow motif, really, this is the place to be for outdoor pursuits.
Ben Nevis looms threateningly over the town, which is a centre for hillwalking, climbing and – for the even more daring – there’s a downhill mountain-bike track.
Fort Augustus – where much of The Loch was filmed – is smaller and calmer, embedded into the hillside, the locks of the Caledonian Canal turning the village into giant stepping stones with spectacular views of Loch Ness.
But Glencoe is the jewel in the crown – world-famous, rich in bloody clan-warfare history, its majestic crags and sweeping moorland have been marvelled at for centuries and by distinguished poets, Walter Scott and TS Eliot among them. It’s unmissable, especially in summer when the glen is lush in bloom.
View from the hill Meall Mor in Glencoe
Nessie might be a myth, but there’s one little monster, Fraser says, that has been terrifyingly real at dawn and dusk. “The midges have been hard, they swarm in your eyes, ears, mouth, nose – everyone was head to toe in nets, apart from the actors!”
The Loch is on Sundays on ITV at 9pm
Radio Times Travel
Scottish Highland Railways, 4 nights from £459pp. Visit the heart of the Highlands to enjoy three spectacular train journeys. Ride the famous West Highland Line from Fort William to Mallaig, take a trip on the charming Strathspey Steam Railway and enjoy a breathtaking run from Inverness to the Kyle of Lochalsh. Click here for more details and to book
2nd person goes FREE on our Grand Scottish Islands and Faroes cruise, 9 nights from £1,269pp. Join us on board Astoria for a cruise full of northern delights. You’ll sail to remote outposts, full of enchanting natural and fascinating legends. Calls are made at a quintet of contrasting and scenic Scottish Isles, as well as in the Danish Faroes. Click here for more details and to book
To browse RT’s range of holidays to Scotland, visit radiotimes.com/scotland