A Cup of Jo with Nessie

By Jennifer Garcia

Scotland has an unassuming, quiet beauty and the longer one stares, the more captivated you become. So the recommended route through the Highlands is via motorway, an ideal way to stretch out the scenery for as long as the road stretches out before you. There is so much to see in the Highlands, but nearly ubiquitous for first time traversers is a date with Nessie.

This happened to be my second date with this legendary lake. You know what they say, if a first date goes well, you’re already looking forward to the second. The first date brought the typical fare – an abundance of tourists, a welcome center, a cheesy photo op, and adorable souvenirs of the sea monster. I waved at the tour-boat passengers hoping for a fateful encounter and before moving on to their next destination.

For Americans, Loch Ness is a place that tends to feature in programmes that approach the subject with scepticism and science or with mystery and intrigue rather than as an enchanted getaway. Hence, while my first trip was filled with anticipation, my second was filled with wonder. Going with a first-timer, I was happy to take the same route, but my savvy UK native companion had other plans.

We bypassed the well-worn path to that infamous sign in favour of a dazzling, winding road up Nessie’s curved coastline on our way to what would be prove to be a more charming, secluded, and breathtaking approach to Loch Ness than I had thought possible. As we’d taken time to lean out of the car window to capture the picturesque frames created by the forest against the lake, night fell upon us. David said that according to the instructions we had been given, the house was tricky to find, so a different sort of hunt began – to find Jo’s bed and breakfast cottage.

Sure enough…we passed it. D’oh! But to be fair, it was impossible to see the crucial sign from the direction we were traveling, but once we’d turned around the little wooden road sign appeared as promised and our long day trip gave way to a relaxing evening. Jo was lovely as can be, setting a bar we set for the rest of the trip which was never matched. Airy and spacious spaces, simple, cozy, yet modern décor, and panoramic windows facing the lake with morning views to stir the imagination.

Our bedroom in the upstairs loft also had windows facing the lake, as well as a bathroom (sorry, a washroom) so cute that I still rave about it to this day. Happy as can be in our Highland hideout after a day seeing an oft missed side of this stunning place, we’d worked up an appetite. With a pin on Google maps securely in place, we ventured back out into the darkness towards Inverness, a stone’s throw away.

Inverness was especially pretty at night with lights guiding you across the bridge and the castle aglow above on a small hill. Though night had only just fallen, it was already late, so unfortunately the shops were closing. We found a cozy venue overlooking the river and had a delightful dinner discussing the day's sightseeing. Completely knackered, I took full advantage of the tub - which of course sweet Jo had left with plenty of bubble bath gel – and slept in downy goodness dreaming of more to come.

I woke awash in a white light with perfect stillness in the air. As I sat up, a side window revealed more of my surroundings. Another cottage could be reached by going down the slope and up the driveway, but I could imagine Jo waving her neighbor over for a cuppa mid-afternoon as they caught a glimpse of each other going about their day. My daydreaming turned to reality as I walked up to the real treat. I pried the window open and took in the scene before me: Loch Ness as far left and as far right as I could see with mountains in the background, water banks in the foreground and blue skies above. The water sparkled as it danced with the gentle wind-driven waves. Birds were clustered together sitting, swooping, and squawking away as I noticed a definite serpentine looking neck protruding out from the lake. “Can it be, oh no it’s a buoy…” are the thoughts that came in quick fire succession. Ah well, the day had already started brilliantly enough.

David was offering to make tea which as a rule, I don’t turn down since he makes it so much better than I (he makes the tea, I make the coffee, that’s how it goes). Downstairs was even more of a sight to behold as the kitchen and living room led onto a porch where the Loch and her surroundings demand you to marvel. The only thing that could tear me away was the sound of something bolting across the yard and sure enough bounding up the steps to press its body against the sliding-glass door. The sea serpent had evolved legs! Ah no, just a gorgeous red spaniel with a butt she couldn’t seem to put down and stop shaking was begging for a rub.

As David went outside to oblige her, I thought about how well this second date had gone, in fact, I think it was safe to say I was in love. As I glanced down at my cup of tea, I noticed for the first time, the modern centerpiece – a series of rectangular green-black marble slabs slightly separated with an upside down U on some and just the top portion of backward S on the others. Sitting back, I saw it as a whole. “There you are,” I said to Nessie, no longer a mystery but a friend to unexpecetdly share a cuppa with.