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Nessie's Loch Ness Times

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Established December 3rd, 1996
         Saturday 16th March 2002
Issue No 271

Scotland's Spookiest Places Revealed

The scenic island of Skye could be attracting lots of thrill seeking tourists after being named one of Scotland's spookiest places in a irreverent new tourist guide.

It's also the place to go for summer picnics and swimming holes, says the author of Scotland the Best 2002 - "but take midge cream for evening wear, lots". Writer and entrepreneur Peter Irvine, the man who organises Edinburgh's Hogmanay programme launched Scotland the Best in 1993 to highlight the nation's top attractions. The cheerful guide now sells more than 20,000 copies a year and earned its author a Thistle award for his contribution to Scottish tourism in 2000. Peter and another researcher spend four months of each year re-checking old haunts, following up fresh recommendations from the dozens of readers who write to them every week and ruthlessly rejecting those that don't come up to scratch. The result is more than just another tired tartan travel guide, trotting out the same old lists of things to do and see. Alongside the usual hotels, pubs and restaurants, you'll find listings for Scotland's "best greasy spoons", "great swimming holes", "best sledging spot", and "top spots for windsurfing" - plus plaintalking advice on midge repellant and avoiding tourist traps. "What makes it different is that it's a guidebook for natives as much as visitors," said editor Jim Carney. "No matter how well you think you know Scotland, you will always find something you didn't know about it in Scotland the Best." This year that includes "the really spooky places", "where to see dolphins, whales, porpoises and seals" and "bloody good pubs". New chapters on "places to have house parties" and "places to go camping with kids" have also been added in response to demand from readers. "The emphasis is very much on "the best" stresses Jim. "We're not going to give crap recommendations or say "this is average". If something is in this book you know it's at least going to be better than average and very possibly superlative." There's little chance of entrants in this years guide becoming big headed though. Irvine, master of the backhanded compliment, is not afraid to call a spade a spade - and to do it in his own personalised and quirky style. Describing the Taybridge Bar in Dundee, he recalls "the smoke filled gloom of a Dundee afternoon" and suggests "when (artist) Peter Howson runs out of Glaswegian gnarled heads, he might come here." Scarier still are the stone circles at east Aquhorthies and Loanhead of Daviot in Aberdeenshire, listed as "some of Scotland's spookiest places" - "obviously an important place for God knows what rituals", writes Irvine. "Look at Bennachie then wonder what they got up to." And the Atholl Hotel is described as "an Aberdeen stalwart, the sort of place you put your rellies and join them for dinner or a bar meal". The King's Gate hotel is one of just 10 venues highlighted in "the best places to stay in and around Aberdeen" section of the book. Managing partner Gordon Sinclair says the name check is a welcome boost after a less than vintage year last year for Scottish tourism. "Everyone is feeling the effects of foot and mouth disease and September 11," he said. "It's been a difficult year and we're having to help each other out. This is something to be welcomed. You don't get into guides like this for no apparent reason." The Dunain Park Hotel, Inverness, has been featured in Scotland the Best for several years. Manager Alex Campbell says visitors often arrive after reading the recommendation and he regularly uses the guide to direct guests who want to get off the beaten track. "If I wanted to show someone the best in Scotland, I'd probably send them walking in Glen Affric," he added. Peter Irvine says he hopes his book will serve as "a barometer of what's going on in Scotland".

Land Reform

Plans to open up the right to buy and have access to land were still proving controversial as they were unveiled recently. The Land Reform Bill was published after one of the biggest consultation exercises in the history of the Scottish Parliament drew more than 3,500 responses. It proposes wider public access to the countryside without interfering with the lives of residents. Legislation enabling communities to buy the land where they live and work. Special right to buy measures for crofters. Major changes have been made to the draft form of the bill, which is published this month. These include the removal of plans to allow landowners to suspend access temporarily, and of the proposal that ballots on crofters' buyouts would require a 50% turnout. A simple majority in a ballot will now suffice. There will also be no new criminal offence of trespass created in Scotland. The has now begun its passage through Parliament, with particular scrutiny by the justice2 committee.

Highland Folk Museum

Go to the top of the class was the message for staff at the Highland Folk Museum in Kingussie and Newtonmore, when Andy Anderson, chairman of Highland Council's education committee, was presented with an award recently. The prestigious Sandford award - the fifth to be won by the museum in recent times - was handed over by Arts Minister Baroness Blackstone at a ceremony in the Tower of London, where 20 UK museums and heritage centres were given the accolade of being centres of excellence by the Heritage Education Trust. In Scotland, the Highland Folk Museum shared the honour with the National Trust for Scotland's Tenement House in Glasgow. The awards recognise the quality of education about historic buildings, artefacts and landscapes and take into account criteria ranging from the interpretive material to the practicalities of organising school visits. They also recognise the teamwork between curators and administrative staff, and the frontline staff who deal with students and other visitors. The judges citation states: "The Highland Folk Museum provides an excellent educational experience. Through objects, buildings, exhibitions, demonstrations, costumed interpreters and rangers, students of all ages can experience at first hand all aspects of the life, traditions and culture of the Highlands in the past. The educational programme is now well established and is greatly valued by schools and universities throughout Scotland."

Skye Hotel Accolade

A Skye hotel, owned by a leading Scottish businessman, has won the top accolade in one of the catering trade's most important annual awards. The Hotel Eilean Iarmain, in Sleat, owned by Sir Iain and Lady Noble, came joint first as National Hotel of the Year in the Les Routiers awards, alongside the Lovelady Shield Hotel, in Cumbria. Sir Iain, who bought the hotel in 1972, said the award was well deserved, in respect of the level of hard work that had gone into it over the past 25 years. He said: "This award reflects the gradual conversion of a small traditional rural hotel with a few mod cons into an inn with character and some sophistication. "The past 25 years have seen steady progress, both in the building and refurbishment programme and in the professionalism of our staff." Les Routiers has a network of inspectors who visit selected hotels, usually owner managed, on an anonymous basis and assess various criteria including the welcome, value for money and quality of food and accommodation. Morag MacDonald, manageress of the Hotel Eilean Iarmain, added: "It has always been our aim to offer a traditional Gaelic welcome to visitors from across the world. We continually strive to provide an excellent service. "This has been a team effort and, given the present challenges facing the Scottish tourist industry, it's extremely gratifying that our efforts are recognised with such a prestigious award." The hotel, built in 1888 is situated beside a harbour where Flora MacDonald was taken before being sent to the Tower of London.

Islands Target US Market

A new tourism initiative was launched recently in a bid to encourage more visitors to the Hebrides. The Visit Hebrides project, launched at the World Travel Market in London, is the first of its kind in Scotland and will focus on marketing the islands, based on nine activities. The activities being promoted by the project are wildlife, culture, golfing, fishing, cycling, walking, outdoor sports, genealogy and film tourism. The project is also being promoted in Stornoway's twin town of Pendleton, South Carolina - an area with many Highland emigrants. On a recent visit to the US town, Gillian Dykes of Visit Hebrides, and James MacLetchie, a Southern Isles countryside ranger, made presentations to mark the launch. They stressed that 440,000 has been invested in the tourist sector of the islands by Scottish Natural Heritage and the Western Isles Tourist Board.

Mystery Lights in Scottish Skies

Unexplained objects have been sighted in Northern Skies. Two men, over 60 miles apart, each saw lights in the sky at the same time recently. Malcolm Mackintosh, a retired businessman, claims he saw a mysterious object at his home in Daviot, near Inverness. He said he had walked out on to his patio at 6.20 in the morning when he caught sight of it. At the same time, a Keith policeman leaving his work sighted a cluster of amber lights to the west of the town, heading in a southerly direction. The policeman, who has not been named, got out of his car and gazed at the amber lights, several of which were circling a larger central illumination. Mr Mackintosh said: "I made a cup of tea and then went outside on to the patio and that's when I saw the strange craft." "There's no way it was a conventional aircraft, because there was no sound. "I couldn't make out the shape of the craft - all I could see was lights. "There were a number of reddish lights, and a very bright pure white light, and in the centre there were some dancing lights. "It was in sight for about two minutes, before it moved off and there was a trail of fire coming from the back of it. "It wasn't travelling that fast, I'd say it's speed was more in keeping with a fighter aircraft." He added: "It was a very clear morning and I am in absolutely no doubt as to what I saw." Both men reported hearing no noise from the mystery objects. Local RAF bases said that they had no aircraft flying in the vicinity of the sightings at the time. Michael Soper, spokesman for the UFO specialist organisation, Contact International, said: "There are believed to be more occurrences of this in Scotland and Wales but, because of smaller population density, there are not so many reports. "Sightings seem to go through fashions. At the moment there are a lot of sphere sightings. Some are like crop circles in the sky, with one photographed containing 170 discs."

Octogenarian is First Winner

Community stalwart Jessie Doull is the first winner of the Caithness Citizen of the Year title. A long serving member of a clutch of local organisations, the octogenarian is perhaps best known for her work with the Wick Society, which runs the town's heritage centre. Mrs Doull of George Street Wick, served for more than 20 years as treasurer of the society, of which she is a life member. She remains actively involved in researching material and greeting visitors arriving at the award winning centre in Bank Row. Long time Wick Society chairman Iain Sutherland said: "Never was public recognition more deserved. She is a very valued member of the society and has a tremendous knowledge of the history of the town and its surroundings." Mrs Doull has also been heavily involved in voluntary work for church and community bodies. She was presented with a specially minted medal at the inaugural awards ceremony in her home town of Wick.

Charity Event

Six members of the nursing staff of the Glenview Unit at New Craigs Hospital, Inverness, who took part in a number of sponsored events, have raised 636.50 for the Cystic Fibrosis Trust. The money was raised by a sponsored walk, silence and fast. Taking part were Margaret Gillingham, Michelle Macgregor, Elaine MacDonald, Kim Mackenzie, Joan MacGillvary and Judy Cameron.

Political Roundup

Neglect of Gaelic

A Highland MSP called for the Scottish Parliament's equal opportunities committee to investigate the lack of Gaelic medium education in Scotland. Ross, Skye and Inverness West MSP John Farquhar Munro told the Parliament's public petitions committee that, despite the announcement by the Scottish Executive of numerous initiatives for the language, there seemed to be little real progress.

Highland Weather Forecast

Saturday Afternoon
Staying cloudy in most places. Patchy rain or showers. Winds mod SE'ly. Temperature 7c to 11c.
Saturday Night
Mostly cloudy. Rain and mist in most areas. Winds mod S. Temperature 2c to 6c.
Sunday
Outbreaks of rain in E, scattered showers and a few bright spells in W. Windy.
Monday
Cloud building from the SW bringing rain to most places later. Mild with fresh SE'ly winds.


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Caledonia



This is Caledonia ( Caley for short ) A Ness-Scape family member and mascot. She is a White German Shepherd. Caley has decided to take over the editing of Nessie's Loch Ness Times, and she's sure she'll make a good job of it. What do you think?

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