Jun 16, 2022 I Paul Seaburn

UFO and Lake Monster Summer Travel Advice: Cornwall Up, Loch Ness Down

It’s summer in the northern hemisphere, so travel plans are in the making. If you’re into visiting places where you can scratch your paranormal itch or introduce your kids to some real scary things other than amusement park rides, the list is long and travel writers have taken notice. This week, two have revealed their ‘Best of’ and ‘Worst of’ choices for UFO sightings and lake monster encounters and the revelations by both are surprising … if not downright shocking. One writer in particular may want to look over his shoulder if he hears what sound like heavy wet flippers flopping close behind – it may not be a large lost scuba diver.

“I hate Loch Ness. There, I said it.”

Those words come from US travel writer and photographer Cameron Hewitt, who works for Rick Steves' Europe, one of the best known and most respected providers of travel guides, travel television shows and guided tours in the world. Hewitt posted his anti-Loch Ness diatribe on his personal Facebook page, so it doesn’t appear he was speaking on behalf of his employer. Nonetheless, his disparaging remarks were picked up by the Inverness Daily Record, the Scottish Sun, other British media site and various mass media providers worldwide, so Mr. Steves and his crew are undoubtedly aware of them. What caused Hewitt to go off this way on Loch Ness … and yes, its beloved monster?

It's still fun to look for Nessie, isn't it?

“Famous as it may be, there’s nothing remotely interesting about Loch Ness, once you’re actually here. Loch Ness doesn’t even crack the top 25 list of “prettiest Scottish lochs.” It’s simply a long, narrow lake with a string of cheesy roadside attractions, and a not-very-dramatic mountains on the far side.”

Ouch! “Cheesy roadside attractions” aside, Hewitt starts from a position that many people will agree with (including this writer, who has traveled the area) – Scotland is a beautiful country with many lochs that are indeed larger and (remember, beauty is in the eye of the beholder) as or more attractive than Loch Ness. He’s right that most travel guide and tourism agents push visitors to spend time and money in Inverness, but that’s the case in any area with a famous tourist attraction that everyone has heard of. There is obviously something more bothering Hewitt.

“There is no Loch Ness Monster...period. It does not exist. Never has. It’s just empty hype, invented in the 1930s, kept alive by hoax after hoax, seemingly for no other reason than to get people excited about a little stretch of the nothingness contained within the Scottish interior.”

Ah ha! He’s a Nessie hater! It’s not the "longest, deepest, most boring, and most overhyped lake" that prompted him to disparage Loch Ness – it’s the fact that he didn’t see the Loch Ness monster … just all of the businesses that depend on its mythical existence and promotion for their livelihood. And make no mistake about it, it’s a big business. Gary Campbell, the official keeper of the Official Loch Ness Monster Register of sightings both on-site and on the 24/7 online Nessie-cam, recently analyzed data from tourism organizations and local area businesses and estimated that the Loch Ness monster adds nearly $54 million USD (£41 million) to the Scottish economy every year, an increase of $14.4 million USD (£11 million) over 2014, and that’s with a pandemic and economic downturn affecting travel. Isn’t tourism You may be asking yourself at this point, “Isn’t tourism Cameron Hewitt’s business too?”

“I think I have such a chip on my shoulder partly because I find it insulting to the other great sights of Scotland and its Highlands that Loch Ness consumes far more than its share of oxygen. I like to imagine a parallel world where Loch Ness does not exist. In that world, people devote their time to so many other, genuinely amazing attractions in this part of Scotland.”

Hewitt pays homage to Loch Ness’ Urquhart Castle, but then moves on to list the many other things to see and do on a trip to Scotland. Of course, he’s right that there are many more lochs (some with their own monsters, which he somehow neglected to point out), castles, Scotch, wildlife, historic attractions, beautiful attractions and great restaurants to see and partake of on the Scottish Isles. However, he must also acknowledge that the mythical Loch Ness monster helps his boss sell a LOT of guidebooks – whether the purchasers visit the sights or just buy cheesy souvenirs in Inverness.

If you’re looking for a great place with an excellent possibility of seeing a UFO, another tourism writer suggests a spot at the other end of the UK – Cornwall. Wait … what?

“Holiday booking company Laterooms.com has analysed UFO (Unidentified Flying Objects) sighting data over the past 12 months in the 25 most popular UK holiday destinations. It has published the data in celebration of 40 years since ‘E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial’ was released. Cornwall was listed at number seven on the list in the UK and was beaten to the top spot by Yorkshire, which was named the top holiday destination to visit for the best chance of an other-worldly experience.”

Cornwall Live took the Laterooms.com rankings as an opportunity to brag about its UFOs and referenced a sighting in March 2022 when a man in Seaton in east Cornwall saw and recorded a “big, round light” floating in the sky which he could only describe as “some sort of weird bloody spacecraft.” In 2021, Devon and Cornwall Police told The Packet they received 24 UFO calls in six years, while Dave Gillham of the Cornwall UFO Research Group told Cornwall Live in 2016 that his organization hears of more.

“There are about 30 to 40 reports of UFOs in Cornwall every year. We get a lot when the space station goes over, but you can easily go online and pin that down. Sometimes the UFO sighting can be explained by drones, or laser pens, which can be quite powerful, or even Chinese lanterns. But there are a few left every year, maybe two or three, that can’t be explained at the moment.”

It's fun to watch with friends, but make sure someone has a camera

If those kinds of statistics convince you to head to Cornwall for some summer UFO watching, the inimitable Nick Pope, the former head of the Ministry of Defence’s (MoD) UFO investigations, gave Laterooms.com some tips:

  • Find an open, unobstructed view on high ground with low light pollution, be patient and gring food and beverages.
  • Use an astronomy app to help identify bright stars, planets and artificial satellites so you don’t embarrass yourself.
  • If you see something, stay calm, and take the best quality photos and/or video footage you can - preferably with some background features in shot, so it's possible to calculate an object's distance, size and speed. And remember that zooming in can bring out more details, but can also introduce distortions.

That’s excellent advice from Nick Pope for recording a UFO sighting anywhere … in fact, it’s also a great way to get a photo of the Loch Ness monster to rub in the face of Cameron Hewitt.

Paul Seaburn

Paul Seaburn is the editor at Mysterious Universe and its most prolific writer. He’s written for TV shows such as "The Tonight Show", "Politically Incorrect" and an award-winning children’s program. He's been published in “The New York Times" and "Huffington Post” and has co-authored numerous collections of trivia, puzzles and humor. His “What in the World!” podcast is a fun look at the latest weird and paranormal news, strange sports stories and odd trivia. Paul likes to add a bit of humor to each MU post he crafts. After all, the mysterious doesn't always have to be serious.

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