My friend Paivi, had decided that skinny dipping in Loch Ness was a thing to do when in Inverness. It was April of 2005 and we, Paivi, our friend Nadine and Paivi’s sister, were on a road trip through the Highlands of Scotland before I headed back to Canada and Inverness was one of our stops. We had already voyaged through Fort William and out to Glen Finnan where the Harry Potter train was often filmed going over the trestle there. We had crossed the bridge over the sea to Skye and visited Eilean Donan Castle which is the most filmed castle in Scotland…Highlander anyone? It also features beams of cedar from British Columbia in the great room.
We hung out at Dunvegan Castle on Skye which is the seat of the McLeod, which also happens to be the clan that I belong to. This was also the place that my Mom got me good with an April Fool’s joke. She had called to say that my work was trying to get in touch with me. I thought this was a bit weird, them phoning my parents in Canada, but not too weird as I driving through some pretty remote areas in Scotland so had no cell service. I asked what they had wanted and I think she held out for a beat or 2 and then said April Fools! She got me! I was impressed.
We stayed on Skye for the night, at the Pink Guest House, and left early the next day, continuing our journey into the hinterlands. And towards Loch Ness.
We drove along the road beside Loch Ness looking for a secluded bay in which to partake this possibly existing but more than likely new ritual of swimming nude in Loch Ness. We found a small bay, void of people and parked our minivan. Automatic by the way. It’s one thing to drive on the other side of the car and on the other side of the road, but my brain had challenges with the whole shifting with the left hand too.
The 4 of us got out of the van and made our way down the embankment to the rocky beach. Just to set the stage a bit. Loch Ness is the 2nd deepest loch deepest loch in all of Scotland and Europe. They say that still waters run deep. They are also damn cold! The water temperature rarely rises above 5 degrees Celsius. Standing loch side, we strip down, completely bare and start to make our way into the water. It was incredibly slow going as the other thing that deep waters produce is something like pond scum, but in this case loch scum, on top of the rocks at the shore line. As I walked along the rocks, slipping and sliding into the water, I looked down to my left as we cleared the shelter of our little bay and saw another little bay…full of people. Clothed people. People looking at us wondering why the hell we were doing naked in Loch Ness. I realized that I wasn’t going to get much further than I already was without the possibility of slipping and causing damage to every exposed part of my body, so I crouched down, splashed the extremely cold water over my body, stood up and turned to walk back to the shore. Just as I turned to face the shore, a tour bus drove past, full of tourists. My moment of Scottish notoriety was complete.
I scrambled back to the shore, as quickly as I could, hoping that I could get dressed before any other strangers saw me naked. The rest of the ladies soon followed and we got dressed and sat and stared out over the loch, lost in our thoughts. Just then, one of the guys that had been in the group of people that had seen us in all of our glory, came strolling past ‘looking for firewood’. Right. He walked past us another few feet and then turned around and walked back, seemingly disappointed that he hadn’t found any firewood.
After that we sat for a good 30 minutes and watched sun move behind the clouds and occasionally poke through the clouds casting beams of light across the loch and in that moment I felt the presence of my Grandfather.
He died before I was born and I had come to Scotland to connect with my roots. I had visited the town that he was from and the cemetery where my ancestors were buried. I looked at the names of 7 generations of Nichols whose names were on the grave marker and it was humbling and awe-inspiring to look at the names on the marker and realize that I, we, any one person alive, is not an accident, that each of us, no matter what our story, is meant to be here. Because this person met this person and married and had this person who married this person and had this person who married this person and had this person…it’s a wonder that anyone of us could ever doubt that we were meant to be born.
I found it surprising that for the first time during my time in Scotland, that I felt connected to him here, on the banks of Loch Ness, far away from the town that he had grown up in, had left behind for a new life in Canada and had never returned to and mere weeks before I was set to go back to Canada. I think he was proud, not necessarily that I had gone skinny dipping in Loch Ness, but that I had felt it important to connect with my roots, his roots, through the country he had been born into and that stayed in his heart for the rest of his life.
From the moment I arrived in Scotland, she captured a part of my heart and didn’t let go. Her haunting, majestic beauty is the stuff of epic poems, emotional laments, and rousing pub songs. Her people are fierce and loving and proud. Scotland lives in my heart and in my blood and in still shots in my head. My name is Seanna Nichol and I am a grand-daughter of Scotland.