Ever since Drumnadrochit hotel manageress Aldie Mackay spotted “a beast” thrashing in Loch Ness 90 years ago this month, the tale of Nessie has been a magnet for tourists and monster hunters from around the world.

Now a new £1.5m visitor attraction hopes to ignite the same interest in the story – both fact and fiction – of the Loch Ness monster, among rather more jaded Scots.

Set to open next month, the business behind the revamped Loch Ness Centre has borrowed the same kind of high-tech and immersive storytelling it uses at its other attractions, The Real Mary King’s Close in Edinburgh, and its Emmerdale and Coronation St tours in England, in the hope of attracting new generations of visitors.

Intended to offer a mix of scientific research as well as tell the story behind the famous sightings, the overhauled Nessie attraction has been designed as an “immersive experience” and includes a recreation of the very hotel bar where Mrs Mackay first spoke publicly of her sighting.

She spotted a large whale like creature thrashing in the loch in mid-April 1933, and later described what she’d seen to customers in the bar at Drumnadrochit Hotel. The story eventually made its way into a local newspaper, igniting interest in the whereabouts of the Loch Ness Monster that has now spanned 90 years.

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But while Nessie hunting has become a ‘must do’ adventure for tourists, the story has been less embraced by modern Scots, especially those eager to shed Scotland’s ‘tartan, mist and Brigadoon’ image.

Now it’s hoped the revamped attraction – located in the original Drumnadrochit Hotel where Mrs Mackay worked – will encourage homegrown Scots to learn more about the mysteries of the loch, Nessie’s global phenomenon and the fascinating geological features that make the Great Glen unique.

Julianna Delaney, CEO of Continiuum Attractions, the group developing the revamped centre, said a key hope for the new centre is to encourage Scots who may assume the Nessie story is strictly for tartan tourists.

“The Loch Ness Monster story is part of Scottish DNA. It’s part of the country’s history and heritage and we should embrace it, not abandon it,” she said.

“Ask people in America and across Asia if they have heard of the Loch Ness Monster and they will probably say ‘yes’. In terms of brand, it’s probably bigger than Coca-Cola – it’s a genuine ‘monster’ brand.”



She added that the Centre aims to step away from the “cliches” and allegations of ‘tacky tourism’ that have shadowed the Nessie story, with new focus on Scottish traditions, myths and legends.

“As well as a nod to entertainment, the story is presented with recognition that the facts are more interesting than fiction,” she added.

“In many sightings, there’s a rational explanation and the mysteries of the loch can be explained by scientific evidence. But in amongst those are some that are still unexplained.”

The original Drumnadrochit Hotel where Mrs Mackay worked was damaged by fire. The Loch Ness Centre opened on the site, and the original hotel bedrooms are still intact on its upper floors.

While the area around Drumnadrochit is a focal point for Nessie hunters who have used increasingly advanced technology in an effort to solve the riddle of what might lurk beneath the loch’s glassy surface.

Read more: Loch Ness monster: What's the story behind Scotland's famous beastie?

Some, however, have been less sophisticated: actor Charlie Sheen is among the more famous to search the loch for Nessie. He turned up at the loch with a leg of lamb in the hope of enticing the beast to the surface.

Alleged sightings continue to grow: last week Eoin O’Faodhagain, who monitors Loch Ness through a webcam, claimed he had spotted a monster in the water. The sighting is said to have come two weeks after he’d spotted two humps emerging from the water.

And according to the Official Loch Ness Sightings Register, there have been 1144 sightings to date, although other sources suggest the figure could be double that.

The new exhibition and centre will use the same kinds of techniques to engage visitors as have proved popular at its other attractions. In Edinburgh, the Real Mary King’s Close, which takes visitors underneath the city’s Old Town to preserved streets and spaces where the real Mary King once lived, has had more than 2.5million visitor since it opened in 2003.

It uses a range of sophisticated techniques to bring the smells and sights of old Edinburgh life, with features such as augmented reality guidebook.

HeraldScotland: The Loch Ness Monster. Picture: Keystone/Getty Images.

Ms Delaney said: "We'll take people to the hotel bar where Mrs Mackay told her story and started the media frenzy - it's an immersive experience which will use modern technology to recreate events  - it's not just a story of the monster."

She said it’s hoped that Scots might be tempted to explore a story that they may think they already know: “People might think it’s for tourists, but we say it’s your story, why wouldn’t you want to visit?

“It’s a real place, based on a real story, and the centre is on the spot where Aldie Mackay told her story 90 years ago and started a media frenzy. It’s not just a story about a monster.”