Like many of Scotland's other mysterious loch creatures, the Loch Hourn monster prefers to keep to itself, and sightings are rare.
As far as I was able to discover, even with extensive research, the monster believed to be in Loch Hourn has only been seen a handful of times.
What makes some reported sightings from the late 1800's so incredible is that
Because of these two facts we're able to put together a detailed description of the creature, and it's behavior, by using the eyewitness statements given both at the time, and at later dates.
Loch Hourn is a fjord-like sea loch, located on the rugged western coast of Scotland.
In contrast to it's stunning scenery and wild beauty, the name of the loch is less than attractive as 'hourn' means 'Hell' in Gaelic!
Loch Hourn is 14 miles long, and has a maximum depth of about 600 feet. It's a sea loch because it's open to the Sound of Sleat at the western end. The Sound of Sleat is a stretch of ocean which separates the entrance to the loch from the Isle of Skye.
Its location is remote (even today there are no major roads in the area) and the Highland landscape is home to an abundance of native wildlife. As with many of Scotland's Highland lochs, accessibility is generally by foot, although you can take a minor road from Loch Garry into Kinloch Hourn.
The Kyle Rhea Strait connects the Sound of Sleat to Loch Aish, another sea loch. Loch Morar is about six miles south of Loch Hourn, and separated from the Sound of Sleat by less than a mile of land, and further inland sits Loch Oich, maybe four miles southeast of Loch Hourn.
As a sea loch, Loch Hourn has many currents and that can make boating on the loch unpredictable or even dangerous if you're not familiar with the area.
The most well documented, and intriguing, sighting of the creature who is said to live in Loch Hourn happened in 1872, when six people on a yacht which was traveling in both the loch, and the Sound of Sleat, had a close encounter with something very strange!
By Nick Bramhall from Aberdeen, UK - Loch Hourn, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=8316155
Here is a summary of the eye witness reports from this incredible experience.
Over a two day period in August of 1872, six people aboard the small yacht ‘Leda’ had several very close encounters with an enormous, strange creature in Loch Hourn.
They got the opportunity to watch it both from up close and at distance (there were several pairs of binoculars on the yacht), over an extended period of time during those two days, which is what gives us the amazingly detailed description of what sounds like a typical loch monster, albeit one who wasn’t afraid to be seen, or to interact with this vessel.
The first day (August 20th, 1872) the Leda left Gleneig (on the east coast of Kyle Rhea) and were sailing down Loch Hourn, heading toward the Sound of Sleat to sail down to Sandaig for dinner (Sandaig is near the mouth of Loch Nevis where it opens into the Sound and less than six miles from Loch Morar which is separated from the same open water by a narrow, approximately one mile long, stretch of water called the Morar.
One of the yacht's passengers, Miss Kate Macrae, was the first to notice something emerge from the water about half a mile behind the yacht, she described it as 'looking like a small barrel', almost immediately five other similar objects appeared, I’d imagine these were likely the creature’s humps or humped parts of a large body.
The creature swam away from the boat, and then came back again making little disturbance to the water in front but leaving a wake behind it. As it turned close by the yacht she noticed ‘something like a rounded paddle, the breadth of two hands worked to and fro raising the water in a clear dome as it went down’. A few minutes later the creature was about a mile behind the yacht, with all humps visible with a triangular fin estimated to be about 10ft tall stickingfrom one of the humps.
Of that same encounter, Gilbert Bogle recalled clearly seeing the color of the creature and described it as ‘dark, slaty brown’, he also noticed a small fin on the back, or neck, of the creature. They watched this creature as it cruised around and across the lake's surface for over an hour, and noted that the faster it moved the fewer bumps were visible.
Another of the yacht’s passengers, Miss Forbes J. Macrae stated that she got a much closer look at the creature (or part of it at least) before the reported sighting above, but didn’t realize what she’d seen until after that second sighting.
She said that she had noticed ‘a dark brown shining creature’ floating motionless in the water about an oars length from the yacht. About 6 feet of it was visible rising a foot above the waterline. She had asked Rev. J. Macrae (her father) if porpoises were in the habit of floating like that and he had replied that he wasn’t aware of it if they did.
She hadn't thought any more about it until the creature started moving and showing itself more clearly later on but in hindsight, as an oar could have been between 9 and 12 feet long, she had most likely been almost close enough to reach out and touch the monster of Loch Hourn.
On the journey back to Glendeig from Sandaig (out in the Sound of Sleat) the yacht's passengers saw the creature again briefly, but there were other noisy watercraft on the open water and it disappeared quite quickly without being seen again that night.
The following afternoon, August 21st 1872 , the Leda set sail from oyster beds near the head of Loch Hourn, headed for Gleneig.
When they reached the mouth of the loch where it opened up into the Sound of Sleat the creature they had seen the previous day reappeared (this is the same location as it had been seen the day before).
It approached the yacht at speed, diving beneath the water and reappearing, closer than it had been the day before. So close in fact that several of the eye witnesses said that they could clearly hear the ‘rushing sound of the breaking water’. This time no humps were visible, with the creature resembling ‘a log being pulled through water at speed’.
There were what was described as ‘trading schooners’ on the loch at the same time and by using these the witnesses were able to estimate the VISIBLE length of the creature to be a whopping sixty feet or so, with there being no way to know how much of it was still underwater!
My research shows that trading schooners at that time were an average of 70 feet long and estimated to weigh about 100 tons each.
As the progress of this creature could be seen from a distance of even two or three miles, it’s size would have been significant.
On seeing the creatures head, Gilbert Bogle described it as being ‘square or blunt’ and after having being able to view the creature several times, in several positions over the two days, he stated that he was inclined to think the bumps were ‘protuberances on the back of, possibly, a lizard shaped reptile’ rather than the convolutions of a snake like body (this was due to the fact that the distance between them didn’t vary).
Kate Macrae said at one point that evening she saw as many as twelve humps rise above the water line, and that the creature eventually turned north and disappeared into the Kyle Rhea. Gilbert is documented as saying the same thing, adding that there were reports by fishermen and others in and around Kyle Rhea that evening who saw a strange creature passing through the narrow waterway.
As a man familiar with, and having spent considerable time on, Highland lochs, Gilbert ends his personal account by saying ‘I am perfectly familiar with the appearance and habits of whales, seals, porpoises etc. to these, the creature I have described bore no resemblance whatever.’
Eyewitness report by Rev John Macrae (Minister of Gleneig) and Rev David Twopeny .
The eyewitness accounts of the two minsters are, as you’d expect, pretty much the same as those of the other passengers on the yacht.
Their observations were in line with Giblert Bogle’s belief that the humps weren’t produced by a snake-like body or undulations of an eel like creature… ‘There was no appearance of undulation; when the lumps sank, other lumps did not rise in the interval between them.’
Also in line with the other eye-witnesses reports, when seeing the creature from a further distance the second day, both men thought that it appeared longer than it had the first day, estimating it to be at least 60 feet.
Although nothing has ever come close to the detailed account of the Loch Hourn monster which was given by the passengers of the Leda, it has been seen on other occasions.
In the 1950's a nine year old boy named Willie MacKenzie got his own up close and personal encounter with the creature of the loch.
Will was sitting near the water of Loch Hourn when the head of a huge creature with a long neck rose up about ten feet out of the water only about 250ft away from him.
The boy was so terrified (not surprisingly) that it’s reported he had to be forced to get back in his father’s boat to return home, and for the rest of his life was anxious when crossing that part of the loch.
Around that same time there was also a sighting of the Loch Hourn monster by a couple in Sandaig (on the coast of the Sound of Sleat).
Clearly the monster was very active during those few days back in 1872, and then again in the period surrounding those 1950’s sightings.
Of course we’ll never know why, and it could have been more than one creature that was being seen. With Scotland's loch creatures there are way more questions than answers!