Monster row now extinct after 20 years

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PEACE finally arrived to the shores of Loch Ness yesterday via the signing of a deal in a court 16 miles away.

• The two business operators have agreed to rename the respective Loch Ness vistor centres. Pictures: PA

For more than 20 years a feud between two rival businesses simmered away behind the welcome offered to the half-a-million tourists attracted to the loch-side village of Drumnadrochit every year.

Despite being just 100 yards apart, the operators grew more and more distant over the years until they were finally brought together in an Inverness court, separated by the width of a sheriff's table.

Yesterday the fighting ended with hopes that, unlike the monster, it will not rear its head in the immediate future.

As outlined in The Scotsman, an action at Inverness Sheriff Court was due to run all week but at 8.30am yesterday lawyers said they had settled without any evidence having to be heard.

In agreeing the out-of-court settlement, the businesses will make changes to their operating names, the latest in a series of alterations which many people locally say has left visitors confused down the years.

David and Robert Bremner, operators of the Loch Ness Monster Exhibition Centre, raised the action against its rival, the Loch Ness Monster Visitor Centre, run by Donald and Gillian Skinner.

The latter has now changed its name to Nessieland Castle Monster Centre, while the former will be known as the Loch Ness Centre and Exhibition.

No further details of the settlement were revealed, but in drawing to a close a case which was due to last five days, Bobby MacDonald, representing the Skinners, told Sheriff Ian Abercrombie: "I am happy to say all matters have been resolved."

The news was welcomed locally. Margaret Davidson, a Highland councillor, said: "I'm pleased for the locals and visitors as over the last two years things have just got out of hand in the village.

"We cannot afford to have visitors confused or disappointed. There was many a year when we gave a wry smile (about the dispute). But in recent years it really went beyond that."

Those promoting tourism in Loch Ness and beyond also welcomed the agreement.

Graham Ambrose, of the Destination Loch Ness promotion group, said: "Hopefully, the matter has now been resolved and we will move on."

And a spokeswoman for VisitScotland added: "This is great news as Loch Ness remains a key element of Scottish tourism and plays an important role in attracting domestic and international visitors to the Highlands of Scotland. We welcome the proposed name changes."

Over 30 years ago the late Ronnie Bremner set up the ‘‘official'' Loch Ness Monster Exhibition Centre and was followed in 1987 by Donald Skinner who opened the ‘‘original'' Monster Exhibition.

In the late 80s and early 90s the pair were frequently at loggerheads. The dispute continued after Mr Bremner's sons took over the business. In the court action they claimed more than 1.3 million for lost profits since the Skinners' centre opened.

It was claimed the Skinners deliberately tried to drive away customers from the Bremners' centre and confuse the public by using similar names and a similar colour scheme on promotion material to their company. All the allegations were denied by the Skinners.

Tony Harmsworth, chairman of the local chamber of commerce, said people were confused by the rival signs. Speaking in a personal capacity, he said the feud may have generated priceless publicity for both centres. He added: "However, people who have never been in either exhibition have no idea what the arguments are and don't appreciate how they've developed over the years. It's like a stranger thinking he knows what's going on in divorce proceedings."