A Nessie hunter who has devoted half his life to searching for the elusive monster has been honoured by tourism leaders for helping promote Loch Ness to the world.
Steve Feltham, who this year marks 25 years as a full-time monster seeker, was named Ambassador of the Year at the Highlands and Islands Tourism Awards (HITA).
Steve Feltham’s fascination for the loch started during a family holiday in 1970 which included a visit to the Loch Ness Investigation Bureau, a team of volunteers who each summer set up a makeshift camp near Urquhart Castle.
In 1991, while in his 20s, he gave up his house and job in the family burglar alarm company in Dorset and moved to the Highlands to follow his dream. He settled at a spectacular location on the foreshore at the loch-side village of Dores, from where he has maintained his vigil, sustaining himself by making model monsters.
He has been recognised by the Guinness Book of World Record for the longest continuous vigil hunting for the Loch Ness monster.
Steve’s name has become synonymous with the world-famous loch and he is a familiar figure with locals and visitors. Businesses around Loch Ness regard him as an asset to tourism and the awards organisers say he is a walking PR company for the promotion of Loch Ness as a tourist destination, having featured in countless media programmes and articles about Nessie and the area.
He said: “Winning this award makes me realise that what I’ve been doing for two and a half decades doesn’t just make my heart sing, it has a knock-on effect for the tourism industry in the Highlands of Scotland.”
The Ambassador title is a special award given by the HITA Board to an individual who ‘goes the extra mile’ in contributing to the success of tourism in the Highlands and Islands.
Craig Ewan, HITA chairman, said it was fitting to make the award in Steve’s 25th year at Loch Ness: “Our worthy winner has immersed himself in a narrative which has become as popular as the area, attracting over 1 million visitors annually and generating in excess of £30 million to the local economy.
“He has contributed to the legend and become part of one of the greatest unsolved mysteries of the world. He has promoted the area all these years through countless television and media appearances, entertaining tourists and celebrities alike who have come to see the loch and purchase one of his hand-crafted model Nessies.”