Monday, March 23, 2015


My love affair with Diana Gabaldon's 'Outlander' series and Geoff's desire to spot the Loch Ness monster were the impetus for a day trip north to Inverness.

There are two ways to get to Inverness from Kyle of Lochalsh. We took the low road this morning. It was fine enough when we left the cottage but by the time we got to Loch Ness it was freezing cold and raining so a planned trip to Urquhart Castle was abandoned. Loch Ness is much longer and larger than I had imagined and probably the least attractive of all the magnificent waterways we've seen in the last 3 days. Its deepest point is 230 metres and it holds more water than all the other lochs and rivers in England and Scotland combined. Any romantic notions we had about 'Nessie' were squashed at the Loch Ness Centre. Here we saw all the scientific proof we needed to assure us that there was never anything unusual about the loch except perhaps for the world's gullibility in listening to the rumours. All power though to the early shysters who initiated this myth because the businesses around the loch are still thriving on the hoax to this very day! The Loch Ness Centre wasn't terribly expensive and just as well. I struggled to stay awake through the series of audio visual displays (complete with very unlifelike mannequins dressed in 70s fashion) showing all the ways the monster myth has been disproved. Luckily the extreme cold in display the rooms kept me from nodding off.

In Inverness we stopped briefly for a wander through the Victoria Market (a wee bit different to the one at home!) and a bite to eat. I had a bridie. I'm not at all sure what was in it but it tasted like a pie in a pastie shape. The people in Inverness looked a bit sombre and I wondered why Claire and Frank ( Outlander reference) ever went there in the first place!

Our next stop was the Culloden Battlefields. This attraction did live up to its reputation and was well worth the admission. A series of interactive displays detailed the background of conflict leading up to the battle of Culloden and then a big screen surround sound re enactment allows you to get an idea of how the battle played out. The guides were very helpful and knowledgeable and Taine and Geoff enjoyed playing with the weapons.

After you visit the centre its possible to walk on the actual battlefield. Wearing audio headphones describing the different parts of the moor, you get a real feel for the plight of the Jacobites. It's remarkable to think of all the lives lost in this short battle, many of them buried in mass clan graves on the site.

From Culloden we followed up another Outlander reference, visiting the Clava Cairns, a set of standing stones just outside Inverness. The sense of history in this place is undeniable. I don't know who built the cairns; who, what or how they worshipped but the atmosphere is overwhelmingly spiritual. It's hard to make sense of your place in the universe when you consider that the people who are buried here lived 2000 years BC. The precision of the stone placement ( let alone the technology needed to transport the stones) is bewildering but empowering at the same time. When we looked online tonight we noted that the Clava Cairns barely rate a mention on travel reviews of the area. For me, it was a highlight and should be at the top of everyone's Inverness bucket list.

After a quick trip to Tescos ( I think this is the UK equivalent of Walmart) we took the high road home and it was spectacular! So many incredible colours and images; wild bucks grazing, delicate waterfalls on the side of the road, heather covered moors and wispy smoke tendrils from the stone cottages that dot the landscape. After our visit to Culloden it was great to see this wild part of the Highlands where you can easily imagine the surviving Jacobites fleeing from the Redcoats. It's this part of the country that Bonnie Prince Charlie would have traversed on his escape to Skye. Given the failing light and one lane mountain roads, we probably should have driven his road in the morning but the blind turns and hidden dips in the twilight added a sense of adventure to the day!

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