After a much appreciated Sea day on Wednesday, Thursday we docked in the small port of Invergordon which is about 45 minutes away from Inverness. We took a guided coach tour to see Urquart Castle, a cruise along Loch Ness, drive through Inverness, and then finish with a tour of the Culloden battlefield. We particularly enjoyed the haunting ruins of Urquart Castle which is situated on the edge of Loch Ness, and it's rumored that Nessie, the Loch Ness Monster, sleeps in a cave under the castle. No sightings for us this time though. We head to Edinburgh next, which is our final stop in Scotland.
Urquhart Castle, Loch Ness, and Culloden Details
Urquhart castle had been spoken of highly but we were not sure what to expect since it's in ruins, unlike all the mostly restore castles we had visited so far. The visitor center had some good artificats on display and an excellent exhibit on castle life and the people and the roles they played in the castle. There was an 8 minute video that explained the history of the castle and showed some estimated reconstruction drawings of what it would have been like in its hey day. During the Jacobite Rebellion, the Stuart supporters who held the castle at the time decided to explode all the powder magazine stores and destroy the castle when they left, rather than leave it for the Jacobite supporters to be used as a stronghold.
My quest for the best scone in Britain continues and we grabbed a fruited scone from the cafe and covered it with strawberry jam for me and raspberry jam for the Engineer and munched it as we walked down the hill to the edge of Loch Ness where the castle sits. We then wandered through what used to be rooms and towers. The nice things about having all the walls missing is that you get beautiful views of the loch! We had a beautiful sunny morning with just a hint of list clinging to the cool waters of the loch. You can definitely see how people could misinterpret the dwindling boat wakes as stirrings of a monster in the deep.
We boarded the Jacobite Queen and took a 20 minute cruise along the loch. I tried the Thistly hard cider and we just had to try the haggis flavored crisps/chips. They actually tasted quite good, almost a barbecue like flavor. We had lunch at a hotel at the end of the loch, featuring melon starter, haddock with carrots and potatoes, and berry cheesecake to finish. The Engineer had whatever stout they were offering and I tried the pilsner.
After boarding the coach we drove about 45 minutes to the Culloden battlefield where the 1745 Jacobite supporters who revolted against the Stuarts were brutally slaughtered by English troops. This battle ended the Jacobite cause to restore King James II to the throne and was the start of the end for the Scottish clans since after this battle weapons, bagpipes, and the tartan were out banned. It was particularly exciting for me to visit since I recently read the series of books called Outlander, which is historical fiction that takes place in Scotland during this time period. The main character of the book is from Clan Fraser and several people had main flowers on the Fraser clan gravestone on the field. They just turned the books into a TV series on Starz so it's gained a lot of popularity.
On the drive back we heard from our guide about the Scottish maritime industry which has dwindled in the past 30 years, but the port of Invergordon where we docked has become a leading destination for oil rig repairs and they are expanding their capacity since business is booming. Whiskey is the #1 export, with the US being the biggest market, followed by Asia and Africa is starting to have a large business as well.
Scotland is coming up on a referendum which I think I mentioned in my post about Glasgow. They vote in 2 weeks to decide if they should separate from the United Kingdom. In the lowlands near Glasgow, we saw more "No" supporters, but in the Highlands we saw more "Yes" signs in shops and yards. Our guide said there has been good debate and discussions and a record number of voter registrations, which is all good, but it seems that the vote is going to be very close which is unfortunate. It would be preferable if the vote was strongly for or against rather than nearly equal.
Off to Edinburgh next!