After leaving York, we took a train journey to Edinburgh, where we spent 3 nights. However, we will be returning to Edinburgh for 2 more nights later in our trip so I am going to hold off blogging about our time there until after our next visit.
To leave Edinburgh, we headed by taxi to the airport – we weren’t taking a plane, but were picking up a rental car. Apparently Hertz is the rental car agency of choice at that location, as we had to wait in a long line-up for close to an hour to claim our car (I guess the low prices that appealed to us also appealed to most everyone).
Once we had our Vauxhaul Corsa, we were on our way. Harvey had no problem immediately adapting to driving on the left side of the road and navigating through the round-abouts (aka traffic circles) that appear at almost every intersection – including on major motorways.
We crossed the bridge across the Firth of Forth and headed north. Along the way, we made a few stops. We visited a couple of small villages – Culross and Falkland. Culross is a rustic little Scottish town that harkens back to previous centuries. For those of you who are Outlander fans (I am a big fan of the books and Harvey & I have both watched the TV series), Culross was where shots for the village of Crainsmuir were shot. Falkland stood in for 1940’s & 1960’s Inverness in the show and you may recognize the statue and some of the buildings.
We also stopped at a very interesting castle – Aberdour Castle. This castle is among the oldest masonry castles still standing in Scotland. Parts of the structure date back to the mid-1100s. In 1325, Robert the Bruce granted Aberdour to his nephew, Thomas Randolph, the Earl of Moray. Later it was passed to Sir William Douglas, a soldier knows as the ‘The Flower of Chivalry”.
Next to the castle sits St Fillan’s Church. Parts of this church date back to at least 1123. It was abandoned and fell into ruin but has been restored and now serves the Aberdour parish again.
The drive to Inverness passes through the Cairngorms National Park, with great views of the gently rugged Highlands scenery.
Hotels in Inverness seem to be ridiculously priced in relation to their quality. Our hotel, the North Kessock Hotel, was perfectly acceptable; however, it is the most expensive hotel of our trip and definitely the lowest on the quality scale. Others have told me they had similar experiences. It did have a great view of the Beauly Firth.
Inverness itself has little in the way of sights and with only one day to spend there, we really didn’t see much of the city, but found it to be an excellent location for accessing some of the sights that we wanted to visit.
The Culloden Moor played a significant part in British history. It is here on April 16, 1746 that Jacobite troops under the command of Prince Charles Edward Stuart (aka, Bonnie Prince Charlie) were defeated by the army supporting King George II. It is often thought that this was a battle between the Scots and the English, or the Catholics and the Protestants, but in fact, there was a mix of each on both sides. It actually was a civil war between rival dynasties – the Stuarts versus the Hanovers, with participants fighting over who they wanted to be the King of England & Scotland.
The Jacobite army had several victories under their belt, but unfortunately, were tired, hungry and ill-prepared for the Culloden Battle and in less than an hour, the government forces routed the Jacobite army. This battle was the end of 60 years of Jacobite rebellions, the last major battle fought on British soil, and the final stand of the Highlanders.
The exhibits at the Culloden Battlefield are world-class and present the story from both sides in various types of presentations. We took part in an inside highlight tour and a battlefield tour, as well as watching presentations and the excellent 360° movie (where you feel you are in the midst of the battle itself). We would highly recommend this centre to anyone visiting the area. Photographs of the exhibits were not allowed, but we were able to take some of the battlefield.
From Culloden, we drove a short distance down the road to Balnuaran of Clava or the Clava Cairns. At this site are Neolithic burial chambers from 4000 years ago. The three cairns are surrounded by stone circles and evocative trees. Two of the cairns have access passages that line up with the setting sun at the winter solstice. There is mystery to this Bronze Age site and it leaves one with a sense of awe.
Our next stop was at Fort George. This fort, at the entrance to the Beauly Firth, was built in the wake of the Battle of Culloden (1746) as a secure base for King George II’s army. The imposing fort took 22 years to complete, by which time the Jacobite threat had subsided but it has served the British Army for the almost 250 years since.
We walked the ramparts and visited a few of the exhibits but did not delve into all the detailed British military historical information that was available.
We then took the road to the Dallas Dhu Historic Distillery. The distillery was a producer of single malt Scotch whiskey that operated between 1899 and 1983. Today it is a museum with an excellent self-guided tour with an audio guide. At the end of the tour, you are invited to sample a dram of whiskey while you watch a short historical film. Surprisingly, I actually enjoyed the dram (not being a whiskey drinker at all).
As an aside, today we used our Historical Scotland Explorer Pass for admission at many of the sites. These passes cost us £36 each (senior rate) and include admission to a number of sites for a 14 day period, including Edinburgh and Sterling Castles. It’s a great deal if you plan on visiting a few historic sites.
After the distillery, we stopped in at Elgin Cathedral. Begun in 1224, Elgin was the principal church of the bishops of Moray and was known as the ‘Lantern of the North’. It lost its roof shortly after the Protestant Reformation of 1560, and later its central tower fell. But the cathedral’s fortunes began to change when it became a visitor attraction in the early 1800s. Today, even as a ruin, the cathedral shines out as one of Scotland’s most ambitious and beautiful medieval buildings.
We made our way back to Inverness through a couple of coastal towns – Lossiemouth and Burghead.
Our culinary experiences in Inverness were forgettable – one being Quarter Pounders & fries and the other at a chain type restaurant. I’m sure there are better places to eat, but we were taking a break in searching those out. 🙂
Bev & Harvey