Thursday, June 6 – You Take The High Road; I’ll Take the Low Road – We’ll Get Wet Together

Arriving at Invergordon port at 9:00 so I slept in until 6:00. We needed to be off the ship as soon as they cleared as we had a long tour with WOW Scotland tour company today. Already raining and the sky didn’t look like it would clear anytime soon. Today’s tour was going to concentrate on the Scottish Highlands. I like MC Beaton’s Hamish MacBeth books so I was looking forward to seeing sites that had been described in the book.

I had already contacted the Company about the change in pier and in the change of time. We had been scheduled from 8:00 to 6:00 but had to change to 9:00 to 7:00 and pier because of another ship arrival/departure. They had already received that information but better to be safe. The larger ship – the Balmoral – was already docked.

It was raining buckets and the shuttle busses had not come yet. Some people had been let off the ship and were standing under the rain shelter waiting for the first shuttle. They held the rest of us back. If the weather had been good, we could have walked the pier even though it was long but with the rain, we would have been pretty miserable. 

Shuttles finally started running and we got the next one. We met Rob, the tour company representative, at the end of the pier and he got us checked in and directed to the 30 seater bus. There were 24 of us on this tour. Rob was also our driver and narrator for the day. He was dressed the traditional kilt.

Our first stop was the town of Beauly. As it was still raining pretty hard, we had a choice of touring the graveyard of the Priory Church of the Blessed Virgin and John the Baptist, founded in 1230. Some did choose to go, Chuck and I did not. Instead, we went to a local bakery. I got a chocolate éclair and hot chocolate. The hot chocolate was not what I was expecting. It was a dark chocolate taste – not as sweet as what I am used to having. I did enjoy it. Chuck got coffee and a chocolate éclair. I think we made a good choice. Others saw where we were headed and followed.

Our next stop was the city of Inverness. It is the Capital of the Highlands and it sits at the mouth of the River Ness which flows from Loch Ness. We had several options here. We could have walked across the river footbridge to the Inverness Castle. But, it is a working government building so you cannot go in just to look around. We could have strolled up and down the river walkway, or we could have gone shopping. As it was still raining, we decided to stay close and tour the Cathedral Church of St. Andrew. It is a Scottish Episcopal church finished in 1869. However, they ran out of money before they could build the big twin spires that was part of the original design so they have flat columns. It was very ornate inside. We contributed to the church funds by purchasing a sandwich and hot tea from their small café.

We drove up and down the hills of the moor and he pointed out the peat bogs, the types of trees (a lot of pine), the heather, and the flowering yellow bushes called Gorse. We saw a number of sheep, some cows, including the hairy Highland cows (although they were too far away for a picture), and even some alpacas.

Our next stop was at the bank of the Loch Ness. We met Steve, the Nessie Hunter. He was a successful stockbroker in London who gave it all up to search for Nessie for the last 27 years. He lives in an old converted camper and sells Nessie models (and takes donations). He has a website. He is either a genius or a kook. I think the jury is still out. We looked for Nessie but all we saw were ducks. It was a very peaceful setting so personally I am glad the scene wasn’t disrupted by a man-eating sea monster. However, I would have liked to have gotten a Nessie Christmas ornament.

We left Loch Ness and drove through some more interesting countryside and came to the Culloden Battlefield. Vast stretches of boggy flat land. During our tour of the Edinburgh Castle, we had heard about the Jacobite (supporters of the deposed James II and his descendants in their claim to the British throne after the Revolution of 1688) uprising and Bonnie Prince Charlie who wanted his Scottish family (the Stuarts) returned to the British throne. Now we were at the site of the final confrontation between the Jacobites and the British Army.

So you have some Scottish clansmen, who were mostly farmers, going to fight the British government forces. Didn’t turn out so well for the clansmen. The British waited for the Scotsmen to charge with their swords and bayonets and watched them getting bogged down in the soggy peat. The army then picked them off like birds. It is said the “battle” lasted about an hour and the Jacobites lost around 2000 men while the British lost about 300. The ones who made it back home were stripped of their land and had to leave. It is said that Prince Charlie escaped to France and died of a stroke at 61. The Stuarts never made it to the throne. Too bad they didn’t have a dragon to help in their Game of Thrones.

We also got to see a stone house with the thatch roof that would have housed one family and their few animals. Had to heat with smoking peat and the thatch soaked in and released the smoke to the outside. I still think it must have been hard to breathe in there.

It was really raining by this time and even with my rain gear, I was feeling damp and getting cold. I was ready to go back to the ship but we had one more stop to make.

Last stop was to the Clava Cairns. No one really knows how these circular stone burial structures and various standing stones came to exist but they date back from the Bronze Age and the circular structure openings align with the winter solstice so that the inside of the Cairn lights up from the sun on that day – some think so that the souls can find their passage way. Or maybe the whole site was built by aliens. It’s a mystery.

The traffic was pretty heavy getting back to the port. I’m glad I was not doing the driving because between the traffic, the round-abouts, and being on the left side of the road, I would have caused a major pile-up. But Rob got us back in plenty of time before the ship departed. I am sorry it rained on us most of the day but Rob did a great job and I am glad we chose WOW Scotland.

We were ready for some hot coffee and to get out of our damp clothes. Got changed and cleaned up in time to go to the Ocean’s Bar. Before we left port, a bagpipe and drum band came to play and some young women did some Scottish dances for us at the port. I felt bad for them as it was still so cold and windy even though the rain had stopped. We cheered them on from the decks.

We were delayed leaving by the same ship that made us change ports and time. We were supposed to follow it out but they had a medical emergency and were waiting for an ambulance to take someone to the hospital. Hope the person(s) was okay.

Dinner was a steak salad for me and roast chicken for Chuck. We sat at a table for four with a nice couple. She was from Australia and he was from England. They split their time between the two places since they have opposite summers. Not a bad way to avoid winters.

The show tonight was called Silver Screen and featured songs from various movies. Again, the Prinsendam singers and dancers did a good job but I still preferred their first show.

Laundry was back so I got that put away. Tonight’s towel animal is an elephant. Tomorrow we will arrive in Scrabster. I’m afraid to look at the weather report.

Inverness Trivia

Mary Queen of Scots ordered the hanging of the Governor of Inverness Castle because the Governor did not permit the Queen to enter the Burgh.

Loch Ness is the second largest loch in Scotland with depths reaching over 750 feet. It holds more fresh water than all the lochs and lakes in England and Wales combined. It is 23 miles long, about a mile wide and never freezes.

Inverness Castle
St. Andrew’s Cathedral Church – No spires
Church entrance
All kneeling cushions had some sort of design
Original Stained Glass
Marble Statue – “The Angel of Baptism”
The Alter
Gorse in the foreground. Loch Ness in the background.
Still Smiling Despite the Rain
Looking for Nessie
Found Ducks
Still Searching
Home Sweet Camper
Flags Mark Spots where British Army lined up and shot the Jacobites mired up in the peat bogs.
Rob Describing the Battle
Home Sweet Home for Your Family and Your Farm Animals
One of the Burial Cairns with the Entrance Facing the Winter Solstice Light

Author: mmmtravelmemories

A retired college administrator who loves to travel. I write to remember the experiences and, I hope, to inspire others to make their own travel memories.

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