Welcome to the Highlands of Scotland said the sign visible from the dock in Invergordon. Just like in Dover, they drive on the left in Scotland, spend pounds, and are accustomed to their share of gray days, wind, and rain. Today would prove no exception. From the ship, as a matter of fact, the trees in the distance looked black because of the low, dark cloud cover. Scotland, the land of tartans, Braveheart, clans, kilts, bagpipes, and distilleries (120 legal ones we were told), has more sheep than people. Their national flower is the thistle and their road signs are in Gallic and English. We were excited to explore Scotland for the first time.
After a a quick breakfast in our room we enjoyed a very scenic 40-ish mile ride with a knowledgeable, fun, and funny guide who kept us entertained all day. She started by explaining that Scotland comprises the northern third of the United Kingdom and the highlands comprise the northern third of Scotland. It is too far north for wine grapes but ideal for whisky distilling and small amounts of berry wines and liqueurs. Our guide joked that Scots spell Whisky without an e because they like it neat. She also quipped that any whisky that evaporates during the aging process is considered a gift to the angels.
On our way to our first stop we passed charming farms with sheep (raised for meat, not wool) and horses in the pastures and small villages with homes made of red sandstone, rock, and stucco. Lush ferns carpeted the forest floors as well as the roadsides. The soft purple blossoms from the heather that was in bloom was a nice contrast to all the green. There were stone walls, hedgerows, bales of freshly cut hay, and window boxes. Everywhere we looked was clean, tidy, and just plain oozed charm. The dreary weather seemed to suit the landscape.
Our first stop of the day was on the shores of Loch (lake) Ness, the large, deep, freshwater home of the elusive Loch Ness Monster. Nessie to the locals. We were there to enjoy the ruins of the medieval Urquhart Castle, a stronghold magnificently situated on the water’s edge. Reputed to be the greatest castle of the Scottish Highlands, it was won and lost multiple times over a 500-year period. We climbed the tower to get a view of the large castle grounds and the beautiful lake. A trebuchet was on the grounds to tickle visitors’ imaginations. It is a type of massive catapult used to hurl large stone balls hundred of meters. Built of timber, rope, cord, animal hide, iron, and lead, it could be dismantled and relocated as needed.
From there we were off to Cawdor Castle, backdrop to King Duncan’s death in Macbeth, which is far from a ruin. Urban legend has it older than the first documented date of 1454. No matter, it’s old by anyone’s standard. The last major renovations and additions took place in the 17th and 18th centuries. It is massive, beautifully and comfortably furnished with old and new, has huge tapestries hanging on the walls, is still lived in by the Cawdors, has wonderfully laid out and maintained gardens, and unbelievable views. The family crest over the front door says Be Mindful. A bagpiper was near the car park to bid us a proper farewell.
Between stops we enjoyed a nice lunch, and I think Dan might have even snuck in a little shut-eye on the way back to the ship.
In light of our late lunch and long day we opted for a casual buffet dinner rather than going to the dining room. We were entertained tonight by vocalist Hanna Goodman who definitely had a beautiful voice. We all agreed, however, that her skirt, which was open almost the full length of both thighs, was a huge distraction.
Scotsman Robert Burns wrote “Auld Lang Syne” in 1788.
Andrew Carnegie, son of a weaver, left Scotland in 1848 at the age of 13 and
became a billionaire steel magnate.
Sir James Y. Simpson, a professor of midwifery, experimented with chloroform and went on to use it as an anesthetic to ease the pain of childbirth, which lead it
to be accepted in modern medicine.
Scottish scientist James Maxwell presented the world with its first
color photograph – of a tartan ribbon – in 1861.
In 1880 Dr Henry Faulds, a Scottish surgeon working in Japan, published
his idea of recording fingerprints with ink, and was the first
to identify fingerprints left on a glass bottle.
One thought on “Inverness, Scotland (August 16, 2019)”
You are the best travel writer! I felt like I was there! Thank you! A wonderful day!