What an incredible time we’ve had in this beautiful country; I can’t imagine how it could have been much better. We walked around Inverness yesterday after our REI guide, Angela, dropped us off, and it rained lightly off and on. I had one of the best pizzas I’ve ever eaten for dinner last night – yeah, in Scotland, go figure (aubergine, bell peppers, mushrooms, artichokes, pesto, goat cheese and mozzarella). This morning we woke up to full-blown proper Scottish rain, and much cooler temperatures. After a breakfast of porridge (oatmeal), poached eggs, and tomatoes (add bacon in Kurt’s case), Zane, our female tour guide (her father was a big fan of the American author Zane Grey) from the WOW Scotland tour company, picked us up outside our B&B, and we promptly headed off for a combination Scotch whisky tour and a viewing of an occasional golf course (for Kurt), and historical/spiritual Scotland (for both of us). Zane is a wonderful guide, with what we are coming to realize is a lovely national wit and sense of humor.
This will be my last blog post, which is good, because frankly, I’m running out of steam! Kurt may do another guest blogger stint re: his Scotch whisky tour today, so I’ll leave that to him. This will also be a somewhat lengthy post, since we really packed in a lot this morning, as all of our points of interest were within a few miles of one another. So if you just like to see the photos and don’t care too much about my personal, or the historical, commentary, you can skip to the pictures below.
Our first stop was to an ancient site outside of Inverness, the very interesting Clava Cairns (the perfect stop for me, eh, loving a good cairn as I do). Clava Cairns is the site of an exceptionally well preserved group of prehistoric burial cairns that were built about 4,000 years ago. The Bronze Age cemetery complex comprises of passage graves, ring cairns, kerb cairn, standing stones in a beautiful setting and the remains of a chapel of unknown date. Like Stonehenge in England, there is a connection between the architecture of the Cairns and their relationship with the rising and setting sun. One of the interesting things about the site, as with many such ancient sites in both Ireland and Scotland (and many other places around the world, I’m sure), is the co-existance of the old and the new side by side. A farm road cuts through the edge of the Cairns site, as you will see in one of the photos. It must have begun, as Zane told us, as a simple route for the cows to come home, and then evolved into a bona fide country road.
After the Clava Cairns, we went to the historic battlefield of Culloden, just a few miles away. The battle of Culloden was the last pitched battle on the British mainland. It was the last battle of the final Jacobite Rising (supporters of the restoration of the House of Stuart) that commenced in 1745 when Charles Edward Stuart (Bonnie Prince Charlie), grandson of the exiled King James VIII & III, arrived in Scotland from France to raise his standard at Glenfinnan, his aim being to put his father on the throne in place of the Hanoverian George II. The battle was a total and bloody defeat for the Jacobites, as never again would an armed uprising be used in the attempt to return the Stuarts to the throne. As the battlefield was rainy and muddy this morning, I spent my time in the excellent Visitor’s Centre and allowed Kurt and Zane to do the dirty work, as it were, schlepping around in the actual battlefield.
Next, we saw Rodney’s Stone, which is a two-metre high Pictish cross slab now located close to Brodie Castle near the village of Forres. The Picts were a group of Late Iron Age and Early Medieval Celtic people living in ancient eastern and northern Scotland. Rodney’s Stone is designated as a Class II Pictish stone, which means that it has a cross on one side, and Pictish symbols on the other. On the Pictish side there are depictions of sea monsters, a double (or mirror) disc, and a z-rod. It is beautiful. On it is a Pictish inscription which is written in the ancient Ogham alphabet, and contains the name Ethernan, who is a prominent Pictish saint.
After Rodney’s Stone, we went to see the ruins of Elgin Cathedral in, appropriately enough, the town of Elgin. One of Scotland’s most beautiful medieval buildings, Elgin Cathedral is a magnificent ruin, much of which dates back to the 13th century.
From Elgin we went for lunch to the nearby Craigellachie Hotel, built in 1893, near the River Spey. Kurt originally wanted to stay here (before we ran out of time and money), because it is a superb venue for exploring this area, and for sampling some of the 650 (!) different malt whiskies displayed in Craigellachie Hotel’s world famous Quaich Bar, which range in price from 3 pounds to 275 pounds per dram. The Speyside area of Scotland is famous for its malt whiskies. While every single last drop of Scotch Whisky in the world is made in Scotland (of course), half of the world’s malt whisky distilleries are on the Speyside doorstep. Which is why I am now in the lovely Craigellachie Hotel library working on this blog, and Kurt has been spirited off (so to speak) by Zane to the nearby Aberlour distillery for a tour and tasting.
In a bit, Zane will pick me up and we’ll go grab some goodies for Kurt’s and my picnic on the train to Glasgow, the airport of which we will depart for the U.S. in the morning.
I’ll close with a few thank yous. First, I’d like to thank all of you who are reading this blog, especially those of you brave enough to post a comment. Your comments delighted, excited, and encouraged me, and kept me blogging when I just wanted to go to bed. Thanks to Sara, for encouraging me in the first place to attempt a blog, and thanks also to Paul and Theresa, for giving me so much to blog about, and for helping me with the information on many of the Irish sites, and Theresa for even giving me some of the wording for the blog when I was brain-dead. Lastly, many thanks to Kurt for being the other half of my brain at times, and helping me with names of sites, towns, mountain peaks, etc., and for holding my hand through the technical challenges of blogging. It’s been a great trip, thanks for coming along!
That’s all, folks!