Everyone knows the legend of the Loch Ness monster, a sea monster that’s been sighted as much as Big Foot, but no real proof exists, other than fuzzy photographs and legends.
We set out to find Nessie by stopping at the Urquhart Castle, nestled against the 23km lake known as Loch Ness. This ruined castle (or as Nathan described it “the castle the bad guys ruined”), was destroyed in 1692 by the English, in order to stop the Jacobite’s from overtaking it. It is the largest medieval castle in all of Scotland and it literally takes your breath away when you first see it.
There is a short movie you can watch in the visitor’s center that gives the entire history of the Castle, and then the grand finale, they open the windows and you get a panoramic view of the entire castle. Walking through the ruins, we searched for Nessie, saw a rainbow and pretended to be Highlanders getting the bad guys (Redcoats!). Alas, we did not find Nessie (but I am fairly certain he popped his head up and winked at us).
After leaving the Castle, we headed to our last hotel in Scotland, in Inverness, called the Heathmount. We had two separate rooms this time and they were pretty eclectic. Our four poster bed had drapes and felt very 19th century modern, all black and white and very formal feeling. We stayed here for two nights and a good hot breakfast was included.
Visiting Culloden Battlefield the next day felt like a pilgrimmage. I am not Scottish, but being there you could sense the quiet death around you, I am certain this is what going to Gettysburg would feel like. Culloden is a giant open field with a single large monument and a lot of small stones withclan names adorned on them to honor the dead.
On April 16, 1746, life for Scottish Highlanders came to an abrupt end. Their way of life became illegal, tartans, kilts and bagpipes were illegal, land and castles that had belonged to clans for centuries were gutted and given to the English. In one hour, the Scottish Highland life would never be the same.
Bonnie Prince Charlie (named Bonnie for how “pretty” and effiminate he was), was part of the Stuart empire, and his father, King James II was deposed by Parliament in 1688 for his pro-catholic bias. Bonnie Prince Charlie garnered support throughout his life from the Jacobite’s to retake the throne from the Hanovers.
After a year’s worth of battles, the Jacobites final battle was fought after an overnight trek to Culloden, the men were starved and short on supporters and supplies. The flat terrain of Culloden did not bode well for the Jacobites and the Highlanders, as they only had spears and swords. In one hour, the British army came with cannons and horses and killed almost everyone there. After the battle, the British punished all of Scotland, killing of Clan Chiefs and taking their lands and their way of life. They didn’t just kill the Scots, they killed their entire way of life. Punishment was harsh and fierce, and to this day, it never recovered.
The museum itself is new, built in 2008, and is very high tech. The exhibits take you through the history of Bonnie Prince Charlie and everything leading up to the Battle of Culloden. There is a section of the museum where you can play with replicas of the weapons used and dress up in uniforms (sorry Nathan chose to be a RedCoat!).
Once the museum exhibit is finished, you can take your audioguide and head out to the battlefield. The audioguide gives a very vivid description of the battle and where things quickly went south for the Jacobites.
As I stated before, while walking around, the mass graves are marked by stones with Clan names on them. It’s a sobering place to visit, with so many lives and families destroyed, and an entire culture banished from existence.
Leaving Culloden, the only thing that really brightened such a somber day-we finally found the Shaggy Scottish Cows!!!!! We were so excited-we took a lot of cow selfies.
We left Culloden, had a bite to eat at a little pub and headed to Cawdor Castle. It’s a smaller castle, but the inside feels grand. A lot of people visit this Castle because it’s mentioned in Shakespeare’s Macbeth, but I didn’t find anything Shakespearian about this castle really. Actually, the gardens stand out the most to me. I don’t remember the inside as much as the beautiful gardens.
We also made a quick stop at the Clava Cairns. In Outlander, Claire touches some prehistoric stones and is transported from the 1940’s to 1745, so I felt like I was standing at her stones, and I would soon find Jamie Fraser. (I did find a handsome American though-yep that’s you Dan!)
These neolithic burial chambers are 3-4,000 years old and they honestly felt kinda creepy. Set in the middle of nowhere, in a forest on the edge of town, they were just sitting there, like ghostly burial sites.
That night we walked around Inverness and after Nathan went to sleep in Grandpa’s room, we headed to a pub with some local music playing. They were an amazing little band and they were playing their first live show. It was definitely a local trad session and we had some good beer and enjoyed a relaxing night in Inverness. We also walked around town and checked out the Castle and took a stroll along the river. A super peaceful town.
And that ends our trip to the Highlands! We saw spectacular views and entrenched ourselves in the history of the Highlanders. I love when history comes alive! It’s what traveling is all about.
Next up: Our trip back to London