The drive up from Edinburgh to Inverness is rather easy and quick. We made time to stop at the Blair Castle where we encountered some amazingly friendly and knowledgeable staff who took such a genuine interest in our plans for the rest of our time in Scotland. One brought up a good point that many non-Scots see more of Scotland than the locals due to many Scots not wanting to “risk” their vacation time on the highlands due to the changeable weather. We have been insanely lucky thus far with only one proper drenching our first night in Edinburgh when we were far too jet lagged to notice.
We chose Inverness mainly to break up the drive from the lowlands to the highlands but also, if I’m being honest, because I am an Outlander fan and Inverness is kind of an important spot in the books. It’s been interesting to see how the series (and especially the show) have created a boom of tourism in certain spots that otherwise would be relatively unknown to regular tourists and non-English-history buffs. I have mixed feelings about this, on the one hand whatever gets people traveling more is a good thing, on the other if a singular focus is to relive the books moments I could see how easily you would miss out on experiencing the rest of what the sites have to offer. Especially when the books are, you know, fictional.
Anyway, an incredibly important piece of history that also makes up a major portion of the books is the Culloden Battlefield. Here the Jacobites staged their last armed fight against the English crown to restore Bonnie Prince Charlie to the throne of Scotland and were severely defeated. The moor on which this took place has become a war memorial/grave and is a very stirring place. There are engraved stones throughout commemorating the names of the Clans who lost men. Flowers are left at many of these stones – and the stone with the most flowers was engraved with the name “Fraser”. I had to scoff a bit as I can’t imagine there was an increase in actual Fraser clan descendants who visited but rather super-fans of Outlander. Ah well.
There are two lines of flags that denote the Jacobite front line as well as the English front line – or as the site tactfully puts it “the Government line”. Perhaps to dissuade nationalistic ties to the conflict so that it wasn’t pitting Scots vs English but rather two competing political parties? Either way along the flags they have plaques showing who’s regiment or clan was where and how many people were in each section. It was a very neat way of visualizing what took place. To actually be walking on the place of such vicious and desperate fighting was sobering.
We ended up packing a ton into our two days – visiting the beach at Chanonry Point on a tip from the staff at Blair Castle as a spot to watch dolphins. While we didn’t happen to catch any that day it was a gorgeous and relaxing spot complete with cute lighthouse. Zeke showed himself to truly be my child in his near instant obsession with searching for sea glass and shells on the beach. We were once again astounded by the beautiful weather and enjoyed far too much sunshine.
Lunch that day was quite an adventure as apparently in tiny one road towns on not too touristy routes the only food spots don’t open for business until 3 PM most days. Hangry is very real and it prompts you to do strange things. Desperation sent me to search “food near me” in the map and the only open spot for miles was called ‘Tore Diner’. It was only 10 minutes away and it was open for another hour. We were there.
‘There’ ended up being a gas station. The diner portion was just the back half of the station with one woman manning a griddle. The food was edible, the AC worked, and the bathrooms were free and clean. In a pinch I guess that’s all you need.
Needless to say I researched and made a booking for dinner that evening at someplace proper.
After we slayed the hangry beast we had a quick visit to the Munlochy Clootie Well, a name that makes me giggle every time. Apparently this is a sacred Celtic site where the practice is to dip a strip of cloth (Scots for cloth being “clout” or “cloot”) into the spring and tie it to a tree. It is said to represent either an offering to the goddess of the spring or as a way to rid yourself of ailments. It was rather creepy walking along the circular path with no sound but the water and wind rustling the many, many cloths and other interpretations of the practice. Whole pants were wrapped around one tree and I shudder to think of what ailment that poor soul might have been asking remedies for.
My favorite site out of our days here was definitely our time at the Clava Cairns, a Bronze Age burial site over 4000 years old. There are stone circles around each of the cairns that, of course, align with the solstice and equinox just like Stonehenge. You can walk right into the center of the burial cairns and it is wildly surreal to feel the temperature drop dramatically at the center. It’s impossible to not think of the long buried while standing there among the stones and trees.
Inverness was a quick stopover for our route to the highlands but it’s one I’m very glad we made.