Did y'all know I love Scotland? Winding down the Scotland posts today with our second to last stop on our whirlwind road trip. Inverness is actually the northernmost city in Britain and is considered the capital of the Highlands of Scotland. The city itself exudes Scottish heritage with cobblestone streets, quaint shops, and old architecture. Outside of the city, however, is where the good stuff is.
We stayed in an awesome Airbnb during our time in the region. It was an annex off of a family home and we couldn't have asked for a better stay; we had the entire apartment to ourselves which was a first during the trip. The actual Airbnb is pictured below. (If you've been wondering what we drove from Airbnb to Airbnb peep the picture below - our adorable Volkswagen Polo!) The location of our stay was great, too. Located within walking distance to Culloden Moor and the Clava Cairns, I was in historical heaven during our stay. There was just something in the air that made the place special, not to mention the amazing views from the back and the front porches.
We first found ourselves at the Clava Cairns, a place that was waayy up on my list of places to visit in Inverness-shire. The Clava Cairns are a Bronze Age cemetery made up of three circular cairn tombs with chambers. Being from the Bronze Age, these cairns are over 4,000 years old and tell a lot about prehistoric Scotland. These types of cairns were used as a burial place for the dead, and although the dead themselves are many years gone, the cairns themselves remain a symbol of old Scottish culture.
Also in the cemetery are standing stones. These standing stones are rumored to be the same stones that Diana Gabaldon based Craig na Dun upon in the Outlander novels and now television series. While I didn't get taken to meet Jamie Fraser, it was a magical experience that I'll never forget. Just looking at these structures from so, so long ago that still stand as a reminder of times past tells so much of human history and perseverance.
(PS - another great cairn to visit is Corrimony Cairn just outside of Drumnadrochit!)
After we visited the Clava Cairns we ventured on to take a cruise on Loch Ness . . . yes, that Loch Ness. It was amazing. We cruised with Jacobite Cruises and took an hour tour of the loch. Scottish lochs are a mystery in and of themselves. They're massive in depth, width, & length and are so intriguing. Loch Ness is undoubtedly the most famous loch in Scotland so we had to visit. The cruise was affordable with just the right amount of time and information. We took off on the cruise from Drumnadrochit, a small village outside of Inverness, and sailed down to Urquhart Castle (coming up next!). During the cruise the captain tells tales of the loch, the monster, and fact & fiction tidbits.
See that castle three photos up? That's famed Urquhart Castle that sits right on Loch Ness and it's where we went after we departed Drumnadrochit & the Loch Ness cruise. I could have spent so much more time at Urquhart Castle; there were hidden nooks and paths that we could have wandered through all day. Urquhart Castle was formerly Scotland's largest castle and played a huge role in many wars, especially the Wars of Scottish Independence. (*cue all the history nerds*) It fell into ruin after it was abandoned in the 17th century. An outline and several crumbling structures are all that's left of the once powerful medieval stronghold, although you can still walk over the drawbridge & moat and climb to the top of Grant Tower.
At Urquhart there is also a quaint cafe where we snagged a late lunch and I got my afternoon cafe au lait. After lunch we headed on into the castle which ended up being our favorite fortification that we visited during the trip. If you've been following along with our travels in Scotland, you know we saw a ton of castles & structures so it means quite a bit that this was our favorite. I couldn't imagine living in a place like this: in a castle home with stone walls covered in plaster in the heart of the Scottish Highlands right on Loch Ness. What a unique life Urquhart Castle's inhabitants must have lived.
On the way back to our Airbnb, we stopped at Culloden Battlefield. If you're not familiar with the significance of Culloden, I'll do a quick refresher. The Battle of Culloden was the final battle in the second Jacobite Rising. The Jacobites were Scottish persons who wished to have a Catholic king on the English throne - they believed that the Stewarts were the rightful monarchs of England who were (and still are) in control, for lack of a better word, of Scotland. Bonnie Prince Charlie Stewart and the Jacobites gathered support from Scottish clans and lairds and with their help, they lead a rebellion against the English crown.
It went well for the Jacobites for a little while . . . and then it didn't. They ran out of money, it was extremely cold in the Highlands & there was little shelter, and the soldiers were near starvation. It was at around this time that the Battle of Culloden occurred. It was a devastation to the Jacobites and their lines were decimated. While the battle itself was very significant, what happened after English victory shaped the way of life in the Highlands for decades to come. The wearing of kilts was prohibited, weapons were banned, Gaelic was no longer allowed to be spoken. Thousands upon thousands of Scottish people fled the country to the New World. Scottish culture was altered severely.
Needless to say, Culloden Battlefield is a solemn and significant place in Scottish culture. You can feel the raw emotion in the air when you step onto the grass into the area where the lines were once held. Walking the paths, reading the signs, and seeing areas of poignant battle put into perspective just how real this fight was.
We went here last because we wanted to be able to soak in this emotion and to experience the awe and humility of this place. We took our time and ventured through every walkway and read every tombstone in homage to those who lost their lives on the very land we stood on. It put into perspective much that I had studied on this period of Scottish history and it wouldn't have been a complete trip to Scotland without visiting Culloden.
Hi, I'm Madeline
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