Friday, June 18, 2010

Vacation Recap: Scotland, Part 3

{Inverness, Scotland}

[Note: This is a continuation of the recap of my recent trip to the United Kingdom. To view Part 1, click HERE. To view Part 2, click HERE.]

Day 7. After a nearly a week in London, we caught a plane to Inverness, the unofficial capital of the Highlands.

That evening, we were able to take full advantage of the long Scottish summer days and walk around the city. Situated on the River Ness and the Moray Firth, Inverness is a picturesque town full of B&Bs and all manner of tourist amenities. It is, for many, a great launching pad for day trips around the Highlands.

Day 8. We decided to spend our first full day in Scotland driving east. [And yes, we rented a car and drove ourselves around on the "wrong" side of the road. Fortunately, Scottish roads are well maintained and well-marked and we found getting around (with the help of my trusty Garmin) pretty painless.] Our first stop was Culloden moor, where the Battle of Culloden was fought between the Jacobites and "the Government" in 1746. Not only did Culloden effectively end Bonnie Prince Charlie's bid for the British crown, but it also brought an end to the Scottish clan system (which was made illegal shortly after the Jacobite's crushing loss) and the beginning of the Scottish diaspora to Canada, the USA and Australia. In short, it's a pivotal moment in Scottish (and really, world) history. The gloomy moor lends itself that kind of reflective, melancholic mood that the conjuring up of tragic parts of history tend to leave me with.

After a morning of walking around a battlefield, we pressed on to Cawdor Castle, the family home of the Thanes of Cawdor, leaders of Clan Calder. The most famous Thane of Cawdor is, of course, Macbeth, though the castle itself was built centuries later in the late 14th-century. What I enjoyed the most about Cawdor Castle, aside from its lovely gardens, was that it truly felt like a home, full of all the knickknacks, pictures and photographs that are in all our homes. (And, in fact, it is a home, as the Dowager Countess Cawdor spends half the year there, when the castle is closed to the public.) The castle is also reflective of layer-upon-layer of renovation, from the medieval basements to the Victorian bedrooms to the very '70s-tastic kitchen.

Our final stop for the day was Elgin Cathedral (or what's left of it, anyway). There are a good many ruined cathedrals, abbeys and monasteries throughout Scotland (and we'll visit more of them at the end of our trip) and these are remnants of the violent Reformation that took place in Scotland in the 16th century. Despite their ruined state, I still love roaming the grounds of these places, admiring the architecture and that gothic romanticism that seems to settle onto ancient, consecrated grounds.

Day 9. The following day, we headed west along the Great Glen, following Loch Ness down from Inverness to Fort Williams and the west coast. The drive is, in my opinion, one of the most beautiful drives in the UK. En route, we stopped at Urquhart Castle, which is situated directly on Loch Ness. I kept my eyes peeled for Nessie, but alas, I never did catch a glimpse of her. [And yes, the Scots take Nessie seriously (or at least they pretend to for the many tourists who throng to the loch in hopes of seeing her).]

From Ft. Williams, we drove through Glen Coe, which is another breathtaking drive for the mountain-lover. Much of the drive follows the West Highland Way, a hiking and biking trail that traverses the highlands. My hope is that Dave and I will be able to return to Scotland and hike at least a part of it so we have more time to soak in the beauty than we did in a 45-minute car ride.

Next up: We wrap up our vacation with visits to Stirling, St. Andrews and Edinburgh.


Karena said...

Averill, one day I will get to Scotland, such a lush country full of so much history!

Come and see my latest!

Art by Karena

Kathy @ Creative Home Expressions said...

What a great trip, Averill! My son just spent 9 days in Ireland and England {last week} and he dealt with some pretty rainy weather. He really loved the time spent in Ireland and even looked up some family history.

Christy said...

My hope is that Matt and I get to take this exact trip one day! Maybe with our kids - we'd love to get them into hiking that trail too! Fabulous photos, once again. Lovely!

Laura@JourneyChic said...

We had a great time in Scotland last spring when we went there for a family wedding. We took a drive to Loch Ness so I could check off "Cruise Loch Ness and look for the monster" from my bucket list! No sightings, but it was fun trying!

Things That Inspire said...

My aunt and uncle live in Scotland (Edinburgh), and my husband and I would like to one day do a trip similar to what you have just just doesn't seem like the kind of thing that kids would enjoy, but perfect for a couple! Loved reading about your adventures.

steam showers said...

What a wonderful set of pictures!

The scenery is breathtaking!

Fran said...

Awww, you're bringing back so many wonderful memories. Gorgeous pictures, Averill! My husband and I on our honeymoon hiked the mountains in Glen Coe - they were breathtaking. You need to go back and do that! We stayed in an adorable B&B and found a wonderful pub where we sat outdoors surrounded by the mountains! I can't wait to read your post on St. Andrews & Edinburgh - did you golf?? :)

Kellie Collis said...

What an amazing holiday! Have a gorgeous weekend! x

Unknown said...

Looks like you two had the very best time. The photos are outstanding!

Sarah said...

Oh, thank you, Averill!!! Been waiting for this post! It looks so beautiful, thanks for sharing. Glad you had such a great time, I'm so jealous;) Can't wait to see the rest!

Jami - XOimagine said...

Wow! That looks like such an amazing time! I want to go on a vacation now! I'm glad you had a nice time :)

In honor of my 1 year blogiversary, I’m hosting a RUG giveaway over at i m a g i n e! Come on over to enter :)

xo - jami
i m a g i n e

Claire Mercado-Obias said...

What a wonderful trip! Great photos :)

*Chic Provence* said...

This looks a fabulous vacation!!



Sarah Klassen said...

First off, I applaud you for driving there! I would be terrified that I would momentarily forget where I am, and drive on the wrong side! What a disaster that would be... also, you and Dave look wonderful! The castles, the scenery, oh you have me wanting to jump on a plane... thanks for sharing your adventures and stories with us, Averill!


Dumbwit Tellher said...

Beautiful photos. I know I mentioned that Grahams cousins and Auntie all live in Inverness but I have yet to visit. His brother hill walks quite a bit in the Glen Coe area. He has a mission; the goal is to walk 283 mountains above 3,000ft & his tally is now est 230. I suspect I will get plenty of exercise once we move. Graham will be wanting to keep up. Really fun to see you photos and read more about the U.K. Thank you for sharing Averill.

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