Yesterday was a really wonderful day. We landed at Invergordon, on the Firth of Cromarty, where several large oil rigs were being either built or repaired for the North Sea. Scotland’s modern economic boom – the fuel for recent calls for independence – was on visible display.
We headed inland via Alness and Evanton, past Castle Munro (our guide was George Munro), through a town called Dingwall. The town’s name is plainly Viking in origin. It refers to a kind “parliament,” and is related to the Icelandic thing or althing, the ancient assembly of the Norsemen. Tradition has it that the historical Macbeth was born in Dingwall in or around AD 1005.
We drove over the River Conon, and past the location of the ancient Conon Henge, a cousin to the much more famous “henge” on Salisbury Plain in England. We also strolled through the romantic ruins of Beuly Priory (Beuly is a corruption of the French beau lieu), once visited by Mary, Queen of Scots.
Then we went to the famous and picturesque Castle Urquhart, on Loch Ness. (Photographs will follow, after I get back to the States.) And, from the castle grounds, we took a boat cruise on the loch. But, alas, there were no sightings of Nessie.
And for good reason: We dropped by a visitor center focused on the Loch Ness Monster. Actually, it’s focused on debunking Nessie. And I must say that it does so rather convincingly. The outlook for the existence of the Loch Ness Monster seems rather bleak at this point. Which makes me sad, actually. I think the world would be a richer place with a modern plesiosaurus (or some such thing) in it.
We had lunch in Inverness. Debbie and I and Larry and Diane Larsen (aka “Cruise Lady”) chose to eat in a pub, which, I soon discovered, offered some of the best nachos I’ve ever eaten. (Who would have imagined that in Scotland?) I ordered haggis – I’d had it once in St. Andrews, at a banquet of the Mont Pelerin Society at the university there, thirty-six years ago, and remembered being surprised at liking it. But, this time, it was made of liver. Loathsome. (Is it always made of liver? Surely I would have recalled that. I hate liver, passionately.) Fortunately, Diane loves liver, so I traded my haggis for her chicken curry.
Finally, we visited the nearby battlefield of Culloden, where, on 17 April 1746, Bonnie Prince Charlie’s luck ran out, the main Jacobite army was annihilated by troops of the government in London, and Scottish independence was effectively rendered impossible for the next quarter of a millennium. It was the last significant battle on British soil. In the aftermath, the tartan and kilt were outlawed, the bagpipe was prohibited, the speaking of Scots Gaelic was banned, and so forth.
The visitor center at Culloden is superb. We could have spent many hours more looking at its various displays. And the battlefield itself offers fascinating walks in a beautiful area.
We returned to Invergordon on the other side of the firth, via the so-called “Black Island,” which isn’t actually an island. Very pretty.
Twelve hours out of Invergordon, Scotland.