Wednesday Aug 29th, 2018 – Inverness
The tour was to start at 8.30 am, so we called the Taxi by 7.45 am. Had packed a picnic lunch for the day and we ate some cereal and bread for breakfast at Peter’s place. The taxi came as scheduled and we got ourselves a talkative driver. He wanted to know if we learnt English in school because he found our English to be clear and easy to understand :). He dropped us off by 8.10 at the starting point, which was the St. Andrew’s cathedral. Krishnan and I walked around and took a few pictures, especially of the flowers … the streets are lined with flowering plants and it looks amazing.
The coach came ten minutes ahead of schedule and we showed our tickets and got onto the coach. The driver was the guide as well. The tour group was nearly an all women group with just Krishnan, the driver and a young boy as male members. There were almost 15 of us. The first thing we drove over was the Caledonian canal. The canal was constructed in the early nineteenth century by Scottish engineer Thomas Telford. When steam ships were built they were too big to pass through this canal so now its a historic monument.
Our first stop was at the famous Loch Ness. It is 37 kms long and 800 ft deep and it contains more fresh water than all the lakes in England and Wales combined. It is also where the monster Ness is supposed to live but has never been found.
There is a Nessie museum at Drumnadrochit, which we drove past. Apparently someone (I think George Edwards) searched for the Nessie monster for 17 years and could never conclusively prove that it existed.
Our next stop was at Urquhart Castle on the banks of Loch Ness. This castle played a role in the Wars of Scottish Independence and now only ruins remain here.
We then drove another 30 minutes before stopping at the Red Burn cafe where you could feed the Highland cows. We just had coffee there which was delicious. The owners stay right behind the cafe and these are new owners who bought the place a year back. It drizzled a bit on the way. Apparently, they had 18” snow from Nov 2017 to Mar 2018 and then five weeks of no rains in June and July with temperatures reaching 33 deg C and now the coldest August which is 10 deg cooler than normal. Weather is changing everywhere undoubtedly.
We drove next to the grave of Roderick MacKenzie who looked like Bonnie Prince Charlie and gave his life for him. Roderick MacKenzie was the son of an Edinburgh goldsmith who fought as an officer in Bonnie Prince Charlie’s army. It was often commented that MacKenzie bore an uncanny likeness to the Prince. In the summer of 1746, after the defeat at Culloden, government soldiers cornered a group of Jacobites, including the Prince and MacKenzie, in Glenmoriston. They mistook Mackenzie for the Prince and killed him, thus saving the Prince. Bonnie Prince Charlie who was heir to the Throne of Scotland left Skye in 1746, went to France and never came back.
We also visited the site of the The Battle of Glen Shiel. It was a battle in Glen Shiel, on 10 June 1719, between British Government troops (mostly Scots) and an alliance of Jacobites and Spanish, resulting in a victory for the Government forces. It was part of the Jacobite uprising of 1719.
Our driver-cum-guide regaled us with legends and stories of Scotland and the Isle of Skye as we reached the Eilean Donan castle which is seen in the movie Highlander. The first fortified structure was not built on the island until the early 13th century as a defensive measure, protecting the lands of Kintail against the Vikings who controlled much of the North of Scotland and the Western Isles between 800 and 1266. Over the centuries, the castle has been expanded and also contracted in size. We stopped here for 45 minutes to visit the castle, use the restrooms and have coffee.
From the castle we stopped at a “Spar” store to buy lunch. We managed to get a chilled bottle of whole milk that tasted real good. We then drove non-stop for several hours. We crossed the Bridge of Skye at the Kyle of Lochalsh. Apparently people protested when they put a toll booth on the Bridge by vandalising the toll booths and blocking the bridge. Ultimately the toll was removed. Our guide told us that if you were born and grew up in Skye – you will learn Gaelic before English. The Isle of Skye has a population of 11000 and most of those people live in Portree. Many people are leaving the Skye as they feel there is nothing there.
We passed through the Isle of Ramsey which is accessible through a ferry boat only. We clicked many pictures from inside the coach as we drove to the next spot.
We stopped at the Enchanted waters under the Sligachan Bridge. The legend is that a princess whose eyes were gouged out, dipped herself inside this loch and she came out whole and beautiful. So anyone who stays with their face under the water for 7 seconds or so, will be an eternal beauty. I read a different legend on the internet, but every legend grants you eternal beauty :).
From here we went to the Fairy Pools. It had been raining for an hour since we entered the Isle of Skye. At the Fairy Pools too it rained so we didn’t get off and walk up to the pools. We sat in the coach and ate our picnic lunch while the others went and saw the pools.
We stopped here for about 90 minutes and then went to the distillery. Since Krishnan and I are teetotallers it was not an interesting stop for us except as a place to use the restrooms. We walked out to capture the beautiful scenery around.
From here we drove all the way to Portree but stopped on the way at a spot which is supposedly the most scenic in all of Scotland. The guide challenged us all to take the most professional pictures that we could and he ended up taking one of the best pictures of Krishnan and I at this spot.
Portree means Port of the King in Gaelic. When Duvegan port was lost in 1543 this became the busiest port. The number of cruise ships stopping here have gridlocked the whole place and people want to put a stop to these ships coming in. This town is pretty as a painting. Some pictures from Portree –
We started our drive back to Inverness from Portree. The driver took a different route on the way back. All along, we were chased by a rainbow that we managed to capture through the windshield of the coach.
We got back to Inverness by 8.00 pm and the driver dropped us off outside the Airbnb. While we were exhausted, it was also a day filled with scenic beauty…. Scotland is a visual treat.