Scotland, Part 3: Up To Inverness

I am a silly man. Anyone who knows me will readily vouch for that, as will many who hardly know me. But I am exceedingly blessed in my Bride, who indulges in my silliness, and this drive was one such occasion. I like to play on my PS2, and one of my favorite games is a racing game called TOCA Racedriver 2. A silly name, I agree, but a great game, especially the online component. One of my favorite tracks in the race is called “Loch Rannoch”…which happens to be a real Loch that was not too far out of our way up to Inverness! How could I resist? Yes, yes, yes; it’s very sad that I plan part of my vacation to visit a spot I only know of from a freakin’ video game. As I said, I am a silly man.
Anyhow, so the Bride agreed and we turned off of the A-9 onto the road towards Loch Rannoch. Well, I guess it was a road. It was paved, but really only about a lane and a half wide, and it followed the course of an old sheep track. Seriously. Any road that is not a highway in Scotland goes up and down and over and around every little contour and dell in the land. Every corner was a blind corner, and I had all of 1 hour’s experience sitting on the wrong side of a car and driving on the wrong side of the road. Oh, and it was raining. Luckily, about halfway there there was a place called “Queen’s View” which looked out over Loch Tummel. There’s some dispute over which particular Queen has dibs here; certainly Victoria visited here (and she was amused by the View, btw) but Mary may have as well. Regardless, the view was lovely:

Suitably refreshed, we hopped back into the car for the drive to Rannoch, which looked quite raw and foreboding when we finally arrived

But completely satisfying nonetheless. There’s quite a swanky resort on the shores of Loch Rannoch, if you’re ever in the area. I have to admit that the Loch didn’t look quite like it did in the game…
I was getting the hang of this left-drive thing, so the trip back took much less time than the trip in, and as I turned back onto the main road leading onto the A-9 I heard this discreet cough next to me and a calm voice said “Drive on the left dear.” Oops! No harm, no foul…
Next on the agenda and quite near by was Blair Castle, home of Atholl royalty. Man, does the 4th grader in me love that family name! I just want to shout out “Yo, Atholl!”
Anyhow, it’s a spiffy looking place

and it comes with a built-in piper!

But sadly, like every other place of antiquity, there’s no photography inside. Trust me when I say that it’s worth a visit, as they have tons and tons of 17th and 18th century muskets on the walls, lots of neat paintings and tapestries, and a dining room that serves haggis sausage that is to die for.
Or from.
(We’re still working that out.)
Continuing northwards we had a date at Leault Farm to see a working demonstration of sheepdogs herding…sheep, oddly enough. It’s set in a lovely valley

The dogs were adorable and sweet

And the sheep were, well, sheep.
It was amazing how the dogs responded to the shepherd’s commands and whistles. Each dog had it’s own name and pitch that he would play on his whistle, and then he would play a few notes to indicate each command that the dogs were to carry out. He could get the dogs all to lie together whilst a few gathered the sheep close by

Notice the dogs lying in a widely spaced line. With a few whistles he got them to lay still and the other dogs weaved the sheep in and about the line line they were on a parade ground

And then he got the dogs to do the same sort of herding with ducks

It’s amazing how much of this is instinct, as one of the dogs was only 12 weeks old yet was already learning and carrying out commands.
Just to make sure we emptied our pockets when the souveniers were offered they soon brought out the puppies, and of course Daughter fell hopelessly in love with one

It was a nice glimpse into a way of life that has all but disappeared.
We then drove up to Inverness and took a short detour to Culloden. Wow, what a sad, moody place. They have markers all about the battlefield showing you the disposition of the forces

And there are stone markers showing where the various clansmen are buried

It was a misty, overcast, windy day when we got there, late in the afternoon, and my god I swear you could hear the souls crying out of the swampy heather

The battle was a complete slaughter of the Jacobites, and the English showed no mercy. They’ve restored this house to as it looked during the battle

They had to restore it because after the battle 30 or so wounded Jacobites sought refuge in it, and the house was then burned to the ground…wars were fought to be won back then.
Well, the light was failing and night was fast approaching, so we figured what better place to visit then the 4,000 year old Bronze Age burial ground that was only about two miles away?

I’m pretty sure I’ll never get to Egypt, but to walk around these 4,000 year old ruins, which are still in pretty darn good shape, was as cool as could be. They’re tucked under these gorgeous big old trees, near the banks of the River Nairn, and well worth the visit. It’s a rare treat for us gringos to be near something that just reeks of old.
And that was Sunday.

8 Responses to “Scotland, Part 3: Up To Inverness”

  1. Oh man. F**k you. I want to go.
    Seriously though, B, this line brought back some memories:

    It was paved, but really only about a lane and a half wide, and it followed the course of an old sheep track. Seriously. Any road that is not a highway in Scotland goes up and down and over and around every little contour and dell in the land.

    remind me to tell you about the place in Germany it brought to mind. “Old Europe” is still pretty cool in some ways.

  2. Lisa says:

    My great-grandmother brought a touch of the Scotch into our Irish clan. She was a Burnett, and the Burnetts still have a castle today, Crathes Castle.
    She brought her bending-for-the-English Lowland blood in to our proud Thompson clan. The Thompsons were Highlanders who caused so much trouble for the Brits that they burned our castle down. Assholes.

  3. Lisa says:

    After the Highland clans were outlawed, some moved to Ireland — as my ancestors did, and then they decided to spread Presybterianism across the globe.
    Or to Virginia. Whatever.

  4. Mr. Bingley says:

    The Highland clans would have been the catholics, I think, as they lost…

  5. The_Real_JeffS says:

    Great photos, Mr. B! I’m impressed and jealous. I never did get to Scotland while stationed in Germany so long ago.
    But I’ve read that many American drivers, soon after hitting the roads in the United Kingdom, breakdown and hire a driver, or take a taxi. They simply can’t handle driving the wrong way.
    I’d offer you kudos for surviving those roads, but I can’t decide if you are either very resilient, or are just used to breakdowns. ;-P

  6. Lisa says:

    You’re right about the Highland clans, Bingley.
    But somewhere along the way, a man named John Thompson converted to Presbyterianism (is that a word?) and sailed from County Down to Virginia. His are the loins from which I am sprung.

  7. Mr. Bingley says:

    Woo-hoo! I converted to being Presbyterian a couple of hundred years after my ancestors got here; but I always was a little slow on the uptake…

  8. “The battle was a complete slaughter of the Jacobites, and the English showed no mercy!”
    Those were the days!!!

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