Wednesday, September 12th - Skye, Culloden, Inverness
On Wednesday morning, after a partly quite uncomfortable night - sorry Sabine, do not be angry, but that we two widest share the bed was not such a good idea. My side of the bed also fell off to the outside, so that I wedged myself lying on my side to avoid falling out. But also this night came to an end and gave way to a beautiful sunny morning despite all bad predictions. Ann gave us a sumptuous breakfast as ordered before which left us well-fed. Apparently, she had converted her living room in the early morning into a breakfast room for the 3 rooms that she had with a total of 7 guests - so fully occupied. We had taken our time with breakfast and departure; if we had gone on the boat tour as planned, we would have had to leave already at half past seven, but now this was (unfortunately) no longer necessary...
This morning we let Conny drive for the first time, who had been registered as the second driver. We drove again towards Kyle of Lochalsh and stopped at the same parking lot as the night before, high above the bay, this time in the most beautiful sunshine, with a great view towards the bridge and to the small village of Kylearn across the water, where we had had dinner. We were advised to leave the car at the bottom of the bridge, walk up to the middle of it - about 1 km - to take pictures in all directions, but we didn't do that. Stopping at the top wasn't possible either, it's strictly forbidden and pictures out of the car we no big success because of the high railing that is always in the middle of the pic. So we were again on our island of yearning, well known and famous all over Scotland and beyond.
We enjoyed the constantly beautiful view, sometimes to the left, sometimes to the right of the road and stopped again and again to capture the ever changing landscape and also the amazing light, meanwhile it was partly cloudy and hazy, which produced wonderful plays of light in the bays.
Our first destination of the day was Armadale Castle, located on a promontory in the extreme south of Skye, one of the three famous castles of the MacDonald clan, which had dominated the coast around the loch. The other two castles are only barely recognizable ruins, but Armadale is by far the most beautiful and best-known castle, even if it was not known to me before our trip and I had googled extensively in the past what could be visited on Skye. But I am always willing to close a gap in my education!
We paid our entrance fee in the giftshop and found already the first souvenirs, e.g. a T-Shirt for my husband, which I had put back for my return, so that I did not have to carry it the whole time. To the castle, which is only a ruin and closed off from visitors, directly at the sea, belongs a beautiful tropical garden, which we explored with the help of a map. Northwestern Scotland and Skye is close to the warm Gulf Stream and therefore has a relatively mild climate, yet very surprising. We were often astonished about the variety of the plants, many of them still in full bloom, and we didn't expect them in such country, famous for its cold weather. At the very beginning of the walk, we saw a few huge old trees, among them a sequoia tree, here with Karin in front of it to illustrate the dimensions. Further back, the perennial garden in a colorful variety, just overwhelming.
In the back area of the grounds, we found the island museum, which also had a very nice gift shop and where we got headsets for the self-guided tour. It started with a story about the early settlement and the peculiarities of the island and the often arduous life. It was funny that the male German voice had a gorgeous Austrian accent, which we had never experienced before. It continued with the Jacobite wars and the story about Bonnie Prince Charlie, who had fled over Skye to France, and the history after the lost war, later famines and the emigration wave to the new world. Models were used to depict the small area available to an emigrant family on a ship: 6 feet on 4 feet, i.e. about 1.80 x 1.20 meters, for the whole family. You had to bring your own food for the complete travel time of about 2 months. Almost unimaginable for us nowadays, it made my spine tingle, even to imagine how many of them did not survive this ordeal.
In the gift shop I bought two deliciously smelling soaps for my husband and Conny was fascinated by the silver jewellery offered. Around 12 o'clock, at the agreed departure time, in order to arrive at our next destination in time, two big buses arrived on the parking lot, so fortunately we had once again come before the biggest rush. Conny took us all th way back towards the bridge to the mainland. On the main road a few miles before the bridge, the traffic suddenly came to a standstill. We waited for a while, out of necessity, every now and then we could move a little bit forward, but soon we noticed soon that this was just filling up the gaps with vehicles, while others had left the queue and turned round. One of these cars stopped next to us and the driver reported an accident further ahead. Well, we discussed our possibilities. At 4 o'clock at the latest, we should be in Culloden to catch the last tour of the day, driving time until then still more than two hours. The accident could not be avoided sideways, there is no parallel alternative to this main road up to the bridge. The ferries were far behind us and would take us to the mainland in far more southern places, so that we would have another long detour ahead of us and could hardly reach Culloden in time. So we decided to wait for the time being and hope for a soon continuation when several ambulances and also an emergency doctor drove past us from behind. We hoped that this bottleneck would soon be cleared, but we also knew that the care of those involved in the accident would have priority. For me it and my friends was clear, which inconveniences we would have at the moment, the people in the accident were certainly much worse at the moment. But we didn't have much to eat anymore, so first Sabine and then I got out to pick some wild blackberries on the bushes next to the street - very tasty. When we had made another few meters, we decided that we could have a look at what was going on in front of us and how far away the accident was. So Karin walked forward on the road, she promised to stay in touch by mobile phone. I got out again to pick blackberries and took two steps to the side, but I overlooked a depression in the ground because of the dense vegetation and sank down to my knee at the same time and because it was steep, I had great trouble not to fall forwards into the blackberry bush or to break my stuck foot. Finally, I was able to grab the car door, get steady and slowly pull myself up again so that I got away with a few scratches and thorns. We heard from Karin that an accident had happened at the last T-junction towards the small ferry and that the rescue and clean-up work was in full swing. Karin made her way back to our car. A while later Christina noticed that Karin had accidentally walked past our car, they called after her, but she obviously didn't hear anything. We tried to call her on the phone and wrote by whatsapp, but no reaction. Finally, the traffic started to move again - still no Karin in sight. Conny drove the car halfway to the side of the road, we could hardly continue without Karin. Several cars and also trucks drove past us and the traffic came to a standstill again. Eventually, Karin reached our car and we were all very relieved, but also worried, when we heard that she had fallen down on the road when walking back forward, probably stumbled over an unevenness, her left side was badly bruised and hurt quite badly, fortunately it was not very bloody. We could continue our journey and also passed the scene of the accident, happy that we had been spared this fate that day. After Balmacara, we opted for the northern route via the A 890 towards Inverness, we had come on the southern road the day before and we agreed that, for the sake of variety, we wanted to drive the scenically beautiful, albeit somewhat slower route. The road went steeply uphill and we immediately had 2 trucks in front of us, which we could overtake after a while. The road soon became narrower, more twisty, led over partly gravelled or runways for the umpteeth time and was sometimes so narrow and twisty that two trucks would have trouble to get past each other. We wanted to reach the view point where we would see Strome Castle over Loch Carron on the opposite bank, but we missed it somehow and drove on, in front of us still the same motorhome as for miles already. At some point, we noticed that time for the planned short stop in Beauly had run out and we would have to skip it or arrive too late at Culloden. This is the old homestead of the Frasers, where we wanted to visit the ruins of Beauly Abbey, so at the next junction, we took the shorter route north towards Culloden. I called them on the phone and made sure there would be a tour over the battlefield that we could join.
Finally, we reached the parking lot of Culloden Moor at a quarter to 4, located about 5 miles beyond Inverness, high on a plateau. We immediately chose another disabled parking close to the entrance (I have the serious impression that this is hardly ever checked in the UK) and although we all had to go to the toilet urgently, I first went to pay tickets and guided tour for everyone, that was just more important. So after a few minutes, we gathered near the back exit and there met our guide, who gave us a vivid and forcible insight into the story of before, during and after the bloody Battle of Culloden. Once again, he explained to us that this was not the biggest battle in Scottish history, but certainly the most important one. It was not about Scots against Englishmen, because there were Scots on the side of the English and vice versa, also not Lowlands against Highlands, because they also fought on both sides, further, there were mainly only 5 Highland clans among the revolutionaries, although later all were punished together, this was also not Protestants against Catholics, although this came a little closer to the matter, it was simply about the question of the rightful king. In 1688, King James II of Great Britain, Catholic, was deposed from Parliament, which had decided that only a Protestant could be King of the United Kingdom. After a short detour via William III (of Orange), who led an invasion, and Queen Anne, the last of the House of Stuart. She had no heir, and since all Catholics had been excluded, they had to go down the list to place 56 to find a Protestant for successor and ended up with George of Hanover, known as George I of Great Britain and Ireland. The followers of Jacob, the so-called Jacobites, were subject to all subsequent uprisings, including Prince Charles Edward Stuart, Bonnie Prince Charlie, who felt called upon to regain the British crown for his father, James (latin= Jacob), who was the son of the deprived king. This is about the short form of how the story goes, which can be read in detail elsewhere.
But the most important thing and tragedy was not about the 2000 dead fighters, there are battles with many, many more dead people, also not the battle itself, which was doomed to failure from the beginning, just slaughtery and lasted only 12 to 15 minutes, but what followed after the battle, no less than a genocide of the Scottish people. Language, culture and human lives were persecuted and systematically exterminated, with the result that today only about 50 - 70,000 people speak Gaelic, fortunately with increasing tendency.
The commemorative stones that stand up there on the plateau were not erected until the end of the 19th century, when a wealthy businessman from Inverness bought the land to preserve it, and they do not mark the burial places of the respective clans. There are also not explicitly stones for all clans, some are also simply marked with "Mixed Clans" and further down one stands for the English who died in this battle, not without good reason, I think, nobody deserved to die that day. Except perhaps a certain Dudley Bradstreet, an English double agent in the ranks of the Highland Army and the arrogant leadership of the noblemen, who, driven by arrogance, ambition and weakened by bad food and scurvy (demonstrably also affecting brain performance) had made the fateful decision for the battle on that day and place.
After the guided tour, we had a look inside the exhibition, where the development and the course of the battle is documented in many ways. After a visit to the gift shop, shortly before the end of the opening hours, we proceeded to the neighbourhood, because I wanted to show my girls a real stone circle.
Just over a mile northeast of Culloden Moor, accessible via a small road and an old bridge ("weak bridge") is Clava Cairns, an ancient memorial from prehistoric times, estimated to be at least 3000 years old. There are 3 cairns = large, circular stone piles, these with a lateral entrance and a small circular space in the middle, so that one can walk in. On the outside, there are different large stones in large circles around them, one of them looks similar to the magic stone as we imagine it. I've been there for the third time, and every time I'm in awe of this magic place once more.
Afterwards, it was soon half past seven, we had an appointment with the landlady of our apartment for the night, which was called "Miller Apartments". It is located in a residential area where the street and all its junctions are called "Miller Street". So it makes a lot of sense. We had our own parking lot and settled in for one night. Unfortunately. the mentioned sofa bed in the living room was not as practical as the one in Glasgow and was not meant for 1 person but for 2 although it was very small and weak. So I shared it with Conny and left the bigger beds in the rooms for the others. We had also asked our landlady about shopping and restaurants for dinner, she said the shortest way on foot was over the lawn (which turned out to be more strenuous than expected due to the steep hills) and over the traffic lights to Dow's restaurant, which we then visited. Already the entrance, quasi once all around the building, was difficult to find, the restaurant was not overly modern, but we had confidence in the recommendation. Well, we didn't eat so badly, but also not very well, our shrimp cocktail was with small North Sea crabs in the style of the 80s, Sabine's steak was not properly done, but at least she got a replacement immediately. Well, we had enough, but with the feeling that we wouldn't have to go there again, we went to bed and looked forward to the next day.