As our tour of Scotland continues, we head north to Culloden, the Orkney Islands, and the Isle of Skye. I loved the variety of these three days.
May 16—Loch Ness, Culloden, Dornoch, Wick & Thurso
We stayed in Inverness, the capitol of the Scottish Highlands, then went on a trip to Loch Ness, looking for Nessie, but had no luck.. We photographed the beautiful loch from a different spot than Lin and I saw on our British Isles cruise in 2019.
From there we drove to the Culloden visitor’s center, a unique display that shows artifacts and information from both sides: the Scots and the English. The vast scope of this battle needs explained:
“On 16 April 1746, the final Jacobite Rising came to a brutal head. Jacobite supporters, seeking to restore the Stuart monarchy to the British thrones, gathered to fight the Duke of Cumberland’s government troops. It was the last pitched battle on British soil and, in less than an hour, around 1,500 men were slain – more than 1,000 of them Jacobites.”
As we wound our way through the center, the tension mounted, and knowing the end result still didn’t make it easier. As the trip unfolded, I embraced my Scottish heritage. Here I bought the family crest and information sheet for my two Scottish kin: the MacDonalds and the McCoys. I felt so connected to consequences of this battle.
From this point forward, the British forbade the speaking of Gaelic Scottish language, the wearing of tartans and kilts. They tried to crush the culture, but they didn’t, as clear today.
I found out that Flora MacDonald helped Bonnie Prince Charlie escape from Culloden over the seas to the Isle of Skye. Were we related? I became obsessed with that possibility.
From here we stopped in Dornoch for lunch and some sightseeing. Before arriving here, our tour guide, John, told us the last witch burning happened here.
“Janet Horne was the last person in Britain to be tried and executed for witchcraft. In 1727 she and her daughter were arrested and jailed in Dornoch.” Janet’s daughter suffered from a deformity in her hands and feet.
I had fun trying to find the witch’s stone. After ordering a chicken salad sandwich on a bagel, I asked the server. She pointed in a vague direction and said, “It’s over there.” After wolfing down half of the sandwich, I stopped at the Jail and asked for further instruction. The clerk again in vague terms said, “Follow this street, turn at the bridge, go down and it’s there.” So, I followed the street and found my wandering picture-taking husband, Lin, and he helped in the search. Another two men got us closer, then a delightful woman named Charlotte, directed us there, but she said the date was wrong and it was!
From there it was on to Wick and two choices for optional excursions: a museum of Wick or Whisky Tasting. Neither Lin nor I drink, so we opted for the museum and what a delight. It was here we found out Robert Louis Stevenson’s father built lighthouses around Scotland.
On the drive, we continued to see the yellow flowering plants everywhere, gorse! So beautiful! Then it was on Thurso, the northern tip of Scotland, for two nights—whew! We didn’t have to get up early to get our bags out.
May 17 – Day in the Orkney Islands — Day 5 – our really only rainy day
The next day we drove to John O’Groats, the most northerly inhabited village in mainland Britain, to catch the ferry to the Orkney Islands, which was a forty to fifty-minute ride. We rode outside on the top for the view, and it wasn’t too cold.
We transferred to our bus, and our first stop on Orkney Island was the Italian chapel, built by Italian prisoners during World War II. They built this gorgeous chapel out of two Quonset huts.
On to Kirkwall and being May 17, we had a serendipitous delight: the celebration of Norway’s Constitution Day. Bagpipers piped in the group! This one thing showed how far north we were! Norway and the Orkney Islands have a strong link historically and until today! No rain yet!
From there, it was on to the mysterious Ring of Brodgar, which looked like Stonehenge. But again, it was in the rain.
Clouds hovered all day, threatening to rain, and finally it came at the 5,000-year-old village of Skara Brae. We walked in the rain to see the ruins near to the beach, but it hampered our enjoyment because we rushed through it. I took a limited amount of pictures there, too!
From there it was on to the Standing Stones of Stenness. Many people on the tour anticipated this stop because of the TV show, “The Outlander.” Some took the chance and touched the stone. Others feared being transported back in time. Lin and I touched it—and we’re still here!
“The Stones of Stenness today consist of four upright stones up to 6m in height in a circle that originally held 12 stones. The focus of the interior was a large hearth. The stones were encircled by a large ditch and bank, the form of which has been lost over time by ploughing.
The Stones of Stenness are part of the Heart of Neolithic Orkney World Heritage Site, a series of important domestic and ritual monuments built 5000 years ago in the Orkney Islands.”
May 18 – over the sea to the Isle of Skye, one of the lower Hebrides islands
This was a travel day heading south. We passed by the last wilderness in Scotland, blanket bog—1500 square miles of it. Here the roads were bouncier because of no foundation underneath because of the peat.
At our first stop at Lairg, we had scones and jam. I wandered next door to a store and met a fellow-author, Iain Offor. So, we talked about writing and publishing, and I helped him make a few book sales that day. Hey, we have to help our writers, right?
For lunch, we ended up at Ullapool, where I had delicious Cullen Skink, haddock and leek soup. I bought a splendid book about nature-writing in Scotland, Writing Landscape, by Linda Cracknell, a freelance journalist.
As we passed more mountains, John, our tour guide, told us about Munros in Scotland, which are any mountains over 3,000 feet. There are 282 Munros in Scotland and there’s a fun hiking activity, bag a Munro. What do you do? Climb a Munro is to bag a Munro.
We ended this day on the Isle of Skye for the night, ready to explore the island the next day.
Have you ever been to Culloden, the Orkney Islands, or the Isle of Skye?
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