A Tour of Scotland: Loch Ness and Urquhart Castle

I was up pretty early and I tried to catch up the journaling of our trip.  Yes, I do a detailed itinerary so I know what each day will bring.  I can make decisions about what to do or not do when the time comes. I then journal the day’s activities: where we went, what we saw, how I felt, what we ate. I have learned that it is so easy to forget. I like to do it when it is fresh in my mind. I then review it later and add to it.  I do go back and use parts of it for my stories on my blogs and to refresh my memory.

Remember that we had to park our car in the car park at the end of the block. Well it had rules and we needed get our car out about 9:05 am this day. We decided to just leave and head to the Loch Ness Centre and Exhibition.

The Loch Ness Centre with gift shop to the left in the white building and hotel and restaurant to the left with the round front.

It was about 30 minutes away so it was not too far. We had a lovely full breakfast in a little bit of a rush and headed out in the rain to our car. It was quiet on the streets of Inverness because it was Sunday morning.

We crossed the bridge over the River Ness and proceeded down A82 but lost the Navigation at a couple of roundabouts. The road was narrow at the north end of Loch Ness and the route had some bad spots on the left side. It was very foggy over Loch Ness and rainy. You could see mountain tops peaking above the thick fog. I had confidence it would get nicer by the afternoon. There was very little traffic so that was good.

We arrived at the Loch Ness Centre and Exhibition and pulled into the parking lot. The centre is housed in a former old brick hotel. http://www.lochness.com/

Parking the car

Loch Ness Centre side view and entrance

The tour meandered into and out of separate rooms where they told the story of Loch Ness,

The Presentation map

They reviewed the ancient history of Scotland and continental drift. They talked about the sightings of the monster and gave a timeline of those events and what was seen. They tried to explain what might have really happened. They talked about the sonar mapping of the Loch.  The Loch structure and base has been totally mapped. They discussed that large sea creatures could not live in the Loch without food and Loch Ness does not have enough food to support the type of creature people are seeing. They talked about the wave action of the warm and cooler water causing shifts in the surface of the Loch that might cause ripples creating effects. One sighting might have been a bird others might have been debree or a giant sturgeon.  It was a good presentation and I enjoyed it.

I have the Loch Ness Centre & Exhibition brochure and we also have the Loch Ness, by Adrian Shine, Loch Ness Project guide-book. Both are very interesting. I was very pleased with myself for knowing quite a bit about the Loch Ness Monster. I believe I have seen PBS Specials on the Loch Ness Monster and maybe other specials over the years. I like legends.

There is the scientific exhibit and then there is Nessieland. We did not make it to Nessieland.  After studying the website. I can see that we would have needed a full day to do that. It is also in another location and separate from the exhibit we visited.  It is more for children but I am sure we would have managed:  https://www.nessieland.co.uk/  

They also have cruises on the Loch. The shuttle was leaving off tourists who had taken the cruise and they were laughing and talking and saying it was a good tour and they were glad they had gone on it.

Brochures for Loch Ness

After you finish with the presentation in the centre you end up in the gift shop. Of course I studied it all very carefully – twice. Here I am attempting to take a selfie of me and a stuffed Nessie toy. I am so bad at selfies.  You can see my eyes are wrong and I had the wrong setting with the postage stamp thing. AUGH!

Toys and Selfie

I purchased a T-Shirt with Loch Ness on it. I do collect them when I travel. Alan found a mug with a Scottish Coo on it and he wanted me to see it.  So we headed into the store called the Whiskey Store.  It is a nice mug, sturdy. It says that it is dishwasher safe but I am not sure about microwaves?

Coo Mug

While he was buying the mug I asked the sales ladies several questions. The name of the town is Drumnadrochit. The sales ladies tried to help me to pronounce it. The trick is to say it very fast Drum na dro chit. Somehow Alan was talking about driving and how hard it was and I said my job was watching the left side of the road. Well many people in the shop laughed.  Yeah, I am a funny kid.

Alan suggested that we get a snack and some coffee so we went over to the cafeteria. He tried what was a nut bar. I had sponge cake that was very sweet. The coffee was wonderful and I told them it was. The Scots are not really into coffee.  We like the French Roast which is a rich coffee and it makes it hard to adjust to other flavors. We dallied there at the nice cafe and then Alan decided that we should do Urquhart Castle in the nice weather. I was right, it had cleared up. He wanted to explore Lochend because he liked the picture that I put on my Facebook of Loch Ness. We had a plan.

Urquhart Castle (pronounced – Urket) is not far from the town. It is further south on Loch Ness. We found parking in the tight parking lot. It was getting very busy with lots of people. We purchased our tickets and a guide-book. It is a bit confusing but you go down the elevator to the lower floor to access the gift and coffee shop, their small museum display and the exit to the castle grounds.

Urquhart Brochures

Scale model of Urquhart Castle

The small museum display was about castle life.  It explained the different jobs that were needed to run the castle, such as: feed the people, dress the lord and lady and help with travel arrangements if needed, care for the animals, defend the castle, and just run things. It was quite complicated. This is a little bit of a funny description of castle life  https://www.ranker.com/list/what-life-was-like-in-medieval-castles/shanell-mouland 

They had a short film that told of the conquering of the castle over many years. The MacDonald’s and the Lord of the Isle’s were involved on many occasions taking cattle and basically causing lots of problems till the owner Lord Grant decided to just destroy the castle.  The dates of raids by MacDonalds start in 1395 and go to 1545 the last raid. Click the photo and read the reader board it is very interesting.

MacDonald Raids of the Castle

Grant’s feud with the MacDonalds

The Castle as it looked through the years.

We spent quite some time walking the ruins. Alan helped me with some of the stairs for they didn’t have hand rails. The weather was perfect having cleared up considerably.  https://www.historicenvironment.scot/visit-a-place/places/urquhart-castle/


Quaich Cup – Friendship cup, my cup

There was supposed to be a free tour but we waited and nothing happened till I saw this man in a tri-cornered hat setting up his presentation. He did a wonderful talk about weaponry and how it was used. It was also a bit gruesome.

He had a Quaich cup which he explained. This is called a friendship cup.  When someone comes to your home you present this cup. First you hold it and drink from it to show your guest that it is not poisoned. Holding the cup requires using both hands making you vulnerable to the other person and a possible attack. Then you hand it to them and they drink exposing themselves. It is a sign of trust.


Here is a gallery of photos of Urquhart Castle Ruins. You will need to be at this blog online to view it. If you are getting an email the link might not open up.

The day turned out lovely, sunny with clouds. Here are some views of Loch Ness. Sorry no Nessie sightings today.

We left the castle and headed up to the small village at the north end of Loch Ness called Lochend. We missed the turn so we sought out the Jacobite Cruise sign where we had been told there were some Highland Cows. Well, it is not as romantic as pictures of them out in the wilds of Scotland. They were totally uninterested in us. There was a sign asking to not disturb them.

Highland Cows. They can really swish their tails

Highland Cow in Inverness

We pulled off parked and just enjoyed the animals in the field. These were real highland cows lying about chewing their cud. There were about 4 of them in a field by the car park.  Yes we got butt ends.

Lochend – the land that juts out at the bottom of the loch

We tried again for the Lochend and Alan turned off a little too soon onto a road that was very rough and undeveloped. He drove up to a gate which ended our little adventure. It wasn’t till later that I realized that he had taken the correct road to what he had seen in the photo I had found of the Loch. It was not developed like we had thought it was. Apparently there had been some plans to fix it up but so far it was not happening.  The gate we had seen meant we could have walked out onto the area. Be careful the road down into this is very rutted and scary when turning off the highway.

Satellite view of Loch End

Alan decided that he wanted to go and talk to the man who was really into Nessie.  This man had a trailer parked near the Dores Inn. http://www.thedoresinn.co.uk/ 

Nessie Hunter

The Dores Inn was on the east side of the lake. We drove down a lovely tree-lined road with beautiful green fields on both sides. The Dores Inn is located at the northend of Loch Ness on the east side. We managed to get a table. I had fish and chips and Alan had some Beef dinner with potatoes and gravy.  We sat in the restaurant area and not outside in the wind.

The Dores Inn

Wooden Boat Art inside the Dores Inn restaurant

The man who Alan wanted to see was not at his trailer.  It was in the corner of the parking for the Dores Inn. This man is really into Nessy. http://www.nessiehunter.co.uk/

Northeast Loch Ness

Loch Ness Info board

Loch Ness – not as tranquil as near Urquhart Castle.

This is at the northeast end of Loch Ness.  The water was lapping the shore and as you looked out on the Loch you saw gray water and waves. It was like a big sea. The wind was trying to whip me about, even thought it was sunny with clouds. It was not really picnic weather.

We headed back to Inverness and the Ardconnell House. The Navigation system got hung up again at this roundabout which apparently is new. We lost it and we ended up heading back and retracing our steps. In any event, we made it back to Ardconnell Street and the car park. This car park is in a location for the main part of the city of Inverness and is highly prized. I was a bit worried we might have trouble finding a space but there were some tucked in the back area.

Since we had dinner at the Dorne Inn we were ready to just relax and prepare for leaving Inverness the next day. I needed to get ready for my visit to the Highland Archive at the south end area of Inverness.

Posted in Inverness, Loch Ness area, Scotland, Scotland May 2018 | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

A Tour of Scotland: Culloden Battlefield and Inverness…

The Ardconnel room was a pleasant size with a double and single bed.  The bathroom was small but adequate. The shower was tight but it worked. We had filled out the breakfast card the night before and I chose 8:30 am for the time.

Breakfast Room Ardconnell House

Our Table – Ardconnel House

We were soon off to the breakfast room and found our table situated in the bay window area. You find your table by the number of your room. The Scots don’t rush. They did have a buffet of cereals, juice, croissants and other items. You then have your main meal that you ordered. Everything tasted good my croissant, the brewed coffee, my sausage, my eggs and the dining room was lovely. If you want coffee they bring you the coffee pot that is the French Press version. So I was learning to press it down.

Breakfast 1st Day Mine

Breakfast 1st day – Alan’s

CULLODEN Museum and Battlefield

Today we were going to Culloden where the battle took place between the Jacobite army and the British in 16 April 1746. This is where Bonnie Prince Charley (Charles Edward Stewart)  was defeated. This is something that I had wanted to see and do for a really long time.

We were soon on our way to the battlefield.  It was a bit of a challenge. I kept watch on the left side of the road to make sure Alan didn’t go into a ditch. They don’t believe in shoulders so the edge is sharp and frequently has deep ruts or broken road. He is being very careful driving. He is doing very well. The Navigation took us a different way to the battlefield that I had calculated.

On the way to Entrance to Culloden Museum

The Museum in the distance from the battlefield

The Culloden Battlefield museum is huge and very modern looking with a detailed museum, a large cafe and a gift shop. Alan bought the tickets and audio guides. The audio guides were very helpful, I encourage you to buy and use them.

He also bought the Guidebook:  National Trust for Scotland, Culloden “Cuil Lodair” This guidebook is very well done with quotations, photos, portraits, maps, drawings and paintings.

Contents a summary:

  • Setting the Scene
  • The Government versus the Jacobite Cause
  • The Prince and the Duke: troops and tactics
  • The Road to Culloden
  • Culloden the Battle
  • Culloden the Legacy

First you go through the large museum presentation which has the Jacobite cause on the right side of the wall in this hallway. On the left is the British story.  So I was going back and forth to try to keep the continuity. There was a theater that presented a film recreating the battle. It was pretty powerful. They had artifacts found on the battlefield, guns used, a canon or two. There was a huge raised relief map of the battlefield.  They have benches for resting because it will take time to go through all this.   https://www.nts.org.uk/visit/places/culloden

This whole battle is a sad affair. Okay, this is my summary of what I read. So it is my thoughts about the battle. The whole history of Culloden is very complicated and started years ago when Charles’ grandfather James II and VII of England, Scotland and Ireland in the Glorious Revolution of 1688.  James Francis Edward also tried to claim the throne in and made his bid in 1715.

The Jacobite Army at Culloden was ill prepared, tired, hungry, divided and their leader Bonnie Prince Charley (Charles Edward Stewart) was not really trustworthy. He had been raised in France. The Jacobites which included many clans, and others wanted to return the Scottish Crown to Scotland along with a parliament. It didn’t look like Charles was that interested in what the Scots wanted.

The Duke of Cumberland was Charles cousin and a brilliant military leader. He set out to crush them and earned the title “Butcher.” He figured out a way to break the charge of the Scots and that was part of their downfall. Just click and the photo will open in another page.  Red is the British forces and the blue is the Jacobites.

From the Guide a map of the battle lines

Unfortunately the book cuts breaks at the blue battle lines. I think the last one is Athol Men 500.

From the Jacobite Rebellion booklet that I also purchased. Map of the battle

After we looked at the exhibits in the museum we moved outside and wandered as much of the battlefield as we could. There were paved walkway. The tall red flags were the British troop locations and the Blue flags were the Jacobite army’s location. So we could see where the Clans were situated as the battle took form.  The actual battlefield was much larger than what is in the park and spills over the highway.

We headed out from the museum and went to west end of the field following the walkway which had stopping points with the larger map of the battlefield indicating where you where.

Google Map of the current battlefield

The red pin represents the Cairn in the middle. The museum is on the right – see white. The clan stones are south of the Cairn. The Clan Donald stone is almost to the highway at the curve. The blue flags are along the line on the left and the red flags are to the right of the red pin.

Flags were set along the walkways

The ground and terrain were ugly.  I pondered as to why anyone would stage a battle here and that it was beyond me. “I do not like the ground. It was certainly not proper for Highlanders.” Lord George Murray, 25 May 1746.

The land at Culloden

The land at Culloden some was bog

Along the walkways were information boards showing you where you were. There were also individual boxes showing were the Clans and the British troops were located on the battlefield. This is not a complete listing.

Camerons – Jacobite

Stewarts of Appin and MacLarens – Jacobite

John Roy Stewart’s – Jacobite

Munro – British

Frasers – Jacobites

We slowly made our way to the cairn in the middle and that is where most of the stones are that commemorate the Clans are located.

The Culloden Cairn about in the middle of the battlefield

The Culloden Cairn

The Culloden Cairn with Scotch broom on top

The dedication of the Cairn

The Cairn Sign for Culloden

Bonnie Jean MacDonald at the Cairn of Culloden May 12, 2018

The cairn itself is made of stones and has Scottish broom growing at the top. The cairn is in a field of grass and scattered about this field to the south of the Cairn are Clan stones. I started on the west side of the park like area and headed east.  This is as many as I could do and might not be all.  We did not walk all of the field.

Clan Fraser

Mixed Clans

Clan Macintosh

Another Clan MacIntosh

Clan Cameron

Clan MacGillivray

Clan Stewart of Appin

Clans MacGillivray, MacLean, MacClachlan, Athol Highlanders

Here lies _____The Chief of Clan MacGillivray’s fell

You ask “Where is the The Clan Donald Rock?  Well there is a sign at the east end of the green area pointed toward the highway.  I was a bit frustrated. If I had known that I would have headed to the Cairn first.

A couple from Ireland were sitting on the bench by the Clan Donald rock. Alan went on to get a picture of the other rocks for me. About half a block down the walk way were these stones:

More Clans names on the boxes

Keppoch Rock and sign

Keppoch Sign Close up

The Keppoch Rock

I chatted with the couple and asked if I could share the bench. Alan returned and took my photo at the rock and we said goodbye to them.

Clan Donald Rock and Sign, you can see the museum in the background. It is over next to the highway signs point to it at the east end of the Cairn

Bonnie Jean MacDonald at the Clan Donald Rock, May 12, 2018

Bonnie a little closer

AFTER THE BATTLE what happened and again this is a summary. A lot more happened for the government was systematic in its determination to break the Highland way of life forever.

  1. Deaths on the Jacobite side in the battle were 1500 to 2000. The British suffered 50 deaths and 239 wounded.
  2. The Dress Act of 1746 made wearing “the Highland Dress” including tartan or a kilt illegal except by the Army. It was repealed in 1782.
  3. Act of Proscription of 1747 government officers were authorized to search houses at will if the occupants were suspected of keeping swords or other weaponry like target, poignard, whinger, durk, side pistol, gun, etc. This restrictions were lifted in 1782.
  4. Duke of Cumberland did not discriminate between Scots who supported the Jacobites and those that didn’t.  There was destruction for weeks after in the Highlands. Cattle were driven off and taken to market and sold, houses were burned, people were shot and women were raped.
  5. No reliable estimates of the numbers murdered in the aftermath of Culloden. The mutilated bodies of those executed were displayed as gruesome warnings.
  6. Many Jacobite captives who were not killed on the spot faced deportation and possible death. 3,471 where shipped to England to face trial after prolonged imprisonment in Carlisle, York and London.
  7. 936 of the Jacobite rank and file were sentenced to a life of slavery overseas.
  8. 120 were executed, 1287 were freed, many died in transit or in prison,
  9. Many fled into exile on the Continent or hide out for months in the Highlands.
  10. A list of person concerned in the Rebellion – at Internet Archive  https://archive.org/details/alistpersonscon00excigoog
  11. The forfeiting of estates of many in the 1715 and 1745:   https://archive.org/stream/selectionofscott00millrich#page/376/mode/2up
  12. Roads were improved and extended in the Highlands so patrols could easily move about.  At Fort Augustus was repaired and the barracks. The Highland regiments were incorporated into the regular Army of England by the end of the century.
  13. Laws were past that changed the legal status and power of the clan chiefs. The Government abolished hereditary jurisdictions cutting the clan chiefs powers.

I headed back to the museum while Alan wandered on. He went over to the house but it was under renovation. I returned to the museum area to finish up the remaining reader boards and the final audio tour signage. I then went into the gift shop and found a T-shirt and purchased it. Next on my list was the cafe. I found Alan sitting at a table with a lot of food in front of him. He said he was hungry. He had soup and a sandwich and juice purchased. I started eating the soup. He opened the sandwich and we shared it. We think it was cream cheese and beets on wheat bread. It was rather good. The soup was some broccoli type and not bad. They don’t puree things like we do so their food is for lack of a better word lumpy.  Alan went off to finish his part of the audio tour. I rested and relaxed in the cafe. He wasn’t long and we were soon on our way.

It was decided to find a store and get some things. It took two tries. The Navigation system was incorrect on the first try. On the second try we found a store much like a Speedy 7 Eleven. We bought kleenex and a few other things. We then headed to the Ardconnel to park the car and go to dinner in the city. We found a parking spot in the car park but noted it was filling up.  We are restricted on the amount of hours we can park the car.

Back at the Ardconnel we relaxed and rested. I journaled some and he studied Nessy websites. Several hours later he announced that we best go to dinner or he would be falling asleep. We decided on the Bella Italia on High Street. We would walk to it.

We headed out to the steps at the end of the street and made our way down them and ended up on a street that we didn’t know the name of till Alan found the sign and it was High Street. We did some withdrawals at the bank ATMs and headed up the street towards the river and the bridge to the Bella Italia. They were too crowded and busy. So we wandered a little further and Alan found a steak house called McGonagall’s Steakhouse & Restaurant. Apparently McGonagall was a bad poet but he published anyway. Alan liked the sign on the wall of the restaurant and copied it down. http://www.mcgonagalls-steakhouse.co.uk/

There was a coo on yonder hill

It’s nae there nu, it must have shifted.

I had salmon fillet and mashed beetroot and he had a warm chicken salad. I guess the beetroot is what we call the beet here in the States. I was finding that my meals were tasty and well presented.

Warm Chicken Salad

Salmon fillet with mashed beetroot?

The restaurant got real busy very quick so we were just in time.

Inverness is a busy city and the stores are crammed together. After dinner we headed toward the River Ness and then turned east and followed the water for a little while to this very beautiful church called Ness Bank Church.  I didn’t go up to the statue of Flora MacDonald at Inverness Castle. I would be seeing her grave soon.

Inverness Castle


The River Ness in Inverness – It flows from Loch Ness to Beauty Firth


I figured out how to return to the Ardconnel road. It was a bit convoluted and we climbed the streets and stairs and up along narrow sidewalks and we found our lodging.  Not bad.

I climbed into bed I was really tired even though Culloden had been flat it was really big. I was happy for I had wanted to see it and experience it.


  1. The Jacobite Rebellion 1745-46, by Gregory Fremont-Barnes, Essential Histories, Osprey Publishing, 2011. This covers a lot of ground: Chronology, The roots of Jacobitism, The armies of two kings, The Bonnie Prince’s rebellion, Raising the standard of revolt, Lord George Murray, The battle of Culloden, Flora MacDonald, Highland Life in the mid-18th Century, Conclusion and consequences etc.
  2. Battle of Culloden – Wikipedia  – interesting maps of the battle:  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Culloden
  3. The Jacobite Cause BBC http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/british/civil_war_revolution/scotland_jacobites_01.shtml
  4. Jacobite Rebellion of 1745 website has some interesting information and lists. I have not studied it but it might be useful:  https://www.jacobites.net/


Posted in Inverness, Scotland, Scotland May 2018 | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

A Tour of Scotland: The National Wallace Monument and Clan Macpherson Museum

Morning came and Alan tried making the instant coffee that they provide and I tried eating the continental breakfast. The instant coffee was warm. If the owner had not had to leave for the funeral we might have had a great breakfast in the lovely dining room in the Old Tramhouse B&B. It was an unfortunate situation and I was disappointed that I did not get to meet her.

The day before Alan realized that his hearing aids weren’t working, so we tried to go to this one place that apparently was out of business. So Alan had found several places to get the hearing aid filters he needed. We looked at Google Maps and decided that the first one looked like it would be the easiest for us to get too. At 9 am he gave them a call and they said to come in. It was The Hearing Clinic. It was not too hard to find. We found it on the 2nd floor of what looked like a business park building. A lady in the hall helped us out. We got settled in the waiting room after Alan checked in at the desk. It was taking a while so in about 30 minutes I headed to the coffee shop with Alan’s encouragement.

I ordered some regular coffee and saw a sandwich that didn’t look bad, cheese and ham. The attendant asked if I wanted it toasted and I said yes. We called them grilled cheese sandwiches, they call them toasties. I settled in at a couch and she brought my food out to me. I was there about 30 minutes and Alan showed up with his hearing aids working and new filters. He said that there was no charge for the service. Wow! They did take him back to an office and the medical person fixed his hearing aids for him in minutes. He was happy.  He proceed to eat the rest of my sandwich and drank a little of the remaining cold coffee.  It was a very nice coffee shop called The Grind and the nice lady that prepared my food was very sweet.


This little detour did knock some time off our day’s activities which meant we were going to have to skip some stops I had planned.

Our first goal was the National Wallace Monument. We made our way through Stirling back on to Causewayhead road avoiding the left turn lane that got us into trouble when we first arrived. It was not too difficult to get to the monument just a little maneuvering around a very sharp corner.  We had to drive slowly through the parking lot to find a space almost at the exit. https://www.nationalwallacemonument.com/

I took my tickets into the visitor center and was told that they take them at the monument.  I took a quick tour of the gift shop and spotted this really cool Scottish Cow. I decided to come back later and check him out. The shuttle came up and we were on our way to the top of the hill.

The National Wallace Monument

The drive up to the monument was on a very narrow road and steep. I tried not to watch. I have a bit of motion sickness. I don’t do well with hills. It was a very quick drive. You can walk up if you like. The shuttle deposited us right at the base of the monument. We turned and looked out on beautiful green countryside. The weather was cloudy, not warm at all and there was wind.

At the counter inside the monument they took my ticket. The young woman was friendly and kept saying “perfect.” The Scots are lovely people and very nice.

The Monument is on a hill, you can walk or take the shuttle

We started our journey up the tower straight steep steps and then they started to curve and got smaller and narrower.  You climbed a grouping of curved steps and came to a small landing that entered into a room. This first room was about William Wallace and his rise to power, the defeats and victories and the various types of war armament and more. The stained glass windows were lovely.  Try this blog he has some nice pictures and explanations that add to my photos:  http://miceforlent.blogspot.com/2012/08/wallace-monument.html

Stain Glass

Stain Glass

More Stain Glass

The second room came after more curved steps and it was famous and influential people of the day.

Bust of Robert the Bruce in on the Famous people level

They had William Wallace’s Sword in a display case. It was very difficult to photograph because it was a dark gray metal suspended in a glass case. There was glare and other problems but I think you get the idea.

Wallace’s Sword

What Wallace may have looked like.

Wallace Sword

Wallace Sword

I took off alone and went up more stairs to another room in the monument. It was about the monuments creation. They had a full length picture of Wallace’s sword so I was able to stand up close to it and measure myself to it. I was good foot short. He was a big man over six feet.

Up higher in the Monument and you can see the clouds darken

At the top of the Wallace Monument, wind blowing wide open and a little scary.

246 Steps

I headed up higher in the monument. It was very cold and the wind was blowing so I moved quickly. I eventually made it to the very top which is wide open area where the wind was really blowing. It was a little scary. I took pictures very quickly and then headed back down. I found going down easier than up and was at the bottom of all 246 steps rather quickly.

Looking out at Stiring

The River has a lovely curve – River Forth

Alan went to the top without me, but I did warn him of the wind. He was not long and the shuttle was there so we “popped” right onto it and were soon at the bottom.

The Monument upclose

The Monument is massive

Alan had a few photos that were interesting from his views on the Monument.

The National Wallace Monument. Alan must have taken this the day before later in the evening.

Views of Stirling from the monument

Views of Stirling from the Wallace Monument

Stirling views

Stirling views

We returned to the visitor center for I was interested in this cow doll that turned out to be a doorstop. It is quite heavy. His name is Angus and he very cute. Someone has done a great job with the design of this creature. Dora Designs is on the tag and they are quite the business. I used to make cloth dolls so I appreciate when I see a good thing.

Angus the Coo, he makes me laugh!

It was time for us to make some decisions about what we were going to do. Our goal was Inverness and that was about 2.5 hour drive through the Cairngorms. So we decided not to do the Blair Athol Distillery and instead go directly to Newtonmore.  We could stop at the Clan MacPherson Museum that is located there. The drive was a good hour a half. Once on the motorway we made good time except for some construction and getting around Perth.

Later, I was to realize that missing the Battle of Killiecrankie 1689, part of the Jacobite Rebellions, might not have been a good idea. We passed it on the way to Newtonmore on A9. http://www.battlefieldsofbritain.co.uk/battle_killiecrankie_1689.html

Our drive took us through the Cairngorms. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cairngorms The area is a national park.  There was some snow on the mountains still. Some of the mountains were round and worn, others were flat-topped and they didn’t have any trees on them. There were forested areas but only here and there. There was this valley that was shaped like a bowl with the mountains around it and a stream going through it. It reminded me of Eastern Washington State in the US where we live. It was beautiful in an eerie sort of way. Scotland was once covered with glaciers and they really did a number on the country, carving out the landscape. https://visitcairngorms.com/

As we drove the motorway it would change into 4 lanes with land in between.  This made it easy to pass or be passed.  These were similar to our 4 lane highways with medians.

We arrived in Newtonmore around 4 pm which meant that we would get to Inverness during the rush hour. Newtonmore is part of the Scottish Highlands which means that they extend out into the Cairngorms.

We dallied at the Clan MacPherson Museum.  Sometimes you find a gem when you least expect it.

Sign for Clan Macpherson museum

Clan Macpherson museum in the back

Clan Macpherson House

The museum was well done and much larger than I had expected. This Clan is very active. There chief looks like a very nice man. They had lots of artifacts and one was a very fancy and elaborate silver carving. I think it was a candle holder? MacPherson is a clan that is part of Clan Chattan a consortium of clans. Their ancestral home has been bought and sold so many times that the artifacts in it have been lost.  Some have been scavenged from many locations including Australia. Apparently the Newtonmore area is the home base of this clan.  http://www.clan-macpherson.org/museum/

I bought a booklet about the clan titled: “The Posterity of the Three Brethren, A short History of the Clan Macpherson,” by Alan Macpherson and published by the Clan Macpherson Association Canadian Branch 2004. First published 1966. The book is only 91 pages and cost £6.

They are on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/clanmacphersonmuseum/

They do not take genealogies. They do not have any idea about who left for other parts of the world because so many did. They did have a note card display where people were leaving comments about emigrants and a map above with pins. There is a lot of reference to Cluny in this clan. I was not aware that it was so involved and quite the affair. I have not done any serious research or studying about the history of this clan. My great great grandmother Ellen McPherson has been very difficult to find any information about her in Canada. I am very impressed and want to encourage others to go to their website and take time to look into them.

Oh they say that the spelling is not important they embrace all forms.

The Cluny Castle at Laggan is the Clan Chiefs Castle for Macpherson. Do not confused it with the other Cluny Castle near Aberdeen.  It is located right off A86, but it is private so you can’t visit it. It is after Laggan but just past Balgowan and a bit before Newtonmore. Darn, I wish I had taken a look.



We tried the hotel across the street but they were not serving dinner till 6 PM. It was now 4:45 pm so we would have to wait quite a while. We were to learn that this is typical in Scotland the having hours for breakfast, lunch and dinner and then cake times, or tea times so check the restaurant before you go.

We decided to try Aviemore for dinner. Aviemore is a ski town and tourist town. Near there is the Rothiemurchus Forest which is quite the activity location. Unfortunately the restaurant closes at 5 pm so we were too late. It looks like a place that would be worth spending time in and we didn’t have time. I was so tempted to book us into it:  https://rothiemurchus.net/visit/food-drink/

Aviemore is also considered part of the Scottish Highlands. We found a fish and chip restaurant called the Happy Haggis http://www.harkai.co.uk/  and that turned out just fine. I choose the senior version of their fish and chips and Alan had the larger meal. He got ice cream with his meal.  So I ordered one for me. The Scots know how to make ice cream. It is very creamy.

Happy Haggis

Some food helped and we headed into Inverness which was about 30 miles away. The Navigation (Petunia) took us into Inverness to the Ardconnel House the way that I had routed it on my maps. So I knew where we were going even though it seems a bit convoluted. http://www.ardconnel-inverness.co.uk/

Ardconnel House Inverness

The view out of our window at the Ardconnel House

We found the B&B and it was not separate but part of a string of row houses. It was at the end of this group of B&B’s. Alan was parked in a no parking area so I ran in to the B&B to find the owner and help. The owner pointed to the car park about half a block away. So Alan drove to it and parked. I chatted with the owner but after a while I decided to go and find Alan. I found him sitting in the car. He was trying to download an app to use for the parking because it would require a ton of coins. He found the information on the board at the car park. The company is RingGo https://www.myringgo.com/ That took a while because they wanted all kinds of information. Once the parking was taken care of we grabbed our stuff and headed for our the B&B. The owner explained the room, the shower and the breakfast. We settled in and rearranged things a bit. Rick Steves had recommended the Ardconnel in his Scotland book. Alan attends the same church as Mr. Steves. Based on my experience now that I have booked lodging in Scotland. If you aren’t sure about what is offered email them. I thought they had parking per their website.  We were able to use RingGo as I mentioned above and also used it in Glasgow.

We were soon to bed and I slept pretty good.

Posted in Alexander John McDonell and wife Ellen McPherson - Mary's family, Inverness, Newtonmore, Scotland, Scotland May 2018 | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

A Tour of Scotland: The Falkirk Wheel, The Battle of Bannockburn and Stirling Castle…

Thursday came and I prepared for the day. Breakfast was terrible and not very good for a Holiday Inn Express. The scrambled eggs were odd tasting. The coffee was awful and out of a machine. The Corn Flakes even tasted funny…dry. I was not happy.


Our first goal was the Falkirk Wheel. Alan figured out how to make the GPS (Petunia’s) voice louder so we could use it. It involved pushing some buttons. It worked.

I had obtained tickets online before leaving home to make it easier to get into the event. I reserved the Falkirk Wheel boat ride, The Battle of Bannockburn appointment and Stirling Castle. The first two required timed visits and I had to take great care in figuring it out so that we had time to spare, in between, to drive to each location.

It was time to get going so we headed out to A8 and negotiated the three roundabouts. There was actually two to get onto the Glasgow Road which is A8.  We headed west to a very large roundabout with two lanes and then north onto M9 motorway.  We were doing okay. We then got confused and took the wrong exit. Petunia (GPS Navigation) got us back on course. We did drive by the large Kelpie statues but we didn’t stop.   http://www.thehelix.co.uk/things-to-do/the-kelpies/kelpies-tour/#.WxcNOu4vyUk

Fortunately, the Navigation took us around Falkirk and not through Falkirk which would have been nothing but roundabouts. This route actually took us to the north parking lot for the Falkirk Wheel.  I did not know that. It was quicker and easier coming southeast from Stirling Road. In the picture below, see the area on the upper left with a circle. Follow the road back to the parking lot which looks like a narrow loop at the top of the picture. We parked the car and walked about 10 minutes along the canal and across a foot bridge to get to the visitor center. A nice older man with his dog stopped and chatted with us. He teased us by saying that he didn’t want us to end up in his backyard when we came back.

Map of the Fallkirk Wheel Area.

The weather couldn’t decide if it wanted to be sunny and warm or rainy and windy. We endured some rain while we waited for the center to open at 10 am.  I had changed to my other jacket and it was a good thing for I needed the hood. While we waited Alan got a chance to wander around and watch the wheel work. They were testing it. It is an amazing piece of engineering and almost artist with its design.

Falkirk Wheel – Alan exploring the wheel

The visitor center opened and I was surprised that there wasn’t anything like museum boards about the Falkirk Wheel.  It was mostly a gift shop and cafe. https://www.scottishcanals.co.uk/falkirk-wheel/

I obtained our boarding pass from the clerk. There was a bunch of noisy school kids that got to board first at 10:20 am.  So they had a better view out the front. We boarded after getting on the boat with glass windows. It had lots of obstructions so photography would be difficult. You had to push down on the seats and sit in them to keep them down.

Fallkirk Wheel slowly lowering

Falkirk Wheel

Our guide was a young man who was friendly and knowledgeable but difficult to understand with his thick Scottish accent.  He told us about the wheel and how it worked. There are two similar boats that they use. They use them as counterbalances loading the first and then the second. So when one is on top in the upper canal the other boards on the bottom.  This rotates the boats throughout the day.

Boat for the Falkirk Wheel

So our boat pulled out of the dock and maneuvered into the docking trough under the wheel. Once they close up the trough doors the boat is raised along with with the trough filled with water up to the upper canal. The wheel stops and the trough is opened and the boat moves out and along the upper canal. It enters a tunnel. Once through the tunnel  they turn the boat around and head back into the tunnel.  You pass through the tunnel and come out still in the canal. The boat continues back to the docking area and they prepared to lower you back to the bottom of the wheel.

Looking up from inside the boat to the wheel

Falkirk Wheel thru the tunnel.

The return trip passed through the tunnel and out into the canal where we got more views of the countryside.

Returning to the wheel

Falkirk Wheel getting ready to enter the trough and get lowered down

We waited at the docking area of the wheel for about 15 minutes before we then started rotating down to our starting point. The wheel is very smooth not one bump. We were waiting for the other boat to position itself in the lower trough docking area below us.  It was a slow peaceful trip with a canned narration during some of the trip. It was interesting. I am glad we went to see it. It is the only wheel of its kind.

We could have stopped at the information centre which was also part of the buildings but we didn’t think we had time.  So we walked back to the car over the foot bridge and along the canal and the pathways were tricky but we figured it out. We didn’t end up in the man’s backyard. It was still a little stormy and cold.


Our next destination was to The Battle of Bannockburn Visitor Centre.  http://battleofbannockburn.com/ Alan carefully punched the location into the GPS. Sometimes it would recognize a destination and other times we had to do it manually. This meant twirling the knob to a letter and spelling out the name. A bit tedious.

We were off on our next adventure and more roundabouts. This route took us up Stirling Road like I had anticipated, and the countryside was beautiful and green. Alan was having trouble with the left side of the car and getting too close to the curb. The Scottish roads are narrow with no shoulders and there are often deep ruts on the left side so I am trying to help him by reminding him to stay over to the right,  This means he has to be careful of the oncoming cars on the right. It is very tricky.  The Scots drive with purpose so you do have to pay attention.

Visitor Center – Battle of Bannockburn

We arrived at the visitor center in plenty of time for our 1 pm scheduled experience. I went into the visitor center gift shop and presented my tickets and they gave us 3D glasses to use as our receipt.  There was parking so that was a good thing.

We had about 30 minutes to wait so we decided to get coffee and I spotted a pastry to share. I am having trouble with my mobile chargers not liking my phone so Alan hooked up his to my Cellphone and it was working nicely. I also took more medicine so I could enjoy the experience.

The Battle of Bannockburn is not your typical historical museum visit. There will be no pictures of this because it is immersive. We entered this room and there are viewing screens on the wall in a circular fashion. The attendant narrated the whole battle for us. It is like a movie but 3D. What appeared were men or women dressed in the costumes of the day or in warfare attire at different locations on the screens so you had to turn around to see some of them.  Some of the men were archers or had cross bows. There was a knight on a horse. Some worn these woven helmets and held axes, poles and other armament. There were examples of instruments of war and chain mail in the center of the room. I found the chain mail to be quite heavy.  The 3D effect made it look like the arrows were aimed right at you. It was very interesting.  This battle took place 24 June 1314. This website has a map of the battle:   https://www.mrallsophistory.com/revision/an-overview-of-the-battle-of-bannockburn.html

There were alcoves were you could go in and stand across from a character. To get the character to respond you waved your hand and then they would talk to you. Some were not responding to well.

I had signed Alan up for playing the game and that was the next part of the experience. I was going to observe. We entered the room and Alan ended up being on the Kings side. They would not let you choose. I went up behind him and then I had a coughing attack due to my cold, so I had to leave. I went out around the corner and I managed to get it under control.

There is a Game Master who describes the whole battle telling you what and how it all happened. Once he is done with the overview he assigns you to either the Scottish or British side. Before him is a board and as the game progresses things light up on this board so you can see what is evolving. The Game Master asks questions of the different players whom he has assigned as various warriors. The questions are about how you want to deploy your men. He also assigns people as the queen or king. It was interesting but to me a bit confusing. I also could not see the board very well because I was on the upper level. Try this website for more details and a similar map of the battle.  https://www.britishbattles.com/scottish-war-of-independence/battle-of-bannockburn/

After the experience was over we walked out to the statue and the memorial across this very large green field. It was really windy. The land was green beautiful and flat. People had dogs running around enjoying the open spaces. Alan took a photos of me by the statue of Robert the Bruce with the wind whipping me about.

Robert the Bruce

Me at the statue fighting the wind

We decided that I needed more medicine so we asked for some hot water from the cafeteria and I used my last Alka Seltzer tablets. We sat in the cafe for awhile while I rested.

The Statue of Robert the Bruce on the green

The field around the visitor centre – The Battle

My brother-in-law recommends this book: Robert the Bruce, King of Scots, by Ronald McNair Scott. I am more interested in how my brother-in-law descends from this man but I have not yet figured it out. There is a chart of his family in the beginning of the book.


The next destination was Stirling Castle. The Castle is on a hill with very tight narrow steep streets. I could not find the tickets I had purchased online.  My Stirling Castle information was missing. So we headed to the castle anyway. Getting to the castle was a challenge because we lost GPS as we neared the top of the mountain the castle is on.  We ended up going in the wrong direction. So Alan did a U turn on the narrow road and we headed back up the steep street. We passed the cemetery went straight and to the right and found the castle entrance.  We were able to obtain a parking space with help from a nice lady who was managing the cars.

Robert the Bruce at the entrance to Stirling Castle

Entrance to Stirling Castle

We went over to the gift shop and I showed them my ticket on my cell phone so they figured out a way to get us into the castle.  We must have missed the last free tour, however, I think they didn’t conduct one for lack of people. So we wandered around and through the Great Hall, the king and queens quarters and a few other exhibits. The view was wonderful of the green countryside around Stirling. Fortunately it was sunny with clouds so our visit was pleasant. Stirling castle is old and might be bigger than Edinburgh Castle. It was also steep in many places. https://www.stirlingcastle.scot/

Kings Chambers, the tapestries were amazing

Ceiling tiles and flag

The Great Hall in Stirling Castle

Me holding court and pondering  my decision…

I was to discover later that my papers had slipped under the passenger car seat. From that point on I always put them into my bag by my feet.

Below is a gallery of pictures. Just click on the photo and it should open into a scrapbook.  You have to go to the actual internet blog to see them, if you are getting a email copy it might not work for you.

Alan told me that his hearing aids were not working and he thought it was due to ear wax build up and he needed filters which we didn’t have. So we drove to this place in the outskirts of Stirling. It was up steep narrow roads in a hilly area. We think the business must have closed because we could not find any signs. We would need to do more research to find an alternative. This is probably not of interest to you but it is an example of trying to solve problems that come up when you are traveling.

After he searched for the business that wasn’t there he decided to go to the B&B. We headed to The Old Tramhouse and got caught in a left turn lane when we wanted to go straight. Fortunately, GPS helped us out of that one too.  The Old Tramhouse Bed and Breakfast is on Causewayhead Road a very very busy road in Stirling. It is in view of the The National Wallace Monument.  https://theoldtramhouse.com/

Sign for B&B

Old Tramhouse B&B

Wallace Monument in the distance

The parking lot was filled with cars so I hopped out and asked the lady for help. The side road that was about ½ a block away and that would allow us to park the car. So we got out our luggage and things and I took them into the B&B. Alan went to park the car while I went with the lady who took me to Room #3. This was a lovely room with steps down into the space. There were two twin beds. I could not believe that she wrestled our luggage up the steep steps. It was very nice the room, a bit narrow and crowded with things. There was a sitting area and a large bathroom. We could not figure out how to turn on the heat so it was a little cold.

The lady who greeted us was assisting the owner. The owner had emailed me that she had to go to a funeral for her brother. So this helper lady showed us around and offered to give us a ride to the Birds and Bee’s restaurant which she said was a quick walk back to the B&B. She drove with purpose. I was amazed she was brave enough to back up on to Causewayhead road.  http://www.thebirdsandthebees-stirling.com/

Birds & Bees Restaurant

Birds & Bees Restaurant

The National Wallace Monument in the distance

Stirling – the land around Stirling – our walk back from the Birds and Bees

The Birds and Bees Restaurant is eclectic mix and just my style of restaurant. My steak was good and my wine was good too. I tried to types of wine. Sometimes the different sizes are an advantage. Alan also had a steak and I think a beer. He wasn’t driving.

We had survived this busy day with a few mishaps and miss-turns but we were okay. We had successfully driven on the left side. We had arrived at all our destinations with time to spare and enjoyed the activity.  I was very proud of us.

Our walk back to the B&B was a little longer than we had anticipated but it was a nice walk. It was a very calming walk. The countryside was lovely and the Wallace Monument loomed up on the hill in the distance. It was a bit cool but sunny. As we walked along I studied the houses with their small gardens. They were all tidy and neat, some a little fancier then others. They were nice houses, not huge but maybe mid-sized.

It was time for bed. It was fun to sleep in a twin bed. I had not done that for a really long time.

Posted in Scotland, Scotland May 2018, Stirling | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment