Friday, 2 November 2007

Up North

And I mean really far north!

Last weekend Malcolm and I took a trip to Inverness and Aberdeen. For those of you who don't feel like looking at a map I'll just tell you that Inverness is at a similar latitude to Anchorage Alaska. So this trip officially pushed my borders, and I have a new record for the farthest north I've ever been in the world. Now I've almost conquered the Northern Hemisphere. Years ago when I was on a cruise with my family I achieved my southernmost point, the island chain of Kiribati (pronounced Kirabas) which is only a few hundred miles north of the equator. Maybe one day I'll make it to the Southern Hemisphere...

But I digress. Our first stop was at Urquhart Castle, some beautiful ruins on the banks of Loch Ness. I can't tell which I enjoyed more... looking at the castle or searching for Nessie. A few times I would say 'There's the monster! Disguised as a swan!' or some other foolishness. People started looking at me funny after awhile, but I was enjoying myself and have long grown accustomed to people's weird looks.

After the castle Malcolm and I continued to drive up the shores of Loch Ness. We stopped at one touristy place that had a 'monster exhibition', but we found it a bit overpriced, so we just bought a souvenir and left.

Next stop was Culloden. Any one familiar with Diana Gabaldon's 'Outlander' series or Scottish history in general will know the significance of Culloden. Here's an explanation for the rest of you: There once was a guy who thought he should be the king of Scotland, and he did have a direct bloodline to royalty, but the evil English king didn't want to give up half of his island to someone else. The 'pretender' (called Bonnie Prince Charlie) decided to round up some Scottish Highlanders and try and recapture the Scottish throne. After many years of struggle and a few battles here and there the final conflict between the Pretender and the English Regimentals took place at Culloden. It was a landslide victory for the English, and most of Bonnie Prince Charlies forces were slaughtered either on the battle field or as they lay wounded after the battle. There are some pretty horrific stories of the English setting fires to barns where the wounded Scottish hid, or killing women and children indiscriminately. The battle field was very somber to wander through, and very very cold. Anyone who loved the Outlander books as much as I did will appreciate this picture:

After Culloden we went to Clava Cairns. This place also figured prominently in the book series above. Yes, I feel like a dork, but I also found it pretty cool to go to these places that I had read about.

Clava Cairns are 4000 year old stone circles. They are similar to Stonehenge in feeling, but different in construction.

Below: I imitate a character in the book who 'falls' through the rock here and goes back in time...

Our day concluded with driving to Aberdeen and meeting up with one of Malcolm's old friends. We had a very pleasant evening in the pub.

The next day we continued our tour of the area's historical sites. We saw more old stones and a really cool stone circle:

We also drove past Balmoral, the Queens' Scottish castle. It was closed so we only got to see the gate. It was quite pretty.

Overall our trip was fun, informative, geeky (for me), and beautiful. The trees had all turned fall colors, and it was a treat just to look out the window at the world passing by...

Here is a picture of Malcolm and I at Clava Cairns, just to prove that he was there too:


Anonymous said...

Wow! Some beautiful photos Robin :)

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the great pictures and travelogue! And thanks for acting out fslling between the stones...nice acting. I've always wanted to see those places Galbadon wrote about (aren't you glad I gave you that first book in the series?)Hey, I just realized that maybe those books are why you married that guy from, it's all because of ME! (Malcolm should worry if you start calling him Jaime) By the way, I still haven't read the last book in the series and it's been staring at me from the bookcase for the last two years. I'm afraid to start it, 'cause I won't want to do anything else but read.

dreaming of revelry said...

I ran across your blog when I did a google search on "american experaince in Scotland." Great pics btw, I adore the outlander series and really appreciate the picture in frontT of the stone that says "Fraser" . Thanks!