Sunday, 14 October 2018

A Week Up North Part 1

It was time for our annual dog staycation and, in our ongoing quest to get all of the Historic Scotland sites, we decided a trip up north was necessary and so settled on Invergordon as our base of operations. We managed to fit a lot into our week, so I think I shall split the blog into two parts!

To break the journey up and give us all a chance to stretch legs, we stopped at Killiecrankie to see Soldiers Leap - the spot where a government soldier leapt 18 feet across the river Garry to flee the Jacobites. It was the start of a theme for the holiday as the Jacobite rebellion is probably the moment of time that dominates the history of the north. 

Autumn has made its mark and the trees were all turning yellow, making the walk all the more splendid. Killicrankie is also one of two places you can go bungee jumping in Scotland, so whilst we heard the occasional scream, it didn't break the idyllic feel of the place. The hubby suggested that next time we stop at Killiecrankie we should do the bungee jumping, which I am all up for, once the weather is guaranteed to be calm and a little warmer!

Our first full day was spent predominantly at Fort George. We did the day a little backwards as Fort George was built after the Battle of Culloden as a way to control future threats from the North which never arose. Its a huge fort that has, and still does, serves the army as a training ground. Dogs were not permitted inside buildings, and it was strange to watch groups of squaddies jogging in laps about the place whilst reading how it was designed and re-purposed from first the fear of a landward attack from the Jacobites, and then a seaward attack from the French.

As I've already mentioned, it was massive. Audio tour headphones on heads (most definitely worth taking advantage of) and kids quiz in hand, it took up about 4 hours to get around the place. Its history is long and, despite never having been attacked or seen battle, it was interesting to see how it was used during wartime (including both world wars). We took turns going in and out of the mocked up barracks and the Black Watch museum and found a sheltered spot for lunch outside the cafe. The museum covers the history of the British army, and is current in including Afghanistan as a modern conflict.

The rampart is more than a kilometre long and we finished our visit by strolling along the area looking for dolphins (we were slightly off season for those) and counted the number of canons (31) that kept watch for attack. There are a lot of sheer drops about the ramparts and signs warning people to keep away from edges, so we ensured Missy stayed on a short lead and stuck close to us. The area was, perhaps unsurprisingly devoid of wildlife, but we still didn't want to risk anything!
On the website, a pet cemetery is advertised. Whilst we saw this from the ramparts, upon asking, we were informed that you could only gain access to it if you were on the tour. So just a heads up if its something you're particularity wanting to see!

As I said about doing the day backwards - we visited Culloden as part of out afternoon walk. I will admit that I was hesitant about doing the visitors centre (which does not allow dogs - we walked Missy for about an hour on the field before putting her in the car to sleep for an hour, with it being barely 12C, she was in no danger of boiling) as I was concerned about the direction they would tell the battle from. I know many people who use Culloden (and the subsequent highland clearances) as their excuse to dislike the English and the government, and was concerned such a slanted viewpoint would be reflected in the visitors centre. I need not have worried, again armed with our audio tour (another one that was well worth using as it gave far more information than was written on the wall) it explained from a completely neutral viewpoint of what the Jacobites did and how the Governement responded.
Make note on the two terms, both Irish and English fought alongside the Jacobites and there was a Scottish regiment within the government forces - the only bagpipes played during battle were from the Governments side. It was a lot murkier a story than simply Scotland against England. And really, when the throne is concerned, it was a Frenchman trying to steal it off a German - which makes the whole thing more confusing.

That is not to say that it was fought fairly. Bonny Prince Charlie was no tactician and simply fled when it was obvious it was going horribly wrong. And the aftermath of Culloden was atrocious to the Scottish people, and Britain as a whole was horrified to learn of the actions taken against those who were accused of sheltering Jacobites. With fog rolling down the hills, the atmosphere well matched the dark material of the day and we found ourselves a cosy dog friendly pub (The Snow Goose) to discuss what we had taken from the days military history before moving onto more lighthearted conversation with the other guests who had sat in the dog friendly area. 

Missy trying some non-alcoholic doggy beer
A tremendously good day despite the subject matter, and a refreshing change from talk of Mary Queen of Scots and Cromwell, who dominate the history of the central belt. 

I shall leave the adventure at that - next post includes our hunt for the Loch Ness Monster!

1 comment:

  1. Pleased to see your trip up North went well! And I look forward to hearing about your hunt for Nessie!