Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Blair Castle.
Blair Castle's tale was the the last real owner had reached the end of his life without any immediate kin. So he instructed his lawyers to track down his nearest living relative and give his estate to them. After his death they spent a fair bit of time looking into this and last tracked down his nearest surving relative - an eighteen year old kid pumping gas in the states. Unsurprisingly, the young man was fairly surprised to see lawyers rock up to him at work and announce that they would like him to come to Scotland to inspect the estate that his great-great-great uncle, however many times removed, had just left him.

Now most people would see owning a castle in Scotland as a) just damn cool and b) a great pickup line in bars. However, this young guy was less than impressed with Scottish weather and thus turned over the castle to the National Trust for a fair amount of money instead.

'Where Monarch of the Glen was filmed'

Nevis mountain range

Nevis Mountain range

Well of the Seven Heads

Well of the Seven Heads

Day 6 - Well of the Seven severed Heads

Okay, I can't remember the story too well anymore. But I think these guys did something to hurt this guy's family and the other clan chieftans wouldn't help him. At last one of them did and the guy felt he had enough to support to hunt these guys down, kill them and then take their heads around to display to the other chieftans. I think they murdered his wife and dumped her at the bottom of the well. I remember we walked down the steps and looked into the bottom of the well to try and see the skeleton...

Me & Dave

Nuria, Nicole, Nicola, Sune, Marissa, Aussie

Nicole, Dave, Fox, Nuria, Matt (?)

Robert, Me, Fox

Final Night

Fox, Nuria, Troy

Dave, Troy & Fox


Our final night ... getting drunk all in pink. Sune, Marissa, Me and Nuria

Leyline rock

Clava Cairns

Clava Cairns

These human-made stone formations are dated at 4-6000 years old. They are laid out in an Orion's Belt pattern - the same as the Great Pyramids and as works by the Aztecs and Incas. The passage into the cairn is directly aligned with the setting sun in December 22 [Winter Solstice] and then the interior fills with light. They are also built upon the electromagnetic leyline that heads in a straight line from the Clava Cairns to Avebury and Stonehenge.

We had people standing against one of the huge standing rocks to see if they could feel the leyline. Some reckoned they felt a tingling in their fingertips and others felt nothing.

Monday, June 26, 2006

MacLean mass grave

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Battle of Culloden

The Battle of Culloden

This brings us back to bonnie Prince Charles. To recap - Charles sends missives to the Highland chiefs (while he's in Europe) saying that he is the rightful king of Scotland. He will come to Scotland to turn out the English and will bring with him so many thousand soldiers from France. The letter travels between the clans and they decide this is their best shot so they invite him over. Charlie shows up on their shores with a couple of mates and no soldiers... But he's so charming that they believe him when he says his troops will be over later. So they kiss goodbye to their wives and kids and start a war against the English that will carry them South down into England.
The King of England does a runner and tells his nephew (or whoever it was) to deal with the Scots once and for all. Now the Scots didn't actually want London. They just wanted Scotland back and having marched for months without a break, with no sign of the promised soldiers and having realized that Charlie was crap when it came to military tactics... they told him that he was welcome to govern Scotland from Scotland but sod the English, they were off home.

What the Scots didn't realize was that the English army had been rallied and were being vehemently pursued by someone who took parting words very seriously. While they were thinking about seeing their families again, the English were thinking about blood.

The final stand was the Battle of Culloden fields. For some reason the Scots were so knackered that they let Charlie and his Irish (!!) advisor do the battle planning. Firstly, the site was crap. It was a level plain covered with heather and bracken. This is really, really shite to try and run through [we know, we tried!] and went completely against normal Highland tactics which were to stand on a hill, get themselves worked up and then charge down screaming and brandishing axes (thus gaining a height and speed advantage).

Secondly, Charles discovered that the English commander's birthday was that night and deemed that celebrations would leave the men in a drunken stupor. So he told his men that they would attack the English camp during the night. Out they marched... and marched.... and marched.... Charles got them hopelessly lost and when dawn broke they were miles from the engagement field, exhausted, unfed etc...

It was a slaughter. The English won a complete victory and then proceeded to clear the Highlands, ban Scottish language, tartan, bagpipes, haggis etc...

Inverness Castle (it really is pink!)

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I'm not too sure where this is...


We stopped for lunch at Inverness and hopped off the bus giggling as Dave warned us that only ugly people live in Inverness and that anyone pretty and/or smiling had to be a visitor. It's a nice enough little city. It felt vaguely odd though to be back in a city as the Highlands aren't densely populated as a rule. Our mission was to make sure that everyone had something pink to wear for our final night together. *g* I had stuff in my bag but for the rest there were some very surprised charity stores...
It was a really nice lunch though. I found a cool bakery that sold sciones (yay!) and spent a good chunk of time wandering around the city, near the castle and along the river bank and through the back streets talking to Nick who (darling wonderful man) forwent sleep to call me on my cellphone.








Glen Affric and the Caledonian Forests. These forests have existed continuously for 8000 years. The current trees are 500 years old.




Plodda Falls



No Nessie but some pretty swans...

Loch Ness

Loch Ness

Loch Ness

Loch Ness maintains a constant temperature of 4'C which means that it's frickin' freezin' but during the middle of winter steams because it's warmer than the land. It also has visibility limited to a depth of ten feet due to the high peat content. Dave was willing to swear black and blue that Nessie was a dinosaur and living in the subteranean caves. Loch Ness is absolutely gorgeous with mirrord waters that ripple like liquid silk. Note that Haggis is more than willing to assist lucky couples in proposing up there (and what kind of shmuck proposes in person by letter? there's a long Haggis story there).

Haggis tradition involves lining everyone up along the shore and doing the famous Nessie summoning chant complete with hand gestures. "Come to me! Come to me! Nessie, Nessie..." is the start and sounds suspiciously like Ka Mate, Ka mate... I was ready to crack up and a few of the Aussies were cracking grins too.

The other surprise of the morning was McDonald and one of the other Aussies stripping their gear off and diving into the water clad in nothing warmer than board shorts. They managed to avoid emitting girly yelps but did dwim back to shore very, very quickly....

*g* Fighting gear


Ou American volunteered :)

Highland Plaid

Fort William

We stayed the night at a gorgeous hostel in Fort William at one end of Loch Ness. We ended the afternoon with an hour lecture and display on Highland culture and history i.e. how plaid was worn, living conditions, and the new romanticised culture introduced by the English during Victoria's reign.

Highland Coo!


Urquhart Castle - we stopped for a quick photostop rather than paying to get into the ruins.

The bridge bounces :P

The falls