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Published: December 14th 2009
I got up and straightened up the room so I could take a photo of how nice it was. I’m such a weirdo! We went down to breakfast and while we were eating the manager brought down our luggage - woo hoo! He even helped me put it in the car while mom paid for our sandwiches from yesterday. I really liked this hotel and wouldn’t mind staying here several days to explore the area. The room was gorgeous and big and so was the bathroom. The staff was super nice and friendly as well.
We were on the A82 road by 9am and got to Drumnadrochit and Urquhart Castle on Loch Ness by 9:30. There was a tour bus waiting already for the 9:30 opening time. It was so windy and cold there I was freezing cold even with my fleece and jacket on. You enter the castle grounds through the visitor center. From the parking lot you can’t even see the castle unless you could stand on something to see over the wall and hedges. From the visitor center it’s a long walk down a steep walkway out to the castle on the edge
of the loch. There’s a model of a trebuchet along the way. Urquhart is pronounced ‘Erkit’.
Somehow half the tour bus people got out to the castle ahead of us. I thought they had all gone it to watch the movie presentation in Spanish first. The castle is a ruin but is large and interesting. We walked through all of the ruins and even climbed up the tower which was packed and reached by a narrow spiral staircase. We took some photos of each other on one of the walls overlooking the loch even though it was so windy we look like we were going to blow away. There were lots of stairs to the various sections of the ruins and mom was exhausted and had to rest on the way back up to the visitor center. We were probably there about an hour and a half including time in the gift shop and the tea room.
More info: http://www.undiscoveredscotland.co.uk/drumnadrochit/urquhart/
We headed up the road a couple of miles to the Loch Ness “Nessie” visitor center. We looked around but didn’t pay to go into the exhibit - it was kind of pricey and looked
Well a plastic replica of Nessie anyway! At the Loch Ness visitor's center
like a lot of the stuff we’ve seen on TV. We did of course hit the gift shops and got some more souvenirs and I got myself a Heilen Coo t-shirt. They have a model of Nessie in a little pond outside the visitor center that I thought was pretty cool and I took a few shots of it.
From Drumnadrochit we headed north to Inverness. I found the mall with the Vodafone store and luckily it had an underground car park. We bought the top up minutes at Vodafone, and then mom decided she needed to buy some new shirts until she could do some laundry. We went into Marks and Spencers and she ended up finding several t-shirts and button down shirts that she liked. The prices wouldn’t have been bad if the Dollar still equaled the Pound Sterling, but £75 is about $142.50. Yikes. We saw Inverness Castle while we were driving through the city, but it’s the sheriff’s office now so we didn’t stop. Honestly Inverness is just like any other city so we hadn’t planned to see anything in the city. The mall was a necessity!
From the mall it
Replica thatched cottage at Culloden Battlefield vistor's center
was only a short drive to Culloden Battlefield. We went around the exhibit area which is huge and new and really well done. Then we walked around a bit outside, it was still super windy and cold. There is a little stone thatched cottage that was recreated on the site ad you can walk up the stairs onto the roof of the exhibition building to view the battlefield. The roof has grass on it which is kind of cool. The battlefield is immense and they have blue and red flags set out representing the battle lines as the two sides clashed.
The Battle of Culloden, 16 April 1746, was the final clash between the French-supported Jacobites and the Hanoverian British Government in the 1745 Jacobite Rising.
More info: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Culloden
We missed the turn for Clava Cairns so we just continued on to Cawdor Castle which was only about 15 minutes away. Cawdor is gorgeous! They also have a golf course there and a gypsy wagon. This castle is lived in by the family still and there are lots of rooms included in the public tour. The place is just immense. The gardens are beautiful too. This
castle had a secret dungeon that was only rediscovered in the 1970’ as it had been boarded over after a fire in 1819. There had been a trap door in the floor of the room above (a drawing room) that people would drop through into the little dungeon. We also had lunch at the castle tearoom; we both had cheese and tomato Panini’s and shortbread cookies.
Cawdor Castle dates from the late 14th century and was built as a private fortress by the Thanes of Cawdor. The ancient medieval tower was built around the legendary holly-tree. The legend goes "that the Thane of Cawdor, who had a small castle about a mile away, decided to build a new, stronger tower. Following the instructions received in a dream, he loaded a coffer of gold on to the back of a donkey and let it roam about the district for a day: wherever the animal lay down to rest in the evening, there his castle should be sited and it would prosper for evermore. The donkey lay down under the tree."
More info: http://www.cawdorcastle.com/
From Cawdor it only took about 15 minutes to backtrack to Kilravock Castle
View from the gardens
where we had booked lodging for the night. The castle is now closed to public tours. Not sure why. We are in the Upper Tower Room in this Castle Hotel. It’s reached by climbing 3 flights of regular stairs and then up a short narrow stone spiral staircase. The bathroom is down a couple of stairs and across an extra narrow landing. The room is really huge with 2 twin beds and a double bed too. The double bed looks like it sinks a bit in the middle so mom and I are taking the twin beds. Since this is really a 14th century tower the walls are about 6 feet thick, so the windows are in these recesses that you can climb up on and look out the windows from.
The woman at reception carried mom’s giant heavy suitcase up for us thankfully! I managed mine with my right hand only up 4 flights. There is also a set of back stairs that is also a stone spiral just outside the door to the room (and on the way to the bathroom); if you step too far to the right you will fall right down them! The door
Where we stayed in the 15th century tower!!
into the room is only about 5 feet tall, I would guess for protection against attackers. Even mom is chilly here and put the portable heater on, usually she has the window wide open.
The hotel is part of a Christian Trust. It has been home to the Rose family since 1460. Mary Queen of Scots, Bonnie Prince Charlie and Robert the Bruce have all stayed here at one time or another.
Kilravock Castle (pronounced 'Kil-rock') is a traditional Scottish castle, the Tower being built in 1460. It has been the seat of the Roses since that time. Origins of Kilravock -In the 6th century A.D., following the preaching of the missionary Columba in Inverness, the Nairn valley was evangelised and settled with several Christian churches. They were marked in place names by the prefix ‘Kil’ - the Celtic word for church. Tradition suggests that an area in the grounds of the castle, now occupied by a dovecote, was the site of an ancient church, apparently named after a Christian unknown to history. In May 1967 the castle opened its doors as an outstanding Christian Centre and in 1984 the 25th Baroness, Miss Elizabeth Rose, gave the castle and its immediate environs into the ownership of the Kilravock Castle Christian Trust, so that the Christian tradition of the Rose family may continue into the future.
More info: http://www.kilravockcastle.com/history.html
Since the hotel doesn’t serve dinner we decided to go to Culloden Moor Inn for dinner on the receptionist’s advice. We left at 6pm so we could stop off at Clava Cairns on the way. It turns out the restaurant was literally right next to the Culloden Visitor Center and on the corner of the road leading to
Clava Cairns and Dinner
Clava Cairns is only about one and a half miles from the restaurant down some single track roads. The Cairns are ancient stone circles which were burial sites. Mom stayed in the car while I walked around and took a few photos. I was the only one there except for a family that was also taking a look at the site.
Following the brown tourist signs to Clava Cairns takes you down some very minor roads and close to a spectacular railway viaduct en route to the car park for what are properly called the Prehistoric Burial Cairns of Balnuaran of Clava. You can see why the signposts stick with "Clava Cairns".
There are three burial cairns at Balnuaran, and they are part of a line of seven dotted along the south side of the valley of the River Nairn. These together form part of a group of some 45 very distinctive cairns in northern Inverness-shire, all called Clava Cairns after this location, which is where they were first studied. What sets them apart is their construction within a "kerb", a ring of large containing boulders.
More info: http://www.undiscoveredscotland.co.uk/inverness/clavacairns/index.html
Back to Kilravock
We made the short drive back to the restaurant and discovered that it’s a very popular place! If only we’d known we could have put our names in on the way by. The wait was about 45 minutes to an hour. We waited as we didn’t have a lot of choices in the area without driving all the way into Inverness. It turned out to be only about a 30 minute wait after all. I had the filett (yes that's how it was spelled!) of beef which was on the specials list - It was awesome with a mushroom and bacon gravy, green beans, carrots and chips. Mom had macaroni and cheese. Okey-dokey! She said it was extra cheesy.
We came back to the hotel in the pitch dark - that was interesting! We had to use our front door key to get in and no sooner had we gotten upstairs then Steve called. Of course he couldn’t hear me in the tower room with the 6 foot thick walls! He said he would call back so I dashed back down the 4 flights of stairs and out onto the front lawn just as he called back. Now shower and sleep!
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