Inverness: Day 10, 11, 12, and 13 - Pipers Galore


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August 11th 2011
Published: August 11th 2011
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Northern BelleNorthern BelleNorthern Belle

And the engine that started on fire
We got up at a decent time again, and had another quick, cold breakfast of cereal and fruit so that we could get out to the practice range one last time before we left St. Andrews. We picked up the shuttle to the course that drove right past our B&B and we were there in 5 minutes (it's generally about a 25 minute walk). There, Cor and I each got 50 balls and rented a club (I lied before, the balls were 3.50GBP and the club was 2.50GBP). Afterwards, we picked the shuttle up outside the practice range. As we were waiting for more possible passengers, a Coke truck came up behind the shuttle, honked it's horn, and in response, the shuttle (with its door open) whipped around the parking lot in a dangerous fashion and parked behind the Coke truck. Our driver and the Coke driver, got into a heated argument....I couldn't make half of it out, but it was mostly swearing. We were waiting for a fight to break out. Finally, with continued screaming, the Coke driver moved his vehicle (and the shuttle almost hit his open door). It was actually pretty hilarious, but also really awkward. When Cor
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Just outside of our guesthouse - views of the River Ness
commented on it, I said: 'See, now you can see why sometimes I get irrationally upset. I'm Scottish and we're an angry people.' I should thank those two drivers, I think that I've set myself up with an excuse for life 😉

We stopped at one of the links shops, bought a few more gifts and then headed off to the train station at Leuchars. Of course we were way too early, but this worked to our advantage since we had multiple connections for the trip to Inverness, and our train to Dundee was late, so we would miss one. Luckily, there was another train arriving shortly (also to Dundee), so we jumped on that one instead. One of our other connections was in Perth, and when we arrived at our platform, there was an old train there called the "Northern Belle" that is apparently some type of Scottish Orient Express. The passengers came and were to be sent off by a pipe band (everyone was all dressed up and it looked to be a big deal), but as we were standing there, they started the engine, some sparks occurred and then it started on fire. That's nice. They
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Also on Ardross Terrace/the River Ness outside of our guest house
removed the engine, and obviously, our train was diverted to another platform....and I guess that the Northern Belle was delayed. The train to Inverness was a bit of a pain....it was oversold, our seat reservations didn't hold up, there was no where to put our luggage, and we were stuck in the entrance with bags and an entire family with small children and their pram. Once the family was seated it was a lot less stressful, and finally Cor and I did end up with some kind of seating arrangement. I sat in a pull down seat by the doors to watch the bags as they had to be stuck in front of the doors as well. Could have been worse, apparently one of the cars was like an oven.

Once we arrived, things went a lot more smoothly (even though someone jumped in front of us in the taxi queue, but whatever). We had a taxi, but it was actually only a few minute drive to our guesthouse: Strathness House on Ardross Terrace. Although the linen and bedspread look a little dated, it's a very nice (and friendly!) guesthouse (although, the bed is what I like to call
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It really was a nice day, but the photo makes it look ominous
a 'rottiserie bed' which I find to be common in b&b's- you have to keep turning through out the night, or part of you is going to hurt the next morning). It's also in a great location....overlooking the River Ness and is near shopping and restaurants. Cor and I got settled and since our arrangements on the train were too uncomfortable to have lunch, we popped out to a place called John MacNab's just down the road. We both just had sandwiches with chips: I had cheddar and pickle (which I love over here, even though the pickle on it is super weird for a Canadian), which I do prefer as a toastie, and Cor had toasted brie, cranberry, and bacon. Both hit the spot and were reasonably priced. For some reason, we were both exhausted, so we headed back to the guesthouse and had a nap....for 3 hours. It took us a long time to get going again after that, but then we decided that we should eat again, but with it being after 10, not much other than pubs was available. We ended up hitting the one restaurant that appeared to still be serving: Zizzi, which is an
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The Grants used an age old tactic in battle....just blow up their own castle so that it wouldn't fall into the enemy's hands
Italian restaurant on Bridge Street. The food was pretty decent, I had lasagne and Corwin had risotto, but the server kind of sucked. People don't tend to tip in the UK, but I normally stick to my Canadian ways. This time, I didn't.

Today was also Cor's birthday (which I have officially moved to a more fun day because today was lame), and he wanted to stop by the Castle Tavern on View Place for a quick pint. He tried one of their ales, but didn't think that it held a candle to the beers brewed by Bushwakkers in Regina.

The next morning, we enjoyed breakfast at the guest house (they have potato scones here, which I love). Then, we headed off to our pick up location for the Jacobite Sensation Tour, that was on Bank Street near the Ramada Jarvis Hotel. I'm not a huge prearranged tour fan, but it seemed like a good deal and at the time, we had not planned to rent a car during this part of the trip. For 27.50GBP per person, you are picked up in Inverness, go on a 1/2 hour cruise on Loch Ness, have an hour visit at
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Vegetable korai
Uruquart Castle (which is really just remains since the Grants blew it up so that it would not end up in Jacobite hands. This was okay as part of a tour, but I'm not sure if we would have gone there if it hadn't been included), to the Loch Ness Experience (which is a bit cheese, but how can I not be when it's about the Loch Ness Monster?), and then back to Inverness. I thought that it was worth it - and it was only 3.5 hours, so we didn't stay at any one place too long.

It was well after lunch at this point, so we stopped at the first place we saw: Ash, which is outside the rail station. I would say don't bother. Service was not great (another no tip situation), we both had toasties and they were meh....fine if you are desperate. Then we did some shopping at East Gate Shopping Centre and walked (because we're dumb) to pick up our car at enterprise car rental. Cor bravely drove back to the guesthouse during rush hour (he's only driven a right hand drive on Islay, but it's not that hard there since most roads
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Delicious, sweet naan
are one lane) and we parked in the car park behind the cathedral across the street from our guesthouse, which is really cheap for 2GBP per day (although someone leaving gave us his ticket...thanks, buddy!)

We then decided to go for Indian again for supper at Jaipur on Bridge Street. We had pakoras, popodoms, naan (which was a bit different than what I'm used to because it was a little sweet, but delicious), rice, chicken shalimar, and vegetable korai. Although not as good as Mother India...it was really flavourful. We then finished off with some Indian tea (we asked for chai, and they offered to make the tea with milk and sugar...which made one of the servers from Bangladesh very excited, because that was "how I would have it at home", so I guess we were okay in his books). The service was also the best that we've had in Inverness so far (although there was one guy there that never smiled, everyone else was friendly and on top of their game). We may stop by for their reasonably priced lunch one day if we have time (um...yeah, I wrote this part earlier, and we didn't get a chance
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Chicken Shalamir
to do this). After all of our add ons this ended up being a bit of a pricey meal again....about 45GBP.

One thing that I've noticed about the Highlands is that there is always a piper or a pipe band. We've been in the area for less than 2 days, and we've heard at least 4 pipe bands and 1 or 2 individual pipers. I find that interesting, because I've heard that people in Edinburgh get super annoyed by pipers, but here, they are all over the place.

The next day we got up and had breakfast at the guesthouse again and headed out (Cor drove again) to Culloden Battlefield and Visitor Centre, which is about 15 minutes east of Inverness. This is the location of the last battle on British/Scottish soil and was between the Brits/government and the Jacobites who were supporters of Bonnie Prince Charlie (Charles Stuart, the "Young Pretender", who some thought was the rightful king (well, that his father was) though the Stuarts had been exiled for some time. I really liked this exhibit, but I'm totally into this kind of thing. Some people may find the 10GBP price tag a little high, but
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The entrance to the visitor centre.
I thought that it was worth it. Ater we went through the visitor centre, we grabbed some audio guides and headed out to the battlefield. The weather was quite rainy and dreary, and we did walk most of it, but we ended up turning back a bit earlier than planned. We had a quick lunch there of sandwiches, which were reasonably priced and decent enough (we didn't look, but apparently the hot food is quite expensive).

All this time we had been using google maps with 3G on the iPad, but we didn't have service at the battlefield. Our next stop was Culloden House, which was where Bonnie Prince Charlie made his head quarters (and is now a fancy schmancy hotel), so we had to drive around in the direction that we thought that it was until we got service again. This was Corwin's birthday treat as he wanted to stop here for a dram. Unfortunately, we had to eat something in order for them to serve us alcohol, but we figured that we could do that (hey, we have vacation appetites). I know that the restaurant is fine dining in the evening, so we were a bit scared
Well of the DeadWell of the DeadWell of the Dead

On Culloden Battlefield
as to what that would cost. Apparently, they have a very reasonable lunch (mostly sandwiches and as much of a cost as it was at the battlefield, so we should have just eaten there). We settled on the cheese plate with oatcakes for 10GBP (of course we picked the priciest thing) and Cor raided their whisky cart. He planned to have something rare, but I think that he got wrapped up in the discussion with the guy there as he knew a lot about whisky....anyways, he ended up trying an Old Putney 12 year old. I guesss I'll have to buy him a rare whisky while we're in Islay instead.

For dinner, Cor had really wanted to try the Mustard Seed on Fraser Street, but it looked a bit expensive....and we'd already been going crazy with meals that were more expensive than normal. We had a look at the menu online and it looked like they had an early evening menu for 9.95GBP that was for 2 courses. So we headed on over (this is where coming from Saskatchewan and being an early eater comes in handy). I started with a fruit salad that was really good and Cor
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Pretty cool - I looked into staying here, but I think it started at 300GBP per night
had a beef wrap with sweet chili sauce (that was missing something and when other meals came out later, we realized that there was supposed to be a sauce on top). I had a seared rump of beef with potato salad (which was pretty good for such a poor cut of beef), and Cor had pork tenderloin with a bacon cream sauce and sweet corn mash. Cor's wasn't very good (except for the sweet corn mash), he said that it was over cooked and only tasted like pepper. Boo. Maybe we should have had our meals off of the regular menu because the Mustard Seed has such great reviews...

Thursday morning we skipped breakfast and just grabbed a quick coffee at the Starbucks in the Best Western down the street. Today was my day to drive (and I was actually fine....it was first time driving a right hand drive), and we decided to go to Cawdor Castle which is about 25 minutes east of Inverness and a few minutes southwest of Nairn. We went through the castle, which was kind of interesting, although kind of expensive for 9GBP each, and I think that someone actually still lives there. The
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the whisky trolley at Culloden House - this guy knew a lot about whisky.
most interesting tale about the castle is that when was built, it was said that the Count of Cawdor wanted to find a new location for a castle, so he loaded his donkey up with gold and wherever he stopped was where the castle was to be built. Apparently the donkey chose to rest under a tree which the castle was built around (you can still see it there)....weird. We had a lunch there of sandwiches again, which were also decent and surprisingly reasonably priced for a place that I would deem to be a bit of a tourist trap.

The grounds were also very nice at the castle (and are included in your admission), and Cor and I decided to try to play a round on the Cawdor Castle golf course (there wasn't a soul on it, which is great for a nervous golfer like me). The cost of green fees was 10GBP each and we got a handful of clubs for 5GBP. It was a fun little course (mostly par 3's and 4's - although it was a little wet from the rains yesterday) and was a great way for me to get used to links course
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My tea, Cor's whisky and our cheese plate
since we'll we golfing the Machrie on Islay. This course may be too easy for some, but is probably okay for beginner and intermediate players.

We returned our car, and headed back to the room for a bit (phew, that was the end of my driving and we didn't have one scary moment).

Then we headed back to the mall for some last minute shopping, but had to turn back right away because I was pooped on by a seagull...gah! I bought a couple more sweaters and a pair of toms even though I hated them when I first got over here. Cor also bought another pair of onitsuka's. Then we went to Hootenany on Church Street, which is considered the best pub in Inverness and has live music almost every night. They have a Thai restaurant in the bar called Thai Tannany (I know....), which seems to operate separately. We had chicken satay skewers to start, which were good. Then we shared sweet chili basil beef, and Thai green curry chicken. Both were alright, but not as savoury as some of the other Thai places we've been to. The mains were only 5.95GBP each, so I guess
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If you think that the bottom dish looks like poo, then you wouldn't have been surprised by the taste. Just joking - that may be a bit harsh, but it wasn't very good.
that I shouldn't complain. We didn't stick around for music as we were getting kind of lame and wanted to get packed up for tomorrow.

What the....was that just ANOTHER pipe band that went by our window?

Tomorrow- Islay!







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Mustard Seed

Although Corwin wasn't impressed with his meal, it was still a cool place
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Cawdor Castle - exterior

Dowager Countess of Cawdor: Yeah....I think that I'm just going to go home....to my castle
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Cawdor Castle Golf Course

A view of the course
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Cawdor Castle Golf - Corwin

Cor putting his lesson from St. Andrews to good use
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Cawdor Castle Golf - Moey

Shoulder down! Eye on the ball!
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Moss...

...at the Cawdor Castle Golf Course.


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