Geo: 57.4767, -4.23145
The pigeons did go to sleep last night, but they were up really early!
I haven't mentioned the various hotels' breakfast buffets. It's mostly standard stuff like bacon, sausage, eggs (mostly scrambled), cereal, fruit, yogurt and small pastries. However, there's also baked beans, broiled tomatoes, mushrooms, and haggis. This hotel also has fried eggs and potato scones. The potato scones don't look very scone-like: they are made of potatoes (obviously) and look more like naan bread. Tasty though.
It was very, very cold this morning and trying to rain. We got on the coach and drove to Culloden battlefield, the site of the last major land battle fought on British soil. In 1745, Bonnie Prince Charlie began a campaign to take the throne (the yearlong series of battles is known as "the '45"😉. He had a legitimate claim, as his grandfather was King James II, a member of the House of Stuart. His followers, known as Jacobites (from the Latin for James), consisted not just of a great many Highlanders, but also Lowlanders and some from the north of England, as well as France. BPC and his troops nearly made it to London but turned back when more support for the
cause failed to appear.
Against advice, in 1746 BPC chose Culloden Moor — flat, barren — to face the government redcoats. Though his Highlanders were fierce fighters, they didn't have the discipline that the government troops had … nor did they have bayonets. The battle was over within the hour, and 1,500 of BPC's men had been killed. The men who retreated fled into the Highlands and were systematically hunted down by the redcoats and killed. Though it's generally painted as a battle between the Scots and the English, it's really a battle between two royal houses: the Stuarts and the Hanovers. And it's still very much in the collective memory of Highlanders today.
After the defeat at Culloden, Bonnie Prince Charlie fled with a price on his head. He sailed to the Isle of Skye and was protected by a woman named Flora MacDonald (her statue is in front of Inverness Castle). She dressed Charlie up as her maid and helped him escape to France. He spent the rest of his life drinking and womanizing in Rome and is buried in St. Peter's Basilica.
The government then outlawed certain aspects of Highland life, including bagpipes and tartans, and deposed the clan
chiefs. Either Boswell or Johnson wrote that Highland culture simply crumbled. The potato blight rendered many landlords bankrupt, so they kicked their tenant farmers off the land and replaced them with Cheviot sheep, which were far more profitable. Seventy-five percent of the Highlands were cleared and the people sent to the east coast of Scotland, where the land isn't arable. Some Scots willingly emigrated, and some unwilling men were forced onto coffin boats and sent to America where they were met by bears, trees and Indians, none of which they knew how to handle.
Imagine the government kicking you out of your house and then burning it to the ground. You can never go back there. And you are also being evicted from your familiar patch of land. You can never go back there. Then, perhaps, you are forcibly or effectively evicted from your homeland. Will you ever have the means to go back? And then you are met in your new country by creatures that want to kill you and land that appears to be unfarmable. What on earth will become of you? This is what happened to Highlanders under official government policy.
In 1883, Prime Minister Gladstone set up
the Napier Commission to investigate the goings-on in Scotland. By 1884 the Commission reported and published its findings. Because of that report, tenant farmers whose families had been able to remain in the Highlands were given security of tenure and could not be evicted, ever. James lives on a "croft" and pays the landlord £28 a year and has 70 acres. He cannot be evicted, and the landlord cannot raise the annual rent. James sang us a mournful song in Gaelic about the '45 and the clearances. He says such songs were a way of remembering their language and Highland culture.
At Culloden there is a high-tech visitors center that describes the conditions that led to the battle, the battle itself, and what happened afterward. There are maps and political cartoons, as well as interactive displays, and glass cases of items that were later dug up from the battlefield: mostly buttons and ammunition. After having a look at all that, you can go out onto the battlefield. By the time I was done with the first part, it was snowing. I stepped outside for a minute just to have a look at the field, but I fled back inside pretty quickly
to get a hot chocolate in the cafe.
After that we had a short visit to the relative peace of Clava Cairns. The cairns, which are burial chambers, were built by Neolithic peoples 3,000-4,000 years ago. There are three cairns, which are what remain of a mile-long "cemetery" of cairns, and they're made of carefully stacked stones that form rings. Two of the cairns have passages so that you can get to the open center (where the walls protect you from the wind and cold), and one of them has an open center but no access to it. The rocks are covered with moss and lichen, and there are teeny little white flowers trying to grow.
We were supposed to visit Cawdor Castle, but the Countess (duchess?) of Cawdor has closed the castle to the public. So instead we visited Brodie Castle, which isn't really a castle at all. It's a Scottish tower house and was built to be lived in and defended. There is no access from the outside to the ground level; the main entrance would have been one floor up, accessed by wooden stairs. The stairs could be burned to thwart attackers. The floor above that was only
accessed by a tight spiral staircase, difficult for any intruder. The castle was once burned down, but otherwise has survived from the 1600s, with additions being added down the centuries. Our guide was Peter, whose particular job at Brodie Castle is to take care of the clocks, and he loves them. He said he also has his eye on one or two paintings that he could smuggle out in his coat.
Martin and James bought us all soup in the cafe afterward. It was potato-leek soup, but it wasn't particularly potato-y, nor especially leek-y. But it tasted fine. Spent ten or so minutes afterward in the garden, which is famous for its daffodils. The grandfather of the current Brodie was fanatical about cultivating daffodils. Did you know there are 200 varieties of daffodil? I sure didn't. There were also a couple of horses grazing in a large pen, one of which was a draft horse. I click-clicked at him, and he came over so quickly that I didn't have time to notice how big he was until his head was over the fence and looking right at me. I talked to him for a bit, but he finally realized I didn't
have any treats for him so he wandered off.
Back in Inverness, I wandered around the Victorian Market, which is a lot like wandering around a much smaller version of Pike Place Market. And then I walked over to the shopping center and bought this year's Eurovision album at HMV.
Our group dinner was down by the river Ness at The Mustard Seed. I had a nice warm chorizo, pea and feta salad to start and gnocchi for the main course. For dessert, most people got banoffee pie but I got a chocolate caramel tart, and I think I chose wisely. It was Ali's birthday so the restaurant staff brought out a little cake with a firework stuck in it, and we all sang Happy Birthday. One of the waiters took a photo while all that was going on and later presented her with a birthday card from the staff, and the photo of Ali and the firework cake was on the front. A nice touch!
It's supposed to warm up to ten degrees tomorrow. That's positively balmy!
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