Today we are docked at Invergordon, Scotland in Cromarty Firth (Fjord), a narrow inlet from the North Sea. Cromarty Firth is called the “seaway to the Scottish Highlands”. We are very close to Inverness and Culloden Moor. Invergordon’s port was used as a Royal Navy base from the early 19th century until the 1950s. Today, it primarily serves as a repair and supply yard for North Sea oil rigs. Several were in evidence in the harbor.
This afternoon we travel to outside Inverness to see Culloden Moor and Cawdor Castle. Loch Ness and Urquhart Castle ruins are also close by. Surrounding Invergordon are also several exclusive whiskey distilleries. With rain threatening, we donned our raincoats and grabbed umbrellas and headed into down.
The seaport of Invergordon as an interesting high street with quaint shops and a series of building-size murals depicting events in the city’s history. Rocky and I toured the town and went on a hunt to find each of the murals.
The tour took us all over the town-the bowling lawn, church yards, the train station, and up and down the high street. At the local church we were welcomed inside where a hugh screen was set up to acknowledge the visit of our passengers and crew. They had even set up tables and chairs inside and were serving coffee. We ducked into some of shops, sometimes to avoid the often light and occasionally heavy rain.
We eventually made it down to the Arts and Crafts Fair at the local museum. We picked up a few things to support the local craftsmen who were very friendly and then toured the small, but well-done museum. I was expecting a maritime museum, but there was really a little bit of everything. I enjoyed some of the old uniforms (especially the dive one) and ceremonial wear. There were some interesting artifacts and even an exhibit to a Polish regiment that was stationed here during WWII. Some of the old medical equipment was particularly fascinating.
After I used up all my cash at the Arts and Crafts Fair and a museum donation, we made a quick trip back into town for an ATM before having lunch on the ship. Fortunately the rain had let up.
Our afternoon bus tour took us through some of charming village along Cromarty Firth and we passed a gorge used in the filming of one of the Harry Potter movies. I was reminded that JK Rowling is from Edinburgh. We later passed an old acquduct used to film a train sequence from one of the movies.
We passed through Inverness, the Highland capital and a major port from which a lot of wood is transported (think Ikea). The city has a population of about 70,000 and is growing. Nothing here is allowed to be built over two stories high. Culloden Moor is only 3 miles form Inverness.
Our family had visited Culloden and the wonderful visitors’ center before. You can walk the battlefield and see the stone markers from the clans involved. Red and Blue flags mark the lines of the Royalist and Jacobite forces. Seeing it this time was much more meaningful since I know more about Scottish history from my reading.
Our next stop was Cawdor Castle and its lovely Gardens. The Castle dates from the 14th Century; it was built as a fortress by the Thane of Calder. It is said he traveled and decided that wherever his donkey chose to rest he would build his home. The beast rested under a holly tree. That holly tree is found in the dudgeon of the castle to this day. The castle is still home to the family so no inside photos are permitted.
The castle also has a Macbeth connection, many believe it to be the setting of Duncan’s murder. However the real life events on which the play was based took place in the 11th century and the castle was not built until the 14th. Shakespeare did write the play for a performance for King James and his cousin, the King of Denmark at Hampton Court in 1606.
After touring the interior of the castle, we took time to enjoy the fabulous gardens. In the walled flower garden sits a maze of hedges. Although told not to go in, many children were enjoying a try at it.
On the opposite side of the castle sat the flower gardens. First we went through the door into the “secret garden” or wild garden. Here are the beautiful soft wood, redwoods and the wonderful stream with the clear water. We walked a while in this area and crossed the bridge over the stream before heading back inside the walls surrounding the flower garden. It was a cool and comfortable walk, but we still worked up a bit of a sweat.
We spent our remaining time at the castle roaming around the flower garden, taking pictures, and enjoying the benches after our woodland hike. The flowers were varied and beautiful and the garden peaceful. The sky was at times threatening, but it never rained and the clouds kept the afternoon cool.
On the return ride to the ship, the guide talked about the area around Cromarty Firth, the Black Isle Peninsula and Dingwall, the home of Macbeth and the administrative capital of Scotland. We saw shetland ponies and heard about when they used to be taken into coal mines for long periods of times. We also saw small donkeys.
The clan’s strength was in their people and their ownership of cattle. The Frazier, MacKenzie, and MacClouds were just some of the powerful glans of this area. The Highland cow has a very shaggy coat. The Aberdeen Black Angus is also a popular breed.
This guide also talked about the clearances, from 1746 to the 1860s when millions of Scots left. In the world today, 90 million people claim ancestry to Scotland through these emigrants.
We head next to our last port Edinburgh where we will be docked for several days. As the sun set and just before our schedule departure, we looked outside our window and saw a young group of pipers with drums. They played for a long time, reacting to the crowds on the upper level balconies. It was very cold so we stayed in the room and banged on the window. Eventually one of them spotted us and spread the word; we were acknowledged after each song. It was very cool.