Thursday, July 12, 2012

My trip to Scotland, Part 4

Before I start my overview of Day 4 of our Scotland trip, I wanted to mention something that I didn't have time to talk about yesterday.

When we met at Culloden, Elenna Loughlin gave me this wee giftie, which she brought from her home in Wick, in the northernmost part of Scotland.  She said it's called a "groatie buckie", and people carry them for good luck.  I think the name derives from John o' Groats, which is near where Elenna lives. 



Here's a bit more about groatie buckies.  I think this particular one did bring me some luck on this trip to Scotland.  Thanks, Elenna!

Day 4 (Tuesday, July 3)

First discovery of the day:  the bathtub in our hotel in Culloden House was too high for me to climb into without a step-stool!  (Fortunately, we had one with us, and my mom was able to help.)  Breakfast at the hotel was excellent.

The official itinerary for today had us visiting Castle Leod (where the MacKenzie clan chief lives), then traveling to Beauly to visit the Clan Fraser Centre and Beauly Priory, and ending up in Inverness for some shopping time in the afternoon.  Judy and I had discussed Castle Leod before the tour, and concluded that it really wouldn't be feasible in terms of accessibility.  (Lots of stairs, etc.)  But what we didn't know until we got to Scotland was that the Clan Fraser Centre is no longer there.  Judy made some inquiries, but was unable to determine why it had closed.

UPDATE 7/13/2012 7:51 am:

Judy Lowstuter emailed me this morning with some more details about the Clan Fraser Centre:
About the Fraser Clan Centre -- when I heard that it had closed, I phoned the centre's phone number several times and couldn't get an answer. I phoned another local business but they didn't know anything, other than the fact that it was now called School House. So, I phoned the post office in Beauly and the postmaster told me that the centre couldn't sustain itself during this economic climate. The building is now home to a tea shop and gift shop and is, in fact, called the Schoolhouse. He didn't know where the artifacts had been taken, but I'd imagine that they're resting with the new Clan Chief Simon Fraser.

So, that's all the details about why the centre closed. It's a pity, as it was always a fun place to visit. Even though it was small and didn't have much information, it was still a nice addition to the tour. It was only open for a few years and I think it was just too much money and not enough interest.
It's a shame, but I do hope they put the artifacts somewhere safe!

Seeing that the majority of the day's itinerary wasn't going to work out for me, Judy suggested that we take the day to go off on our own.  (The plan was that we would make our own way back to the hotel at the end of the day, and not attempt to rendezvous with the rest of the group at any point.) I wanted very much to go back to the Culloden Visitor's Centre and explore it in detail, and Inverness is only a short taxi ride away from there, so my mom and my sister and I ended up spending the day by ourselves.

And what a wonderful day it turned out to be!

We started out by taking a taxi back to the Culloden Battlefield, only a few minutes away from our hotel.  The Visitor's Centre is fantastic, really well done, and a memorable experience.  I really liked the way they had it set up, so you walk through the exhibits with the Jacobites on one side and the government forces on the other side.  I don't have pictures from inside the Visitor's Centre; my camera wasn't working that day, due to a temporary battery issue, but my sister Alice took these photos:



This is a letter from Charles Stuart to King Louis XV of France, asking for his support.  (Click on the photo to enlarge it.)  If you know French, you may be able to make out some of the writing.



This is a field gun used at Culloden, though I'm not sure which side it belonged to.

I learned what grapeshot is.  It's not, as I had thought, a reference to the size of the ball.  From Wikipedia:  "In artillery, a grapeshot is a type of shot that is not one solid element, but a mass of small metal balls or slugs packed tightly into a canvas bag."  It sounds like a devastatingly effective weapon.  (That's how Ian the elder lost his leg, as he told Claire in OUTLANDER.)

The best part of the experience at the Visitor's Centre was the movie depicting the battle.  You walk into an empty room with screens on all four sides, and at first there's not much to look at but an empty field, a vast expanse of moorland.  Then gradually you start to notice the troops from both sides coming closer.  The Highlanders start to charge from one side, and suddenly the air is full of the sound of gunfire, men are being cut down on both sides, and you're trying to look everywhere at once, in the midst of this confusion of smoke and cannon fire and men getting bayonetted.  It was pretty intense.

And then, all at once, it's over.  You see the Highlanders lying dead or wounded on the field, and an awful stillness, where moments before there was chaos and noise everywhere.  It really takes your breath away, and it very effectively drives home the point that the actual battle only lasted a few minutes.

If you ever get a chance to visit Culloden, don't miss the Visitor's Centre.  We thoroughly enjoyed that!  And I was glad that we'd had time to see it all in detail, something we wouldn't have been able to do had we stayed with the tour group that day.

We took a taxi from Culloden into Inverness to do some shopping.  I bought a quaich at the Edinburgh Woollen Mill.  I'd come to Scotland with the idea that I'd try to find one of these, and I liked the look of this one very much.  The clerk in the shop said he thought the round yellow stones were glass, but I think they look a bit like topaz, which is my birthstone. <g>





We had lunch at a nice little restaurant called Girvans, where I tried sticky toffee pudding (yum!) and Irn Bru for the first time. <g>  After lunch, more shopping, and then the most amazing thing happened.

My sister was inside one of the shops, and my mom and I were waiting for her outside, just chatting and people-watching.  Suddenly my mom saw a bus pull up a few feet away, right in front of where we were sitting.  A white bus, just like our coach.  With the same logo on the side as our coach.  Could it be?  It was!  The door opened, and out came Betsy and Ross Green, part of our tour group!  Followed by Judy and the rest of our group.

We stared in disbelief for a moment, then hurried to join them.  It turned out the bus was letting them off for a couple of hours of shopping.  Judy said the bus would be back at the same spot at 5:15 pm, and we could join back up with them at that point, just in time for dinner and a ride back to the hotel.

We were just stunned.  What an amazing coincidence!  Five minutes earlier, and we'd all have been in the shop, and might never have seen them.

We had some more time to explore, so I wanted to find the location of Roger's church, mentioned in ECHO.  And in fact, it wasn't difficult to find, just off the High Street.



I could easily imagine William Buccleigh MacKenzie, newly arrived in the 20th century, stumbling across this church and going inside to ask for help.



I didn't go into the church; I just wanted to see what it looked like from the outside.  (To see what Roger and Buck would have seen in 1980.)  But it happens to be literally right next door to Leakey's Bookshop, which I'd been told was a must-see place in Inverness, so we spent a pleasant hour or so looking around there, while my mom had a little time to rest.  It's an interesting place, and by far the largest second-hand bookstore I've ever seen.

Leakey's Bookshop, Inverness

We went back to the meeting place where the bus was waiting, and had a very nice dinner at a place called the Snow Goose.  Then we went back to the Culloden House hotel, and I had a good night's sleep.

It was a wonderful day, and it really couldn't have worked out any better, as far as my mom and my sister and I were concerned.

Here are the other posts in this series:

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 5
Part 6
Part 7
Part 8

2 comments:

Ronni said...

Thank you so very much for your blog posts, Karen. I look forward to them; sometimes they are the highlight of my day! It's a pleasure to read your posts, partly because of the content, but also because you write so well! I especially enjoy these Scotland trip posts, because, as a consequence of my own mobility issues, I am vicariously visiting! You are much appreciated!

erika325 said...

Very exciting! I love the quaich, that is just the type of thing I would choose as a meaningful souvenir. And I would love to spend some time in Leakey's Bookshop. :)