Scotland – Day 5

We seem to be making a habit of waking up fairly late, dragging ourselves out of bed around 9 and then rushing to get the last 1/2 hr of breakfast. I think that’s how I react to jet lag. I have very little problem with waking up in the middle of the night but I like sleeping even more than normal. This doesn’t hurt our schedule too much because most tourist sites don’t open till 10 anyway.

After breakfast we drove to Cawdor Castle. Jaeger has gotten significantly better at driving on the left side. I no longer fear he’s going to scrape me and my side of the car off a building. Also, we have learned that Google maps work fairly decently in Scotland in terms of showing roads but you can’t trust the navigation. Thus, an official navigator is essential for getting around the roads in Scotland.

The drive out to the castle was very scenic. Having worked in Greeley/Weld County I’ve seen a fair number of farms but none are as picturesque as the ones I see here. I’m not sure if Scotland/Uk/European Union actually restricts large scale farms or if they exist elsewhere but I haven’t seen any yet. We were also fascinated by various road conventions:

  • They have what seem like fairly symbolic roundabouts: small (2 meter diameter) painted circles that you obviously are suppose to treat like a full round about.
  • We had a one-lane underpass where one lane was signed as the yielding lane.
  • We also came across a one-lane bridge with a stop light to indicate which lane was allowed to cross.
  • As a way to limit traffic speed they sometimes purposefully narrow the road to one lane with one side designated as having to yield to the other.
  • Quite a few of the backcountry roads have one-lane stretches with pullouts and the UK drivers very politely signal with their lights to give way to you.

One of the primary reasons we visited Cawdor Castle was because Calvin wanted to see more castles. Cawdor Castle was a different type of castle than Edinburgh. Cawdor Castle was never designed to withstand a true siege. It had a drawbridge but I think that was more for show than anything else. The insides of the castle were nicely furnished with a mixture of old and modern. Apparently the Dowager Countess lives there in winter when it’s not open to tourists. I was amused when we were ushered into the “old” kitchen to see a collection of good quality copper pots with a note that when the cook was informed the copper pots were going to be replaced with “better” modern pots, she quit. I can’t blame her the pots looked like they were in perfect shape. I was amused by a lot of the explanatory signs as they seemed to be making sly remarks and obscure in jokes. For instance, when discussing the modern kitchen, which use to be the school room, it noted the school room had done an excellent job of creating spinsters and invalids. I bet there’s some stories there.

Calvin liked the idea of the castle but seemed to get restless going through it. He enjoyed the grounds a lot more. They were very beautiful. Unfortunately, the holly maze was off-limits because all the visitors were bad for the holly roots. However, we still enjoyed strolling around the grounds. We had to leave sooner than Calvin would have liked because we had a very full schedule.

The next stop was site of the Culloden battle. Before going into the museum we ate lunch at their cafe. After lunch, we went in the museum and wandered around. Calvin didn’t seem as excited by this museum as he had for the one in Edinburgh castle. However, he really liked the war video reenactment. We went into a room that had movie screens on all four walls. There were no chairs, I think you were suppose to just stand in the middle. They showed a reenactment of the Jacobite troops advancing on the “government” troops and the massacre that followed (around 50 government soldiers killed versus 1500 Jacobite soldiers). I was a bit nervous about letting Calvin see it but he didn’t seem to mind (it was shot in black and white and showed men falling down but no obvious blood). In fact, Calvin wanted to watch it again but I thought once was enough. After we went through the exhibits we went out onto the battle field where it showed where the government lines were (with red flags) and the Jacobite lines (blue flags). It also noted that due to development the grounds were a a lot less marshy than they’d been for the actual battle. The Scottish clans tended to fight together so they had grave stones where the various clans were believed to have died.

After wandering around the battlefield we got in the car and drove a short distance to the Clava Cairns which I think archaeologists believe were old burial grounds. It’s not really big enough to be worth visiting if you’re not already in the area but it was interesting. Also, like pretty much everything else, very scenic. We took a short detour as we were leaving to gawk at a splendid viaduct that we believe our train to Inverness went over. Viaducts are a bit harder to gawk at when you’re riding on top of them. Jaeger took some pictures but we had a lot of very atmospheric mist so it’s unclear whether or not it’ll turn out.

After the Clava Cairns we had hoped to go up in the mountains and ride the Jacobite steam train. However, we didn’t have nearly enough time for it today (and now that we’re back, it appears we would have had to get tickets weeks in advance anyway). So instead we drove back to our hotel, parked, and got out to wander Inverness. The one thing I especially wanted to see was Leakey’s Bookshop and Cafe, a large used bookstore located in an old church. The atmosphere was everything I had hoped but the selection wasn’t what I was looking for. It seemed to specialize in old books and printings, some first editions, and what I really was looking for was something like Powells, some old stuff but newer stuff too. That being said, I was very happy to find a newer edition of Enid Blyton’s The Magic Faraway Tree (complete with updates to remove potentially offensive language).

We left the bookstore right before it closed at 5 hoping to find a cafe to grab a bite to sustain us until we could find a proper restaurant to eat at. Unfortunately, it turns out that almost everything in Inverness closes at 5. We eventually got lucky and found a Costas (like Starbucks) which closed “late” at 5:30.

With some calories in us, we went looking for dinner only to have my fears about vegetarian food in Inverness confirmed. Before coming I had looked online and hadn’t found very many options but I hoped that more would appear that just didn’t have their menus online. No such luck. Most of the vegetarian options seemed to be somewhat dubious. As in, you can have good quality food or vegetarian food but not both. We walked to one restaurant that was rated well on TripAdvisor and a commenter had mentioned his vegetarian daughter had “plenty of options.” We were hesitant since “plenty of options” from a non-vegetarian seems to often mean there’s a salad you can pick meat off. However, our options were limited so we walked over to look at the menu. Plenty of options in this case meant 3 vegetarian starters (one vegan, probably) and a vegetarian frittata (note, I’m not a huge fan of eggs). We passed and, out of desperation, went to Pizza Express for supper. This time I got an interesting pizza with beets, salad greens, pesto, and onion. It was good but I’m hoping we can find something other than pizza tomorrow.

Tomorrow we’re planning to drive around the Loch Ness area. According to several websites days 2 or 3 are the days tourists are most likely to get in an accident because they’ve gotten overconfident, relax, and their instincts from driving back home kick in. I planning on practicing my frantic shout of “left!” some more in case it’s needed.

Jaeger’s Pictures from May 19.

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