Great morning, cool, sun shining, look good and it lasted until lunch time, then overcast and a temperature drop with a stiff breeze just to add a wind chill factor and some light showers. Not to mention dull for photography.
Headed off, after Haggis for breakfast, on a drive around the area called Black Isle. Not actually an island so why it's called that I don't know but it is known for its dairy industry and also has a lot of cultivation that we hadn't seen much of before - wheat, barley or oats, not sure which as it was only the straw remaining and baled. Around the eastern side of the Beauly Firth to Beauly then north to Cromarty located on Cromarty Firth.
Cromarty is at the northern end of Black Isle on Cromarty Firth and is the base for the repairs and upgrades to the North Sea oil platforms. Apparently quite a sight to see these big platforms being towed in across the firth. A very old town and apparently is one of the best preserved 18th century towns in Scotland. Walking along one of the side streets, we found an old ice house that dates built in the early 19th century. The ice house is built of rubble stone and has a curved turf roof. It would have been used by fishermen for the cold storage of salmon before sending it to market. We ended up spending a while here as when talking to people on the streets, we were twice referred to a little shack on the harbour where there was great coffee. The shack was apparently attached to an old slaughter house and we were warned it didn't look like a coffee shop. Sure enough we found the place and sure enough, until we got right up to it, it didn't. Called Slaughterhouse and only about three metres square, the blackboard advertised Flat White coffee, almost impossible to get a good one outside Australia I reckon. I said to the guy, "They tell me you make the best coffee in town. If you make a good flat white, you must have been to Australia." I come from Australia, from Sydney" he replied. Anyway great coffee, good yarn, he also has a son and family in London. The stools outside were upside-down milk crates with a timber top, Aussie ingenuity.
Cromarty also has a lighthouse built in 1846 just above the harbour and almost in town. Rumour has it that the site where it is built once served as the local gallows.
Heading back south again we were passing through Fortrose when Therese spotted what she thought were some ruins in a side street. Down a couple of streets and we found an old Cathedral, nothing too spectacular but the external walls and spire were intact. We had a quick look, snapped of a couple of photos when I realised that the spire still contained a clock and that it was on the correct time. The Cathedral was built in the mid 13th and early 14th centuries but was falling into disrepair by the 17th century but some parts were still being used as late as the 18th century. It is obviously being cared for and maintained in some form now but looking at information on it, no-one mentions the clock.
On then back through Inverness and north to Fort George, Fort George was built between 1748 and 1769 following the English defeat of the Jacobites at Colluden in 1746 and was built to control the Scottish Highlands. The fortress has never been attacked and still remains in use as a barracks to this day, the Black Watch is currently stationed there. Preserved in excellent condition, you really have to marvel at the effort put into the construction of this fort. very deep dry moat between the outer and inner walls on the land sides would have been difficult to breech as extremely difficult open ground right under the guns. Inside the fort, the barracks around the walls and have turfed roofs to absorb any cannon fire broaching the fort walls. Very beautiful buildings inside the fort and an unusual pattern in the building wall construction that we haven't seen anywhere else.
Next it was on the hunt for stone circles again and on the way we passed the Colluden Railway Viaduct, This is an impressive and dramatic structure crossing the River Nairn valley, 29 spans and 549 metres in length, it was opened in 1898 and is the longest masonry viaduct in Scotland.
The Clava Cairns are different to any stone circles we have previously seen, Three circles in a small area, each with a stone cairn, almost as big as the circle, inside the circle. Two of these were once stone roofed burial chambers with entrances aligned to the mid-winter setting sun. The middle of the three cairns is different and has no entry path but is a complete circle of stones with an open circle in the centre. These cairns appear to date back to about 2000BC.
Nearby, is the battlefield where the last battle between the Jacobites and the English was fought in April 1746. There is a visitors centre with audio-visual displays, story boards and video representation of the battle. Outside is the actual battlefield marked out with story boards The site also has an original cottage that survived the battle. It was restored and during the restoration, a cannon ball was found buried in the turf wall.
Back in Inverness, we walked past the Inverness Castle, The current castle, built in 1836, is built on the site of a previous castle. The current building is not a real castle but was built as a prison and courthouse. The castle sits above the River Ness and today it was a grand site. It appeared as though it was flowing stronger and deeper that usual but the volume and speed of the crystal clear water was a sight to behold. I believe you can catch salmon from the river in the middle of the city.
After a wander through some of the city shops we dropped into a pub for dinner, The Gellions Hotel, apparently the oldest hotel in Inverness. A bit like the beautiful old 19th century Glendruidh House Hotel we are staying in, The house was originally owned by the Commander of Fort George and passed on to successive commanders as they changed. The building was then purchased by a British MP and then the current owners made it into a small B&B/Hotel. A very tranquil setting and not far from the city centre.
Tomorrow we head over the highlands to Aberdeen.