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Inverness & Culloden

Ø July 25 Inverness (Wednesday) More photos can be found here.

When we got up at 7:15, we cleaned up and dressed and headed downstairs to eat. Breakfast for me was scrambled eggs, (delicious) sausage, OJ, tea, toast and strawberries (not in that order.) The Aberdeen weather out our window wasn’t terrific, so we opted to call a taxi which arrived quickly and got us to the bus stop with 20 minutes to spare. After loading up, we rolled through the countryside, arriving at the Huntly station in 90 minutes, well in advance of the train to #Inverness. With excess time, I wrote up the list of additional train tickets I hadn’t already bought, and spent time with the agent to wrap up that item on my to-do list.

The actual train ride was another 80 minutes, and by the time we arrived in Inverness, the sun was out and brilliant, and it was comfortably warm. Mandra had received an email from our B&B host, so we walked through a mall, changing levels until we exited over a ramp to a sloping road. Cresting that minor climb, we walked down the street looking for a door to match a photograph. In less than 2-3 short blocks, we were at our home for the next 3 nights. Our hosts Don and Maurag had three bedrooms on their upper level, and we got into a small one with a window overlooking the street. The other front room was being shared by two German women, and the hall bath was ours. (The third was used as the ironing room.)

Heading out, we returned to town and Mandra proposed that we get my visiting of the one cathedral in town out of the way first, rather than trying to squeeze it into the edges of the next two days when we were off and about on tours. After a quick stop at the tourist office for a map, we crossed the River Ness and walked the bank upriver a bit to come to the Cathedral Church of St Andrew. No, there isn’t a lot of creativity naming cathedrals, and St Andrew is the patron saint of Scotland (and the first-called apostle.) This Scottish Episcopal church has two blocky towers on either side of the north entrance and is surrounded by mature trees (of course.) A visual crossing exists, albeit there isn’t really a transept.

Purpose-built in 1868, it was the first new cathedral completed in Great Britain since the Scottish Reformation. Diocesan see for Moray, Ross and Caithness, like Aberdeen, there is a strong tie to the American Episcopal church, as the Bishop of Moray co-consecrated Bishop Seabury. Entering the nave, the hues in the woods and on the arches, walls, pews, tiles and ceiling are all shades of warmth in the brown-gold family. With a north entrance, light pours into the nave and chancel from the other three sides, producing a welcoming feeling. The nave ceiling rises on arches above clerestory windows over the side aisle arches.

Walking south past the nave altar through an open chancel screen, one enters into the quire with simple wooden choir stalls. Ahead is the sanctuary of the high altar, with the cathedra to the west side before three steps, a moderately carved ornate armchair in a protective gating. The altar and the reredos are of elegantly carved Caen marble. Turning around, the “west window”, i.e. to the north over the entrance, has 5 panels with the center being Christ triumphant, flanked by the apostles and angels above and below. It supposedly never receives direct sunlight, and is one of the largest stained-glass windows in Scotland.

After leaving, we walked back along the river, crossing a bit further downstream as our goal was the bus station. Alongside the train station, we discovered the bus we sought was boarding on the other side of the train station in front of the shopping center. When we got there, we had just missed the 2:35 bus, and had an hour to wait. So into a pub down the street from M&S. Lunch was a tuna with mayo on brown bread with a Bellhaven Best, both of which were excellent.

After catching the bus to #Culloden, we walked in from the bus stop past wooly cows with serious horns as we approached the Visitor Center. Choosing the full admission package, we wended our way through the exhibits, explaining the history of the Jacobite Rebellions and the significance of Bonnie Prince Charlie’s final defeat at the field here. Marking the failure of the Scottish independence effort, the English government’s use of the Clearances changed ownership of the land, changing from agriculture to grazing, and loss of the Scots culture (language, heritage, history.) From the mid eighteenth century, the victor ruled strongly over the former rebels.

Out of the visitor center, we walked the battlefield, particularly those areas where the Scots forces had formed up. Little remains of any buildings which might have been there, it is now a big open tall grass field with rough stones carved with the names of the clans who fought for their Stuart Prince. Mandra, with more Scots heritage than I, was deeply moved and quiet. Walking slowly back, we paused in the center for water and a walk through the shop. Then we headed to the bus stop, awaiting one of the last returning rides to Inverness. A small gathering of rather somber folks sat calmly on the grass.

After a half hour on the warm bus, we were dropped near the center. We’d heard of a pub, so headed along High Street to the #BlackIsleBar. With two dozen kegs or casks on tap, I was a happy (thirsty) camper. Ordering half pints of four offerings, we included pizzas from the brick oven. We carried back the Black Isle Red Kite (amber), Black Isle Springboard (double IPA), Alstadt and Framboise (Brouwerji) to a table that had just vacated. The place was jamming, full of both younger folks who were more serious about drinking and socializing, and older folks and families looking for a meal with a hearty pint. Thirsty, I finished my two half pints, and telling the barkeep that I preferred the double IPA, I left with a pint of Black Isle 20 Hours of Daylight, a tart pale ale.

We walked back up the hill to the B&B, and Mandra decided to chill for a bit. Our host themselves were just returning from an evening out, so we got to chatting. I asked if it was possible to use the third bedroom, as we both snore, and they said that it wouldn’t be a problem, and would set me up with a roll-away. While they were maneuvering around, I decided to step out. It was only 9, and I was still wired, so I went down the street to the Heath Mound to have a pint of Stag from Cairngorm. While there, I had a chance to seriously journal.

Thinking about Culloden, I likened it to our visiting Gettysburg or other American Civil War site, and how one is overwhelmed by the sheer immensity of the event. Apparently, the stones and red flags marking the English positions are regularly trashed or otherwise abused. With 275 years since that battle, there’s no love amongst the locals for the victors. I also reflected on St Andrews, finding it a quite nice church. Features like the choir, screen, cathedra, baptismal font met my approval. I found the new organ to be small, but it is fully digital, and doesn’t require space to create volume. Given when it was purpose-built, the windows are, as expected, Victorian period. I intended to get more pictures of the cathedral in the morning when the morning light would be coming over the hill and crossing the river. My photo count was barely over a hundred.

Our next day might prove to be warm as had been our first day in Inverness. We had a rendezvous just down the street from the cathedral at 8:15, to join a van tour of Skye and Loch Ness. We’d pre-ordered breakfast at 7:30; we’d be up and bright and smiling. Leaving the patio after finishing my beer and speaking with the three women smokers who had fled the smoking zone to sit with me, I came back and set myself up in the ironing room. My folding cot was a bit short, but I was able to sleep with the window open and only have my own snoring to contend with.

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