Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Culloden Moor Battlefield, Urquhart Castle and more of the Loch (Monday 24 Nov at 10pm)

Headed off to Urquhart Castle, but got distracted by the local Tesco. By the time we were done in there, it was nearly 11, so we decided to change plans and go to the battlefield first. Of course, the Lonely Planet Guide was wrong (again!), and the battlefield actually opened at 10.

The visitors' centre at Culloden Moor is brand-spanking new: it only opened in April this year. We arrived just before a guided tour of the battlefield. Juliette wasn't quite game enough (it was still pretty cold), but I went out with the guide (an historian employed by the historical trust that runs the place) and a few other visitors. The guide took us out to the government lines (marked out by red flags), and described events leading up to, during, and after the battle. It was all very interesting -- and quite sobering. The most poignant part, I think, was a memorial wall on the west side of the visitor centre building. Made of dark stone, there were lighter-coloured stones jutting out. On the south end of the wall, the lighter stones marked the 1500 Jacobite dead. Towards the north end of the wall, there was a small gap, then the lighter stones marked the 50 government dead. A bit of a one-sided battle.

Back inside the centre, they had a large electronic display showing a bird's eye view of the battle. There were several display cases full of weapons of the era, but because they were on loan from other places, I wasn't allowed to take photos of them (again!). They also have a room were you stand in the middle, and an almost-panoramic film is displayed on the four walls. Taking about five minutes, its all about immersion -- giving you an idea of what it was like in the midst of the battle, especially the part when the Jacobite charge arrived at the Government lines, and 700 Highlanders lost their lives in the space of 2-3 minutes.

Juliette: You forgot to mention that Sweetie found it very sad and depressing!! Not to mention pointless - another war due to religion - I am sure that God does not want people to kill each other in his name - well no god I would want to know anyway!

Crispin: Well, not just religion, but that was a major part of it.

After Culloden, we headed back to Urquhart Castle -- we were getting to know the road quite well by then! We got there about 1pm, so they let us in, and for free too (thanks to the British Heritage Pass). It's a very different castle than Warwick or Edinburgh -- for starters, it's in ruins! But somehow, as Juliette said, it felt more real. (And the reason it's in ruins is quite sad: rather than leave it intact, its gatehouse was blown up by the defenders, just before they abandoned it.)

You could go all over the ruins, and we got some spectacular photos of the ruins and the loch. Just before we left, we stopped for a hot cuppa in the very nice cafe (where Juliette scathingly filled out a survey form!), and watched a short (8 minute) film about the history of the castle.

By then, it was almost 4pm, and time to begin the long (3.5 hour) drive back to Edinburgh. This time, the drive was almost totally in darkness, and we had a great deal of fun getting lost after taking an exit off the A9 trying to find a petrol station. Fortunately, we found one, and filled up on diesel, before getting back on the A9. We even managed a stop at a lay-by in the Grampians so Juliette could experience falling snow!

The trip back was also different in that Betty plotted a route over one of the Forth bridges. We were a bit wary, as yesterday Betty had indicated that going over the bridges was a toll route, but it looks like that's only for traffic heading north. Ten minutes after crossing the bridge, we were back at the Edinburgh site where we spent Friday and Saturday nights. Fortunately, it was still 20 minutes before their final check-in time (any later, and we'd have to have parked in the driveway and waited till morning).

Unfortunately, the park is still having electrical problems, this time with power constantly going out at the nearby toilet block. It doesn't affect us so much, as we have an on-board chemical toilet, but anybody else is going to have issues, as there's no power to the electronic combination locks, so you can't get in the loos! And, of course, the wifi hotspot is even worse, so it looks like we won't be able to update the blog until tomorrow at the earliest. Agh.

Time for bed -- hopefully, things will be better in the morning.

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