Inverness | Culloden | Clava Cairns

Jun 10, 2019 - Lord of the Glens


Our first day aboard Lord of the Glens held a full itinerary that included nature, culture, and even a bit of whisky tasting. We started off with a visit to the Culloden Battlefield outside of Inverness, site of the devastating defeat of Bonnie Prince Charles in his campaign to regain the throne for the Stuart Dynasty. Here in 1746, the government troops defeated the Jacobites in a brutal battle which was followed by a suppression of Highland culture. The award-winning Culloden Visitor Centre gave us a detailed history of the battle and events leading up to the final conflict. Then we had a chance to walk the battlefield, a graveyard where many of those killed in the fight are buried. It is only a remnant of the boggy moorland the soldiers dealt with during the battle, having been drained and planted over decades past. On a happier note, the skylarks were out, singing as they soared above us.

From Culloden, we went to the Clava Cairns where Bronze Age people constructed four burial cairns and three stone circles around 4,000 years ago. These monuments are oriented with the sun. When the winter solstice sun rises, the rays shine down the passageways of the massive cairns. In 1870, the landowner planted beech trees to create a “druidic grove,” although druids were of the Iron Age, thousands of years after the cairns were constructed. The result is a beautifully shaded park of towering trees filled with birdsong—a contrast to what probably existed in Bronze Age times.

Lord of the Glens had to stay at the Muir Town Locks until late afternoon, so we took the opportunity to explore the surrounds. One group set off to the Muir of Ord Distillery, taking a scenic bus ride along the Moray Firth to get to the distillery. The tour explained the whisky-making process and included (of course!) a whisky tasting.

Another group headed to Craig Phadraig (Patrick’s Crag), a steep hike to a historic high point. The oval top was once the fort of Pictish King Bridei. In 565 AD, St. Columba traveled from Iona to convert the pagan Picts, and met with the king at this spot with its view over Beauly Firth and the mountains of the north. The walk then wandered through the woodlands, an enjoyable time in the afternoon sunshine. Other walkers explored the canal bank and visited a small nature reserve with herons, oystercatchers, and swans.

In evening, we sailed across the wide expanse of Loch Ness. The loch 23 miles long and 755 feet in depth is in possession of more freshwater than all of England and Wales combined—and is deep enough to hide a monster. During the crossing of the loch, we heard a talk on smartphone photography.

Our berth for the night was in the small town of Fort Augustus on the shores of Loch Ness. Local musicians provided our evening entertainment, an excellent end to a wonderful day.

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About the Author

Robin Patten

Naturalist

The natural world has always been central to Robin’s life. At an early age, she was out exploring the Montana backcountry, learning natural history through experience. She went on to earn a Ph.D. in landscape ecology from Colorado State University, followed by an M.S. in Environmental Writing from the University of Montana and a Post-Graduate Diploma from Scotland’s Centre for Mountain Studies. Her studies included environmental history and cultural geography, and her work often focuses on the interactions between cultures and landscapes. Robin still lives in Montana, writing and working from a small cabin near Yellowstone National Park.

About the Photographer

Eric Kruszewski

Naturalist/Certified Photo Instructor

An editorial photographer and videographer based in Washington, D.C., Eric Kruszewski's multimedia work focuses on reportage and travel. His work is represented by National Geographic Creative, and he is a regular contributor to National Geographic's Image Collection.

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