Fort Augustus – Loch Ness – Culloden – Inverness

Aug 31, 2019 - Lord of the Glens

A steady rain accompanied us as Lord of the Glens made her way down the locks of Fort Augustus and across Loch Ness. Loch Ness is remarkable for more than its famous monster: Created during the Caledonian Orogeny around 450 million years ago and carved by Ice Age glaciers, Loch Ness is 23 miles long, 755 feet deep, and is large enough to hold as much fresh water as England and Wales combined.

Though we didn’t see Nessie, we did have the chance to view the ruins of Urquhart Castle, a medieval castle with a violent history that stands on the edge of Loch Ness. In the fourteenth century, Robert the Bruce regained the castle from King Edward I, and in following centuries, it was frequently attacked by the MacDonalds. The castle was blown up in 1692 to prevent Jacobite rebels from using it, leaving only picturesque, crumbled towers and walls.

As we sailed across Loch Ness, we heard a presentation on the Jacobite uprisings which was followed by the crushing of Highland culture. This led to the Highland Clearances, when many people were forcibly removed from their homes to make way for sheep farms. Next, we heard a talk on Nan Shepherd, a twentieth-century poet and writer who was significant in the Scottish Literary Renaissance and is now best known for her book The Living Mountain.

We arrived at our final berth in Inverness after lunch and disembarked for a visit to the Culloden Battlefield with its award-winning visitor center. This was the site of the crushing blow to the Jacobites, and the resulting suppression of Highland culture. The Culloden Visitor Centre provides a history of the events leading up to the final conflict, as well as details of the battle itself. There was time to explore the battlefield, where many of those killed in the fight are buried. The rain was pelting down, however, so most stayed within the center. The field, drained and planted in past decades, is now only a remnant of the boggy moorland the soldiers dealt with during the battle.

Our final evening was a gala event, with the piping in of the haggis, and a rousing recital of Robert Burns’ “Address to the Haggis,” plus a chance to taste this “chieftain of the pudding race.” A visit from young Scottish dancers topped off the evening. They performed traditional dances to the tunes of the Scottish bagpipe. It was a wonderful week, and as they say in this beautiful country, “Haste ye back!”

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About the Author

Robin Patten


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

Erika Skogg

National Geographic Photographer

Erika Skogg is a photographer, educator, and National Geographic Explorer with experience documenting cultural stories from the United States to Morocco, Greenland, Iceland, Colombia, and beyond. Born and raised in Wisconsin, Erika’s photographic research and storytelling ideas are driven by the desire to immerse, understand, and visually preserve the region’s local Nordic culture, and in 2018, Erika received a National Geographic Early Career Grant for her project “Scandinavian American.” Erika travels to Scandinavia regularly in search of the cultural connections to our emigrant history and promote an interest in one’s own genealogy to foster a respect for the continued immigration of today.

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