Beautiful mist hung around the brows of the mountains surrounding us as we headed down the lock system at Fort Augustus, destined for Loch Ness. As we set forth into the deep, dark waters of the loch, we heard an excellent talk on the history of Scotland’s monarchy and the fateful Jacobite rebellion, just in time for our afternoon visit to the famous Culloden battlefield.
We all headed outside to watch our journey down Loch Ness and marvel at the beautiful Urquhart Castle, everything framed in glorious sunshine. The sunny weather was so hot you would hardly believe that we were in Scotland. Sadly, no one on board was able to spot Nessie. As we sat down for lunch, we arrived in Muirtown basin—Inverness, our ship’s destination. After lunch we were to head out to the Culloden battlefield; a climax to our cultural tour.
Culloden, just outside Inverness, was the location of the last armed civil war on the British mainland. It was there that Bonnie Prince Charlie’s Jacobite army was defeated in 1746 by Hanoverian regiments commanded by the Duke of Cumberland, son of the second Hanoverian monarch, George II. The latter dynasty had taken over from the Stuarts in 1714, following the death of the last of the Stuart line, Queen Anne, whose children had all predeceased her. In essence, the conflict was between a Protestant regime and a Catholic claimant. The conflict was very well described at the National Trust for Scotland’s interpretative center with an immersive film that vividly recreated the horrors of an 18th-century field battle. The battle of Culloden was a turning point in the history of the Highlands.
We met outside the center and headed out for a nature walk around the grounds, discovering trees, wildflowers, butterflies, and birds, and seeing for ourselves where so many Highland men died for a failed cause.
From Culloden, we continued a short distance to Clava Cairns, a series of three ancient megaliths from the Neolithic period. The cairns were of significant cultural significance for thousands of years. They are aligned so that on the winter solstice, the sun’s rays illuminate the back wall of the circular buildings, proving that spring was on its way again and the darkness would soon pass.
For dinner, we had Scottish haggis, and afterward, we were treated to a Scottish dancing performance by a local dance group—the perfect end to the perfect Scottish trip.