Saturday, 25 October 2014

Around Loch Ness

I do not know how much you knew about Scotland before I have taken you there. For me the first thought has always been "Nessie". Today I am happy to show you Loch Ness and its surroundings.

We will start with Culloden, where on 16 April 1764 the Jacobite Rising was broken by Duke Cumberland. The red flag indicates the line of the English forces.

The memorial cairn is pretty modest for Scottish standards.

The number of those who perished was so high that the "gallant Highlanders" are commemorated by the names of their clans only. Let's spend a minute of silence for the brave Frasers.

 The Leanach cottage shown below makes you realise what farmhouses looked like back at that time. And yes, thatched roofed and turf-walled.

Today the only inhabitants of the moore are sheep ...

 ... and the Highland cows. The latter are easy to recognise by their shaggy coats and long horns.

The biggest town in the region is Inverness. It is considered as the capital of the Highlands of Scotland. Here comes the Town Hall.

Let's take the High Street.

The Castle of Inverness is supposed to have replaced the one where Macbeth lived. And yes, the
Shakespeare's play is inspired by historical facts.

In front of the castle there is a monument commemorating a Jacobite heroine Flora MacDonald.

Alright, enough of history lessons. The river Ness will take us to the lake of the same name. A "loch" is a Scottish name for fjord-type lakes, typically long and deep.

We will start our visit to Loch Ness by having a look at the Urquhart Castle.

The castle has been standing in this place for half a millennium, passing from hands to hands and being raided regularly. As a result, not much has remained of its past glory.

Let's walk up the stairs and try to imagine what it felt like to live in a place with a view like this.

On the right hand side - Inverness.

On the left hand side - the water and the mountains.

The most important part of any visit to Loch Ness is of course a cruise on the lake, in the quest to catch (at least on a picture) the legendary Monster. The water is not very inviting - it is clean but surprisingly dark.

From water side, the Urquhart Castle seems even more ruined.

Probably you will not be surprised that I did not meet Nessie during our cruise. I am sure that she has never planned to become a celebrity and now she is hiding well. I could only pass my greetings to her statue next to the visitors center. 

I propose we end this long and tiring day with a baked potato, accompanied by coleslaw. Warm, tasty and as Scottish as Nessie herself.

Saturday, 18 October 2014


Stirling was known in the past as the "Gateway to the Highlands". If you doubt it, just smell the heather.

Stirling used to be the capital of Scotland. As a result, in its parish church, the church of the Holy Rude, royal baptisms and coronations took place.

The Stirling castle, located obviously on a hill, was the house of many kings and queens, including Mary, Queen of Scots

The main entrance shows you immediately that it was built as a fortress.

Actually so do the walls.

Inside you can admire the thrones. To be honest they do not seem very comfortable.

Stirling is best known for its role in the Scottish war for independence, fought with England in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, during the reign of king Robert the Bruce.

This part of the Scottish history is best know to the public through the movie "Braveheart", being the nickname of sir William Wallace. He is present almost everywhere in the city.

But his main monument is hard to miss - just look at the hill. Well, when they want to commemorate their heroes Scots think big.

Now as we approach it you can assess the magnitude of the construction.

The stairs are hidden in one of the corners. Sorry my friends, no lift provided.

On the top there is of course and observation deck.

You can see here the panorama of Stirling, with the castle in the back.

As a last remark, I must tell you that Scottish pride is still very strong in Stirling. Many inhabitants hope to recover their independence.

Also on special occasions they like to underline their tradition. Here come the traditional wedding attires.

P.S. The symbol of Stirling is a wolf. With king Robert B. leading a revolt against the English kings and the national hero being executed, the Gateway to the North reminds me of something ...

Saturday, 11 October 2014


Today we will start a journey through a new country. Edinburgh is the capital and second biggest city in Scotland. The historical districts of Edinburgh are a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Obviously, Scotland is part of the United Kingdom but it enjoys some autonomy that is visible amoung others through the Scottish parliament. It was established back in 1437 but after the union with England in 1707 it was dissolved. It was reactivated only in 1999, therefore the building of the parliament is very modern.

Obviously, the Queen also has an official residence in Scotland. It is the Palace of Holyroodhouse. In its current shape, the palace was built in the seventeenth century.

The main street of the Old Town of Edinburgh is called Royal Mile. It links the Holyroodhouse Palace with the castle. It is walled by nice residential buildings.

In one of them lived John Knox, the leader of protestant reformation in Scotland.

And here comes the Canongate Kirk, the parish church of the palace and the castle. The wedding of Queen's granddaughter Zara Philips took place here. 

I must notice however that officially, the main church in Scotland is the St. Giles cathedral.

Pretty close you will find another type of temple, more typical for our times - the seat of the Royal Bank of Scotland.

Edinburgh is known for its connections with culture. Many famous festivals take place there. It was also the birthplace or the residence of many famous writers. Including sir Arthur Conan Doyle, the father of Sherlock Holmes ...

... the famous poet sir Walter Scott, commemorated via a gigantic monument ...

... and Ms. J.K. Rowling (not yet a lady), the mother of Harry Potter.

Now that we walked down the Royal Mile, we finally reached the most famous symbol of the city - the Edinburgh castle, located on the Castle Rock.

Its construction began back in the twelve century. The castle was a royal residence until the Union of the Crowns in 1603. In this year the Scottish king Jacob inherited the English throne.

Today, the castle still has a military role, although it is mainly ceremonial and administrative. Some parts of the castle house also military museums. Let's take the main entry to the National War Museum.

And here comes the Scottish National War Memorial, dedicated to soldiers who have left their lives on the fields of World War I.

 In the yard we need to pay our respects to Earl Haig, field marshal during World War I.

Since the castle is located on a hill, I will be able to show you the panorama of the city as well as our last point of interest in Edinburgh - the hill called Arthur's Seat. Its name is obviously a reference to legends of King Arthur.

To arrive on the top of the hill, we need to pass through the Salisbury Crags, a series of 46-metre high cliffs.

Luckily, climbing here is pretty easy.

In the past, the hill did accommodate some buildings that nowadays are just ruins.

So the biggest attraction of the place is obviously the view from the top. Finally we made it.

Our reward was a fantastic panoramic view of Edinburgh.

Here in the middle you can see the castle again.

Time to get back to the Old Town again. Let's not forget to say hello to Greyfriars Bobby, the most faithful animal of Scotland.

Now I think that we have deserved some rest. Let's choose a pub. I was first thinking of this one ...

... but then I realised I could not turn down this offer. It seems they are really experienced and know their stuff. Hopefully they accept bachelors too.

Let's sip a good old beer. I propose we stay here until evening to admire the fireworks scheduled today in the Edinburgh castle. They promisd to be splendid.

And so they were!