Back on the road today for a slightly more relaxed tour of the Highland capital, Inverness. We camped right by the Loch Ness and woke up a bit late after our exhausting day in the Highlands. Addam found his wallet! He had shoved it into his sneaker haha. Silly boy was so excited to find it. One of the big downsides to our Wicked Campers van is that it has so many nooks and crannies we have to search for things several times a day. It optimizes space to the point that you forget which side nook you put your selfie stick in just when you put it in there.

Once we woke up and put our directions in the GPS we realized we had made a rookie mistake. Apparently the lake is so deep that it is impossible to build bridges over to the other side. This actually delayed our plans a bit because although we were right across the water from the Loch Ness Exhibition we wanted to visit we had to drive all the way up to Inverness and then down the other side of the lake to get to where we needed to be. (45 minute drive!)

The Loch Ness Monster Exhibition Centre

I wasn’t really sure what to expect from this exhibition. Of course we have all grown up hearing the stories of Nessie, the Loch Ness monster.

But what did Loch Ness itself have to offer on this legend? It turns out there’s a classic exhibition that is over 30 years old. Boy was it old! You get to go through several rooms as a projector video takes you on a scientific journey explaining the origins of the Loch, the myths and the search for Nessie.

There’s a lot of negative reviews for this place on Trip Advisor because it is quite obviously dated but for some reason Addam and I actually enjoyed it and thought it was an interesting relic for this place. It could use some content updating for the video (one of the “recent” searches they reference was actually from the 80s haha) but if you are in Loch Ness I would recommend going at least once!

Loch Ness is littered with tourist trap shops. Addam and I purchased a couple of things but there were bus loads of people stopped to go into some of the bigger souvenir stores. We didn’t spend any time on the lake itself. There were tours that went our there called “Jacobite Tours”. If we came here again I would probably want to try one of those.

The Small City Of Inverness

Inverness was just a 20 minute drive from the Loch Ness Exhibition. It was insanely difficult to find a car park, however, so we wasted just as much time driving around the busy city center until I gave up and looked up parking on Google Maps. There is one big several story parking lot that we managed to wedge our van into.

We grabbed lunch at a local pub that was more in the style of a gambling-club place you’d see in Australia. (Think TAB if you’re an Aussie and know what I’m talking about.) The food was decent. I won’t bore you with the details.

After this we walked down the street to a very old church surrounded by a cemetery. It’s actually right in front of the Loch, and from one of the the main streets. We strolled around, quietly taking photos and basking in the sunlight.

It still blows my mind that there are graves over 400 years old preserved so well in a place bustling with modern people. I guess I don’t think very much of humanity but I think it’s a true achievement when we are able to preserve pieces of our history. If only everyone in the world valued mankind enough to place their differences aside for the good of the world. I can feel a rant coming on so I’ll leave it at that.

A couple of doors down from the church and cemetery there was a gorgeous bookshop called “Leakey’s Bookstore“. It’s one of those places that takes your breath away if you’re a lover of books and old places. It is an antique bookstore in one of the oldest cities in Scotland! I told Addam immediately that I wanted to stay there for hours. I somehow managed to keep my visit short to 15 minutes. While I browsed Addam took this amazing photo:

Fun fact: He dropped his sunglasses down the stairs and if you peer behind the bookshelves you might see them! Apparently those bookshelves are bolted to the staircase so there was no way to retrieve them. They’ll be there until they remodel the store (maybe for years to come!)

I bought a few books on Inverness. I thought it was an appropriate souvenir to purchase in this city. If I am ever lucky enough to come back I will be buying a lot more!

We roamed around the city a little bit, took photos, and visited a real life kilt making and rental store. It was also half souvenir store. I begged Addam to buy a kilt but he wouldn’t. 🙁 Maybe I can sneak buy one before we leave Scotland.

Culloden Battlefield And Outlander

It sounds horrible to say that I desperately wanted to visit a historical battlefield because of a book but the fact is I don’t know much about the Jacobite history outside of Outlander. So yes, I wanted to visit Culloden after reading all about Jamie and Claire’s journey in Diana Gabaladon’s books.

Culloden is actually one of the most tragic battles in all of Scotland’s history. On 16 April 1746, the Jacobite forces of the pretender Charles Edward Stuart were fiercely defeated by the English troops, near Inverness in the Scottish Highlands. Culloden Battlefield is run by the National Trust of Scotland and was only a 10 minute drive from the city.

This was a great exhibit that had many artifacts from the battle and a great audio tour that took you around the battlefield where you could stand on the very spot where the Highlanders lost their clans system to a doomed cause. There were grave markers where they were able to identify the remains of a Highlander based on the tartan they wore. The only stone to have a rose placed in front of it was for Clan Fraser. I wonder if it was left by an Outlander fan for fictional character Jamie Fraser.

Standing on the grassy fields it was very difficult for me to imagine a real battle taking place in front of me. I guess we just have no idea what it was like to live in those days and circumstances where loyalty to ones clan was placed before personal gain and love.

The gift shop here has a whole shelf dedicated to Outlander merchandise so it’s clear tourism has jumped a bit since the TV show aired. I think it’s a good thing because people can actually learn about the true history of the Jacobites and what happened to real people just a couple hundred years ago. I purchased a couple book and intend to educate myself on the history of the ’49.

Clava Cairns

This was a surprise and last minute addition to our schedule thanks entirely to a tip from a stranger on Twitter! I share what we do on our trip on my personal Twitter and someone was kind enough to tell me about this unique historical site.

He suggested we visit Clava Cairns, a ring of stones and burial chambers dating back to the Bronze Age (3000-4000 years old.) The site it just behind Culloden Battlefield and completely free to visit. We were amongst just a handful of other people. Again tourist buses could not fit down the alley-sized road to get there so it was relatively quiet and surrounded by trees with streaming sunlight was a great end to our touring of the Highlands.

Lord Addam, Keeper And Protector Of The Sheep

We stopped to stay at a campsite in a small town on the Whisky Trail of Scotland called Aberlour. It’s sort of in the middle of nowhere so the people staying here were more Scots than tourists. They gawked unabashedly at our van to the point where Addam and I felt like we should leave because we thought we might be offending them. The lady who ran the campsite was a bit of an aggressive sort and tried to tell me that we hadn’t booked until 5 minutes into a conversation she remembered me calling her just an hour before. :/

Too scared to draw more attention to ourselves and take our car out of the campsite we decided to walk down the local pub, The Mash Tun, which was about 30 minutes away by foot.

On the way we walked by a field of sheep, which is very common in Scotland. Suddenly circumstances happened and Addam became a hero.

Here is the story in Addam’s words:

“I just saved a little sheep from probable death by starvation. Walking down this back farm road to the nearby village to have dinner and we heard a sheep making a lot of noise that didn’t sound normal. Look over the edge, and there was a little sheep stuck between a water box and the fence! Tried to scare him out but a fence post was blocking him and he had to back out to exit. Backing out apparently is too hard for a sheep brain. Eventually I got him to jump up onto the edge of the water box high enough that I could grab a handful of its wool on each of his sides and then I lifted him out. Then he ran to his mum about 40 yards away bah’ing like crazy. I’m not a sheep linguist but it sounded pretty happy. Sheep lore of my deed will now travel across the lands far into the Highlands. I hear the sheep are already writing songs about me. Sir Hardy, Protector of the flock.”

On the way back from the pub we got lost and ended up running on the side of the highway trying to get back to the path that would lead to us to our campsite. Needless to say while Addam saving a sheep was worth walking I think we will drive to the pub next time.