For these two days, we hired a private tour guide to take us through and around the Highlands. Being a huge Diana Gabaldon / Outlander fan, I wanted some of the highlights from the books, but since no one else traveling with me was as big a fan, it needed to be “generic,” too. I’m sure you’ll see we had the best of both worlds.
We started our day in Falkland, Fife, Scotland. This is such a lovely little town! Outlander fans will recognize it as “Inverness” in the first television episode (this was Frank & Claire’s hotel), but it was great to walk around whether a fan or not. I also highly recommend the bakery. The steak and haggis meat pie was amazing!
Again, somewhere relevant to both Outlander fans and simply Scottish history, we had a stop at the Highland Folk Museum in Newtonmore. After a lovely walk through some woods, visitors can visit this 1700s town. Outlander fans may recognize it as a village where the Mackenzies had stopped to collect rents and Claire went with the women to make tartan. One can go through these buildings as well as others throughout the museum.
Something I found interesting was that these buildings did not have chimneys as the smoke would simply dissipate through the thatch. That’s the idea anyway. As you can see in this photo, the smoke does leave quite a haze inside, but it didn’t burn your eyes, it smelled great, and I bet it made a wonderful, natural bug repellant.
We couldn’t go to the Highlands without a trip to a whisky distillery! We had a lovely tour here that came with a wee dram. For a little extra, I added four more wee drams, which included a sample that hadn’t been aged. I’ll stick with anything aged 15 years or longer, I think.
At the end of our first day in the Highlands, our guide dropped us off here, Culloden House, our home for the evening. Not only was it absolutely gorgeous inside and out, the beds were comfy and the food was delicious. I hope to stay there again some day.
While not “officially” part of the tour, I had to take a photo of the gorse or whin, which was everywhere and was in full bloom coating everything in these yellow flowers. While thorny, it is worth getting up close. Those flowers smell strongly of coconut!
We started our second day at Clava Cairns. Everyone knows of Stonehenge, but the UK is actually covered in these stone circles. At this one, visitors are able to get close to the stones even entering the circles.
As an Outlander fan, I couldn’t leave Clava Cairns without recreating the photo from the back cover of The Outlandish Companion.
The lovely thing about having a private guided tour is that one’s guide will detour so that you can see what you want. I made a request to see Highland Cattle. I’d seen photos, but I wanted to see one in person! As you can see, he obliged swimmingly.
Also, not an “official” part of the tour, but I have so many photos of the beautiful Highland countryside, I had to share at least one.
One of the few times I teared up during our trip was on our visit to Culloden. I’ve visited many battlefields in my travels, but I think it’s in knowing the aftermath of this battle that affected me most. While many men died in this very short battle, more died after. From the blog Scottish Adventure,* “After the Battle at Culloden, the British King decided that once and for all he would rid his empire of the Scots (men, women and children) who dared threaten his crown and exclusive rule. He directed Cumberland and his army to hunt down everyone that survived the Battle at Culloden — and annihilate them. All “Jacobite” sympathizers were to be sought out and exterminated. His forces pursued this policy with a ruthless abandonment and it is believed that many Scots — who truly had nothing to do with Culloden— also paid the final penalty of death. The atrocities that followed so shamed the government, that to this day no British Regiment bears Culloden as a battle honor. No one was left alive on the battlefield. Cumberland’s troops were told to kill all that moved.”
Clan Fraser is just one of a number of mass clan graves at Culloden.
Lightening the mood, our guide, Hugh Allison*, is autographing his book “Culloden Tales: Stories from Scotland’s Most Famous Battlefield” for me. It was great having someone who knew the history so well take us around not only the battlefield, but all over the Highlands. One other thing to note about this photo is the sign. The signs in much of the Highlands we visited were in Gaelic first with an English translation second.
Another neat, but quick stop was to see the ruins of Beauly Priory. The history here is so vast. This was probably founded around 1230. In the Outlander books, this is also where the Lovat Frasers are buried and while there are Fraser gravestones here, the Lovat Frasers are buried elsewhere. Regardless, it was a very interesting place to visit.
Finally, we couldn’t leave the Highlands without a view of Loch Ness. This may be the most famous loch in all of Scotland, but I have to tell you, there are many that are just as scenic. Scotland is a beautiful place full of friendly people. I really hope to get back.
Stay tuned for info on golfing in Scotland and our tour of a castle still owned privately by the Mackenzie Clan.
*For more information about the the quote I used about Culloden, visit https://mcalisteradventure.wordpress.com/2013/10/19/culloden-house-and-culloden-battle-1746-jacobites/. Not only does it give a brief history, there are also many great photos.
*I cannot recommend Hugh Allison enough as a tour guide (and I am not being compensated to say this). He is so knowledgeable and took us exactly where we wanted to go. He does group tours through the company he owns, Inverness Tours, but his prices are reasonable for private tours as well. http://scottishtalespinner.com/