Tuesday, 6 March 2012

Inverness and everything in between

It's 7.05pm here and it feels about 4 hours later. We have had another really full day and we're all exhausted (in a good way). We were up and breakfasted and on the bus by 9am. We just did a day trip and are staying the night at Morag's Lodge tonight as well. We drove up one side of Loch Ness to Inverness and back down the other side back to the hostel. Our first stop was a little town called Invermoriston (we learned today that 'inver' means 'at the mouth of the river'. Hence, Invermoriston is at the mouth of the river Moriston, and Inverness is at the mouth of the river Ness). At Invermoriston we took photos with some resident hairy coos (Highland cattle, officially the greatest looking animals ever) and went for a wee walk down to some waterfalls. After this we had two short stops, one to take pics of Urquhart Castle and one a bit further down the road to go to a 'Nessie' gift shop, full of the cheesiest Loch Ness souvenirs you can imagine, and to see a big purple sculpture of Nessie on the bank. We also did an ancient and mystical ritual to summon the monster from the deep, that involved slapping our knees, pelvic-thrusting, and shouting stupidly. It was lots of fun. After this we drove to the Culloden Battlefield, the site of a terrible and bloody battle between the Jacobites and the English government that pretty much wiped out the Highlander clans. Despite the fact we were uncomfortably cold, this was an interesting place to walk around. It is essentially a mass grave, and monuments have been erected in the centuries since so it remains a place of solemnity. In nicer weather, I would like to walk further around here. After this, we drove to the Clava cairns, which are man-made burial chambers of stone that date back 4000 years. The architecture of these is mind-blowing; people 4000 years ago were able to make a structure that has never collapsed, perfectly in line for the winter solstice. Amazing. (Oh! Oh! And I saw a wild deer today. I also saw some on the way from Munich to Italy, but this one was much closer, bounding up a little hill.) Our final stop before Inverness was a clootie well, which is basically a well that's been around for centuries, believed to have healing properties. They were often near a church and thought to contain holy water. People would take a piece of cloth or clothing from the sick person, dip it in the well, and tie it to a nearby tree. As the cloth disintegrated, it was believed the illness too, would fade away. As a result, the forest surrounding this clootie well was FILLED with pieces of cloth. It looked fantastic, all full of colours, but it was really freaky, standing in the middle of a forest full of sick people's clothing. After this, we popped into Inverness for a leisurely and extremely filling lunch, before coming back down the other side of Loch Ness to the hostel. We only stopped once to take some quick photos because the wind had gotten a bit cold. We had chilli for dinner at the hostel and tonight will be treated to the smooth tunes of Donald from Skye, who is known round these parts as the human iPod. He has a harmonica, a guitar, a tambourine on one foot, and a microphone to use as a bass drum on the other foot and apparently does roaring renditions of such classics as 'Umbrella' by Rihanna, 'Sex on Fire' by Kings of Leon and 'Donald, where are your Troosers?' by Andy Stewart. Sweet!

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