Day 1: Inverness
Despite being jet-lagged, we enjoyed our stay in the Palace Hotel, right across the street from Inverness Castle. We had tea while gazing out the window of our room at this amazing view of the Ness River
Inverness is a pedestrian-friendly city. It includes a lovely two-hour waterside walk that follows the river south and then crosses to the opposite bank via a couple of islands. While we didn’t have time to do that whole path, we strolled around the city center and shopped. I found my Campbell clan tartan and bought cashmere scarves for family members (my buying splurge for the trip), as well as a traditional sgian-dubh, the ceremonial knife that’s part of traditional Scottish Highland dress.
My only regret is that we could not visit the Inverness Highlands Family Archives to research my Campbell clan family roots. It wasn’t open on Sunday, and we had an early-morning tour scheduled the next day. I do intend to contact them for research assistance when we get home.
Day 2: Outlander Tour
We met Diana Bertoldi, our Tours By Locals guide, and were delighted to discover we were her only customers for the day. She told us she’d lived in Italy before moving to Scotland. While her son still lives in Milan, Diana considers Scotland her true home.
Our first stop was the Culloden Battlefield, one of the most important places in Scottish history. It’s managed by the National Trust of Scotland and has an informative visitor centre. However, Diana worked at the site previously, so she gave us a vivid account of the final battle in the Jacobite Uprising.
At Culloden), the Jacobites (mostly Scottish clansmen) lost 2,000 men, while the British suffered a mere 300 causalities. The Duke of Cumberland’s dragoons (think of the Outlander character Jonathan “Black Jack” Randall) chased fleeing Jacobite clansmen into the Western Highlands, executing many of those they caught.
Those clansmen not executed were often transported to the colonies, ushering in the first wave of large-scale Scottish immigration to North America. The British government also banned the tartan and kilt. The clan system—the social order that had existed in the Scottish Highlands since before the days of William Wallace—was lost to history.
Although the clan way of life was formally eliminated, their sense of national pride was not. In 2014, Scotland issued a referendum on national independence. That, coupled with the release of Diana Gabaldon’s Starz television drama, Outlander, has sparked renewed interest in Scotland’s Jacobite Rebellion. The efforts of Bonnie Prince Charlie and the Highlanders mark one of the most important—and ultimately tragic—moments in Scottish history.
Our wonderful guide Diana had arranged for us to meet the current McKenzie Clan Chief, Laird John Ruaridh Grant MacKenzie. We spent a delightful couple of hours visiting with him and touring
He also showed us the giant chestnut tree on the back grounds, planted by Mary Queen of Scots’ mother, as well as the only redwood tree in Scotland, along the front drive.
I walked two-thirds of the way around the stones, feeling like they were repelling me. As I rounded the back of the cairn to complete my circle, it felt the opposite: the stones were pulling me toward them. When I told Diana what I’d experienced, she explained that an energetic ley line ran through the site, roughly along the line where I’d begun to feel attracted!
That was my first experience with the supernatural Scottish highlands. It wouldn’t be my last, as we had two full weeks of sacred sites to visit with our next tour group, Gothic Tours.
So, meet me here on Saturday to learn next about the Black Isle fairy pools, plus the standing stones, prehistoric villages and Viking influences on the island of Orkney. Plus, we'll visit a dig-site-in-progress and meet two of the archaeologists unearthing an exciting new discovery that could be larger than anything uncovered to date in Scotland.