University of Wisconsin–Madison

Episode 4: Inverness

I finally made it into the highlands, and it was everything I hoped it would be.

My flatmates and I had joined the archaeology club on their weekend excursion to various historical sites, and although this meant waking before dawn (after a measly three hours of sleep) and a four hour bus ride, I have no regrets.

The view from the bus as we made our way into the highlands.
The view from the bus as we made our way into the highlands.

Our first stop was Urquhart Castle on the shores of Loch Ness.

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This was followed by a trip to a Pictish cemetery. The bus heaved and groaned as it struggled its way up the muddy gravel roads, and there were a number of times where I feared we wouldn’t make it at all. Fortunately, we did, and parked ourselves in front of a farmhouse located halfway up a mountain. There, a local archaeologist met us, and we hiked the rest of the way up, ending up in a sheep field which also happened to be the site of several Pictish burial mounds. We milled about as our tour guide explained the site’s history. He had the sort of enthusiasm that I can only dream of having about my future career, and it was refreshing to see. But as we explored, a huge swathe of dark clouds was blowing in from just over the strip of pines lining the field, and before long we were being pelted by icy shards. By the time we returned to the bus, I could no longer feel my legs, and was ready for a hot meal and a long sleep.

The following morning, we managed to make several stops, the first of which was Sueno’s Stone, which is yet another Pictish artifact. It is essentially and enormous stone slab, covered in patterns and the figures of people, carved into the stone with great care and weathered by time. It had been encased in a glass box, and propped upright in the midst of a park for all to see.

The same day we also visited the Clava Cairns.

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My favorite stop in our journey was Culloden Moor. It was…sad. As any battlefield or memorial would be. But braving the cold to wander through the moor on an overcast day only served to emphasize the tragedy of the end of the Jacobite rebellion.

Afterwards, we went to Elgin Cathedral and Duffus castle, both of which are spectacular ruins.

Duffus Castle
Duffus Castle
Duffus Castle
Duffus Castle
Elgin Cathedral
Elgin Cathedral

Until next time,

Aika