The ruins of Urquhart Castle roll along the hillside above Loch Ness, each remaining stone a testament to the history of Scotland. It’s one of my favorite places to visit and each of the four times that I have been there, I have seen it in a different light, figuratively and literally. The first time I was there, it was shrouded in fog, a year later it was not raining, but was overcast, dark and gloomy. A few years later the weather was bright and sunny when we were there, and this past year it was raining. Each time, the way the light played upon the stone walls gave me a different sense of the place. And the waters of Loch Ness mirrored the mood. I’ll let the photos from over the years speak for themselves. To read what I have previously written about the history of Urquhart Castle, click here.
We drove north on the A82 toward Inverness. Tomnahurich Hill was much easier to find this time because we were approaching from the south, and I knew what I was looking for. Two years previously, Kyle and Liisa and I had circled around a bit to find it as we drove in from The Black Isle north of Inverness. I have previously written about the history of Tomnahurich Hill here. It was my talking about my being there with Liisa and Kyle that sparked Marsha’s interest, so when I planned the trip for her, I made certain to include it. We were there for quite a while, silently walking our separate ways through the trees and the headstones. As I had before, I kept to the trees around the perimeter and spent a lot of time near the yew tree that stands as a sentinel in the center of the top of the hill.
Just a short drive to the southeast of Inverness is another of my most favorite places in Scotland, the Balnuaran of Clava, or Clava Cairns which have given their name to this certain type of cairn. Clava Cairns is another of the places that is a “must” for me. A couple of years ago, I wrote a review for Clava Cairns on social media. While I praised it for its beauty and serenity, I also mentioned the times that I have seen people climbing on the cairns, and generally dis-respecting the antiquity of the site. This time, I was very happy to see a sign at the entrance gate asking visitors to enjoy it with their feet on the ground. And, no, it is not where a certain fictional character “went through the stones”. There is no need to touch them to find out. It doesn’t mean there may not be some energy around the cairns, though. To read about a very interesting experience that I had there, click here.
A twenty-five minute drive to the northeast from Clava Cairns, about half way to Nairn, is the village of Cawdor. The spelling was changed from Calder in the early 1800’s by the resident Lord so that it would match Shakespeare’s Macbeth, who was the Thane of Cawdor. Cawdor is now a designated conservation area of Scotland and includes Cawdor Castle. Located in what was originally the workshop for the castle is Cawdor Tavern, one of my favorite places to have a good meal. They prepare specialties daily from locally-harvested, in-season sources. My friend Sheelagh met us for dinner there before we drove over to her B&B in Nairn for the night. I’ve stayed at Greenlawns three times and Sheelagh has always been the greatest host. It’s evident that she loves what she’s doing there. Since there were no other guests, she allowed us to spread out in the drawing room and go through all our clothes. We had to get things settled for the trip home, and since we had a few days worth of clothes extra that we’d bought before we were re-connected with our luggage, not to mention assorted treasures purchased along the way, we had to decide how to handle it all. Sheelagh took the extra clothing and donated it to the refugees that were, at that time, just beginning to arrive in the UK from the Middle East. We talked, drank wine and accepted that fact that we weren’t going to fit in to the one suitcase each that we’d started out with. After a good night’s sleep and a wonderful breakfast, we were off again to travel the countryside of Aberdeenshire.