After three days of rising early, today our tour leaves mid-day. So, off to the concierge lounge for a relaxed breakfast and cups of wonderfully hot café lattes and watch from the windows as we make our way to port.
Today we will be on a bus tour to Loch Ness and the Urquhart Castle ruins. The ride to the castle lasted over an hour. During the ride our guide shared information about Scotland, Inverness, the castle and the ongoing move to keep the Gaelic language alive.
I enjoyed the bus ride so much. I listened to our guide with my head leaning against the window and just watched the scenery pass by. We passed lovely homes, open fields and a beautiful area across a river covered in mist. The ride was so relaxing I was almost drifted off to sleep.
We drove through the town of Inverness a we made our way toward the castle. As we crossed the bridge I noticed that the sky had cleared and a hint of blue could be seen behind the clouds. The bridge and town were adorned with many baskets of beautiful flowers.
We finally arrived at the visitor’s center and was it crowded. We had to wait a bit before being able to go inside. We learned that we had to see a short film about the castle before we could go onto the grounds.
Once inside we had to wait for our turn to enter the small theater and watch the film about the castle and Great Raid of 1545 unfold. From what I could discern the Urquhart castle had a very turbulent history and changed hands many times.
The Great Raid of 1545 was a MacDonald-led raid storming the castle over a period of a month. In the end they systematically stripped the castle and Glen Urquhart of everything of value including 2,000 cattle, hundreds of other animals, furniture, cannon and even the gates.
The castle’s turbulent history continued until it was almost totally destroyed in 1692. In 2003 the owner of the castle gifted it to the National Trust for Scotland. And now, Urquhart Castle is one of the most visited castles in Scotland.
The hectic part of our day started as soon as the film was over. At the end of the film, the screen rolled up and the curtains were opened to a spectacular view of the castle ruins and Loch Ness. I must say it was very dramatic and quite breathtaking. The sky was a bright blue, white puffy clouds floated across the sky and all the vegetation was various shades of bright green. “What a beautiful day this has turned out to be,” I thought to myself.
We were given a limited amount of time to make our way down to the castle so we hurried on our way. Jim and JoAnne were with us but decided to stay on the visitor center terrace and enjoy the view.
On our way we passed a full sized, working trebuchet siege engine. Like so many, I have only seen these machines in movies. It was so big!
Before entering the castle we paused just for a moment on the drawbridge and asked a very nice passerby to take our photo. We continued our exploration of the castle ruins walking up and down every flight of stairs, reading every sign and watching as a gentleman dressed in period costume give a talk about weapons of the day.
Each time we climbed up a tower we would stop and take in the spectacular views of the river Ness and shoreline. The day had turned out to be quite lovely with a bright sun keeping us warm and a gentle breeze cooling us off as we climbed to the heights of the ruins.
My one disappointment about our visit to the castle you may think is silly. I was very excited about going to Loch Ness and thought it would be quite funny to purchase a Loch Ness monster doll, climb to the top of one of the towers and take a selfie with the caption, “Oh look, it’s Nessie!” Unfortunately, the gift shop does not sell Nessie dolls.
By the time we made it back to the terrace, Jim and JoAnne had already started the trek back to the bus. We hurried along until we caught up with them. The tour guide decided to take another route back to the pier. We drove across the bridge and our guide told us to look to the right. I did and was able to capture a photo of the only Loch Ness monster I was going to see this visit. Very funny!
As we drove along we passed by beautiful fields covered in heather, forests of pine trees, sheep grazing in meadows and passed through several small villages. Our guide talked a bit about the shaggy-haired Highland cattle and a few moments later there was one grazing on the side of the road. The ride was quite lovely.
As we neared the pier and drove through Invergordon our guide brought our attention to the murals on several of the buildings we were passing. She explained that the murals were commissioned to illustrate the rich, diverse history of the area, the events, people and industries which have helped shape the town over the decades and centuries. There are 11 murals around the town. The few that we saw were lovely.
By the time we arrived back on the ship it was time to prepare for the evening. Tonight we would be celebrating JoAnne’s birthday with a dinner at Chop’s Grille.
I started my meal with a crisp, wonderful wedge salad, followed by a filet mignon and for dessert an apple pie. Melt-in-your mouth delicious is the only way to describe how I felt about my dinner.
Tomorrow we will have our first sea day.