The night in the buffy was a bit…rough. In our oversight we left the heater on so we were all roasting, and the sleeping pads hadn’t been broken in yet so they were a bit tricky to get comfortable on. But we were all thankful to be dry, and knew that a good couple cups of coffee would shake the morning haze off. The first agenda for the day was to repack our bags to try to find room for our new whisky collection. This was the moment where the sleeping bags came in very handy as we used them as padding for the multiple bottles we had purchased. Packed and ready we set off on our way to Inverness.
On this trip we wanted to take the back roads and see more of the highlands. And the GPS did a fantastic job of finding the back roads! We made our way through the top of the Loch Lomond and Trossachs National Park, passed Loch Tay, almost crashed in the quaint town of Pitlochry where a misunderstanding between a one-way bridge and a gawking tourist resulted in Jared backing up down the road about 100 meters, and even found ourselves on a road with a “watch for horse drawn vehicles” sign. This one made us do a triple check of the GPS to make sure we were actually going the right way. There is something to be said about getting off the beaten path and really exploring the back roads. We saw so many charming villages and gorgeous landscapes we would have completely bypassed if we had stuck to the major motorways in the area.
After all the driving the guys were feeling a bit thirsty so we stopped at the Dalwhinnie Distillery to quench their thirst. This is distillery is located in the Highlands of Cairngorm National Park and is touted as being one of the highest distilleries in Scotland since it is located at 1164 feet above mean sea level. None of us felt like doing another tour so instead the guys opted for a paired whisky and chocolate tasting. The chocolates were as beautiful as the whisky was! Since I was the designated driver the gentleman helping us gave me a cup of the most decadent, delicious, and chocolaty hot chocolate I have ever tasted. The best part being it was on the house! Sometimes it pays to be the DD. While they didn’t like the two together as the chocolate overpowered the whisky, Erik and Jared thoroughly enjoyed their tasting. Our bags once again heavier with a small bottle of whisky we headed back on the road.
From Dalwhinnie we worked northeast towards Inverness. En route to the city is the battlefield of Culloden and we all wanted to stop by here. The Battle of Culloden is a very, very sad tale. The battle took place on April 16, 1746. It was the final meeting between Bonnie Prince Charles and England under the Hanover’s during the Jacobite uprising of 1745. After a series of surprising victories in 1745 the Jacobites had advanced to Derby in England, close enough to pose a threat to London herself. However, the expected French support didn’t materialize and the troops were forced to fall back to Scotland. This turned the tide on the Jacobites and they continued to retreat throughout 1746 to the Highlands where this battle took place. The troops had marched overnight to outside Culloden Moor the night before in hopes of a surprise attack against sleeping English forces. Unfortunately, the weather turned to snow that day and they were unable to arrive before daylight. Exhausted and starving, the men were either sleeping or out in small hunting groups when Bonnie Prince Charles, against the wishes of his advisors and many Clan Chiefs, decided to engage the British anyway that morning. This caused much chaos as the men were roused from sleep and told to form lines, many hadn’t even returned yet from the hunting parties and reinforcements from the Highlands hadn’t arrived to supplement their forces. This terrible decision would cost the lives of between 1,500-2,000 Highlanders in less than an hour of fighting, crushing the rebellion and destroying the hopes of a Stuart returning to the throne. This loss resulted in a total banishment of Scottish Highland culture including wearing tartans (unless in the British armed forces), bagpipes, and carrying weapons until Queen Victoria’s reign in the 1840’s.
Prior to visiting we had done a little bit of background research, but none of us realized that the day we planned our visit was in fact the 273rd anniversary of the battle. We actually showed up there on April 16, 2017. This caught us all off guard as there was a reenactment of the battle earlier that day (we were all so bummed we missed it!), but it was all the more somber since many of the gravestones marking the mass graves where the clansmen lay had flowers and wreaths laid on them. The battlefield is preserved today as mixture of cemetery, open space, and museum exhibit; an oddly beautiful remembrance to all those who lost their lives there.
Many locals use the trails as a walking path for exercise or to walk their dogs, while others can be seen reading the many placards of information about the battle around the moors edges. Portions are even being restored by biologists to keep the area as a true marshland. Sadly, we showed up too late to see the inside of the visitors center onsite but if you have a chance check it out! It looked amazing even just peeking through the windows.
After the battlefield we grabbed gas, hit a giant supermarket where we wandered for 30 minutes trying to pick out beer in our low blood-sugar state, and finally checked into our AirBnB for the night close to the center of Inverness. While we all wanted to do the short walk along the waterfront into the heart of town, none of us had the energy to do it. So all we saw of the city was what we witnessed on the drive into town, which consisted of a castle and a few large churches. Sometimes you just need a night in to watch NCIS, eat home cooked food, and take a night off to recharge after a long haul of traveling. And that’s precisely what we did. This way we would be well rested for our next leg of the Scotland trip: Loch Ness!