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Scotland: Highlands – Brodie Castle, Culloden and Clava Cairns

Scotland: Highlands – Brodie Castle, Culloden and Clava Cairns

11.08.2015

11.08.2015

After a few miserable nights in a Granton-on-Spey campsite we were overjoyed to leave. Oh the joy! It was a miserable two days, the internet (only reason we were there) didn’t even work. We did very well not to consume the Aberlour whiskey we’d picked up from the distillery enroute.

Aberflour distillery

Aberlour distillery

Our first stop was the last National Trust property we’ll be passing by for a while – Brodie Castle.

Brodie Castle

Brodie Castle

Entry was by guided tour only, and when it kicked off there were 19 people ready to go. Too many really; it was quite a shuffle getting everyone around every room.

The stand out feature of this place was the dining room. An amazingly detailed and high quality plaster ceiling adorned the room, completed by Italian craftspeople. They think the panels were done on the ground then mounted to the roof. Later in the castles life, the plaster had been painted to look like wood – so when we first came in, we thought it was wood! Absolutely amazing.

Another fun thing was with the family’s china set. The Laird had made his money over in the orient, and ordered the china from China. 600 pieces were made, especially for the estate – of which 142 survive. Each dish featured the family cigil, which had the family motto – “UNITE” – in ribbon across the bottom. When the National Trust were taking an inventory of the dishes, they noticed some of the dishes said ‘UNTIE’ on them – the family had never noticed. ‘Made in China’ quality goes back a long way!

After visiting the castle, we wandered around the nearby pond:

Pond walk, Brodie Castle

Pond walk, Brodie Castle

Cute baby bunny!

Cute baby bunny!

We then toddled on to the Battle of Culloden Visitor Centre.

The battle of Culloden was fought in 1645 between the Jacobite forces led by Bonnie Prince Charlie and the English Crown – forces led by the Earl of Cumberland. The Jacobite army, formed mostly by the Scottish, had various motivations – some religious, others for Scottish independence. This later reason has fired up the Scots a bit and the modern visitor centre is something of a shrine to this ideal. Though after reading everything, it seems unlikely Scotland would have had any more autonomy under Charlie! It just looks like an attempted power grab, like was going on all over Europe in those days. Though I’m sure some promise of independence was a motivator for some Scottish warriors, I doubt it was Charlie’s end-game – the independence ideal seems to have been heavily applied post-event to create more martyrs for the Scottish psyche.

After some early victories by the Jacobites, some poor leadership decisions led to the army being massacred at Culloden.

The visitor centre was well worth a visit. There is a timeline to walk along, explaining the global diplomatic situation in the 1640s and all that – great for context. New Zealand had only just been discovered by Abel Tasman in 1642, we weren’t even on the radar as a place!

After we had the context, there’s a four-sided ‘immersive display’ where you stand in the centre of the battlefield, watching the Jacobites getting massacred by the English. In the recreation the English don’t look that happy about wiping the Jacobites out – guess the two countries don’t need any fuel on that fire at the moment!

The last bit of the centre has a top-down projected display of the battle playing out, which is really good – and a view of the battlefield with all the artefacts recovered marked out. Since the Jacobites were using French muskets, and pistol shot is identifiable too, they’ve been able to establish where the close combat happened and so on – pretty amazing seeing how they know so much now.

We decided against wandering around the field, instead electing to go to our freecamp site – just down the road at the Clava Cairn carpark. These cairns weren’t in our books or map, so we figured they’d be nothing really. But they were huge! Three big burial cairns with a central chamber, circa 4000BC.

Clava Cairn. It would have had a stone vaulted ceiling, with the entrance passage only tall enough to crawl through. Earth covering the whole thing.

Clava Cairn. It would have had a stone vaulted ceiling, with the entrance passage only tall enough to crawl through. Earth covering the whole thing.

 

a Clava Cairn

a Clava Cairn

The modern road cutting through the outer ring of the last cairn

The modern road cutting through the outer ring of the last cairn

They are aligned so that, in the middle of the winter solstice, the sun shines down the corridor and bounces off the shiny quartz stones that lined the interior. So mysterious, so astrologically spot-on; we looked forward to a late-night moment in this ancient site.

Unfortunately a moment wasn’t to be had. People just kept coming! When the park was completely full, a tour coach arrived and poured out a bunch of Americans. One fat American brazenly took a picture of us sitting in the van. That coach left, then a smaller one arrived – this one with Chinese. One guy stood right at our bonnet and focussed his camera in on us – what the hell?! We weren’t performing monkeys for tourists, we were just sitting in the van! Rather than continue to be gawked at, we decided to leave, heading down to the Davis Wood picnic site on the A9. A bit more road noise was had, but only local runners and dog walkers were around – much more relaxing. I went for a walk around the wood, it was lovely. In the morning, I ran it.*

Some of the mossy forestry at Davis Wood picnic site

Some of the mossy forestry at Davis Wood picnic site

*walked

Larry's a 30-something chap interested in travel, being a dork and changing the world via less boring training.

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