Sunday, June 11, 2006


Stornoway is by far the largest centre on Lewis and Harris and is a bustling and attractive town. The harbor is busy with freight, ferry and leisure traffic, and home to a significant fishing fleet. The shape of the town is defined by the harbor, which partially surrounds it. A number of the streets in the centre are pedestrian only, providing good access to an interesting range of shops pleasantly different from the usual outlets found in most UK High Streets. We had a few hours to kill here so we did some window shopping, pondered my purchase of an entire traditional Scottish outfit (including dagger) for just under $A1700 (negative) and had morning tea. Around town were statues related to its herring fishing roots. Of particular interest were those dedicated to the women packers and gutters. I had watched a program on TV some days earlier called “Worst Jobs in History” hosted by Tony Robinson (of Black Adder fame). Herring gutting was included. He interviewed an old gutter who missed her job (because of the social contact) despite the mess and smell. She could gut 60 herrings a minute!!!!!!!!
Our large Calmac ferry (123 cars and 680 passengers) left for its 3 hour trip to the mainland on time and we headed upstairs for lunch which turned out to be excellent. This was not the most comfortable of trips being a bit lumpy in the open sea.
At 18 knots, Ullapool soon came onto the horizon and we landed on a bleak, cold, wet and windy afternoon. Whatever the weather, you are immediately struck by Ullapool's whiteness and by its design and layout. This is a legacy of the town's origins, being designed and built in 1788 by Thomas Telford* and the British Fisheries Society.
The aim was to exploit a boom in herring fishing at the time. This peaked and then, in an early example of overfishing, declined from the 1830s. By 1900 the enterprise was judged a failure leaving this nice grid plan town with little economic activity and fewer prospects.
It took a couple more decades for the long distance fishing fleets from eastern Scotland and beyond to discover Ullapool's benefits as a safe anchorage on the western side of the country.
Since then, though the fortunes of the Scottish fishing fleet have ebbed and flowed, fishing has remained at the heart of the economy of the town. From the late 1970s - and well before the end of the Cold War - Loch Broom became the base for up to 60 Russian and East European "Klondykers" between August and January each year.
These were factory ships whose role was to process mackerel caught by smaller fishing boats, with the product being transferred to refrigerated vessels for return to home markets. The Klondykers are no longer a feature of Loch Broom, but for many years their crews added a very cosmopolitan air to Ullapool's streets. Today Ullapool remains home to a number of fishing boats.
We stayed at Dronman Guesthouse which was extremely comfortable and had a great lounge/solarium combo overlooking Loch Broom. Dinner was in town at the Seaforth Bar and Restaurant. Only the bar was open (pre tourist season) but we managed a great seafood meal washed down with cold ale. It was here that I saw, for the first time, a great number of servings of steaming haggis being delivered to tables. For the uninitiated, haggis is spiced sheep’s innards (heart, lungs and liver) and oatmeal contained in the sheep’s stomach and boiled for a few hours. We had a few slices fried with breakfast and it wasn’t too bad. I considered a whole one (with turnips of course) for dinner but the poached salmon eventually looked more inviting. Maybe next time!
The rained poured and the wind howled all night.
We went back into town the next morning for some shopping but the weather beat us into submission and we were soon on the road to Inverness.
Near Inverness lies Culloden Moor Battlefield.
Below is the excellent synopsis of the history and background of Culloden taken directly from It may be a little long but the impact of the eventual failure of the campaign on the history of Scotland is significant and therefore, I feel, makes it worth reading. The potential consequences on world history of Jacobite success is also something to contemplate.
On 16 April 1746 the last battle to be fought on British soil took less than an hour to reach its bloody conclusion here. It was not, as often portrayed, a battle between the Scots and the English: in reality the Scots on the Government side outnumbered those fighting for the Jacobites. Rather it was the last chapter in a sporadic civil war for succession to the throne that had been under way since 1688.

This was the year in which King James VII of Scotland and II of England was deposed in favor of William of Orange by a Protestant nobility fearful he was starting a Catholic dynasty. Efforts to restore the Jacobites to the throne had subsequently led to conflict in 1689, 1708, 1715, and in 1719 when Spanish troops landed in Glen Shiel.
1744 saw the French planning to invade Britain to replace William's successor George II with James II's son, also called James, known to history as the Old Pretender. He would have become James III (and James VIII of Scotland) if the venture succeeded. It didn't: a storm wrecked the French invasion fleet and the French gave up both their plans for an attack on the south coast and a diversionary plan to land a smaller army in Scotland.
Undaunted, the Old Pretender's son, the Young Pretender or Bonnie Prince Charlie, took it upon himself to restore the crown to his father. The following year, 1745, he raised his standard at Glennfinnan. He gathered an army largely of Highlanders, but including some Irish and French troops, to take on the Government. They quickly reached Perth and then Edinburgh before heading south towards London.
The Jacobites reached Derby on 4 December 1745. It was becoming clear that support from English Jacobites was not emerging as Charles as hoped. And it was becoming equally clear that the French were not going to invade in a timescale that would be of any help to Charles' Jacobite army. Meanwhile Government armies were gathering and the military situation looked increasingly bleak. Charles met with his key advisers in what is today the upstairs room of a Derby pub through most of 4 December. Charles was all for pressing on to London: the majority wanted to retreat to Scotland. Charles finally angrily accepted the need to retreat as night fell. The Jacobites began their retreat from Derby on 6 December 1745. What none of them knew was that the Welsh Jacobites has risen in support of them, and others in Oxfordshire were on the point of doing so. Neither did they know that London was in panic and that George II's court was packing his belongings onto ships on the Thames ready to flee to the Continent.
It has been said that had the Jacobites pressed on, George II would have fled; that the English and French would have avoided a further 70 years of conflict; that the English would not have had to raise taxes in the colonies to pay for the French wars; and that the Americans would have had no cause to fight a war for their independence. And, arguably, the French revolution would not have happened. The world might have been a very different place but for a closely argued decision taken in the upstairs room of a pub in Derby one dark winter's evening in December 1745.

Once the retreat was under way, the eventual outcome was probably inevitable as the Government had the time it needed to assemble and marshal its much greater forces. By February 1746, Charles was based in Inverness while the Government forces under the Duke of Cumberland, son of George II, were based in Aberdeen and Dunkeld.
If the outcome after the retreat from Derby was inevitable, the outcome of the Battle of Culloden was doubly so. The Jacobites moved out of their Inverness base on 15 April and assembled on Culloden Moor, five mile to the east. They had succeeded in leaving most of their food and other supplies behind in Inverness. They had also selected for their battlefield ground recorded as "treeless", "boggy" and "bare moor": much more suited to the weapons and tactics of the Government forces than to their own charge and slash approach. The higher ground to the south would have suited them much better.
15 April was the Duke of Cumberland's 25th birthday, and his army spent the day drinking his health at his expense in Nairn while the Jacobites waited, hungry, on Culloden Moor.
As night fell, the Jacobite commanders came up with the idea of marching to Nairn, some 12 miles away, to surprise the drunken Government army. However, by dawn next morning the Jacobites were still two miles short of Nairn, and Government troops were stirring. The Jacobites turned and marched the ten miles back to Culloden.
So when the Jacobite army did finally face the Government army across 500 yards of Culloden Moor at 11am on 16 April 1746, most had not eaten for more than two days; they had endured a pointless forced march and retreat throughout the previous night; and they were on ground ideally suited to the Government army's artillery and dragoons, and totally unsuited to their own single tactic of charging down the enemy.
And they were at a numerical disadvantage. The Jacobites numbered at most 5,000 men, while the Government army facing them was perhaps 8,000 strong, including 800 mounted dragoons. To make matters worse, many of the Jacobites had dispersed in search of food; while others had simply fallen asleep in ditches and buildings. When you add to all of this the much better equipped and trained artillery available to the Government forces, the outcome of the battle was certain before it began.
When the battle commenced, the Government artillery was able to pick off the Jacobites at long range, eventually provoking them into a charge. This reached the Government lines at the southern end of the line of conflict, but was repulsed after savage hand-to-hand conflict. Elsewhere the mass of charging Highlanders did not even reach the Government lines. They were simply stopped by musket and cannon fire before they came close enough to use their main weapons, the spear and the broadsword.
In less than an hour it was all over. 364 Government troops had been killed or wounded. A much larger number of Jacobites and others had been killed during the battle. Many more were killed, as they lay wounded on the battlefield or after being taken prisoner. And the Government dragoons dispatched to hunt down fleeing Jacobites roamed far and wide, indiscriminately killing rebels, bystanders, spectators, residents and anyone else who was within reach. It is estimated that the total dead on the Jacobite side was well over 1,000. A total of 3,470 Jacobites, supporters and others were taken prisoner in the aftermath of Culloden. Of these 120 were executed and 88 died in prison; while 936 were transported to the colonies and 222 more "banished". Many of the rest were eventually released, though the fate of nearly 700 is simply unknown.

So Culloden marked the end of a sporadic civil war for succession that had lasted 60 years. But the brutal reprisals and suppression of the Highlands that followed under the command of the Duke of Cumberland ("Butcher Cumberland") brought about the end of a way of life, and the end of a meaningful clan system. The clan chiefs who survived, or who had supported the Government (and some did), ended up less tribal chiefs than landowners with tenants who might happen to share the same name. The way was thus opened for the Highland clearances that started some decades later, when vast numbers of Highlanders were cleared off their land by the landowners to make room for more profitable sheep. Bonnie Prince Charlie eventually made good his escape to France, but the price of his adventure for the Highlands was high indeed.
As for Culloden Moor itself, the battlefield has over the intervening years been treated almost as badly as the wounded left lying on it at the end of the conflict. The supreme insensitivity came in 1835, when a road was built through the mass graves of the clans. Later the whole area was turned into a conifer plantation.
In more recent years much of the battlefield has been reclaimed, and today there is an excellent visitor centre run by the National Trust for Scotland. Here they have an excellent static historical display and show an excellent and emotive film on the battle.
The conifers that covered the battlefield have been removed; though it still seems much more heavily overgrown than illustrations and accounts show it to have been in April 1746. As a result it still needs an act of imagination to visualize two armies peering at one another across 500 yards of open moorland before the cannon fire of the Government artillery provoked the mass charge of the Jacobites.
We walked the battlefield in drizzly rain towards the Jacobite lines on well worn paths. Strangely no one seems to bother to visit the Government lines. The paths there are overgrown. We passed by the memorial cairn and many mass grave markers of the clans, including one for mixed clans, and eventually looked back from where Charles observed the battle. It was strangely eerie for me as it was the first time I visited here. Although we were alone, I felt we weren’t. Must be a Scottish thing.
We then drove a few miles further on and stopped at the 4000 year old Clava Cairns at Balnuaran.
There are three burial cairns at here and they are part of a line of seven dotted along the south side of the valley of the River Nairn. What sets them apart from other prehistoric burial sites is their construction within a "kerb", a ring of large containing boulders. Clava Cairns come in two types, and both are represented in the group of three you find in the truly wonderful wooded setting at Balnuaran.
The North East and South West Cairns are knows as passage graves. Here the inner chamber remains linked to the outside world by a passage. Both are no more than a metre or so in height, but when originally constructed the cairns are likely to have been around 3m or 10ft in height.

The North East Passage Grave is interesting in having a large number of "cup" marks and some "ring" marks inscribed on one of the kerbstones. Both of the passage graves have a surrounding circle of widely spaced standing stones.
The central cairn at Balnuaran is of the second type of Clava Cairn, a ring cairn. This differs from the other two in having no passageway linking the central camber with the outside. Like the others it is surrounded by a ring of standing stones. One unusual feature is the way that the central cairn is linked to three of its enclosing circle of standing stones by lines of turf covered stones. No one knows their purpose, and it might well be possible that they were added very much later than the date of construction of the cairns. Another later addition is likely to have been the much smaller ring of kerb stones on the north east side of the site not far from the central cairn.
Inverness is a lively city dominated by the Castle, which looks over the fast flowing River Ness. Our B&B looked out over the river too and was very comfortable. There are lots of places to eat out and we found two good ones thanks to our host. Café1 and Rocpool had innovative food, good wine lists and great service. We also came across a second hand bookstore, Leakeys, which is situated in a 1790 Gaelic Church. Good cappos and nice smoked salmon salads as well as over 100,000 books, maps and prints.

The rain had stopped the next morning so we took to the road again along Loch Ness to Fort Augustus. Here, yet another Thomas Telford designed project, the Caledonian Canal which runs from Fort William to Inverness along the Great Glen, lowers (or raises) its customers down (up) a step of 6 locks (some of 29 on the route) to (from) Loch Ness. By then it was a beautiful sunny morning so we sat by the locks with a beer in hand and were lucky enough to see a few boats go through, the ancient swing bridge at the end, opening to hold up traffic on a major highway.
Then it was to our cruise on Loch Ness (a six) and a most enjoyable end to our two days here.
We kept our eyes open and camera out for a Loch Ness monster sighting but none eventuated.
We are not surprised as most of the reported sightings seem to start with the phrase “After drinking in the pub for 12 hours, we ………….”

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