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Sunday, 26 August 2007

Underwhelmed by Inverness

Inverness, the capital of the Highlands, stands at the mouth of the Moray Firth, on the banks of the River Ness. The first recorded sighting of the famous monster is attributed to St Columba, although he saw it in the river, not in the Loch further south.

Above is a picture of the castle. The present structure is early 19th century but there has been a castle in this spot since the 11th century. Just beneath the building, the museum and art gallery houses a good interpretative exhibition or the history of the Highlands.

Parts of the City are picturesque. Below is a view along the river Ness:

And here you see the pedestrian suspension bridge. This is fun to cross since the bridge wobbles and shakes not only in the wind but also with the movement of people walking on it.

The area is redolent of the history of the Jacobite rebellions. Outside the castle is a statue of Flora MacDonald who helped Bonnie Prince Charlie to escape "over the sea to Skye":

Sadly, the centre of Inverness is not very appealing. Throughout Britain, city centres have become homogeneised with chain stores filling all the main streets. In Inverness, the paved shopping street and indoor shopping mall (the "Eastgate Centre" - yawn!) have Boots, Waterstones, WH Smiths, Costa Coffee, Topshop etc. etc. etc. It was not much different from walking down the Broadway in Bexleyheath. The level of wide eyed, wobbling and relatively young drunks weaving across the pavement at 7 o'clock in the evening was probably slightly higher

In the main street, there are several Indian and Chinese restaurants. Along the Ness, there are various more trendy establishments leveraging the price of beefsteak by emphasising the number of days it had hung, the provenance of the cattle or the twee garnishments that would allow the restaurant to charge £20 or more for a piece of grilled meat.

To be honest, after walking around for a bit, I fell into a rather bad mood and decided to have a freshly grilled pattie of ground Argentinian beef, garnished with courgettes, tomato and mustard with French Fried potatoes, quick sealed to retain as much Vitamin C as possible. It seemed right to patronise an establishment bearing the name of Clan Donald and I saved myself quite a lot of money.

On the way into town on Sunday night, I took a taxi the seven miles from the airport and did not get much change from £20 (if you are in the US, that is forty dollars!!!) Therefore on the return journey I was determined to get the bus - not because I couldn't afford the taxi fare on the generous offerings of the Blackfen faithful - but because I don't like being ripped off.

After arriving by train at Inverness, I wheeled my suitcase the five minute walk to the Bus Station. That is after all where you might expect to catch a bus from the main city of the Highlands to its main airport. In fact, it is necessary to find a bus stop on the street by the Post Office. While waiting for the bus, I took this photo and mused that it could offer an explanation for the unfortunate failure of the Jacobite clans at the Battle of Culloden:

The history books tell of a failed night attack on the Duke of Cumberland's camp at Nairn, and the poor choice of ground, disadvantaging the Highland warriors by putting them into an open conventional battle against an army with superior artillery and cavalry, instead of choosing ground less suitable for cannon and horse and more fitted to the rush from cover of fearless clansmen with broadsword and dirk.

Looking at the bus, perhaps the truth is that the MacDonalds, Stewarts, Frasers, Camerons and Atholls were busy snapping up the latest 2-for-1 offer on Scotts Porage Oats.

I managed a couple of snaps from the aeroplane as we flew over Scotland. I'd be interested if anyone can identify where this is:

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