Sunday, 26 September 2010

Scotland, Days 3 and 4


A short drive from Inverness on a gloomy and wet morning brought us to the battlefield of Culloden. Such a morning fit the mood of the boggy moor where the Scot Jacobite forces, mostly Highlanders, confronted the English army, including Scots loyal to George II, for the final time in 1746. The Jacobite struggle had endured on and off for over fifty years.

Led by Bonnie Prince Charlie, whose grandfather was the deposed (in 1689) King James II of England (he was also King James VII of Scotland} and whose aim was to place his father (also a James) on the throne that rightfully belonged to the Stuarts, the Highlanders were badly defeated in the last land battle in Britain. Flags today mark the where the English and Scottish lines stood across from each other on the moor. The battle took place on ground unsuited to the tactics of the Highlanders, and the enemy also greatly outnumbered the Jacobite Highlanders. The second son of King George II, the Duke of Cumberland, led the English army, which was fresher and greatly outnumbered the depleted Jacobites.

This is the monument for the Highlanders at Culloden.

Prince Charlie managed to escape and the largest manhunt in history, according to our guide Mike, commenced. Despite a gigantic reward for his capture, none of the Highland or island Scots betrayed the prince, who finally managed to escape to France and live out his life as a dissolute drunkard.

Words on the monument.

To suppress Jacobite sympathies, the English instituted what became known as the Highland Clearances. In effect the English pursued a policy we would call ethnic cleansing. Their activities destroyed Highland culture, displaced the clans, essentially forced emigration to America and Australia, forbade the use of clan names (which resulted in the adoption of color surnames such as 'White', 'Brown', 'Grey'.).

This engraved stone marks one of the burial mounds on the battlefield in which Highlanders were buried according to their clans.

For so long as one hundred men remain alive, we shall never under any conditions submit to the domination of the English. It is not for glory or riches or honours that we fight, but only for liberty, which no good man will consent to lose but with his life. THE DECLARATION OF ARBROATH, 1320

A cottage on the battlefield.

When Elizabeth I died in 1603 she designated as her heir James King of Scotland, the first of the English Stuart kings who simultaneously reigned as King of Scotland. (Mike the guide only half-kidded that the current queen is not the legitimate monarch because she isn't a Stuart.) Each country ruled their own affairs though sharing a common king. The political union of England and Scotland occurred in 1707 with the dissolution of the Scottish parliament, to the dismay of many Scots.

The magnificent Blair Castle of the Duke of Atholl of the Murray clan. During the Jacobite Rebellion the Murrays behaved quite craftily, with some fighting with the Highlanders and others taking sides with the Royalists. No matter which side won, the castle and the title would remain with the Murrays.

The 10th Duke died without an heir, so his South African 2nd cousin once removed inherited the title and is the 11th Duke. The Dukes of Atholl hold the distinction of leading the only legal private army in Europe, the Atholl Highlanders.

Chapel ruins of St. Bride's Kirk on the Castle grounds. Evidently a church has been at this site since at least the 13th century.

A shot of the interior of St. Bride's.

This is the only burial crypt in the kirk. In 1689 John Graham, Viscount Dundee, raised an army of Highlanders who near Blair Castle. As part of the Jacobite uprising they engaged and beat King William's army nearby in the Battle of Killiecrankie. Dundee was fatally wounded when a shot pierced his breastplate.

The cemetery where the Dukes of Atholl are buried.

Grabbing a bite while shooting off the cannon.

The magnificent entrance hall to Castle Blair. The walls are impressively blanketed with all kinds of weapons. This was my favorite room. I could only get one picture off before the staff stopped me. The rest of the rooms of the castle are decorated in Georgian style. The stairway, halls, and rooms contain countless historical portraits of family members and friends. Uniforms, medals, and other historical memorabilia fill several other rooms. Queen Victoria undoubtedly visited the castle during her many trips to the Highlands.

Notice the old rock bridge behind Erika. Trees from all over the world find haven in the Castle gardens.

No visit to the Highlands is complete without a visit to a whiskey distillery. This whiskey distillery distills single malt whiskey several miles down the road from Castle Blair. It isn't connected with the castle or the Atholls. One of the young distillers gave us a tour of the distillery, explaining how to make single malt whiskey: barley, yeast, pure water.

This fellow looks like he could use a couple of shots. I mean the stiff one on the left. Had he gone on the tour with us he would have gotten free samples of single malt.

This was our last stop on the Highland bus tour. Our guide told us more than I have time to tell. It's a place of incredibly stark beauty and haunting history, of ancient blood-soaked memories and grudges never to be forgotten or forgiven.

Back in Edinburgh on Sunday night.

We missed the Pope by a day in Edinburgh, and completely in London.

A sample plate of Scottish favorites. The cullen skink, a fish-based soup tasted delicious. The haggis was ok. Its purpose was to feed the Highlanders hearty and filling meals. See menu below. Oh, and the Caledonia ale tasted pretty good, too.

On our after dinner stroll we found a statue of this famous dog, Greyfriars Bobby, in front of the pub of the same name. A skye terrier, Bobby gained local fame for his 14 years of loyal vigilance over his master's grave.

This statue is just down the street from the Elephant House,  the cafe where J.K. Rowling wrote the early Harry Potter books. If our visit to Scotland showed us anything, its how the history, geography, and architecture inspired the Victorian tales of Robert Louis Stevenson, the chivalric romances of Sir Walter Scott, and the Gothic magic of J.K. Rowling.


Our last act was a visit to the spectacular Edinburgh Castle. This is the approach to the castle. Its history is too long to tell here.

Going through the gates. Both William Wallace and Robert the Bruce are honored with statues at the entrance.

William Wallace
                                                                               Robert the Bruce

The chapel of St. Margaret, the oldest part of the castle and the oldest building in Edinburgh. Wife of King Malcolm III, her son King David built the chapel around 1130.

A window in the chapel depicting St. Colomba.

The Scottish National War Memorial. Built on the castle's grounds in 1927 to remember the Scottish dead of WW I, the memorial today keeps alive the memories of those Scots who also died in WW II and later wars. The interior is spectacular. Leafing through the printed books with the names of the dead from the Scottish regiments in them was very moving. The casket holding the handwritten names of the Scottish dead of WW I is simply stunning. One cannot help but feel grief for not only those who died, but also for the families deprived of a loved spouse, child, or parent. For women also died.

Photos were not allowed in the interior of the castle, so make sure not to miss the oldest crown jewels in the United Kingdom, the Honours of Scotland. Fantastic. The photos simply do not do them justice. Although mysteriously unmentioned on the official castle web site, the Stone of Destiny is displayed along with the Honours. When ancient Scottish kings were crowned, they sat upon the Stone, so its importance to Scottish independence and royalty is much more than symbolic. English King Edward I stole the Stone in 1296 after he defeated the Scots. He placed in Westminster Abbey where it was used thereafter in the crowning ceremonies of English kings and queens. One can imagine how this rankled the Scots. But only in 1950, on Christmas Day, did some Scots brazenly retake the Stone. One of them was the father of a friend of Mike, our guide. The English recovered the Stone but didn't prosecute the 'thieves.' For how can you arrest someone, asked Mike, for taking something that belonged to them? In 1996, after 700 years, the English returned the Stone to the Scots with the agreement that it will be borrowed and moved to Westminster for the crowning of English kings and queens. For the holder of the English crown is also, since 1603, King or Queen of the Scots.

One last panoramic view of Edinburgh. Our guide left us with more stories and legends than we can remember. He is representative of a strong streak of Scottish nationalism who hopes for Scotland's complete independence from England. For such as Mike, the return of the Scottish Parliament in 1999 after an almost 300 year absence  represents an important step in the process. The Scottish Parliament determines Scotland's domestic policies, but foreign policy is still determined in London.

The train for Kings Crossing left early afternoon for the five hour journey. We're looking at the possibility of returning to Edinburgh during our stay here. There is still much of the city to explore.

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