On our final full day in Scotland, we left Waverly on a morning train. We figured out how the kiosk worked to pick up our online reservation, stashed our luggage and away we went. The train between Edinburgh and Inverness is a lovely way to be introduced to Scotland, as we were 10 days ago going south, and a thoughtful trip on the return to reminisce all the way north. The views from the train and within the train left us with new thoughts about Scotland. Particularly intriguing were the retired school teachers on holiday. They were much warmer and talkative than the gentlemen that we sat beside on our way south.

Upon arrival in Inverness, we squeezed our luggage into a locker at the station and flagged a cab to Clava Cairns. We had seen old places and things in Scotland, sure, but I wanted to be somewhere ancient and full of mystery. The cairns themselves were a little worse for wear, being that farmers for hundreds of years took the stones from the cairns for building supplies. It is quite miraculous that something of that age is still standing at all. The techniques used thousands of years ago withstood the test of time and held on long enough to be saved from further dismantling when it became a protected site. What remains is indeed a mysterious place with many theories about the cairns previous uses.

One mystery that was apparent right away- why were so many people hugging this one standing stone?!

Ben tries to figure out what is so special about this one stone…

Once we had posted on Facebook about this stop, my knowledgeable friends clued us in, it all had to do with Outlander. A book turned TV show we hadn’t had a clue about until going to Scotland. The premise is that a woman time travels through the standing stones outside of Inverness. Clava Cairns are the site that fans flock to, even though it looks nothing like the stones in the show.

a view of the stone rings and a cairn

We were shocked to see the lack of respect for this site from all of the tourists who were completely comfortable walking all over the tops of the cairns. Shortly after our trip we were sad to learn that nearby Culloden had to take measures to protect the clan burial sites that are referenced in Outlander. One can only hope that sites like Culloden and Clava Cairns remain open for those who appreciate the history. This is my PSA, respect the sites people!

Taking a wee wander from Clava Cairns to Culloden Battlefield

We decided to walk to Culloden Battlefield from Clava Cairns. Many people actually take the bus from Inverness to Culloden, then walk to Clava and back up again to Culloden to catch the bus back. Even the walk from Clava to Culloden was enchanting. The sun was shining and warm on our backs, the skies were blue with white fluffy clouds, no midges in site and the views that greeted us at every turn took our breaths away. It was as if Scotland was giving us a warm hug goodbye or trying to tempt us never to leave. Each picture below deserves its own full spread for the emotions evoked.

a wee river crossing
pastures full of sheep and sweeping views
a train viaduct framed in nettles and yellow gorsch

Arrival at Culloden Battlefield from Clava by foot shows off the size of the site. Surprisingly, the area around it is under threat by developers. It seemed to have a feel of being at Arlington or Gettysburg. A great loss of life from men who believed the side of the Jacobite uprising they fell on was right.

The sweeping Culloden Moor is the final resting place for 1,500 Jacobites and 50 government soldiers. The Jacobites are memorialized by clan association in small stones around a memorial cairn placed by a farmer in the late 19th Century.

The battlefield is marked by flags, signifying the battle lines and markers indicating which group of men held the line there. Ben was surprised to see that Atholl fighting men were well represented. There is also a restored cottage on the grounds.

After running in to a fellow Clemson fan, we stopped by the gift shop and cafe while waiting for the bus. We enjoyed ice cream and water, kicking ourselves for not having had ice cream prior to yesterday! We somehow snagged a free bus back to town and claimed our belongings from our locker.

We walked to the MAcDougall Clansman Hotel, not too far from the train station. It is a quaint hotel, very laid back. The family runs it and I wish we had more time to take them up on their hospitality and gotten to know their story. I also wish that we weren’t so exhausted that we passed up going to a fabulous music venue just up the street from us, Hootenany. Instead, we enjoyed our final dinner in Scotland and packed our bags for the journey home.

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