Queen Anne Day 27

Written by Safarigal
May 31, 2024


May 29th, 2024

From our balcony we had a good view of the Black Isle and nearby oil rigs.

As it happens, the Black Isle isn’t an island at all, but is a peninsular. Although its name reportedly comes from the black soil there or the fact that it doesn’t snow there so the peninsular looks black when the surrounding countryside is white, I grew up believing it was due to the fact that a lot of witchcraft went on there. Anyway, at the moment it looks rather nice and green. Could that be because they get a lot of rain there?

I had planned to join 5 other Cruise Critic folks on a private tour to Culloden and Cawdor Castle. We were due to meet our driver at 9:00, so we agreed to meet in the lobby at 8:50.

By the time I arrived in the lobby they hadn’t started to let people off the ship, and there was quite a crowd. As time went by, the crowd grew, and by the time we were able to disembark, I thought it would take ages to go ashore, but the queue moved quickly thank goodness.

There was a piper there to meet us as we stepped onto the quayside.

There was an information booth

and a great souvenir shop, but no cruise terminal as such.

Outside the shop I had my first sighting of a highland cow. I had hoped to see real highland cows today, but we didn’t find any unfortunately.

We met up with our driver, Kenny, and I was pleased to see that he did have a cow in his van. Kenny said that there are fewer and fewer highland cows around these days, and that they don’t taste very good.

Our first stop was at Culloden House. It is now a fancy hotel, but Bonnie Prince Charlie stayed there prior to the battle of Culloden and didn’t heed warnings that the battle would not end well for the Jacobites.

Our next stop was at the Culloden Battlefield.

Despite the fact that rain had been predicted for the afternoon and the morning was meant to be partially sunny, yet again, the weatherman lied.

It had started to drizzle as we were leaving the port, and by the time we reached the moor it was pouring. Not to worry, I had a raincoat and determination.

Culloden Moor is the site of the last battle on British soil when on April 16th, 1746 the Duke of Cumberland’s well trained army defeated Bonnie Prince Charlie’s outnumbered Jacobite highlanders. Both sides suffered horrendous losses, and for the Highlanders, clan life would never be the same again.

Somehow it was OK to walk around the moor in the rain and mud, it made the experience more meaningful. It took just over an hour to walk along the muddy paths.

Near to the end of the trail is Leanach cottage. During the battle, a similar cottage stood on this spot and served as a field hospital for Government soldiers. Over time, the cottage has seen many changes. After falling into disrepair,  the cottage was rebuilt in the early 19th century. It  became a symbol for the battlefield, and the people who lived there became the site’s first tour guides. The cottage’s last resident moved out in 1912 and the cottage stood empty. In 1944, Leanach Cottage was given to the National Trust for Scotland. In the early 1960s, the cottage became the first museum at the Culloden Battlefield. I visited Culloden in the 1960s, and I remember the building from that visit, but the moor was more of woodlands as I recall.

Luckily there was time to dry off a bit before I got back in the van, and the visitors center has a lovely gift shop and tea room. A steaming cup of hot chocolate did the trick, and I felt much better by the time I got back into the van.

Back on the road again, we stopped at the Culloden Viaduct. Designed by Murdoch Paterson its  29 arches stretch over the valley and River Nairn. It was opened in 1889 and still used today as the main rail link into the Highlands, it is the longest masonry viaduct in Scotland at 1800 ft long.

I was very impressed.

Our next stop was at the Clava Cairns also known as the Prehistoric Burial Cairns of Bulnuaran of Clava. This is a well-preserved Bronze Age cemetery complex of passage graves, ring cairns, kerb cairns and standing stones, dating back about 4,000 years.

The cemetery was used in two periods. At around 2000 BC a row of large cairns was built, three of which are still there.

A thousand years later the cemetery was reused and new burials were placed in some of the existing cairns and three smaller monuments were built including a kerb cairn.

The Outlander fans among us had a good time taking photos of themselves “disappearing” through the standing stones.

We drove though the sodden countryside to Cawdor Castle.

The castle was built around a 15th-century tower house, with additions in later centuries. Originally a property of the Calder family, it passed to the Campbells in the 16th century. It remains in Campbell ownership, and is now home to the Dowager Countess Cawdor. She is the step mother of the current 7th Earl Cawdor, of Clan Campbell of Cawdor. He is the 25th Thane of Cawdor.

It turns out that Macbeth was not the Thane of Cawdor after all, Shakespeare wasn’t always historically correct, but it made for a good story.

I had expected the rooms in the castle to be dark, cold and damp, but they were surprisingly warm and inviting. You almost felt like you would be happy living there. It was lovely.

Over the front door is the coat of arms of Sir Hugh Campbell and his wife Lady Henrietta Stewart, on a panel dated 1672. It says: “Be Mindful”. Who would have thought that mindfulness was important even in 1672?

The living rooms had a very homey feel

As did the bedrooms.

Even the kitchen looked like it had solid surface countertops.

After walking around the house, I went to explore the gardens, starting with the walled garden. On entering the walled garden there is the maze with a statue of the Minator in the middle. The maze is currently closed so one cannot find out whether it is truly a maze (as it is called) or a labyrinth. Why would the Minator be there if it is a maze and not a labyrinth. I will probably never know. Especially as my phone chose to die at that moment. I had clearly exhausted the battery by taking too many photos.

That is a shame because the gardens are simply beautiful, and I imagine they will be absolutely magnificent in summer when everything is in full bloom. I will just have to have memories of  the beauty rather than have a physical record.

It was still drizzling, and I was getting hungry so I went into the tea room and had a wonderful bowl of ginger carrot soup and a thick slice of warm home made bread. My kind of lunch!

Then it was time to get back in the van and drive back to the ship.

I charged my phone and took a couple of photos of Invergordon from the ship. Apparently it is a lovely little town with some beautiful murals and a very pretty church. On a TV screen in the church was a notice welcoming the crew and passengers (I love that they had the crew first) of Queen Anne and praying that we will have a safe and enjoyable cruise. What a lovely touch.

With everyone back on board we blew our whistle and headed out to sea sailing past a collection of oil rigs.

It had been a wet day, but I had really loved our tour. Kenny had been great, and we had avoided the crowds (well maybe they were all sheltering somewhere). There were no highland cows, but you can’t have everything!

Post Discussion


  1. Ruth Landau

    Having watched and thoroughly enjoyed every episode of Outlander, I was fascinated by your photos and description of Culloden. It is definitely on my “go to sooner rather than later” list. Glad to see you didn’t go through the stones and did indeed make it back to the ship!

    • Safarigal

      You can do Outlander tours!

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