Thursday, April 7, 2011

Fàilte gu Inbhir Nis

For the last part of Chris-Anne's visit (after a couple of days of work for me and independent nosing around for Chris-Anne), we decided to head up to the Highlands so she could claim she'd seen most of the country. We decided to base ourselves out of Inverness because, one, castles nearby, two, Loch Ness nearby, and three... did I mention castles? We're suckers for pretty history. And as the northern-most city in Scotland (and the entire United Kingdom at that), our other option was picking a tiny town with minimal bus service. So, Inverness it is!

Plus, going up to Inverness meant that Chris-Anne could get the train ride she'd been hoping for for the entire trip. It's cheaper to take the bus to Edinburgh and to Glasgow, but I'm not sitting on a bus all the way to Inverness when there is a comfortable and frequent set of trains that leave from both Leuchars and Dundee.

Going from Dundee to Inverness, you have to switch trains in Perth -- which also means navigating the M.C. Escher like staircases in the Perth station to get from platform to platform.

One of the awesome things about heading into the Highlands is that all of the location signs and most other signs go bilingual -- both the English (Inverness) and the Scottish Gaelic (Inbhir Nis) in an attempt to preserve the native language of the area. While there are no longer any monolingual speakers of Gaelic once you hit school age, the language is experiencing a renaissance in an attempt to preserve its every day usage.

Overlooking Inverness, and the River Ness which runs through it.

By the time we got into Inverness and checked into the hostel (we're young, we're cheap, and since all we were using it for was a place to store bags and lay a head down for a few hours each night, a hostel is the perfect choice) we'd missed a lot of the last buses out to any of the historical areas outside of town, so we set about walking around the city itself and exploring picturesque Inverness.

Overlooking Inverness down the River Ness, from the lawn of the Inverness Castle and the Flora MacDonald monument. This is also the official ending point of the Great Glen Way.

It was crazy windy, and I couldn't find my hair tie at the bottom of my purse, so all of the pictures we have include me attempting to hold my hair back.

A better view of Inverness Castle from the opposing bank of the River Ness. While this is a modern (and by modern, I mean from the 1800s) structure and now houses the court house, a castle/defensive structure has stood on that spot since the 1057, and associated with the scandals and murders surrounding Macbeth and Malcolm III.

Down by the River Ness. I love a pretty walk, and after sitting on the train for a couple hours, I want to move around. Chris-Anne, on the other hand, has about reached her walking around limit and votes to head back to the hostel for next day planning and finding food.

We ended up staying at the Inverness Youth Hostel which, while a bit of a walk from the city centre, was lovely. It's a new building, and we ended up in a four bed dorm room with lovely people. On the downside, there was apparently a whole bus load of French teenagers on what we're assuming was a field trip of some kind also staying with us. Thin walls + idiot teenagers = it's a good thing I remembered to bring ear plugs. But it's apparently a universal truth -- teenagers are loud and idiots everywhere. Which is kind of comforting knowing some things stay the same. But if people are ever in Inverness, I'd totally recommend the hostel. Even with it being a 10 minute walk from the city centre -- you pass right by a Morrison's, which makes it easy to pick up food and drink on the way back in.

Our dorm room at the hostel. Chris-Anne and I were the last two in, which meant top bunks for us. Not too keen on the top, but beggars can't be choosers.

Chris-Anne with the spread of bus timetables as we attempted to plan out the next day.

The general consensus was to get up early and head out to Culloden Battlefield the next morning to take advantage of the gorgeous day that it was forecast to be. And after a day long of traveling and walking Chris-Anne all over the city, and even with loud teenagers in the new rooms over, we crashed just as soon as heads hit the pillow.

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