Inverness - Highland Capital
Inverness boasts many attractions: excellent shoping facilities, pedestrian-only areas, a museum, theatres, cinemas and the new University of the Highlands & Islands campus.
A striking feature of the City is Inverness Castle perched on a rock above the River Ness. The present castle was built in 1836 although several fortifications have stood on the site for over a thousand years. Unfortunately the 'fluid' state of Scottish politics over the centuries has seen much destruction and rebuilding during the period. However at present peace prevails and the castle is now the a courthouse. Althought the building is closed to the public the surrounding grounds are open.
Across the River Ness stands Inverness cathedral - The Scottish Episcopalian Cathedral Church of St Andrew. Built between 1866 and 1869 it perhaps is not as grand as was intended. Due to lack of cash 100 foot spires intended to sit atop the twin towers were never built. Nevertheless the Cathedral is still an imposing building with some impressive stained glass windows so is well worth a visit. All denominations are welcome and during the summer months the small shop and tearoom is open every day.
Not far from the cathedral is Eden Court the only large scale performance venue in the Highlands fully refurbished in 2007 offering an all year roud programme of the performing arts from opera to popular music, concerts, ballet, modern dance, drama and films.
The new Culloden Visitor Centre opened in 2008 and tells the story of the day in 1746 that changed the Highland way of life forever. The Jacobite forces of Charles Edwart Stuart, who had landed in Scotland in 1745 with the intention of reclaiming the throne, were crushed by a government army commanded by the Duke of Cumberland.
The battle was a culmination of a campaign that saw the Jacobites, folowing their success at Prestonpans, advance through England virtually unopposed and even threaten London. However, lack of support from English Jacobites resulted in the realisation that their forces were vastly outnumbered and a retreat northwards began.
Despite a further Jacobite victory at Falkirk the long march home had seriously weakened the Jacobite army and despie moderate success in minor skirmishes over the winter, by early 1746 Cumberland had reorganised the government forces and was in the much stronger position. The Jacobites had taken Inverness while Cumberland had marched north to Aberdeen and then Nairn.
On the eve of the battle, the Jacobites set off through the night in an attempt to surprise the government forces but the march turned to chaos and the surprise attack never materialised. Despite his troops suffering from lack of food and exhaustion from the night march, Charles Stuart decided to stand his ground and face Cumberland on Culloden moor in what would be the last pitched battle on British soil.
The Jacobites were defficient in terms of numbers, cavalry, cannon and weapons in general. The battle itself lasted less than an hour and was an overwhelming victory for the government troops. In the carnage the Jacobites had lost over 1,000 men killed and wounded - the government a fraction of that figure. However the savagery did not stop there. Cumberland's troops systematically murdered the wounded, prisoners and innocent onlookers who played no part in the battle. The atrocities continued for months after the battle in the villages and glens throughout the region with the blame squarely laid at the hands of Cumberland forever remembered as 'the Butcher.'
The battlefield has now been restored to how it was on 16th April 1746 with new footpaths allowing greater access. A new interpretive exhibition compliments the features found around the battlefield such as the Memorial Cairn & Graves of the Clans. Culloden is in the care of the National Trust for Scotland.
Fort George, near Ardersier off the A96 east of Inverness, was constructed in the aftermath of the Battle of Culloden. Although the Jacobites had been crushed, King George II was determined to counter any future threat. The Fort was designed to repel attacks from both land and sea but in any case the Jacobite threat became non-existent and subsequently the Fort, which took 20 years to complete, never saw action.
Fort George was designed to accommodate two full battalions of infantry (approx. 2000 men) and in excess of 80 cannon. Houses for officers, storerooms for weapons and powder, a chapel, barracks for the soldiers and numerous workshops were all built within the walls.
The Fort today is still a working army base following years as a recruitment base and training camp. The Seaforth Highlanders were based at Fort George from 1861-1964 and the Fort now hosts the Regimental Museum of the Highlanders.
The grand magazine that once held several thousand barrels of gunpowder now houses the Seafield Collection, arms and equipment from the 1700s. There are a number of barrels still on display in the magazine but rest assured they are now empty!
There is plenty to see and do at Fort George - you can certainly spend a full day there. There is a cafe and shop onsite but both outside and on the ramparts there are plenty of spots for a picnic when the weather is fine. You will regularly see dolphins in the Moray Firth just below the Fort. The Regimental Museum and the Chapel are extremely interesting as are the period displays in the old guard rooms and soldier's quarters. For more information visit Historic Environment Scotland.
The Caledonian Canal, was designed by Thomas Telford following an Act of Parliament in 1803 and eventually opened in 1822 some 12 years behind schedule. The canal extends for some 60 miles from the Clachnaharry Sea Loch on the Beauly Firth to Loch Linnhe at Corpach near Fort William.
The canal was originally planned to facilitate the passage of naval frigates at the time of the Napoleonic Wars while at the same time providing much needed employment in the Highlands. The locks were built longer and wider than on many other canals, so that they can still be used by a relatively large ship like the Lord of the Glens.
The locks and bridges, which, originally manually operated, were mechanized in the 1960s. There are several road and rail swing bridges in Inverness that cater for passing traffic on the canal and also you can watch crafts of various sizes negotiating the locks.
The present use of the canal is mainly by pleasure craft, and the use of the tow-paths along the Canal for leisure and recreation. Footpaths adjacent to the canal provide the opportunity for very interesting walks and to take in the abundance of wildlife present in the water and the local environment.