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Scotland's Hebrides Islands, off its west coast, offer a wonderful range of different sights and experiences.

Our Scotland's Islands and Highlands Tour takes you 8 islands (via 11 ferry crossings and a steam train ride), giving you a great time seeing much of the Inner and Outer Hebrides as well as time in the Highlands.

Here is one person's account of her experiences on our 2010 tour.

 
 
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Scotland's Islands & Highlands Tour Diary

Day 11 :  Back to Inverness, Edinburgh and Glasgow
 

Our last ferry ride was on the largest of Calmac's ferries

An early morning ferry ride, a bonus side trip to Culloden, and the completion of the tour.

Part of an 11 day/page trip diary - click the links on the right hand side for the other days in this diary.

 

 

Jeanette and her husband Ken were on our 2010 Scotland's Islands and Highlands Tour, and Jeanette kept a detailed day by day diary of the tour.

She has very graciously allowed it to be re-published here, so as to allow you an unvarnished view into what the tour was all about.

The text is hers, which I've respected and not changed apart from a few subheadings and extra paragraph breaks and some Americanizations of her English spelling (they are from New Zealand).

I've sourced the pictures and their captions are also from me, not Jeanette.

You can follow along with her narration by tracking the tour on this tour itinerary page and the linked Google maps.

I hope this will encourage you to come on our 2011 Scotland's Islands and Highlands Tour.

Day 11 – Tuesday June 24th 2010 – Stornaway (Isle of Lewis) to Glasgow

Google Touring Map for the Day

The alarm woke us up at 5am. We had just enough time to get dressed, get the bags to the bus and have a light breakfast (prunes, grapefruit and yoghurt) before getting on the bus ready to leave at 6:05am. It was cold this morning but at least the sun was shining.

We had quite a long wait before our coach could board the ferry at 6:35am for the sailing at 7am. Our ferry today was the 'Isle of Lewis' which is the largest ferry in the CalMac fleet holding 123 cars. We went up to the Observation Deck and had a good view of the town and Lews Castle as we sailed out of the sheltered Stornoway Bay.

It was windy crossing the Minch Bay but this ship hardly moved in the waves. Ken bought me a cup of hot chocolate which helped my throat (2.10). I was very keen to visit Culloden Field, near Inverness so I asked David if we could detour there. He said if I got at least half the group to agree to reducing the lunch stop in Pitlochry from 1.5 hours to 1 hour then we could do it. I walked around the ship finding members of our group to get their agreement and had no resistance from anyone so hoped David would still agree.

We arrived in the port of Ullapool on the mainland, a very sheltered inlet, about 9:40am. The town used to be a booming herring fishing centre but now it is only a ferry terminal.

David distributed a small dram of whisky to all who wished to drink some. Ken shared his with me. David had bought a book “Scottish Miscellany” and read a number of short items including 2 poems from “The World's Worst Poet” (Scotland's Worst). This entertained us for many miles. By 11am we were entering the city of Inverness, at the northern most point of “The Great Glen”. We left Jane and Charlie at the railway station so they could get the train to London.

David said we had time to visit Culloden Moor so that was our next stop at 11:15am. This is where the 1746 battle took place between the Jacobites (fighting for Bonnie Prince Charlie) and the British (both English and Scottish). The battle lasted only 1 hour with the death of more than 1000 Jacobites and was the effective end of the Jacobite era. It was the last hand-to-hand battle fought on British soil. Within a few days of the battle, around 1,500 Jacobite soldiers gathered at Ruthven Barracks in the mountains south of Aviemore, ready to continue the campaign. Awaiting them was a message from Bonnie Prince Charlie saying that 'each man should save himself the best he could'. For him, the Rising was over. Unopposed, the government sent its army and navy across Scotland, punishing anyone suspected of Jacobite sympathies.

With a policy of 'pacification of the Highlands', the government began to dismantle the structures of Highland society. Chiefs were deprived of their legal powers and clansmen of their weapons. Jacobite estates were seized by the Crown. The kilt and tartan were banned. The Disarming Act was passed by the Government and all weapons had to be surrendered. Even bagpipes were considered a war weapon and were destroyed and some Pipers were executed.

Bonnie Prince Charlie evaded the British for about five months by seeking refuge in the Highlands of Scotland before fleeing to the Isle of Skye and then to France (with the help of Flora McDonald) where he was welcomed as a hero of Europe. The story of his bold expedition and romantic escape made him the biggest celebrity of his time. His life afterwards was one long anti-climax. He was expelled from France in 1748 and spent the next decade involved in futile conspiracies. He died in Rome (his birthplace) in 1788, a broken alcoholic, deserted by his wife and followers.

I was keen to visit the field as I had read about it in the first book by Diana Gabaldan called Outlander (called Cross Stitch in the UK). Anyone interested in historical fiction and Scottish and American history in the 18th century would find her 9 books in the Outlander series interesting reading. I walked out to the government line (defined with red flags) then back to the Leanach cottage which is the only surviving building after the battle and was inhabited until 1912. Unfortunately I could not see inside the cottage as it was closed for the roof to be re-thatched.


Culloden moor; the yellow flag denotes the furtherest advance of the Highland charge.

The moor is very flat with the government lines marked with red flags, nearest the visitor centre, and the Jacobite line with blue flags away in the distance.

On the way back to the bus I met a man in the uniform of a French soldier. There were about 300 French soldiers who provided a second line of defence behind the Jacobites. Most were taken prisoner then swapped for British prisoners held in France. He was very friendly and informative and helped to bring the battle to life for me. Each time he 'works' here he dresses in a different uniform and represents that soldier's life in the battle.

Many thanks to David for allowing us to visit the field. I was most grateful and greatly enjoyed the experience even though I found my cough and throat to be very difficult to deal with as well as having a stuffy nose.

At 11:40am we were on the road again on our way to Edinburgh. We crossed the Slochd summit (1328m/405') then into the Cairngorm National Park. The hills were all covered with heather or pine trees. We drove past Aviemore where Ken and I had stayed many years ago on a self-drive tour of Scotland. This is a major skiing area in the winter.

Just south of Aviemore we passed the Ruthven Baracks where the last of the Jacobites met on the day after the Culloden battle. We passed Dalwhinnie distilleries which is the highest level distillery in the UK. Unfortunately for the whisky drinkers, no time to stop.

We could see impressive Blair Castle through the trees as we passed but could not get any photos. In 1740 the 2nd Duke of Atholl transformed the original medieval structure into a stylish home of the period, removing the turrets and battlements and applying fashionable Georgian finishes.

Queen Victoria fell in love with this house when she visited in 1844 and it was on this occasion that she was so impressed with the guard provided by the Atholl Highlanders that she granted them the right to bear arms. Hence Blair castle has the only private army in the UK, largely for ceremonial purposes now. The 7th Duke of Atholl in 1860s/70s re-added the battlements and turrets and a magnificent ballroom which is still used today for many Highland balls, banquets and functions.


Pitlochry.

At 1:25pm we stopped in Pitlochry for lunch. It was a very interesting town with a lot of tourists and at least 6 tourist buses in the car park. The Blair Atholl Distillery here has its own hydro electric power station.

We joined David and Oren in “A Plaice to Be” fish and chip shop and enjoyed a piece of salmon, a piece of cod and a lot of chips sitting at a long counter looking out onto the street watching the people walking past (10.50).


Jeanette and Ken eating their fish and chips in Pitlochry.

We only had time to look in a few shops then I went to the toilet (30p) before re-boarding the bus.

At 2:30pm we were on our way again. David commented that the weather we were having today (patchy cloud and occasional showers) was the weather he had been expecting for the whole tour. We had been extremely fortunate to have had such great weather and calm seas.

We passed near Scone Palace where the Stone of Scone originally resided. It had been used for all coronation ceremonies in Scotland since 1057 until 1296 when Edward I of England took the stone and installed it in the golden coronation chair in Westminster Abbey. Since then all English monarchs and since 1707 nearly all British monarchs have been enthroned on this seat.

In 1950, four students removed the Stone from Westminster Abbey in London. It soon turned up at Arbroath Abbey, north-east of Edinburgh. The abbey is famous for the Declaration of Arbroath, a robust statement of Scotland’s independence from England. The stone was returned to Westminster Abbey.

In 1996, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II allowed the stone to be returned to Scotland, to Edinburgh Castle, after 700 years. Its royal role will continue as the ancient stone will be taken to London for all future coronations.

Once we were on the M90 there was a lot more traffic. It became quite windy with heavy black clouds on the horizon but no rain yet. We crossed the Firth of Forth bridge and could see the railway bridge under renovation but still recognizable.


The very distinctive - some would say very ugly - Victorian built Firth of Forth railway bridge.

It is the 2nd longest cantilever bridge in the world (after the Quebec bridge) and is internationally recognized as a Scottish Landmark. As we approached Edinburgh David told us that its original name was Dunedin and that name has been retained as the city of Dunedin in the South Island of New Zealand. Edinburgh was often referred to as 'Auld (old) Reekie' due to the horse manure that was prevalent in the city in days gone by.

At about 4pm we pulled up at the Edinburgh railway station and said goodbye to David and a number of others leaving the tour here. Jay then became our guide as we drove along Princes Street on our way to Glasgow. There was a lot of traffic in the city streets so Anne Marie asked Jay whether he preferred driving in Edinburgh city or the single lane roads in the Hebrides. Jay said 'no contest', he preferred single lane roads any day. The annual Royal Highland Show started today at Inglaston Show grounds and we saw the huge car park very full as we drove past.

We arrived at Glasgow railway station at 5:25pm and saw Davie (our Scottish cruising friend David Hughes) walking towards our coach as we got off. It was perfect timing as he had just arrived too. We said goodbye to everyone and special thanks to Jay for his friendship and great safe driving. I was feeling fairly miserable today with my cough, which was now deep in my chest, so it was not such a good finish to an otherwise wonderful tour of the Scottish Hebrides Islands.

The following day Davie and Genevieve took me to their Doctor who gave me some antibiotic for a slight chest infection. I rapidly improved over the next week and could look back on a great 11 day tour but would still rather be on a ship than on a land tour.

Read more in the rest of Jeanette's Diary

See the links to each day of the eleven day tour/trip diary at the top right of this page.

 

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Originally published 7 Jan 2011, last update 02 Jul 2017

You may freely reproduce or distribute this article for noncommercial purposes as long as you give credit to me as original writer.

 
 
 
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