Wednesday, 12 August 2009

Loch Ness, Urquhart Castle and Inverness

Wednesday 5th August

After breakfast at 0800hrs (very tough for me I must admit) we had planned to go sightseeing along Loch Ness.

Elaine very kindly (ahem) allowed me to have a short snooze while she went to the tourist information office to pick up some bus timetables and any relevant leaflets that she could find. I eventually managed to struggle into the shower and prepared for another fun day at the mercy of local public transport. Interestingly the local bus company Stagecoach Bluebird has recently been named as public transport operator of the year for 2009.

We headed off to the bus station and paid the very reasonable £4 return each to Urquhart Castle 17 miles from Inverness on the banks of Loch Ness.

Our bus arrived at the prescribed time and a total of eight passengers boarded for the 35 minute trip. Once the streets of Inverness were negotiated it was plain sailing along the A82, right on the northern bank of Loch Ness giving us such fantastic views we felt like asking the driver to stop for photographs!

When we arrived at Urquhart Castle we spoke to the driver about our return options later in the day. Elaine has finely tuned ears and after a very short conversation she started speaking to the driver in Afrikaans! Can you believe it, we were in a remote part of the Highlands and our bus driver came from South Africa!

Urquhart Castle is situated near the village of Dromnadrochit in a stunning location on a spit of land jutting out into Loch Ness.

We paid our entry fees and sat through the interesting film show before heading outside into the sunshine. Castles are becoming something of a theme for this blog and now, thanks to one inside the castle grounds, so are Trebuchets! No flying fire bombs this time but a Trebuchet nonetheless!

We spent a couple of hours wandering through the ruins, climbing the towers and admiring the fantastic views, all the time bathed in sunshine. Before we had left Birmingham the BBC weather site informed us that it would rain every day, so far they couldn't have been more wrong! We had our picnic lunch and did a final bit of exploring (Elaine climbing) before we headed off on foot to visit Dromnadrochit and the grandly named Loch Ness Visitor and Exhibition Centre.

The 2 mile walk was very enjoyable, mostly because it was downhill all the way but also because the air was clean and crisp, the views outstanding and the weather fine!

The Loch Ness Visitor and Exhibition Centre was something of a disappointment. It looked a little run down and did not really appeal to us but we did spend some time looking at the vast collection of tourist 'tat' on offer in the shop. Incredible!

We had a drink at the local cafe before boarding a much busier bus back to Inverness at about 1700hrs.

With the hangovers gone we still had plenty of energy so we decided to take a walk along the River Ness to its mouth Carnac Point, where it flows into Moray and Beauly Firths. Another fine 2 mile walk got us to our destination where we met an elderly local who told us that he had lived nearby for all of his life. He pointed out a seal that poked its head above the water momentarily and the salmon making their way back into the Ness to spawn. He even told us that he had recently seen some dolphins (the largest bottlenose dolphins in the world are native here) but not for the last few days.

Heading along the Firth coastline we came across some really interesting wooden benches, carved in the shape of Seals, Dolphins and the Loch Ness Monster. They are apparently the work of a local chainsaw artist and are perfectly positioned looking out towards the impressive Kessock Bridge.

We decided to carry on along the coastline until we reached the Caledonian Canal then follow it back towards Inverness. After another couple of miles we reached the Muirtown Locks on the canal and watched as a large cruiser slowly made its way through each of the four locks.

By now we were getting a little tired and the sun was beginning to set so we headed back towards the Castle Tavern for something to eat. When we met up with the River Ness again we sat and watched a fly fisherman as he attempted to catch a nice salmon, as far as we know he was unsuccessful though!

Once again we enjoyed good quality meals and had just a couple of drinks before heading off to bed, without stopping off for whisky!

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