When I woke up this morning, I started the day with an actual destination in mind–the Culloden Battlefield. A friend of mine is an avid Outlander fan. She’s read the books by Diana Gabaldon and has watched the television series produced by Starz. She shared the series with me when I told her that I had always dreamed of going to Scotland. When I was preparing for the trip, I asked her if there was one place she might like to see in Scotland. She said, “Culloden Battlefield.”
So, I left Inverness this morning in search of the spirit of Jamie Fraser and his sassenach, Claire.
The visitor center was closed at this time of the year, but the field itself was open to anyone who wished to walk it. It was early in the morning, and the sun had just crept over the eastern ridge. There was a slight wind, but, with the morning cold and the flatness of the area, it was quite cutting.
There are numerous signs explaining the details of the Jacobite rebellion in which the highlanders fought the English army in defense of Bonnie Prince Charley. The battle proved to be a terrible day for the Scottish clans, and there are grave markers for the men who fell on behalf of their clans.
Today, the field has become a place where many locals bring their dogs, and that is how I met Christine and Logan. Christine has lived in the Inverness area for over forty years. She taught music at the primary schools. Logan is her Dandie Dinmont, a Scottish terrier. I didn’t include a picture because she was a bit camera shy, but Christine was tremendously kind to me.
My battery suddenly died, I was quite cold, and I was trying to figure out how to find a place where I could get a coffee and recharge my phone.
Christine offered me a ride back to Balloch, a little township between Culloden and the field.
We discussed school, and I told her about Stella, my mother who taught 1st grade for over half of her life. When I told her about my first day, she told me that she had taught the children in Merkinch.
“Those children didn’t have a lot back then, and they appreciated what they got in school.”
While Christine was certainly nostalgic about the days when Inverness was a smaller community, “when people were mannerly and would say hello to you on the street,” she certainly demonstrated the very qualities that she hoped that others would show more often.
After a pleasant discussion (and, yes, we did discuss President Trump as well), Christine dropped me at a grocery where I could get a warm coffee.
I still needed to charge my phone, and the nearest place likely to be in the town of Culloden itself. I walked a ways and then hopped a bus.
In Culloden, I found myself blessed again by kindness when I entered the King’s Coffee House. At the counter was gentlemen who looked as Scottish as one could possibly imagine. However, his accent quickly dispelled that assumption.
His name is J.D., and he’s from Kansas.
J.D. let me recharge my phone, served me a delicious bacon, brie, and cranberry sourdough roll, and brought me a cup of coffee, but he also wanted to talk and find out more about who I was and what brought me to King’s Coffee.
I told him about Searching for Stella and what I was doing, and then I asked him about what had brought him to Scotland.
He told me about how he had fallen in love with a Scottish girl when he was visiting as a college student many years ago.
“It was through the eyes,” he said when speaking of the connection he felt with Jeni.
He and Jeni began writing and calling each other when he returned to the states. One day when they were talking on the phone, Jeni’s father got on the line and told J.D. that if he was serious about his daughter he should come and stay with family on holiday. He did, and he and Jeni soon married. They have three daughters.
It was nice to hear the adoration in his voice when he told me the story.
“Where are you going now?” he asked.
“I want to go to the Clava Cairns now that my phone is working.”
J.D. offered to drive me. It was the second time that day that a stranger had given me a lift to help me.
Like the Culloden Battlefield, the Clava Cairns is a graveyard, but it is much older. The monuments are between three and four thousand years old. The Balnuaran of Clava and the Milton of Clava are nestled in between massive fields where flocks of sheep were grazing. At this point, the chill of the morning had dissipated, and the sun brightened the pastoral setting.
After my visit to the Clava Cairns, I returned to Inverness. I wanted to see the Castle of Inverness and was surprised to see that it had become a sheriff’s office and courthouse. Still, it proved to be a lovely vantage point from which to see Inverness.
From the castle, I walked down to the River Ness, and I finally met a Scot wearing a kilt!
Like Dave and John from Bristol, Brian and Graham are an interesting pair of friends. Brian is an avid cyclist. He even has a blog called zenbikermaniac (an anagram of his full name). And Graham is an avid walker.
Graham, who was donning the kilt, told me that he had worked as a conservationist. He was as passionate about trees and about caring for the environment as he was for walking and wearing kilts.
Brian suggested that I visit the mountains in the west because their height was more accentuated by the lowlands that surround them. He also suggested I visit the Orkney Islands.
Graham said, “Most people think they’ve seen Scotland when they’ve just been to Edinburgh, but you need to come to Inverness and then travel around more.”
Both men were proud Scots and were personable and friendly. They made the close of my day in Inverness a delight.
Until my next post, keep looking to the heavens and seeking your own star.