Inverness

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In 1746, Prince Charles Edward Stuart had a price of £30,000 on his head.

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On the run after the Battle of Culloden, where so many Highlanders lost their lives to his doubtful cause, he hid in the Highlands, asking for help, food and protection from countless people, and not one of them turned him in. To put that in perspective, £30,000 then would be worth £3,480,000 today — over PHP 250,000,000 — and yet no one betrayed him. That says a lot about the kind of people living in the Scottish Highlands.

The people of the Highlands have always been known for their bravery and their steadfastness and that’s one of the reasons why I’ve always been eager to visit the area. It wasn’t such a difficult decision therefore to skip Edinburgh and Glasgow — which are all very fine cities, I’m sure — and go straight from London to Inverness by train. I didn’t expect too much from Inverness — we were just going to use the city as a base to explore the rest of the Highlands — but it turned out to be beautiful and memorable.
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Inverness 01

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After checking in at our Airbnb homestay — which was just, oh, a 5-minute walk from the train station — we stopped by the Tourist Information Center to get a map as well as recommendations on where to hear live music (everyone recommended Hootananny’s). Then we walked down the street towards the river and were just charmed by the view that greeted us. Old buildings, church spires, a swiftly flowing river, birds flying overhead — gorgeous. That afternoon we basically just walked along the river banks, taking everything in. We had dinner at Mustard Seed — their early evening menu is £12.95 for a starter and main course, and as neither my sister and I were actually hungry, we planned to just share one meal. But then a waiter came to lead us to our table, and he looked quite a bit like Sam Heughan (the guy who plays Jamie in Outlander), and, oh, I don’t know, somehow we ended up ordering one early evening meal each, plus drinks. Very smart, these restaurants.
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On our rambling way home, we passed by an old church with a graveyard beside it. There were only a few gravestones but some were historically significant, such as a notched one that marked where a “traitor” who’d fought on Charles’ side at Culloden was led to a freshly dug grave, shot within sight of his compatriots at the hospital across the river, and unceremoniously covered with dirt. There was another grave just beside a tree on the west side, and for a few brief moments at sunset, the sun shone directly on the stone.

The second day was our Highland tour (with Andrew MacDonald of Hame Tours) and happily that ended at mid-afternoon so we had time to explore Inverness just a tiny bit more before leaving early the next day. We went up to Inverness Castle, where there is a statue of Flora MacDonald gazing out to the sea. She was one of those Highlanders who risked their lives for Prince Charles and later paid preciously for it. In her case, she rescued “Bonnie Prince Charlie” from a particularly hairy situation by disguising him as her maid and rowing him all the way to Skye — thus inspiring the famous Skye Boat Song. Charles got away but Flora was caught by the authorities a week later and she spent over a year in prison. Her daring and bravery are still rightly celebrated today, despite the fact that the Bonnie Prince’s uprisings were what eventually led to the dismantling of the Highland clan system, the use of Gaelic and the wearing of tartans being forbidden, and the Highland way of life being basically broken up as punishment for their participation and as a way of crushing their spirit.
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Inverness 02

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Never fear, though: the Highland spirit lives on. After Mass at St. Mary’s — which is just across Mustard Seed and where a cute, tall guy in a blue sweater winked at me while shaking my hand during Peace…seriously, these Scottish men! Lucky the church wasn’t selling anything or I’d have fallen for that too. Anyway, after Mass at St. Mary’s, there was a slight drizzle and we were thinking we would just go home and start packing our bags when we heard loud live music from The Gellions bar. We peeked inside and people were smiling, singing, dancing to songs being played by a lively Scottish band. I suppose they were traditional songs because everyone knew the words and lots of people were on the dance floor, teenagers and middle-aged couples alike. Everyone was just shouting the lyrics, pumping their fists in the air and laughing like they hadn’t a care in the world. We found ourselves drawn inside, smiling and clapping and stomping our feet along. (I found out just recently that the band is called Schiehallion and the song we heard when we went in was Freedom’s Dream, written by William Hutchison, and not Flower of Scotland as we were originally told — if you arrived here via my Rappler article on the Scottish Highlands, apologies for the song title mix-up.) The last song the band played was Flower of Scotland, the unofficial national anthem. It was a great way to end our stay in Inverness and I’m so, so happy we came.
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4 thoughts on “Inverness

  1. From falling in love with James McAvoy who introduced me to his hormone blowing Scottish accent, then reading more books and history of Scotland that led me to Outlander books and tv series after season 2 ended. I finally decided I desperately need to visit Scotland that led me to your blog! THANK YOU from Dumaguete City <3

    • *sigh* Maka-in-love kaayo na accent, ambot lang. ^_^ You should definitely go to Scotland!

      BTW, I lived in Dumaguete for a year, back when there was no KFC and the biggest store in town was Lee Plaza. Good times. 🙂

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