Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Loch Ness

As we wind down our time in Scotland we are trying to do a little local travel. Last week we drove northwest to Inverness, the city on the northern end of Loch Ness. On Friday we took a drive out to the Loch. Since we are early morning folk, there was nothing open and no one around when we arrived. We drove the highway that hugs the west coast of the lake. The water was smooth and black, which gave it all a mysterious look.
 
This picture was taken by a kid who managed to capture the feel of the Loch even if she didn't capture us!


The lake is surrounded by tree lined hills. Along that western shoreline is the ruin of an ancient Castle called Urquhart. It was closed when we arrived so we continued driving south. Finally we decided to head back north and try one of the boat rides we had read about. It was an hour long cruise (they offered a "three hour cruise, three hour cruise" but even without an island to be stranded on with a skipper named Gilligan, it seemed too ominous of a prospect).

We got great views of Castle Urquhart from the water:



Of course our only sightings of the famous Loch Ness Monster were on shore: 



There is nothing like a visit to a real Castle to enhance a study of Knights. A certain Junior Knight was in heaven: 

"Look Mama! A trebuchet!!"


Notice the invisible sword in his hand?

Urquhart Castle was a highlight. We have been to many castles during our time in the UK, and we have been known to say "you've seen one castle, you've seen them all". But, truth be told, there are some that stand out and this was one such castle. Part of it was the setting: right on the lake, the hills around. Also, the presentation was exceptional. You enter through the visitors center (where we noticed a banner declaring that St Columba had been to the castle to baptize a Pictish family) and then you have the option to see a short video about the history of the castle. Before the film began a man was passing around real artifacts. We held a knights helmet, chainmail, real swords (though not sharpened) and leather shoes from the time period. The film itself was very well done and gave a realistic depiction of the history. The castle was owned by Jacobite highlanders who fought the English to get their own man on the throne, and lost. The castle was destroyed by the highlanders themselves because they didn't want their enemies using it. As the film ended the screen rose and the curtains behind parted giving you a view of the castle much like this: 

 

Though the sky looks mostly blue (by Scottish standards) it was quite cold most of the time. However the hills and stairs around the castle helped to warm us up. 




And to tire us out. 




Isn't funny how pictures have a way of cleaning up life. You can't hear the screaming four year old who was just too tired and too cold to care how incredible the view was. Nor can you hear the whine of the hungry kids who just ate moments ago but are mysteriously starving again! And, thank goodness, you cannot hear the impatience of the tired, cold, hungry parents. 
You mostly see all the beauty and happiness. 




I did say "mostly" didn't I?

Note to Friends and Family: More pictures will be posted on the Kennedy Family Website. See the link in the sidebar. 

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