Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Urquhart Castle by Loch Ness and Glen Affric

Snow falling again today and I wonder what I will do with two travel agents from New Jersey in such poor visibility. However by the time we got to Urquhart Castle by Loch Ness there were only a few crystals in the wind. It seemed the castle had so much more of a story to tell on this chilly March day than it ever could in summer with a cruise ship at Invergordon and the coach park overflowing. St Columba was here in AD 580, baptising a Pictish nobleman and his household. (He went on to be the first recorded witness of the Loch Ness monster but that is another story). Urquhart was held by Durwards, Comyns, MacDonalds, Gordons, Chisolms, Grants right through until about 1650 when the Grant family, loyal to King Charles I, was forced to leave by the Covenanters who opposed him. And they all faced chilly March winds and much worse. I suppose there are other places in the Highlands that were continuously occupied for 1070 years but I couldn't name them.

As we headed away towards Glenurquhart, I found myself saying that beyond the next glen was Glen Affric, supposedly 'the most beautiful in Scotland'. Well, the sun was out, the sky was clear and we dumped the planned programme to head up there. The River Affric, the mountains, the ancient Caledonian Pine Forest, all were spectacular in the snow and sun. Lots of nice pictures...

The cows were crossing in front of Rait Castle when we arrived later in the afternoon and we viewed from a distance. Here is another place that was going strong at the same time as William Wallace and his nemesis Edward I of England, in fact Gervaise de Rait, who built the castle, was Edward's man in Nairnshire.

We could see the Gothic windows in the evening sun, beautifully carved from single slabs of sandstone. But happily not the trees still growing out of the wallheads.

The saga of preserving Rait Castle is one for another day. This day was a good one.


Eliza Graham said...

What a wonderful day, Alastair! Love the photos, too.


Linda said...

For not knowing what to do with 2 travel agents from NJ, Alastair did a fabulous job! The weather cooperated, the sun was shining on the snow and the scenery could not have been more gorgeous. It was truly an unforgettable day. From Glen Affic to Rait Castle, I enjoyed every second!