Sunday, December 23, 2007

The New Culloden Visitor Centre

Camera pans the battlefield as curlews cry, and the lilting tones of Finlay MacDonald intone, "We are here. On Drumossie Moor. Now restored to look more or less as it did in 1746. Except for the gravestones of course. They came later."

Yes, I liked the old presentation of Culloden Battlefield - simple, effective, familiar. But today I visited the new, multi million pound, hi-tech version. And I liked it even more. The new centre works on a number of levels - attention-grabbing presentation, plenty detail for those who want it, and good Scottish wood and stone to house it all. But most of all, this new exhibition is effective in setting the battle in a global, rather than a highland context. This will surprise, and I hope intrigue, many people. It also presents the whole Jacobite campaign of 1745/46 in shades of grey, rather than the black and white view with which many visitors arrive. This was a complex campaign of difficult decisions, bad decisions, divided loyalties, a campaign in which public relations and half truths drove the actions of both sides.

So, I recommend the new centre heartily. But allow a good two hours to get full benefit from your £10 entry fee.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Meall Fuar-mhonaidh

A perfect day on the hill today, not a cloud above us, but it was blanketing the glens below. To the west we could see the familiar line of Ben Nevis above Fort William on the west coast (below), to the east the Moray Firth; beyond Loch nam Breac Dearga to the north was Ben Wyvis and to our south the Cairngorms. We were on Meall Fuar-mhonaidh, 'the rounded hill on the cold moor'. This is a perfect five mile walk for anyone staying in the Inverness area: you are at the start point in half an hour, the walk takes less than four hours, you have the satisfaction of reaching the summit of a significant hill, and down below you throughout is Loch Ness. Choose a day like today and you won't forget the experience quickly!

Above photo of Ben Nevis in the far distance taken by my walking companion Tim Honnor of Piccolo Press!

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Burgie Castle Saved for Posterity

One night in January 2006, a crashing sound reverberated round the small Moray town of Rafford. Next morning the last remaining five storeys high tower of Blervie Castle, built by the Dunbars in the 16th century, had been replaced with a pile of rubble and the stump of one wall.

In the same century, the family had built another fine castle just two miles away. This is Burgie, and like its sister Burgie was once a 'Z' Plan castle with towers on diagonally opposite corners of a central keep. Now the keep is destroyed and just one tower remains. I visited Burgie on a clear frosty day last February and could not fail to be struck by its height and authority, but also by a long ominous crack in the west wall.

Happily now, it looks as if Burgie is saved. A private trust to consolidate the building has been set up and the Highland Buildings Preservation Trust, are arranging funding and will project manage the work. Emergency works to stabilise the tower start late next month. This will buy time for a full feasibility study into options for a permanent solution.

More castles will doubtless crumble this winter but Burgie will stand for a few centuries more.