Neolithic Sites
Roman Sites
Round Towers

Index by Name
Index by Date




Girnigoe Castle
Sinclair Castle

Ross Lighthouse
Lederhosen Chicken
Brora Beach
Fearn Priory
Cadboll Castle
Shandwick Stone
Beauly Priory
Beauly Firth
Fortrose Cathedral


May 11

One of the castles we loved from our first trip to Scotland was the twin-named Girnigoe Castle-Sinclair Castle on the coast. We walked out on the stone stacks and climbed around the narrow bits of the tower --not realizing that the stone piles were topped with grass that grew out past the edges of the stone like a head of Muppet hair. Step a bit too close to the edge and you're suddenly standing on grass, nothing by grass, squishing out over the edge of the stone. The adrenaline rush when I realized it let me levitate backwards to sit down in the middle of the promontory and I edged my way back to the main land on my butt. Scared the spit right out of me, it did.

So we really wanted to come back and take a look at this castle (it really is one castle, despite the dual name) and see how much of it remained, how ten years had treated the stone ruins. Imagine our surprise to fine the site all fenced off and a team of builders hard at work removing the fallen shards of stone from within the castle, putting up scaffolding to reinforce the towers and generally repair things. There is an archeological team excavating the site. Access to the castle itself is not allowed, but we could walk along the path on the shore to take some pictures. It looks like a bit more of the castle has fallen into the sea, as well. It's this sort of 'that was then, this is now' change that I really enjoy (and why we loop back to ruins we have seen before. )

Why, yes, we are insane, why do you ask?

The weather today is as close to perfect as we could ask for. Sunny, blue skies, cool breeze. The scenery as we drove back down the coast from Wick is National-Geographic perfect: green swathes of farm fields, bright yellow gorse bushes, the blue, blue sea. We're stopping every couple of miles just to gawk at the gorgeous scenics. "Beautiful, beautiful! Wish you were here!"

Remember the Chicken with Pants? Well, we spent an hour or so trying to find the right turnoff and eventually pulled into the yard of the little house with the giant pants-wearing chicken. We had a really good laugh with the people living there -- I was snorting with laughter trying to explain about the one brain and the chicken and the pants…I'm sure they thought we were absolutely insane. The giant chicken was from Germany (they bought the eggs off eBay) and we all agreed that he was definitely wearing lederhosen. They had a couple dozen chickens and ducks, mostly ornamental. Once I finally calmed down enough and stopped wheezing from laughing so hard, we all introduced ourselves and

They brought out some maps, to try to pinpoint the castle ruin we had been looking for (they had the really, really detailed hiking maps from OS) and then they pointed us down the narrow road behind their house to the beach. They waved at us cheerily (happy, I am sure, to get the weird Americans on their way!) and we drove down to the beach. I sat up on the cliff and basked in the sun while Mark wandered down the cove to see the seals (also basking in the sun). He managed to get quite close before spooking them off the sandbars.

I got slightly sunburned. Hah!

Dot to dot to dot to...where are we?

We drove down to find Cadboll Castle, and on the way passed through the tiny seaside town of Fearn and the priory there (through a large farmyard and behind a tall fence). We picked the wrong road out of town (which, when you come right down to it, should be impossible. There are only TWO roads here. How e can consistently pick the wrong one every time is pretty damned funny. Set us at a crossroads and we're guaranteed to take the road less traveled. It leads to some interesting adventures -- this time to a small flat Pictish stone (The Shandwick Stone) enclosed in a large glass box on the hillside. We climbed up the hillside and tried to take a few pictures - it's obvious that the glass box was intended to allow people inside to see the stone, but some mouth-breather had broken some of the panels and they were filled in with plywood. The view over the coast is very pretty, too.

Redcastle was listed in my book as 'substantial ruins'. We followed the GPS dutifully and ended up on a tiny road around Beauly Firth, but we never actually saw a castle. Given that the 'dots' on the map could be off by a hundred yards or so, it's likely that the ruins were up the hill or just out of side along the banks. It was a scenic drive, though (I keep saying that -- beautiful scenics, lovely drive, picturesque…but seriously? It really is!) and when we had finished the circuit, we went to Beauly Priory, which is really just a red stone church at this point. The site is in the middle of town, and the church is very nice, but nothing else remains of what would have been a larger installation.

At this point, we realized that we didn't have any place to stay for the night. It took us a while to realize that starting our phone calls at 2pm usually mean that we'd get a room at the first place we called. Waiting until 5? Well, plan on making a few calls and ending up in your fourth or fifth choice. We wanted to stay in Inverness tonight and the first four places we tried were full. We did get the last room at Fraser House, right along the river in the middle of town, though. Score!

On the way, we went to Fortrose Cathedral (which is not enterable, but the grounds are quite nice) and wandered around a bit in the grounds, then drove into Inverness. The B&B is in an old row house along the river. The interior is completely modernized (and rather Scandinavian-feeling with pale wood and white walls). We were shown the family room, which was nice.


We walked all over Inverness looking for a restaurant for dinner. I'd had enough of fried fish and steak pie, so we agreed on Italian food at Bella Italia. Authentic Italian food in Inverness - well, we were impressed anyway. Lasagna and Penne Pollo e Crema, and a lovely chocolate brownie for dessert. And wine. Don't forget the wine! Our waitress encouraged us to go shopping the next morning at Marks and Spencer just for the all-butter chocolate chip cookies. That was definitely enough incentive for us, since we live on cookies and biscuits for lunch.

We made it an early night, and sauntered back up the esplanade to the B&B, enjoying the sunshine. We're just not up to any sort of nightlife after going at high speed all day, and everything that is not a bar closes before 6pm. Pub culture is not as prevalent here as it was in Ireland--most people leave work, head home for dinner, and that's that. Well, outside of Edinburgh and Glasgow. Those cities are large, cosmopolitan places and I'm sure they have a thriving night life. Although I submit that we'd still be going to bed early. We're wimps. And how else are we going to be up and raring to go at 6am to see more STUFF?