Scotland: Loch Ness, Clava Cairns, and Cawdor Castle

On our second day in the Highlands, we got up bright and early, setting off at the 8:15am (lawd help me) to catch the ferry that would take us across Loch Ness. Though we kept an eye out for her, Nessie was nowhere to be found. That said, there was plenty of other scenery to take in. The lake was gorgeous (albeit crazy windy) and reminded me somewhat of a very scenic boat ride I once took through Norway’s fjords.

Our boat docked at Urquhart Castle, which was a really stunning sight. The castle dates back to the 13th century, and while today it lies in ruins, it honestly might be prettier that way. We spent a while puttering through the castle before heading further uphill to the visitors’ center, where we watched a short film that explained the history of the castle over time (and, of course, browsed the gift shop, because who can ever resist).

After visiting Urquhart, we got back on the road and headed toward our next destination. Along the way, however, we stopped briefly to see a local treasure: some Highland cows, or, as the locals might say, hairy coos. The cows were nonplussed by us and pretty much just kept doing their own thing – i.e., standing stationary and chewing – throughout our visit.

We made our way next to Clava Cairns, which are basically circular stone tombs that date back to the Bronze Age. Because seemingly everywhere we went had some sort of Outlander connection, Clava Cairns is said to be the spot that inspired the stone circles on the show. I don’t know if these guys were quite powerful enough to transport you to the 18th century, but there was a sort of quiet magic about them.

After poking around the stones, we headed to a nearby enclosure where we enjoyed an open air picnic. Not just a picnic, though, more like a feast: we enjoyed meats, smoked fish, cheeses, berries, crackers, and various other little goodies, while standing in the warm Scottish September sunshine. What a treat!

In the afternoon, we made our way to Cawdor Castle. Opinions vary, but the castle may (or may not!) have been referenced in Macbeth. More importantly for our purposes, it definitely is home to some lovely interiors and a fantastic garden. We toured through the home and then headed outdoors, where we spent quite a while wandering down various garden paths. There were so many different plant and flower varieties; it was awesome!

In the evening, we made our way back to Inverness, fairly exhausted from all the adventures of the day (and from the early start, let’s be real). Exhausting though it was, I’d call it a fairly perfect day in Scotland!

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