FolkestoneJack's Tracks

The Caledonian Sleeper

Posted in England, Inverness, London, Scotland by folkestonejack on April 19, 2011

After three full-on days of walking, trains and photography I was quite ready for a comfy bed on the Caledonian Sleeper from Inverness to London. It was the first time that I had tried this and was pleasantly surprised by the experience – maybe I’ve had a few too many nights on Chinese night sleepers lately which have perhaps not made the best case for how well you can sleep on a train!

After three days of beautiful weather it started to rain as I stood around on the platform at Inverness station. Passengers were allowed on board at 8pm and the train departed on time at 8.46pm. I was sharing a twin berth cabin for the journey back which turned out to be perfectly comfortable. I had a good night’s sleep and the first place I caught sight of after waking up was Berkhamsted. A morning coffee and shortbread were delivered for breakfast (just what I needed) and before I knew it we were at London Euston (arriving slightly early at 7.40am). Time to re-adjust to everyday life!

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Culloden and Fort George

Posted in Inverness, Scotland by folkestonejack on April 18, 2011

As I had only one full day in Inverness I tried to make the most of this by heading out from Inverness on an early morning bus (no. 2) to Culloden Battlefield (a journey of about 25 minutes) from where I could walk to the Nairn viaduct and Clava Cairns before doubling back to the visitor centre at Culloden battlefield ready for its opening at 9am.

The battlefield visitor centre provides a fantastic explanation of the background to the conflict and the steps that led to the battle at Culloden. It’s fair to say that I had a limited knowledge of the battle and seem to have picked up many of the common misconceptions so it was good to get a much better grasp of what took place. I can’t stress highly enough what a good insight the visitor centre gives you into the reality – and with an interactive experience that helps to deliver this is an interesting way. One side of your route through the centre follows the government forces and the other the Jacobite forces – with the feed of artefacts and information broken up by hands on displays, moving maps and a battle immersion experience.

In particular I had fallen foul of the misconception that the Jacobite forces were a rabble (rather than a potent and organised military force) and was glad to have that corrected. I also had no idea about the night march to try and make a surprise attack on the government forces at Nairn in the early morning. How differently would things have turned out, had they succeeded?

At the end of the museum you can pick up a battlefield guide – a GPS device that shows you whereabouts you are on the battlefield and automatically starts playing when you reach the appropriate spots. Genius! I had a good wander round and got a reasonable grasp of the battlefield – ending back in the museum for the final displays on the aftermath of the battle. I would heartily recommend a visit to anyone.

I took a bus back into Inverness and headed to the bus station to catch the 11A bus to Ardesier, from where it is about a a 30 minute walk to the vast and imposing fortress that is Fort George. Unlike some of the forts I have visited recently this one is still an active military base, giving it a slightly different feel. I had a great time wandering around the walls and exploring the buildings open to the public before retracing my steps to Ardesier and catching the bus back into Inverness.

Inverness

Posted in Inverness, Scotland by folkestonejack on April 17, 2011

The journey from Edinburgh to Inverness was a first for me, reminding me of how many places I have not visited in Scotland that I would like to see. The list was already long enough but has grown a bit longer! I arrived at 17:38 and had some time to chill out before the arrival of Scots Guardsman with the railtour at 19:08.

Quite a crowd had gathered on the platform and I stood with some friendly guys who had decamped from an afternoon in the pub, raising a smile or two as I waited (thanks guys!). Afterwards I wandered round Inverness at sunset – it was one of those evenings where the combination of late evening sun and dark, threatening clouds gave the place an incredible look.