Invergordon is a town and port in Easter Ross, in Highland, Scotland.  It is a small town, with only a population of 4,500, but is considered to be an important gateway to the Highlands due having one of Europe's deepest ports and it's proximity to the city of Inverness. Once known for the construction of oil rigs, it is now known for the repair of rigs which line up in the Cromarty Firth on which the town is situated. It is also known for its grain whisky distillery, operated by Indian owned whisky giant Whyte and Mackay, the output of which contributes to many blended whiskies.
A naval base in the early 20th century, the Admiralty Pier, where once warships docked, is now used for cruise ships in the summer and oil field support vessels through the year.

Invergordon is the mural town of the Highlands and hopes to emulate the success of her mentor in Chermainus, British Columbia. Currently the town is adorned with a series of 17 murals. The art work created by a selection of artists tells the stories of the local community and the area. This trail is a result of a community project which was initially designed to integrate local community groups (17 in total took part). The trail, which was opened by the Princess Royal, now acts as a major tourist draw.

Inverness is the only 'official' city in the Highlands.
It started as a settlement established by the 6th century, with the first royal charter being granted by Dabíd mac Maíl Choluim (King David I) in the 12th century. The Gaelic king Mac Bethad Mac Findláich (MacBeth) whose 11th century murder of King Duncan was immortalized in Shakespeare's famous play, held a castle within the city where he ruled as Mormaer of Moray and Ross. Today it is the administrative centre for the Highland council area, and is regarded as the capital of the Highland of Scotland. It is the northernmost city in the United Kingdom and lies within the Great Glen (Gleann Mòr) at its north-eastern extremity where the River Ness enters the Moray Firth. Inverness is one of Europe's fastest growing cities, with a quarter of the Highland population living in or around the city and is ranked fifth out of 189 British cities for its quality of life, the highest of any Scottish city. In 2014, a survey by a property website described Inverness as the happiest place in Scotland and the second happiest in the UK. Inverness was again found to be the happiest place in Scotland by a new study conducted in 2015.

Our bus tour would take us from Invergordon, through the highlands to Urquhart Castle on the infamous Lock Ness, then on to Inverness.

We had a sea day between Belfast and Invergordon, so I took a couple of shots of the coastline as we traveled north.
Even though most days were quite overcast and somewhat chilly, it never rained while we were there..

Our first view of Invergordon.

It was a long walk down a long pier to get to where the tour buses waited.

Those structures are oil rigs from the North Sea, lined up on the Cromarty Firth waiting for needed repairs.

One of the many houses seen along the way.

The River Ness.

By the size of these hedges, I'd say these people like their privacy.

A local church.

The River Ness again.

The Highlands are beautifully green, with lots of grassy areas, trees and of course sheep.

A busy local restaurant and pub.

Loch Ness

The loch is Scotland's largest by volume and is 23 miles long. It is more than 600 ft/183 metres deep for most of its length, and up to 825 ft/250 Metres in places. Of course most people know it as the home of 'Nessie', the 'Loch Ness Monster'.

Urquhart Castle

The present ruins date from the 13th to the 16th centuries, though built on the site of an early medieval fortification. Founded in the 1230s, seized by the English in 1296, sacked by MacDonald Lord of Isles in 1545 and left to fall into decay after 1689. Today the castle ruin is one of Historic Scotland's most visited sites.

Walking down the path from the Visitors' Centre leading to the ruins.

A restored catapult that once defended the Castle.

Dina standing in front of the 'Upper Bailey'

The Upper Bailey, or southern enclosure, is the remains of the 13th century "shell keep" or motte, and is the earliest part of the castle to survive.
A motte-and-bailey castle is a fortification with a wooden or stone keep situated on a raised earthwork called a motte, accompanied by an enclosed courtyard, or bailey, and surrounded by a protective ditch and palisade.

What was the moat around the castle.

A view of Loch Ness from the castle.

I kept looking for Nessie, but she never showed - how rude!

Dina and other tourists entering the castle through the Gatehouse.

Urquhart is one of the largest castles in Scotland in area. The walled portion of the castle is shaped roughly like a figure 8 aligned northeast-southwest along the bank of the loch, around 492 by 151 ft / 150 by 46 metres, forming two baileys  (enclosures): the Nether Bailey to the north, and the Upper Bailey to the south. The curtain walls of both enclosures date largely to the 14th century, though much augmented by later building, particularly to the north where most of the remaining structures are located.

There are little signs on the walls everywhere, like the one to the right of the window, that read simply: "Please do not climb on walls." Don't have to tell me twice.

The circular stairway in the Grant Tower.

The Grant Tower

The Grant Tower is the main tower house or keep. The tower measures 39 by 36 ft / 12 by 11 metres, and has walls up to 9.8 ft/3 metres thick. The tower rests on 14th century foundations, but is largely the result of 16th century rebuilding. Originally five stories, it remains the tallest portion of the castle despite the southern wall collapsing in a storm in the early 18th century.

The view of the Loch and the farmland beyond from the Nether (northern) bailey.

One of the gun holes in the walls, showing how thick they are.

The Highlands have got to be the greenest place I've ever seen.

The Loch through the trees.

Back on the bus, we passed this well kept estate.

Crossing the River Ness into Inverness.

Inverness Cathedral aka the Cathedral Church of St. Andrew

St. Andrew is a cathedral of the Scottish Episcopal Church situated close to the banks of the River Ness. Completed in 1869, it is the northernmost cathedral in mainland Britain and was the first new cathedral to be completed in Great Britain since the Reformation.

We opted not to go into the church and decided to do a 'walk-about' instead. That's Izak looking at a bank of townhouses and local shops.

Another view of the cathedral.

Inverness Castle

The red sandstone structure was built in 1836 by architect William Burn, and is built on the site of an 11th century defensive structure. Today, it houses Inverness Sheriff Court. At present, only the castle grounds are open to the public, however a recent campaign has led to the creation of a working group to explore the possibility of doing so in the future.

A bronze plaque giving a brief history of the Ness Bridge. It was originally a suspension bridge (
1855 to 1959). The four granite newel posts on the rebuilt bridge were the masonry pylons of the original.

A church on the other side of the river. I must say that Scotland has more churches per mile/km than any other place that I've been.

A side street on our way back to the cathedral.

Side view of the cathedral.

The Northern Meeting Park

I spotted this plaque were the bus was waiting. It was put up by the Inverness City Heritage Trust and reads:
"Built in 1864 as the World's first Highland Games Stadium"

A view of the stadium, no doubt still in use.

More townhomes in the direction opposite to our walk.

Crossing the river on our way back to Invergordon -
more churches.

Fyrish Monument

The monument seen in the distance at the top of the hill has a very interesting story behind it.
It was built in 1782 on Fyrish Hill (Cnoc Fyrish) on the orders of Sir Hector Munro, 8th of Novar, a native lord of the area. As the local population were being cleared off their land, finding employment became a problem. Understanding the fierce pride of the Scottish people, he commissioned the building of the monument to give the locals some work. The interesting thing is he hired workers to move the stones up the hill during the day and a second group of workers to roll the stones from the top of the hill to the bottom at night, thereby extending the amount of time worked and paying the laborers for additional hours. What a guy!

Back at the ship, a Pipe Band served as our farewell committee.

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