That’s the way it’s written in Gaelic, Inbhir being Inver, meaning the mouth of a river, and Nis being the name of the river, in this case, the Ness. So where are we? All together now - Inver-ness!!! Well done! Aren’t we clever! (Sorry ‘bout that!) So what was I doing in Inverness on Halloween weekend? Visiting my friends Janet and Ray, who I have probably mentioned before! Janet and I were at school together though not in the same year, and Ray is the great guy she met and married while she was living in County Durham, in the north of England some years later. She managed to get him to move to the north of Scotland and I don’t think he’d move back now.
I took a sudden whim to go up on the bus not long after I got back from Canada – itchy feet still itching, I suppose. Janet had said they had nothing much planned, so that was fine. Anyway, it was a bus pass journey, so cost me nothing. Not a bad journey, we stopped several times to pick up and drop off passengers, and once to change drivers. They can legally only drive for so many hours without a break. I was bemused by the senior citizen who boarded the bus at Inverkeithing, showing his bus pass and asking for a ticket to the terminus. “Where are you going?” asked the driver, “ because I’m going to Inverness!” She obviously realised he was just having a day out anywhere, using his free pass, and he, realising Inverness was a bit of a distance away, then asked, “Well, where else do you go?” Technically the bus stops at just about every village on the way, if there are people waiting to get on or off, but she gave him the names of some of the bigger places, and the old fellow decided on Pitlochry (nice place. lots to see! ). The bus continued and we arrived in Perth. Our “senior cit” got up and moved to the door. He’d decided he’d just get off there. I thought how nice it was that he could use the pass to just head off somewhere different each day if he got lonely or had nothing to do. Keeps the mind working! I hope he had a pleasant day in Perth. Hope I can still do that when I reach his age!
A few hours later we arrived in the highland capital – the city of Inverness. Janet wouldn’t finish work for another hour or two so I just pottered around the centre for a while, looking in shop windows mostly. I’d never seen this type of whisky before, and liked the display of the bottles in a creel of lumps of peat (dried turf for the fire).
Down Church Street I had a look at Abertarff House,the oldest house in the city, built in 1593 and originally the home of the Frasers of Lovat, Having seen the picture on the website I have linked to here, I will next time want to go through the gate and look at the building from the side! I love 16th century domestic architecture. There’s another picture of the house and other views of the town here.
On the Saturday morning Janet and I came down the town and took a bit of a walk around. Here’s the castle, built in the late 1890s as the jail. There has always been a castle in Inverness since the 11th century but all have been destroyed by one warring faction or another. Today this one is used as the court house.
On the castle hill behind the buildings you see above, is the memorial to Flora Macdonald, who courageously helped the fugitive Prince Charles Edward Stuart, aka Bonnie Prince Charlie, to escape to France, after the Battle of Culloden in 1746 put paid to his hopes of restoring the throne to the Stuart dynasty. I wonder if she’s trying to shoo that seagull away. Her hair is looking very grey these days.
Not far from the castle is the old Town House, a beautiful gothic building also of the 19th century. Looking up the website to find out something about the building, I read that to the left of the door is the…. MEERCAT Cross!!!!! I kid you not! That’s what it says… in black and white! Copied and pasted from the same website I used last time, (scroll down till you come to the bit about the Town House and you’ll find this:) "Outside on the left hand side of the main doorway is the old Meercat Cross”. Of course all you Scotophiles will know that the word should be MERCAT, meaning MARKET. I’ve told the story before on my Peebles blog about the American tourist in Peebles looking for the Meercats she insisted she had seen marked on the map. Maybe she should have been in Inverness instead! (Yes, I know anyone can make a typo, but that’s a good one!) Anyway, you can see the MERCAT Cross in my photo. It’s between the two downstairs double windows on the left of the building – just about in front of the second pair. Next time I’ll take a closer look, because I’ve never noticed it before!
Facing the Town House is a very classical looking building, now in use as a pub but built originally in 1847 for the Caledonian Bank (which later became the Bank of Scotland). You can tell by the banner that it’s Hallowe’en!.
Looking down from Castle Hill across the river Ness is the Scottish Episcopal Cathedral Church of St Andrews, almost completed in 1869, but for two spires that would have been added if funds hadn’t run out at the time.
And this is the main bridge over the Ness, continuing into High Street. Just past the church is the Caledonian old bank. Across the road you can just see the little spires on the Town House. The Castle is on the hill off to the right of my picture, and way ahead at the other end of the street is the modern Eastgate shopping centre, which I haven’t mentioned yet. First I wanted to show you the strange things that you sometimes see on the bridge! What do you call a quantity of Santa Claus’s? We decided on a Merry of Santa’s!
Now here’s the Eastgate Centre, with the War Memorial in the plaza looking like a modern Mercat Cross. Inside the centre, as well as all the best-known High Street shops, you’ll find the clock, which does things on the quarter hour.
Things revolve, or go up and down or side to side. Doors open and close. Mrs Noah catches a fish…. great fun for the kiddies!
so we went out to eat, and were served by a waiter dressed up as the devil and a waitress who was also meant to be from the dark side! There were pumpkin lanterns all over – no turnip lanterns to be found anywhere these days!
The rest of the weekend was wet and dull, so we stayed in, Ray continuing to convert the downstairs cloakroom into a shower room and utility room; Janet and I, relaxing, playing on the computer, watching DVDs, drinking copious cups of tea, and nursing the cat! Pickles is gorgeous, cute and fluffy, with fabulous whiskers, and quite vocal with her mews and mrrrrows. She loves to be brushed and purrs like the proverbial engine, and she just adores to be sitting on someone – and a lot of the weekend that someone was me , not that I was complaining. I love to gave a cat on my knee. By the way, do you know why a cat’s tail goes up in the air when you stroke its back? It’s to stop your hand falling off the end! Oh alright then. So it wasn’t that funny! Pickle-y Pussycat has a kink in her tail, though with all the fluff you don’t notice it, but I think she got her tail caught in a door when she was a kitten cat. It doesn’t seem to bother her at all.
And so the weekend passed and Monday morning came around again. Janet wasn’t feeling too good so stayed off work – no it wasn’t the alcohol. We actually didn’t have any! Ray went off to work though, taking me down to the town first, so I could catch my bus back to Edinburgh and then home to Peebles. What a nice weekend! I should do things like that more often!
Talk again soon.