Friday, September 29, 2017

Inverness and Cawdor Castle

It's almost time to leave Inverness again after a brilliant few days, this is my third proper visit, and every time I find I like the place more. It's a small city, a little bit shabby in places, and nowhere near as visitor/tourist oriantated as I expected on my first visit. There are a couple of places selling tartan tat, but only a couple. For reasons I really don't understand, especially because it's not far from the whisky Mecca that is Speyside, not to mention the significant number of Highland distilleries which aren't that far away either, there isn't really a proper whisky shop.

On this visit I have found a really good little gallery though, Leakey's bookshop remains magnificent, and I now know how to wrap a medium sized yacht up for the winter (the trick is to get someone else to do the bulk of the job).

In between exploring every side street I could find, and cocooning boats in rope and tarpaulin, we went out to Cawdor Castle and gardens. (Long story short, Shakespeare's history is based on shaky sources for Macbeth, and aimed to entertain James VI (James I of England) who was fascinated by witchcraft to the point of obsession, rather than for educational purposes. The actual Cawdor castle post dates events by quite a long time.

Recent history is far more outlandish than anything in Shakespeare- almost pure soap opera, after the 6th Earl died in 1993 and left the lot to his second wife. The children of his first wife, including the 7th Earl were clearly not impressed, an increasingly bitter, and very litigious, family feud followed.

This is a shame in that the castle still retains the feel of a family home, and looks like it would be an amazing place to spend early childhood, full of all sorts of exciting chances to fall off, down, or into things, and it's rather sad to think this may more longer happen. Meanwhile it's a picture perfect Scottish castle with a liberal quantity of towers, courtyards, turrets, and winding staircases. It's also built round a holly tree (it died sometime in the 14th century, probably not long after it had a house built around it) but the tree is still there for anyone to see - which is one of the best things I've ever seen in an old house. (The legend runs that an early Thane wanted to build a new house, so directed by a dream he put a box of gold on the back of a donkey, and let it wonder about all day, then built his house where it lay down to sleep in the evening - under the tree).

There is also a fantastic collection of art, not just the old portraits that you expect to find in old houses, but a lot of fairly contemporary work, including sculpture and ceramics. The Café was excellent as well.


  1. I love Leakey's bookshop. I visit there everytime I am in Inverness. Glad you have enjoyed your time in the highlands.

  2. its an amazing place (both Leakey's specifically and Inverness generally) this is my 4th visit and I'm really falling for the place

  3. I wish I'd discovered Leakey's on the one time I went to Inverness in the rain. I loved Cawdor Castle though - when I went, probably shortly before the last Earl died, all the guide notes in the house had been written by him and he was quite the wit. I hope some survive.

  4. They all survive, and are reproduced in the guide book as well! I loved them too. Leakey's is an Inverness institution and an excellent place to spend a wet afternoon (although sadly they've got rid of the Café). I'm really coming to love Inverness so would recommend a repeat visit!