All Things Ness – Inverness, Loch Ness & River Ness and yes, vomit.

We made a last minute decision this week to make the journey to Inverness – Capital of the Highlands.

The Journey

You can see the Apple Maps provided us with three different routes, all totaling the same amount of time in the car with our wee beasts. We went with the highlighted route. Why not, right? It was even 10 miles shorter than the other two.

Ho-ly cow.

That route took us through the Cairngorm National Forest. I think the last time I was driving through any kind of mountainous terrain was 5 years ago in Hawaii with my sister who was living there at the time. (I still have nightmares about the narrow road going down to Waipio Valley. That road made these narrow two-way roads seem wide and luxurious.)

It was stunningly beautiful. A lot of the road followed alongside the River Don and through some amazing scenery including quaint villages, “weak” bridges and towering Scots Pines, Juniper and Birch trees. It was breathtaking.

This isn’t the Cairngorms. Just a shot from the drive.

Until the sun set…

…and the only lights came from our car. Or the cars behind us riding our bumper because we were going 40 in a 60 through the dark, winding roads. At one point we came up to a decent so steep (a blind summit, I guess) that I couldn’t see what was ahead. It honestly looked like it could have been a road leading straight off a cliff. One of my hands clutched my own chest while the other pressed on Brett’s in the classic “stop short” move while I pleaded with him to stop before we met our certain and obvious deaths. We inched forward enough to find the road and continued on – sometimes at a 20% grade decline or incline.

Did I mention that at this point it had started to rain? Rain with a little bit of sleet/snow. A nice wintery mix.

Mia had been having a bit of a rough go so far. She was rather cranky and being very vocal in her complaints about various things. She finally settled on a low growl of displeasure that she kept up until she finally fell asleep – only to be shocked into consciousness by a massive amount of vomit spewing forth from her tiny little mouth. We pulled over onto a small patch of grass on the wrong side of the road and plunged into the wintery mix to disrobe and reclothe Mia before we all froze – cars whizzing by the whole time. She was much happier after that though!

All back in the car and about 10 minutes down the road and we realized that we couldn’t find Brett’s phone. Neither of us got out of the car with it but we couldn’t hear it ringing when we called it. So now, on top of the vomit smell radiating from the back seat, Brett was also stewing in frustration about how he’s going to operate with no phone while I tried to convince him that there’s no way I would have dropped it outside.

We finally arrived at our hotel and see that there is a McDonald’s about 100 ft from the front door. Hallelujah. After frantically searching the car, we find Brett’s phone. Double Hallelujah! We haul the kids upstairs with our luggage and Brett runs to get happy meals for the now starving kids while they merrily jump on the beds.

It is at this point when we realize that we didn’t make it in the car with more than one diaper – which Mia will wear to bed – or any wipes. Yes, I know, Parents-of-the-Year. I set out, in the rain/wintery mix, in search of a store. It’ was after 7 PM and there was not a thing open. I made a large block and returned empty handed, passing the baton to Brett to go in search of supplies. Thankfully, he returned successful.

Now it was way past bed time for Mia. She was in her pjs and Brett and I were rooting through the bags for Dog, Hoo, and soft blankie. We both came up empty handed and promptly blamed the other one for forgetting to pack the crucial items. We both knew that bedtime wasn’t going to be good. Brett tried to put Mia down sans her items but she just started screaming. So he improvised by stuffing one of her soft pj tops with an animal on the front with another sweater and telling her it was New-New-New-New Hoo. She bought it and was out like a light.

Our hotel location was awesome. Right in the middle of the city centre and walking distance to the river, tons of stores and restaurants and the aforementioned McDonald’s. Apparently McDonald’s is where the party’s at come midnight! There were lines out the door of fully drunk 20-somethings laughing, fighting and carrying on. Between that and the massive pain I’ve developed on my left hand side, little sleep was had that night.

Wow. I am so old.

Loch Ness

Looks quite eerie, doesn’t it? It was rainy and foggy and cold. Typical Scottish weather. 😉

When in Inverness, you must go to Loch Ness, right? (BTW, loch = lake. So saying Loch Ness is the same as saying Lake Ness.) We booked a lake cruise with Jacobite Cruises to search for Nessie. Fabulous cruise! Huge tables/booths with large windows, full upstairs deck with seats and small decks downstairs off the front and back of the ship and a bar. Naturally, because this is Scotland and kids are considered here, Brooks and Mia were both given activity packs to work on for the duration of the trip. Sadly, Nessie didn’t make an appearance for us.

Some fun facts about Loch Ness:

  • Loch Ness contains more water than all of the lakes in England and Wales combined.
  • Deepest point – 755 ft
  • All fresh water. It was formed around 10,000 years ago at the end of the last ice age.
  • Waters of Loch Ness never freeze over and have an average temperature of 42 F.
  • Earliest report of a monster in the lake came from St. Columba in 565 AD.

Mia telling us that is Bubba’s castle

Leakey’s Bookshop

After the kids napped, we set off on a walk to Leakey’s Bookshop – Scotland’s largest collection of old, rare, and second hand books and maps. I could have stayed all day. Alone of course. Not with the kids. Brooks found books he was very interested in but Mia was only interested in pulling them off the shelves.

On our way there we noticed that in many places, the Scottish Gaelic was used in addition to English.

On the walk home, we went over the River Ness on the pedestrian bridge. It’s a suspension bridge so Brooks had great fun making it shake!

After that we didn’t get to notice much. People were too busy noticing us because Mia and Brooks both lost. their. minds.

Not pictured is Brooks sitting down in the grocery store and SCREAMING because he wanted some kind of candy or something. I don’t remember now.

Clava Cairns

A couple of weekends ago, I joined the AWA photography group to take sunrise photos at Dunnottar Castle. I had a great time and got some pretty decent pics for a novice. I decided I wanted to give it another go – only this time go to Clava Cairns since I hadn’t made it there yet. For you Outlander fans – this is the stone circle where Claire goes through to the 1700s and the alleged inspiration behind the series. Read more about the stones here.

Sunrise was supposed to occur around 8:30 AM but I slept very little the previous night due to the all night party at Mickey D’s and the pain in my shoulder constantly reminding me that I’m getting old, so I made an early jump. I arrived at the stone circle about an hour before dawn. Guess what? There aren’t any lights there – as there aren’t in most of Scotland. I caught a glimpse of the stones when I pulled into the car park – CREEP-Y! So now, I’m sitting alone in 21st century nowhere at the site of an ancient burial ground. I can’t even walk over to the stones because it is so dark that hurting myself or my camera is imminent. Plus, I was legit creeped out and didn’t want to leave the relative safety of my car. Somewhat thankfully, the sky opened up and my picture perfect forecast quickly turned into a wintery mix that was coming down pretty heavily. I was kind of happy to high-tail it out of there. I made it to our car park in time to catch a bit of the blue hour and got these before the wintery mix caught up with me:

We had intended to do a short walk to the Fairy Glens in Rosemarkie but the abrupt change in weather and our reluctance to hear Mia and Brooks complain negated those plans. Instead we packed up to head home stopping my Clava Cairns on the way. It is MUCH less creepy in the day time although it does still give you goosebumps. The stones date back to 2500 BC.

We also stumbled upon the Culloden Viaduct or the Clava Viaduct which is just a massive feat of engineering. It was opened in 1898 and is the longest masonry viaduct in Scotland at 1800 ft. It’s HUGE!

The rest of the ride home was uneventful. Thank God. Everyone got to take a nice long nap when we got home. 🙂

And this morning we woke up to a bit of snow!