North and South

North and South

When planning this break my initial plan was to go north at the start of the week and stay a few days and visit Fort George, a place I’ve wanted to visit for a few years now. Fort George is an army garrison that was built in the 18th century to try control the rebellious highlanders.

I planned to stay in Inverness and travel the few miles to Ardersier to visit the fort however after some thought I decided instead to stay in Nairn, a place I had last visited in the 1980s. I have fond memories of the town where movie star Charlie Chaplin was a frequent visitor.

The Muthu Newton Hotel is where Charlie Chaplin used to holiday every year.

The day after booking my accommodation in Nairn I got a message from a friend who lives in London that he had tickets for the Brentford Leicester City game and did I want to come down to London and spend a few days there and take in the game.

Brentford Community Stadium

I jumped at the chance. I hadn’t seen Brentford’s new stadium so the chance to see friends, visit some of the sights and see the new stadium proved too strong. The only thing was the game was being played on Sunday and that would mean I’d need to change my booking for Nairn.

So after a quick call to the hotel in Nairn to rearrange my booking I was online to book my travel to London!

London is a place I like to visit from time to time. My friend lives in Brentford and I see him few times a year when he travels to Scotland to see his family but now and again I like to travel to the big smoke and soak up the atmosphere.

I flew down to Heathrow and took the tube to South Ealing where my friend was waiting to greet me with the magical words…. “Are you hungry? Do you fancy going for some Indian food?

How could I refuse!

My plan for Saturday was to visit a couple of the famous museums, namely the Science Museum and the Victoria & Albert Museum. Which was really quite fortunate as they are across the street from each other. On the way to the museums I passed by another famous museum, the Natural History Museum and found that London was already gearing up for Christmas!!

Unsure if Halloween or Christmas was approaching I headed off to the Science Museum where I was sure I was in for an enjoyable few hours.

On Sunday it was a short walk in the morning sunshine to the Brentford Community Stadium the new home of Brentford FC. The new stadium replaces Griffin Park and is less than a mile away from the old ground.

Brentford v Leicester City

When we took our seats, after some morning hospitality, I noticed in the west side of the ground a saltire flag was hanging from one of the handrails, see photo below, so using the camera on my phone I was able to zoom in on the flag and what I saw astounded me. Not only was it a saltire but in the middle of the flag was the Brentford crest with the words Fife Bees. We were not the only Fifers in the crowd that day.

As you can see in the photo above our seats for the match were immediately behind the press crop which was very fortunate as it turned out. During the game the press are given replays of incidents that take place during the game. So every time there was a talking point we just leaned forward and watched the incident on the press’ monitor.

The day after the football it was an early train from Kings Cross Station back home to Scotland and a repacking of my bag with fresh clothing for the next part of my trip which meant a drive up north to Nairn.

I last visited Nairn in the early eighties and I was keen to see what changes had taken place over the years since my last visit. The beach was just as I remember it apart from the huge tree trunk that was imbedded in the sand, see below.

The town centre is like most town centres these days with shops closed and boarded up but you could still sense that the town was a very prosperous place in its day.

The purpose of my trip up north was to visit Fort George. The fort has been the home to the British Army since the Jacobean rising of 1745. The fort has a unique star design and basically, remains unchanged since it was built. As well as being home to the Black Watch, 3rd Battalion, Royal Regiment of Scotland the fort also contains the Highlanders Museum which contains artefacts relating to the Queens Own Highlanders and the Lovet Scouts, the Scouts were a precursor to the SAS.

I spent the remaining time I had visiting Elgin Cathedral, this must have been a magnificent building in its time. Sadly after the Reformation the cathedral was abandoned and allowed to decay. The building dates back to the 13th century and in its day it was the most important church in the area.

On my way back to my hotel I stopped off at Findhorn Bay and had a walk along the lovely beach which even in late October was busy. I was surprised to see beach huts as I thought this was an English thing. I have never come across beach huts in Scotland before but perhaps that has something to do with me not visiting a lot of Scottish beaches!

On my last day on this trip I decided I would visit Culloden battlefield and Ruthven Barracks as these were on my way home. Culloden Moor is the site of the last major battle on British soil. It was here on the 16 of April 1746 that Charles Edward Stuart or Bonnie Prince Charlie and his army faced the Duke of Cumberland’s forces. It is estimated that over 1500 men lost their lives in the battle which brought to an end the Young Pretender’s uprising.

As you walk around the battlefield you notice how eerie it is. Flags mark the battle lines and markers show where each clan or group of men stood before the battle commenced.

There is also a modern visitor centre which tells the story from the perspective of each army and has a 360 degree film showing an re-enactment of the battle.

Ruthven Barracks

It was then off to Ruthven Barracks which is a ruined army barrack built after the first Jacobite rising in 1715. It sits just off the A9 trunk road just outside Kingussie and you can’t but help notice it as you drive up or down the A9. Previously every time I drove up or down the A9 I’d say to myself I must visit that place and find out more about it. So after leaving Culloden that next stop was Ruthven Barracks. To get to the barracks you have to go through the village of Kingussie, a place I remember staying at many years before when I took a group of young people skiing in the Cairngorms. Happy days!

There is a small carpark at the barracks with an information board displaying some of the history of the place. As can be seen from the photo above the barracks sits atop a small mound and has a commanding view of the surrounding area. In its day the building must have been a formidable place. With two three story buildings enclosed by high walls and with bastian towers the barracks look impregnable however it was destroyed by the Jacobites following their defeat at Culloden.

After visiting Ruthven Barracks it was time to head down the A9 to the wet and windy Fife and another trip was over but already I am planning my next trip.

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