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The town of Inverness.
The town of Inverness.
Catriona tries the bagpipes.
In search of tartan.


Thursday, November 16, 2000
We go in search of everything Scottish: clans and tartans, whisky and porridge, bagpipes and heather. And no better place to find them than the Highlands.

The Highlands cover the far west and northern half of mainland Scotland. This is where so many things Scottish originated: clans and tartans, whisky and porridge, bagpipes and heather. For many centuries the Gaelic-speaking highlanders went about raising their cattle and having little or nothing to do with their southern neighbours.

Even now more than half the inhabitants of the Highlands live in communities of less than 1000 people. It is best described as one of Europe's last wilderness areas, with large mountains, wide open spaces, seascapes and spectacular scenery.

To get a good idea of the Highlands' capital Inverness, most people take advantage of Guide Friday, a hop-on hop-off open-topped bus which tours the town and surrounding areas.

The round trip takes around 80 minutes, but you can take all day if you want, getting on and off. Buses depart every 15 minutes and each one has a trained guide who gives a commentary.

Inverness is thought to have been founded by King Evansis, who died in 60BC. The River Ness, a tidal river flowing from Loch Ness to the Moray Firth, runs right through its centre. The view from Kessock Bridge or Drumossie Moor explains which generations of Picts, Celts and Gaels found it so attractive.

There has been an Inverness Castle on the same site since the rule of Malcolm of Canmour in 1058. The Jacobites blew it up in 1746 and the current sandstone building was built in 1833, with additions in 1847. Now it's a courthouse, with a statue of Flora McDonald in pride of place.

The scene of the 1746 Battle of Culloden is about 10km out of Inverness. The site has loads of information about the battle, the last to be fought on British soil which saw the slaughter of 1200 highlanders in about one hour. After the battle there were bans placed on clan systems, kilts and bagpipes.

Balnain House was built in 1726 and was one of the first to have a slate roof, a sign of great wealth in those times. During the Battle at Culloden it was used as a hospital and mortuary. In the 1800s it was split into flats and gradually deteriorated, until it fell into total disrepair by the 1940s. A trust was formed in the 1950s and restoration began. It is now the home of highland music. Visitors can try the instruments and listen to a piper there each day.

The museum and Hector Russell Kiltmaker's workshop at the Kiltmaker Centre are worth a look; anyone with a remotely Celtic name can find their clan's tartan.

Nairn is a little seaside town. Each weekend in summer they host the Highland Games. In days of old men got together to show their strength by throwing trees, rocks and hammers, while dancers and pipers entertained the crowd. That tradition is still carried on.

The Best Western Newton Hotel was built in the 1600s and has been a hotel since the 1950s. Charlie Chaplin spent several weeks there every summer and locals call it The Chaplin.


The capital of the Scottish Highlands.


Guide Friday bus tickets cost about $19 for adults and are valid all day.
Best Western's Newton Hotel offers dinner, bed and breakfast starting at around $290 per person per night.
Qantas flies daily to London with British Airways connections to Inverness. Return economy airfares start at $1969 from the east coast, Adelaide and Perth.
Please note prices are valid at time of transmission and to the best of our knowledge are inclusive of GST.

More information

Highlands of Scotland Tourist Board: Ph: (0011 44) 1997 423 106
Qantas: Ph: 13 13 13
Best Western: Ph: 13 17 79

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