Days 80 & 81. Mon, Tues 22nd, 23rd May. Inverness to Invergordon.
Studying the maps over breakfast, I knew I was in for a lot of road walking today. Over the Kessock bridge from Inverness onto The Black Isle, I should have turned right and headed up the Isle to Cromarty. Not a lot of coast walking as most of that side of the Isle is not accessible but worse than that, on reaching Cromarty I would have to turn around and walk all the way back down the Isle to get accross onto the mainland. There is a ferry that runs across to Nigg but it doesn't start running until 1st June.
Instead, I turned left and walked along the Beauly Firth up to Muir of Ord. It was a lovely walk along the waters edge but then a series of paths and roads to get across land to Dingwall. This got me back on the Muray Firth and back to walking with the water on my right, all was well again. Not the most interesting walk today but just under 16 miles and I avoided a long boring walk with no purpose.
I had a walk around Dingwall when I arrived in the early evening, the lodge was a spectacular looking building and a real shame I didn't get to see inside.
This was a new build as the original Lodge was built in 1871. The original building still stands in the centre of the town and has had many uses over the years. In 1899 the building was used when Sir Hector MacDonald was given the freedom of the Burgh and over 500 Freemasons sat down to dine after the ceremony. Nicknamed 'Fighting Mac', the son of a crofter and operative stonemason, he joined the Gordon Highlanders as a private at 17 years old and finished his career as Major General, rising through the ranks on merit alone. An astonishing career, he was awarded for bravery during the second Afghan war and as a colour sergeant he was given the choice of receiving the Victoria Cross or a commission in his regiment, he chose the later, a rare honour in 1880 and at a time when many commissions were purchased by wealthy families. He was a subaltern in the first Boer War where he was captured but his bravery was again so conspicuous that General Joubert gave him back his sword as a mark of honour and respect. The list of battles he took part in goes on and on and he was repeatedly rewarded first with the DSO and then he was Knighted when Queen Victoria appointed him her aide-de-camp.
In the early 1900's he was involved in a slur campaign in which he was accused of being sexually involved with young boys while serving in India. He was ordered to return to England and it is said that when he met the King in London, he told him the best thing he could do was shoot himself !!! The head of the army ordered him to return to Ceylon to face a court martial to clear his name which he certainly would do but on reading the newspaper while in a hotel in Paris during that journey he read that 'serious charges' were to be laid against him, he returned to his room and shot himself. He was 31 years old. Much was written about the tragedy and a government report stated that they could find no truth in the alleged crime and that the inhuman and cruel suggestions of a crime were prompted through vulgar feelings of spite and jealousy in his rising to such a high rank of distinction in the British Army. They concluded that the late Sir Hector MacDonald had been cruelly assassinated by vile and slandering tongues. He was honourably acquitted of any charges whatsoever, such a waste of an incredible life, perhaps only because of snobbery and jealousy amongst his 'blue blood' peers. Look up the story, it's fascinating, it was even thought that he faked his death and defected to Germany where he fought in the German army in WW1 as General August Von Mackenson, indeed the German high command tried to sap moral amongst the Scottish rank and file who very much regarded him as a Scottish hero.
He is certainly a hero here in Dingwall. All interesting stuff but I was tired so down to the campsite for a shower and I could hear my sleeping bag calling me from the bottom of my pack.
There was already a small tent pitched up but I didn't see or hear any occupants. I woke just before 7am to the smell of bacon frying so climbed out to meet my new neighbour. Peter was 76 years old, from Penzance and travels up every year to Scotland by train to walk in the hills and sleep in his tent, what a legend, 76 years young...
Just before lunch time I'd reached Alness where I was met by Doug and Gary, Doug had driven all the way down from Durness and Gary, a local mason had the keys to open the lodge and put the kettle on. A lovely little lodge that was actually a disused church, nothing special in that I suppose but this little church had been taken down stone by stone, moved from another town and painstakingly rebuilt, minus the steeple which was now attached to the local church... After the look around, Doug drove the three of us to a nearby working farm restaurant and kindly treated us to a lovely lunch. Cheers guys and cheers Doug for lunch. 👍
Refreshed and fed, it was a further four miles or so for me to Invergordon where I was met by Ian, the current Master of the lodge who kindly showed me around.
A lovely little lodge with a lot of history. The building had been used as a hospital during the First World War and the list of those brothers that fell during that war was the longest I've seen yet.
Saying my goodbyes I wandered down to the dock where I'd noticed an enormous cruise ship parked up. I considered stowing away just incase it was heading somewhere exotic but knowing my luck it would take me back to Aberdeen, I'd get discovered and thrown off and I'd have to walk all the way back so instead I headed back up into the town to find somewhere for a coffee where I could check my maps to try to find a suitable place to pitch up. Invergordon is a nice little place with some amazing murals on the walls of the houses and all over the train station, clearly there was someone very artistic living here. I also know that the Stoltman brothers hail from these parts, big lads, one of them a former European Strongest Man and the other 5 times Scotlands Strongest Man. There was a coffee shop but it was closed but fortunately just next door was one of those other kinds of coffee shops, the kind that sells coffee but also beer !!! I walked in the door and the place went wild, honestly you'd have thought Elvis had just entered the building. The pub was full of Americans from the cruise ship. An hour and four pints later, none of which I was permitted to purchase, my new, slightly rowdy United Statesian friends had to haste away before their boat sailed back to Amsterdam without them and I walked out of the town to find a pitch by the water. It wasn't ideal being a bit close to the road but the road was quiet with only the occasional passing car.