Bishops Visit – Fort Augustus, Fort William and the Western Highland Museum

Once again the day started brilliantly. Clear skies and truly brilliant sunshine suggested a magnificent day. Our goal was to get to Oban on the west coast travelling down Loch Ness past Urquhart Castle onto Fort Augustus and Loch Oich. From there we wanted to be in Fort William for lunch, visit the Highland Museum and then go onto Oban to sup a dram of their wee fine spirit.

Travelling through Inverness to the Loch took no time at all. The ruins of Urquhart Castle seemed little changed from 1990 except there was now a visitor’s centre and a fee for admission. We had seen enough ruins so we moved on quickly enjoying the scenes across the Loch. Nerida had the desire to drink from the Loch. After some whining from the back seat, I stopped and granted her wish. It was at this time she was certain she saw a large dinosaur looking animal in the water – I told her it was her reflection and beat a hasty retreat to the car. After she had her drink and promised no retribution for the Nessy crack, we moved on to Fort Augustus.

In the aftermath of the Jacobite rising in 1715, General Wade built a fort (taking from 1729 until 1742) which was named after the Duke of Cumberland.  The fort was captured by the Jacobites in April 1745, just prior to the Battle of Culloden. In 1867, the fort was sold to the Lovat family, and then passed to the Benedictine order. The monks established Fort Augustus Abbey and later a school. In 1998 the monks abandoned the site, and it reverted to the Lovat family which in turn sold it.

Of principal interest to us was the series of locks in the centre of the village. The Caledonian Canal connects the Scottish east coast at Inverness with the west coast at Corpach near Fort William. It was constructed in the early nineteenth century by engineer Thomas Telford, and at Fort Augustus it has 5 locks giving access into Loch Ness for traffic from the Irish Sea. Intended for commercial traffic it appears now to be principally pleasure craft. Very picturesque.

The trip into Fort William was equally pleasant. Sunshine, a fair wind and great scenery made the trip very pleasant. On arriving in Fort William we made our way to the Western Highland Museum on Cameron Square. Although not what I expected it was very interesting. One of the features for me was a set of bag pipes said to have been played in battle in 1344. Who keeps old bag pipes for 670 years?

“The West Highland Museum is one of the oldest museums in the Highlands. It was founded in 1922 by a group of local enthusiasts led by Victor Hodgson, who had neither a collection nor a building to display it in. In 1925, after several temporary exhibitions and the acquisition of significant collections, the Museum launched a fundraising appeal, and in 1926 purchased the present building, a former branch of the British Linen Bank.” See their web page

Fort William is the 2nd largest settlement in the highlands and a major tourist centre with Ben Nevis nearby. Named firstly after King William (William of Orange) and then renamed only to be named after the Duke of Cumberland it was established firstly during the English Civil War by Oliver Cromwell and reinforced as a fort against the Jacobites and the uprisings during the first part of the 18th century with the present township developing around it. The Caledonian Canal finishes near here with 8 locks.

Neptune’s Staircase at Banavie, near Fort William just north of Loch Linnhe is the longest staircase lock in Britain lifting boats 64 feet (20 m). It consists of eight locks, each 180 feet (55 m) by 40 feet (12 m) and it takes about 90 minutes to pass through the system.

Bishops Visit – Ullapool – Granny Who?

One of the reasons we travelled to Inverness was to enable Doug Bishop to visit the place of birth of his granny. At first he said the village was just outside Inverness. Then we find it is just outside Ullapool which is just outside Inverness. Well on the other side of the country from Inverness actually.

Despite this set back we determined to see what we could see. Now Ullapool is on the west coast and Inverness is on the east coast of Scotland. Fortunately this must be the shortest distance across the country – only 79 miles, so after 1 hours driving through some very pretty hills and glens, we arrived in Ullapool.


The weather was once again kind to us with the sun racing us across the country. I think we won because there was still daylight in Ullapool when we arrived. The post office was our first place to visit. Enquiries with the postmaster revealed that Granny’s village was a further 40 miles north along a rather crude track. The sun was tracking below the horizon and the weather had decided to rain on our party. So we decided that Doug needed to do some more research before we trekked into the wilderness of the Highlands.

We took some shots of this lovely little village and its harbour before finding FBI – Ferry Boat Inn – the locals find the abbreviation amusing. FBI had a lovely fire with views over the harbour. So we warmed our selves with fire and fire water (Whisky) before dining and heading back to Inverness. The journey home was a little less comfortable to the journey there. With darkness falling around 5.00pm, travelling home at 7.30pm was pitch blackness without aid of street lights in drizzling rain.

Bishops Visit – Fort George – An expensive insurance policy

Outside of Inverness is Fort George. Built following the defeat of the Jacobite rebellion at Culloden in 1746, the fort was intended to be a deterrent to further rebellion by the Clans who sought to restore the Stuarts to the throne of England and Scotland. It cost 200,000 pound which was an enormous sum for the time. It incorporates some old defensive items like two moats and draw bridges, a palisade, battlements and watch towers, but it includes modern innovations like the low profile and the star shape none of which has ever been tested as James fled to France never to contest his right to the throne against William and Mary. By the way Jacobite takes its name from Jacobitism, from Jacobus, the Latin form of James.

The fortification is based on a Star design, it remains virtually unaltered and nowadays is open to visitors with exhibits and recreations showing use at different periods, while still serving as army barracks. Originally the depot of the Seaforth Highlanders and later the Queen’s Own Highlanders (Seaforths and Camerons), it was more recently home to the Royal Irish Regiment, and as of 2007, the new garrison of the Black Watch, 3rd Battalion, Royal Regiment of Scotland.


The fort housed a lieutenant-governor as administrator and as the fort became like mini village wives and children also. The governor’s residence has been turned into the Highlanders’ Museum – well worth a visit to understand all the different highland regiments that have been formed.


As it is on the end of a promontory into the Firth of Moray, it is open to the wind and it must get bitterly clod on the battlements. My trip up on a sunny day with little wind was enough for me to be certain I did not want any guard duty. Entry costs about 8 pound and you get an audio tour guide. When we returned our audio guides to the gift shop, I noticed “Stag’s Breath”. so one of my readers will be happy to know that I remembered him despite his criticism of my blogs – he may be lucky enough to see it arrive back to Australia unopened.

Bishops Visit – Thoresby Hall – Ingrid Pears MBE

In July 2013, we visited Nottingham to manage the business for a couple of weeks and in that time we met Ingrid who was then a member of and then President of the Rotary Club of Nottingham. On the night of our visit to the Club, they conducted a raffle for a piece of Ingrid’s work; a modern styled glass vase, and of course we won it. It is a delight piece and with this introduction we felt compelled to visit Ingrid at her studio. Her studio is located at Thoresby Hall, a former Abbey taken over by Warner Hotels and renovated into a luxury hotel. The former stables form a commercial area in which Ingrid has developed her studio. Her web site is worth a visit:

We had visited her again in February and now with Doug and Nerida in tow we visited again. On arriving we found Ingrid in the middle of prepare new stock for her showroom. She is preparing glass balls for the Xmas trees of England and this particular ball has golden specks.


We can never visit Ingrid’s showroom without purchasing a piece of her exquisite glass. But as this is my Xmas present there is no peeking until after Santa has been.

Bishops Visit – Brodie and the Laird Brodie


Our first icy windscreen but the day is clear. After removing the ice, we decide to drive east to the estates of Clan Brodie.

In 1990 Kerry and I were in Scotland and we discovered Brodie Castle. This was the ancestral home of Clan Brodie and the Laird’s (known as the Brodie) home. The area is named Brodie so he is the Brodie of Brodie. The Brodie’s have mysterious origins but can claim their rights to the ancestral lands come from a grant form Robert the Bruce in the 13th century.

We were fortunate to be shown the castle by the Brodie Montagu who used the name Ninnian because of his theatrical interests. Ninnian died in 2003 but before dying he entrusted Brodie castle to the National Trust of Scotland. The present Brodie is Ninnian’s grandson Alexander but he no longer resides in the ancestral castle.

Now in 2014 we have returned. We chose an excellent day for our visit. The sun was shining brightly and the sky was a clear pale blue. The wind was light but chilly. As we pulled into the car park there was a sense that something was wrong. Nevertheless we walked down the path leading to the castle and saw that there were cars parked beside the castle. The castle is closed to the public for the season and this is the staff arriving to undergo training and to attend to cleaning and maintenance. Kerry checks the web site and then rings to find out why the web site says it is open. This leads to the Estate manager letting us into the castle and arranging a personalised tour for us.

The present castle is a mixture of a 16th century defensive tower, and extensions in the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries. We only got a shortened version of the full tour viewing the basement hall of the tower with its ancient armaments and memorial to the Brodie Castle a member of the family constructed in Madras India, the space that was the original kitchen now part of the entry, the library, the dining room with it extremely different ceiling (plaster ornaments decorate the entire ceiling), the drawing room and it’s supplements from the Gordon Clan through a fortuitous marriage. No photos allowed so you will have to visit it yourself one day. I can recommend it.


Castle Brodie
Castle Brodie