We drove toward Inverness, a place with an evocative name and probably worth more time than we are going to give it. We only stopped long enough to top up our food supply for the next few days. We also learned we must turn off our propane while on the ferry, and that’s what runs the fridge and freezer, so I snagged a handful of blue picnic ice things to freeze ahead. That should keep our food cold during the 12+ hours on the ferry.
I saw on the map that we’re close to Culloden, the site of the last pitched battle on British soil. Yeah, I had to look it up too.
The Battle of Culloden in 1746 marked the final defeat of the Jacobite rising, but if, like me, you don’t have the necessary background in Scottish history, it’s a confusing story. Jack and I hoped the visitors center would clear things up for us but sadly, it did not. Perhaps in an effort to appeal to international visitors, or to give a wider context to the conflict, the beginning aisles of the museum — I hesitate to call it that, because it was just placard after placard to read, with some music background — was all about the other various conflicts happening concurrently overseas. By the time we got to the actual battle in Scotland, we were bleary-eyed and confused. This part of the visitors center was a complete fail.
The better part was an “immersion theatre” that was terrifying, where you stand in the middle of a room surrounded by four screens and experience the battle, turning this way and that, seeing men charging at you, women watching from a distance, the government army standing ground and barely suffering any casualties. Well done on that, National Trust.
Out on the site we caught up with the end of a tour. As with any battlefield monument, it’s hard to imagine the terror and bloodshed, and the ghosts that may still be wandering around. It’s all quiet and peaceful now.
We’re using various apps for crowd-sourced information on legal parkups. During this first couple of weeks of vanlife, we learned we much prefer to spend the night with a water view, so that’s what we’re looking for tonight. There’s a car park at a marina just east of Culloden but the app that lists it leaves us unsure whether overnight parking is permitted.
We find the car park and it’s the usual “pay and display” scheme, where you pay at a kiosk then display the receipt on the dash. At the kiosk is a large sign detailing what’s prohibited, and on the list is overnight parking of vehicles “adapted or manufactured for sleeping,” or words to that effect. A smaller sign, just above the pay station, indicates that campervans and small motorhomes are welcome to overnight for £10. I chose to believe that sign and pulled out my wallet.
I spent a good five minutes navigating this particular pay station, trying to get to the overnight camping option. No matter what I did, the maximum amount I could pay was £3. Other drivers came and went and tried to assist, but in the end they couldn’t figure it out either. Wanting to be on the safe side, I called the number on the machine.
“Parking authority,” came the voice on the other end. I explained we were at the marina car park in a campervan and would like to spend the night but the machine gave me no £10 overnight option.
There was a long pause. Finally he said, “It’s an invitation.”
I didn’t understand.
“You’re invited to pay.” I read the sign more carefully. Sure enough, the sign said, “You’re invited to pay . . . “ then listed the various categories.
“What do you mean?” I said.
“We invite you to pay. Any money collected goes to the Council.”
“I don’t understand.”
“It’s an invitation.”
This was not making any sense to me.
“I’m keen to pay. It’s a beautiful place,” I countered. We circled around a few more times before he finally suggested I pay the maximum the machine would allow, which was £3. I did that and we spent a beautiful night on the waterfront. In the morning I paid another £3. Just because.
Out in the river there were two of these barges with derricks on them. Through the binoculars we couldn’t see any drilling or digging activity and couldn’t figure out what they were. Sometime in the morning a roadwork truck pulled in beside us and I knocked on the window.
“What are those things?” I asked. They told us it was part of a wind farm project, but my further questions didn’t really clear it up. Later we asked a shopkeeper who told us it was oil drilling. We still don’t know. If you’ve got an idea what’s going on here, drop us a comment.
We’ve still got a couple of days until the ferry, and Jack is itching for another castle. That shouldn’t be too hard.