Posts Tagged ‘history’

Inverness, A Brief History.

Inverness has a rich tapesty of history with a long and sometimes chequered past, there are mentions of some historical names having spent time within the perimeters of this location and for the most part these visits often were not of the tourism kind! Here is a brief account of when and how this now fast growing city began.


Inverness is regarded as the capital of the Scottish Highlands. Inverness, meaning the mouth of the River Ness.

Beginning as an ancient settlement, in the 6th century AD St Columba is supposed to have visited the Pictish King Brude at his fortress there.

Centuries later in 1040 it is told that Macbeth murdered King Duncan at his castle, which stood on the site of Auld Castlehill.

Inverness was made a royal burgh early in the 12th century by King David (1124-1153) who also erected a new stone castle (there had been a wooden fort for centuries before), later in that century King William the Lion gave Inverness four charters (A charter was a document that gave townspeople certain rights).  By 1180 a ditch and a wooden stockade surrounded Inverness.

In 1233 a Dominican Friary was founded in Inverness. The Friars were like monks , however, instead of retreating from the world they went out to preach, earning the name the Black Friars due to the colour of their costumes.

Medieval Inverness was a busy place, and though the Middle Ages were a troubled time for Scotland, it was a violent and lawless age, industries such as fishing and shipbuilding flourished. During this period the main exports were wood, fur and hides. By the middle of the 13th century a bridge had been built over the River Ness.

Early in the 14th century the stone castle was largely destroyed by Robert the Bruce, it was rebuilt early in the 15th century.

It was during the Middle Ages that the Abbot of Arbroath’s men burned the friary and part of Inverness, the buildings being mainly constructed from wood with thatched roofs made this easy, however, it also made it easy to re-build.

In 1411 Donald, Lord of the Isles, burned down part of the town, regeneration again, then in 1428 the King arrested the Lord of the Isles Alexander MacDonald (Donald’s son), and some clan chieftains in Inverness. After his release the Lord attacked Inverness and partly destroyed it, Inverness again recovered and continued to prosper.

Inverness in the 16th and 17th Century

During this period Inverness continued to be a busy port and market town. In 1591 it was granted a new charter called the Golden Charter.

In 1562 Queen Mary visited Inverness, she tried to enter the castle but was refused by the governor as there had been a family disagreement with the Queen, She stayed elsewhere in Inverness but the governor’s fate was sealed and he was later hanged.

One of the oldest surviving houses in Inverness, Abertarff House was built around 1593. In 1644 the wooden bridge over the Ness collapsed. It was replaced with a stone bridge which survived until the 19th century. In the period between 1652-1657, during the English occupation of Scotland, Cromwell’s men built a citadel in Inverness, but it was demolished in 1662. Today only the clock tower (Cromwell’s Clock tower) remains. The rubble was put to good use, helping to build Dunbar’s Hospital (almshouses) in 1668 by Provost Alexander Dunbar. The Old Town Cross or Mercat Cross was erected in 1685. Nearby is the Clach-na-Cudain or stone of the tubs, where women would rest on their way back home from washing their clothes.

Inverness in the 18th Century

Inverness Castle was enlarged early in the 18th century by George Wade. The Jacobites captured the fort in March 1746. Later the Jacobites were crushed at Culloden and government forces’ laid mines under the fort to destroy it. After the collapse of the Jacobite rebellion the government erected Fort George some miles from Inverness.

Several new important buildings were erected in Inverness during the 18th century. Balnain House was built in 1726. The Court House was built in 1789. In 1791 a steeple was built to be part of Inverness prison, it still stands! Inverness Academy was built in 1792.  Most of the houses built during this time were still simple huts, most had thatched roofs ad many had clay floors.

During the 18th century Inverness continued to be a busy port and market town. In 1732 Citadel Quay was built which help enhance the fortunes of many dwellers in the city. Though many, now having a little more money to spend probably developed a liking towards alcohol as the brewing and distilling industries started to become very important in the late part of the 18th century. The first bank in Inverness opened in 1775.

Inverness in the 19th Century

The building of the Citadel Quay led onto more waterways construction, in 1817 Thornbush Quay was built, and later (1822) the Caladonian Canal to link east and west Scotland. However, it was not a great success. Where-as the railway which reached Inverness in 1855 was extremely popular as it made it very easy for tourists to travel to the Highlands and to transport goods, thus boosting the economy again.

A boom in building was to follow with The Royal Northern Infirmary opened in 1804 and a new ‘castle’ was built in Inverness between the period of the period of 1834-1846, it was designed by Alexander Ross. The Town House was also built during this period (1882) as was the first public library (opened 1883), as well as the towns first public museum.

Inverness gained several big improvements during this period for its inhabitants also, its first newspaper rolled into production in 1808, and the city gained gas light and water supply, however, many of the houses still had thatched roofs and clay floors.

The Ness Bridge which had stood since the 17th century was destroyed in a flood in 1849, It was replaced by a new bridge in 1855. Meanwhile a second bridge called Waterloo or Black Bridge was built in 1808. Infirmary Bridge was built in 1817.

Trades began to reach new heights in Inverness during this period, shipbuilding, rope making, sail making, tanning and wool all proved profitable and in 1817 a sheep market began in Inverness.

Inverness in the 20th Century

By the early 20th century Inverness had a population of 21,000; it would double in size during the 20th century.

As in the past industries like shipbuilding and distilling continued to prosper, these were now joined by tweed production and engineering amongst others. The port continued to be busy.

Tourism also boomed for Inverness becoming a major industry.

The Highlands College opened in 1960. A new Ness Bridge was built in 1962. Eden Court Theatre opened in 1976. The Eastgate Shopping Centre was opened in 1980 and the Kessock Bridge was built in 1982.

Inverness in the 21st Century

Inverness was officially made a city in 2000. Today the population of Inverness is 47,000 and is continually growing.

The Eastgate Shopping Centre was enlarged in 2003 and the museum (though given a number of transformations over the years) was totally overhauled in 2007.

The college was renamed UHI and moved to a new site on the outskirts of the city given an upgrading to University status in 2015.

And there has been rumours of the Castle being opened to the public as a visitors centre (currently used as a Court House).

Inverness is a city at the heart of the beautifully wild Scottish Highlands and as its past has shown it will continue to grow and evolve but will not lose any of its rustic charm.



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Four Hidden Gems in and around Inverness.

Being the only city in the Highlands, Inverness has a number of visitor attractions in and around the area. If you’re tired of the hotspots and are looking for somewhere a little out-of-the-ordinary to visit, perhaps you should give one, or all of these places a try…….


clootieMunlochy, Clootie Well.

The “Clootie Well” a healing well at Munlochy on the Black Isle may bemuse travellers who pass it on their travels along  the A832 from Fortrose to Cromarty, an eerie sight will catch your eye. If you know nothing of this magical place it’ll definitely take you by surprise, it is well worth a stop.

In Scot’s “Cloot” means a rag, strip of material, patch or garment.

Clootie wells are relatively rare, usually only found in Celtic nations. They are wells or springs, usually with a tree growing alongside, you will find an assortment of garments or rags left, tied to the branches of the trees surrounding the well, unmissable as you drive past this particular well.

In pre-Christian times is it said that a goddess or local nature spirit inhabited the well, they possessed special healing powers. Later in Christian times these where replaced by a Saint, in this case the well is dedicated to St Boniface (he is the patron saint of Germany and the first archbishop of Mainz. He was born in the kingdom of Wessex, today Devon, England and was killed in Frisia, Germany in 754).

There are many traditions relating to the rags being tied to the trees surrounding the well, but the most popular belief is that if you or a relative are ill you must tie a piece of rag to one of the trees after dipping it in the water of the well. It is said it will aid the recovery of the ailing individual.

There is an ample sized car park with a short walk up to the well, can be wet underfoot.




Leakey’s Bookshop

If it is a bit miserable outside, or perhaps you fancy a bit of retail therapy or maybe just sometime out to relax, a must to visit is this wonderfully quirky bookshop, I’m sure you wouldn’t be surprised to bump into Harry Potter or one of his companions there; he certainly wouldn’t seem out of place!

Found on Church Street, Inverness, Leakey’s has been housed in the old Gaelic church for the last 20 years. Est. in 1979 it is Scotland’s second largest second-hand bookshop with 100,00 selected volumes. The enviable collection has been built up from all over the Highlands taking over 30 years to accumulate.  It is a building full of atmosphere and character, a great place to lose an afternoon.



money treeThe Fairy Glen

The fairy Glen is located in a beautiful wooded area in Rosemarkie, easily found if taking a trip over to the beach.

The glen is wooded with Beech, Rowan, Ash and Oak and is at its prettiest during the spring when you will be met with a carpet of bluebells and primroses.

The walk is a two mile track and is fairly easy underfoot though there are some steep parts. You will take a relaxing trail past an old mill pond which is at least 200 years old and you will view two waterfalls. The trail is maintained by the RSPB so keep a keen eye open for some of the native birdlife, including Grey Wagtails, Dippers and Buzzards.

As with many of the Highlands natural attractions Fairy Glen is steeped in local folklore. An old tradition during the spring was for local children to decorate a pool with flowers – this was said to ensure the fairies kept the water clean. There is also a “money tree” which has a number of coins hammered into it, meant as an offering to the fairies.

From the Inverness direction, proceed through Rosemarkie village, passing the Plough Inn on your right and round the sharp left bend. After approx 150 m, you will see the car park on the right.


Clava Cairns

Clava Cairns was built around 4,000 years ago and were built to house the dead.

Located only a short distance from Culloden battlefield this astounding prehistoric burial site would have once been part of a larger complex, now only three parts remain, only two are accessible to the public and are open all year round.


There little is known about who the cairn builders were, as no documentation was left at the site, it is however clearly Bronze. This is a profoundly atmospheric place that does not receive as much attention as it deserves.

Set within a beautiful spot within a small wood, Balnuaran of Clava comprises:

  • two passage graves
  • a kerb ring cairn
  • a central ring cairn and standing stones
  • Milton of Clava, a short distance to the south-west, includes:
  • the remains of a medieval chapel
  • the remains of another cairn and possible standing stonesFind Clava Cairns 6 miles east of Inverness, signposted from the B9091, approx 300 yards east of Culloden Battlefield.
  • Car park available.
  • The three well preserved cairns at Balnuaran each have a central chamber but only two have entrance passages. Each cairn is surrounded by a ring of standing stones, and look closely at these stones, you may notice many have cup marks on them, suggesting they have been reused, perhaps from another earlier sacred site.

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Tangle Tower. An Epic Project!

Our connection with Tangle Tower began on 2014 when my parents purchased what we now know as Tangle Tower. My father (along with many others) had admired this gem of a property for years, and when it eventually came onto the market he needed no prompting, he placed a bid which was accepted.  The building had been left in a state of disrepair after its elderly owner had sadly died. For years the building stood empty, perhaps it proved too expensive a project during the years of recession that had prevailed, or maybe the immense size of the project put some people off? Whatever the reason it was feared locally that a large company would purchase the space and flatten the old building.


Work began almost immediately, the family (and a few friends) were called in and the work began. After what seemed like months of clearing, demolishing, burning, scrapping and cleaning and endless runs to the local tip and a visit from the local fire brigade along the way! We finally had an empty building and grounds, now the real work could begin. Drawings and plans previously put together could now come to fruition.

Over the coming months builders and tradesmen frequented the building and slowly but surely the property as we know it started to come to life. Local residents would often pop over, offering tea, coffee and nibbles to keep us going (which were much appreciated given the first few weeks we had no heating or proper electricity!) Often they would stand and chat, recalling their memories, many from childhood, of the Tower and its previous owners.

We planned to keep many of the older features and incorporate them within our new interior. This included the original stairway and handrail (up to the first floor),the red sandstone wall in the living area and bathroom and the flagstone flooring in the stairwell / hall area, we even (eventually) re-used bricks that originally created the floor in the ground level to make a path in the garden! Unfortunately lots of pieces were past saving, our biggest disappointment was the old Victorian train carriage that had sat in the garden for almost a century…Initially we had hoped to save at least part of it to use as a sheltered seating area in the garden, this was however not to be, despite our best efforts it was too dilapidated to save. After it had been demolished a resident contacted us with this picture and short piece of info:

Tangle Tower oldie” My mother was born here in 1933… well, she was born in the railway carriage which was still in the garden until fairly recently. At that time it was called Aird Villa. Her family (my grandparents) lived in the railway carriage, but moved into the house when the previous tenants vacated it. My mother died in August 2014, and just days later the old railway carriage was dismantled and disposed of. The new owner has made a lovely job of the house, my mother would have loved it. The carriage is in the background of this photo. My maternal grandmother is on the left, with her parents, and two of her four daughters (my aunts) in the foreground.”

Mid 2015 the new interior was gradually coming together, we had new walls, windows, under floor heating and oak flooring through-out. The kitchen had been fitted, along with the major appliances, new windows, new cladding and a wonderful zinc roof! The stonework had been re-pointed, the garden weeded, with a high fence now gave privacy to a large sized garden. The triple garage was up and usable (despite it showing on Google Earth as two builders standing in the foundations!).

It was now time to begin painting and dressing the rooms. This was where I came in. We all agreed to incorporate the seaside theme, therefore, calming tones, with textural elements and one or two quirky nods to the history of Tangle Tower in the form of antique collectables.


Six months later and we were ready to go! The transformation was amazing, looking back at photo’s now I find it hard to imagine how it evolved, but it did and we are certainly very pleased with our hard work.   The top floor now has uninterrupted panoramic views and doubles as a third bedroom with a large sofa-bed, therefore sleeping up to 6. Dolphins and seals as well as a multitude of birdlife can be viewed from the top floor, and there is plenty to see given the Merkinch Nature Reserve being at the end of the street!

The second floor boasts a double bedroom with beautiful antique furniture, painted in cool calming tones and crisp white luxurious bedding.

On the ground floor you will find a large bathroom kitted out with a huge shower, roll-top bath and luxurious towels. Alongside an airy living area with BT television and WIFI which leads onto a large kitchen diner, boasting all the mod-cons, including a dishwasher, fridge, washing machine, coffee machine and much more. Leading from this you will discover a large double bedroom with a king-size bed, again furnished with antique furniture. You can exit the exterior of the building via both lower floor bi-fold doors onto a patio area which overlooks the beach and the Moray Firth and with a private garden either side it is ideal for barbecues.



Kitchen Diner

There is parking for one just by the front door with additional parking in the triple garage, where you will also find a barbecue and garden furniture if the weather warrants it.

Needless to say, this project was epic, and had a few pitfalls, one of which landed my father in hospital! But it has not deterred us and we are currently searching for our next “family” project! So watch this space! For now we proudly introduce you to our Tangle Tower and trust you will enjoy your stay.

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