Castle Cache Splash

Today we were solid tourists, with a bit of nerdy-ness thrown in.

Firstly, Aimi had to visit Loch Ness. We are so close it would be criminal to come all this way and not see it. On the banks of this, is Urquhart Castle which has been standing in one form or another for over 1500 years. We got out CV-19 approved tickets and wandered around reading the info-plaques and seeing how things were done back in them days. It must have been an impressive place to see in its day, which makes it a real shame that it was destroyed during its abandonment. 

Then we went and had a gander at the Calendonian Canal stack of locks at Fort Augustus. This is a bit of industrial engineering that really gets my juices flowing. It was built over 200 years ago and allows ships to pass from the west coast of Scotland near Fort William, through the centre of the country and emerge on the east coast at the Moray Firth and Inverness. This huge engineering project was undertaken becasue it meant ships didn’t have to navigate the treacherous waters between John’O’Groats and Orkney if they wanted to trade with the eastern side of the country. It was also a huge military tactical advantage to be able to re-deploy your ships on either side of the country in a hurry. Aimi was not so interested in the locks, but enjoyed walking along beside them going “Oooh” and “Ahhh” in all the right places when I got excited.

We spent some time here looking in the gift shops and picked up a few souvenirs. I also re-ignited a previous hobby of mine which is collecting Geo-caches. It was one of the first dates I took Aimi on. For those who dont know (and that is probably most of you becasue you’ve got to be a bit of nerd to know about it) there is a secret global treasure hunt going on all around you. This was around WAYYYY before PokemonGO. Thousands of little boxes of goodies are hidden in public places all over the globe and their GPS co-ordinates are recorded so people can go and find them. There turned out to be one right in the centre of Fort Augustus, tucked into the front wall of a shop.

This sparked an afternoon of driving around the slow side of Loch Ness stopping off at points to collect Geo-caches. We even found a Trackable called Chocolate Frog who had been all over middle Scotland. We collected it and will be dropping it off at a new location soon! I think I collected about 5 in total and only couldn’t find one of them, before a brown attractions sign caught our interest. The Foyers Falls was close by. Aimi had already expressed a desire to see some waterfalls, so we went to take a look. Just before we pulled away, an autumn-red fluffy tail bounced across the road and into the grass. It was a red squirrel scurrying to its tree with a nut or something in its mouth. We had seen notices that there were around, but hadn’t seen one yet. I’d never seen one before, but can see why they would suck in a fight against a grey squirrel, they are noticeably smaller and more lithe.

The waterfall was definitely Brown Sign worthy. Down about a hundred wooden steps was a viewing platform, overlooking a huge hole in the ground, into which cascades a huge waterfall. This must have been about 50m tall and a sheer drop into a black pool of water. Apparently this waterfall was famous across Europe in the 1800’s for its majesty and apparently contributed to the Scottish highlands’ romantically remote appeal. What is better known is that since 1895 the flow rate has been much reduced because a significant portion of it was diverted to be used producing hydro electricity. This was for an aluminium smelting plant on the banks of Loch Ness that brought hundreds of jobs to the area and was vital in WW2 for producing aluminium for aircraft. Today it produces electricity for general consumption and the waterfalls look amazing to me, so in my eyes, everyone wins.