Wot - no snappy title for today's blog, just the boring "Inverness". Perhaps that reflects our thoughts! We'd expected the town to be a thriving metropolis, the hub of Scottish Highland life, after all it is the only major town for many, many miles. Trouble is, like many British towns it has been "modernised". It all starts with a good ring road to defend the town centre from traffic, once there is a good footfall, er 'carfall' on the ring road then out of town shopping centres spring up, Large supermarkets take the trade from the smaller town centre shops, chain stores like Boots, M&S et al open large stores in ther out of town shopping meccas, marginalising their inner-city stores. High inner city rents and a now substantially reduced footfall drive small shops out of business, to be replaced by, at best charity shops, at worst derelict buildings. To be fair Inverness city centre is no worse than most, and has a new small shopping mall, Boots and M&S are here too and there are new buildings showing some inner city regeneration. But not much else.
Trouble with Inverness apart from the shops there's not much else of anything else either. The castle is the working law court and so doesn't entertain visitors. The town museum and art gallery is in a nice new building but quite small in comparison to the town's stature and nowhere near as enthralling as its counterpart in Kirkwall, say.
I guess the day didn't start well, roadworks mean our local bus stop probably has been removed so it is a further walk than anticipated to the bus. Now bus driving in Scotland is a very specialised occupation. As well as the mandatory driving test and route awareness each driver has to undergo a lobotomy removing any possibly concept of civility, and basic conversational skills are carefully groomed out of them in a intensive training program. Our driver this morning graduated bus school with honours, and it appears that many of the shop assistants we encountered today may be taking bus-driving classes as night school
The tourist information did have a walking guide to the town but it didn't seem particularly interesting (there were two assistants at the information centre, a fairly helpful young lady and an ex-bus driver).
So a mooch around, the usual tourist shops but a couple of genuine highland-wear shops where you could probably only buy an item if you could provide 3 separate pieces of indisputable heritage to the particular clan tartan you were interested in. It just wasn't our day though. The board games shop was closed when we passed, the beer shop we saw last night was just a little too far off the centre to merit a special journey. Liz decided she wanted to return to one shop - when we got their we found it had closed at 16:00, the current time being 15:58. Still the wool shop across the road doesn't close to 16:30 so we arrive there at 16:05 to find that closed too. Into a CAMRA recommended pub with 10 handpumps on, mostly serving local beers - there were only 5 handpumps, none local. Ok try another pub, yes, local Cromarty beer, pulling my pint the barrel runs out before I could even get a taster! I suppose the highlight of the day was the sex toys vending machine in the loo which Liz assures me was very similar in the Ladies too.
Back to the van for an earlier evening than expected. At least Liz's lamb stew has been haybox slow cooking all day and is superb.And I suppose it does mean I get chance to do the Sudoko, finish the I newspaper cryptic crossword (been a while since I finished a proper cryptic) and write two blog entries.
The downside is, in a fit of exuberance and expectation we booked 3 nights here. We've exhausted the city today, so what to do tomorrow? Just across the road from us there is a cruise ship that tours Loch Ness, that would be nice. Well it would be if it started running a couple of weeks earlier than the 1st of June! Oh well, perhaps that rain that decided we skipped Inverness a couple of week's ago was an omen.
Inverness must have something going for it, since we arrived at the fairly empty campsite last night, about 7 vans have arrived today. Next to us some Japanese folk have rented quite a large van which they seem to enjoy taking out for 30 minute rides, having been on and off site 2 or 3 times in the last couple of hours. Not sure I'd be so confident treating such a big van as a little run-around.