Day 3, 21 July 2014
It was early morning when we tied up at the cruise terminal and the port authorities completed the paperwork, before the passengers were allowed ashore.
There were several shore excursions offered, including Dunrobin Castle, Inverness and Colloden, Royal Dornock Whisky distillery, Lochness, Rogie Falls Walk and a sea-life eco-adventure.
We choose Dunrobin Castle as we hadn’t been to the north-east of Scotland before. Other passengers availed themselves of the other tours, including a family history research one at the Inverness Archives, which was arranged by Unlockthepast team members. I did hear later it was a most successful research trip for those who went.
These shore tours can be up to eight hours long and are at the passengers own expense, so some went ashore and wandered about the town of Invergordon taking in the local sites, for free, while others stayed on-board, where there was the Unlockthepast Bookshop to tempt the family historian, as well as a couple of the expert lecturers to help those with research problems.
Dunrobin, belongs to the Duke of Sutherland and is the most northerly of Scotland’s great houses and the largest and one of the oldest continuously inhabited. Standing amid lush, formal gardens that overlook the sea, this white stone chateau contrasts sharply with the usual dark stone of Scottish castles . Like most ancient Scottish castles, Dunrobin started out as a keep, or tower, and is named after the originator, Earl Robin. Although the oldest part of the castle dates from the early 1300’s, subsequent enlargements in the 17th to 19th Century created the beautiful turreted castle you see today.
Although we could view sections of the castle we were not permitted to photograph inside, only outside the castle. There were appropriate postcards and books available in the castle shop for those with a deeper interest.
The magnificent formal gardens were modelled on those at Versailles, France.
On the lower garden terrace the resident falconer demonstrated and explained the different hunting skills used by owls, hawks and falcons and showcased these ancient arts. Falconry was originally developed as a means of hunting fast or difficult prey as food for the table.
Although I do not know much about the ancient arts and hunting as such, I could only stand in awe as we watched the team work between man and bird and the obvious respect for each other. An experience well worth travelling thousands of miles to witness.
You can only truly understand the time and place of your ancestors by researching the local history from documents, books, oral history, photos, paintings and online resources, however none of these beat actually been able to visit the places yourself. To feel the chilling winds, to smell the meadows or experience the sea mists as your ancestors perhaps did, is something else.
Although we do not have ancestry in this part of Scotland, I’m interested in Scottish immigration to New South Wales, and I am aware that tenants of the Duke of Sutherland did emigrate, so I was interested to research a bit of the background of the estate.
This tour was just over four hours so we were back on board the Marco Polo for a late lunch.
The lectures were in the evening, when Eileen O’Duill spoke on research in Ireland. She stressed that planning was the key to success in family research in Ireland. I couldn’t agreed more, but persistence plays a big part too. Although I am still struggling to find information on our families it was very comforting for me to hear Eileen confirm all the steps I have taken, and that it was the best way to approach research in Ireland. At the end of my notes from the session I noted a couple of questions to put to Eileen, when I later booked a meeting in the Research Help Zone time.
It was so light in the late evening we could sit on deck after dinner and admire the calm seas and watch the sun going down in the North Sea as we sailed towards Orkney.