We spent all day yesterday sailing north from Greenock to Invergordon. During both world wars Invergorden was an important deep water anchorage for the British fleet, but these days only the fuel storage tanks remain to remind us of that time. Today North Sea oil operations have helped to put this tiny town back on the map. Oil rigs are towed here by tugs to be repaired and renovated. The drab and gray town is enlivened by murals painted on many of the buildings and huge flower baskets. All the towns in Scotland are competing this summer for best flower display. The town fathers supply the raw materials and the residents give them lots of TLC.
The 3,000+ passengers on the Crown Princess rather overwhelmed this town of 1,400. But we were not here to see Invergordon; it was simply a great place to dock. Many boarded tour buses to visit Loch Ness, whiskey distilleries, and area castles. But we were lucky enough to book a tour limited to eight tourists in two 4 wheel drive vehicles. This Highlands area of Scotland is located north of the latitude lines that fall on Moscow and Whitehorse in Canada. It is sparsely populated, and empty green lands alternate with farms growing grain and raising sheep. Queen Elizabeth has a castle (Balmoral) up here and spends the month of August far away from the crowds and demands of life in the big city. Our tour was advertised as being for photographers, but it was not at all didactic. Rather our guides drove to local areas that they like to photograph and let us mosey around. It felt good to have no set schedule to follow and to be able to take our time. Also, we had the undivided attention of two knowledgeable men to get all our questions answered. In Scotland you are allowed to walk, ride a horse or a bike anywhere - there are no private property rights. So we 4 wheeled up a hillside to a great view of green countryside that is owned by Dodi Fayed, who also owns Harrod’s. We went to a light house that was bought by an American to be a rental property. She was surprised to discover that the locals and we tourists had the right to enjoy the great views that she thought she had purchased. And we hiked around a castle that had just been restored after sitting empty for forty years and now is a private residence.
We returned to the ship about the same time that a local bag pipe band crossed the anchorage to play for us. They tooted and drummed until our ropes were loosed and we headed out. It was a clear demonstration of the appreciation that small towns have for a visit from a cruise ship. Even the bottle nosed dolphins bid us adieu as they laced the waters along side the ship. A lovely spot indeed.