Struan Lodge Beauly
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Inverness is one of the oldest inhabited localities in Scotland
Inverness is one of the oldest inhabited localities in Scotland. Centuries family holiday let highlands before the first Christian missionary brought word of the new religion, men hunted and fished here. They found permanent settlements, fortified hills, constructed intricate burial cairns and raised memorials to their unknown gods.
Their choice of locality was determined by the hard facts of geography; the one constant in the town’s long history. Poised at the eastern entrance to the Great Glen of Scotland – the magnificently scenic rift of Glean mor-nan Albyn – Inverness is the strategic hub of the region.
To the north, south, and west, the town is ringed by mountains. Its open eastern flank is protected by the First of Inverness, a moat formed by the long, curving beak of the Fort George peninsula pecking at Chanonry Point on the Black Isle shore. The massive bulk of family holiday let highlands Ben Wyvis – as reassuringly familiar a local landmark to Invernessians as Big Ben is to Londoners, rears high in the north west, with the peaks of Strathglass and Wester Ross lifting on the skyline. The Valley of the Ness cleaves a passage through the hills to the south west; with the rounded top of Mealfuarvonie the dominant watch-keep over Loch Ness. On the south side, the massed ranks of the Monadhliadh, the Grey Mountains, complete the encirclement.
The first written word of Inverness is to be found in Adamnan’s ‘Life of Saint Columba’. In the sixth century AD the wandering Columba is reputed to have stood before the great wooden gates of the fortress of King Brude beside the Ness. Adamnan is vague on the exact location of the stronghold of the Pictish king, but only a pedant would quibble at equating ‘beside the Ness’ with the site of the present town, cleft by the same river.
What is beyond the dispute is that the ancient Castle of Inverness stood on the ‘Crown’ to the east of the present Castlehill. After the death of Duncan – immortalized in Shakespear’s ‘MacBeth’ – the castle met an equally violent end, being burned to the ground. All that remains today is the name of the site, Auld Castlehill, its past notoriety sedately buried beneath the solid masonry of Victorian villas.
The first stone-built keep on the present Castlehill – a commanding eminence above the River Ness – came into being during the reign of King David I, who created Inverness a royal burgh in the twelfth century. In the course of time, the town gradually grew under the protective shade of Castlehill, where a royal fortress crowned the summit for six centuries.
The early kings of Scotland where frequent visitors, although a royal progress north rarely heralded a peaceful visitation. They were usually in response to the activities of the unruly clans, who regarded Inverness as the symbol of an alien law and order.
In the spring of 1427, James I convened a parliament in Inverness and took up residence in the castle. The naively unsuspecting Highland chiefs accepted the royal invitation to attend, and 40 of them were promptly imprisoned. Two minor chiefs were executed, but this drastic deterrent did not quell the King’s turbulent subjects. After a year in captivity, Alexander, Lord of the Isles, celebrated his release by pillaging and burning the town.
In 1651, the town was occupied by a Commonwealth force. The following year, work began on a mighty pentagonal-shaped citadel to hold a garrison of 1000 men and 600 horses. It was designed by Major General Deane, who obtained most of his stone from the plundered cathedral at Fort-rose. The Inverness Pentagon cost £80000, an enormous sum in seventeenth-century terms.