He was a sturdy, good-looking lad, with thick, light-brown hair curling loose upon his shoulders, and a fair face, cheeks flushed red with cold and exertion. His nose was running slightly, and he wiped it with the back of his wrapped hand, wincing slightly as he did so.Jamie, both eyebrows raised, bowed politely to the visitor.
“My house is at your service, Your Highness,” he said, with a glance that took in the general disorder of the visitor’s attire. His stock was undone and hung loosely around his neck, half his buttons were done up awry, and the flies of his breeches flopped partially open. I saw Jamie frown slightly at this, and he moved unobtrusively in front of the boy, to screen me from the indelicate sight.
“If I may present my wife, Your Highness?” he said. “Claire, my lady Broch Tuarach. Claire, this is His Highness, Prince Charles, son of King James of Scotland.”
Diana Gabaldon, Dragonfly in Amber (Chapter 11 – Useful Occupations)
“There is an Italian person downstairs, Madame,” Magnus informed me. “He would not give me his name.” There was a pinched look about the butler’s mouth; I gathered that if the visitor would not give his name, he had been more than willing to give the butler a number of other words.
That, coupled with the “Italian person” designation, was enough to give me a clue as to the visitor’s identity, and it was with relatively little surprise that I entered the drawing room to find Charles Stuart standing by the window.
Diana Gabaldon, Dragonfly in Amber (Chapter 11 – Useful Occupations)
Although I can’t admit to understanding the appeal of Prince Charles Edward Louis John Casimir Silvester Severino Maria Stuart, aka Bonnie Prince Charlie, at least from a historical perspective, I can at least say that he and I have stayed at the same place. Thankfully, at a very different place in time.
On our recent trip to Scotland, My Englishman and I returned to a place that we both fell in love with two years ago, when we did the same trip along the Caledonian Canal from Inverness to Fort William. This time, we didn’t travel the full length of the canal, instead were content to stop at just over the halfway point, where we enjoyed three nights moored beside Invergarry Castle on Loch Oich.
Secluded and sheltered from the high winds that can wreak havoc on Loch Ness and the other larger, more open bodies of water along the Canal, Oich is too small to be noted on most maps, which suits our super-secret-ninja approach to travel just fine.
We spent two of our three nights alone at the dock, and you can see by the picture that My Englishman is very happy with the arrangement! We’re headed to the Invergarry Hotel for dinner and a pint here, a peaceful 15 minute walk along a heavily wooded trail beside the River Garry that gives you a very good idea what it might have been like in the 18th C. The wood is full of giant oaks; leaf mould and moss carpet it’s floor, cushioning every step.
It rained off and on for our entire trip, with daily teasing appearances made by the sun. While I’m happy to report that we saw a rainbow everyday, I also now feel qualified to at least imagine trodding around those hills and trails in the pouring rain, protected only by wet woolen tartan and leather slippers.
No wonder Claire dreamed of hot bathes.
Invergarry Castle was the seat of the Clan MacDonnell of Glengarry. Overlooking Loch Oich on Creagan an Fhithich – the Raven’s Rock – the castle occupied a strategic position during the days of clan warfare. After nearby raids by Clan MacKenzie (who else?) in the early 17th Century, the Rock of the Raven was fortified to include a six-story tower — the remains of which can still be seen in the picture below.
Bonnie Prince Charlie visited the castle in 1745, riding high on the early successes of his Jacobite Rebellion, and he rested there on the night following the Battle of Culloden, where it all went so terribly wrong. It is said the Prince’s party were forced to forage for their own food, finding the castle deserted, ‘without meat, drink, fire or candle, save some firesticks’.
In retribution for Glengarry’s prominent role in the Jacobite campaign, the castle was sacked and partially blown up by the Duke of Cumberland’s troops, as part of his systematic suppression of the Highlands following Culloden.
No, I didn’t really climb the fence, but I hope that someday, The Invergarry Castle Preservation Trust will raise enough money to achieve their goal of removing the iron stanchions and concrete cappings that were used in previous stabilisation attempts, and replacing them with more sympathetic materials. Further ambitions include the installation of a viewing platform and interpretive panels. Now back to the food. And the boat. Although I did spend about 20 minutes in an Inverness grocery store to stock up the galley before we set sail, most of our provisions for the week were delivered directly to the Caley Cruiser boatyard by Macleod Organics, a family farm and company that delivers organic groceries all over the Highlands and Moray. I ordered and paid for all of the above online, including tons of fresh veg, organic dairy, local meat, fair trade coffee and chocolate, pumpkin/herb oatcakes, and the most delicious bottle of Rhubarb Vodka Liqueur made from rhubarb grown on a farm near Loch Ness.
It was a good week in the galley, I have to tell you. Barley risotto (recipe to follow), cauliflower & smoked cheese soup, full Scottish breakfasts, and lunches featuring venison salami, venison pepperoni, smoked salmon and a selection of local cheeses.
But dinna worry, I didna play Murphy the whole time. We got plenty of great pub meals in along the way, as well as one of the most memorable birthday meals of my life.
It’s all good. We were on vacation, after all.
I served this with braised local leeks to celebrate the Prince’s Scottish lineage, and slow roasted tomatoes to honour his Italian patrons.
: A quick-to-prepare Italian classic using fresh, local Scottish meat and cheese. The traditional Italian ingredients are also given alongside as options.
Yield: Serves 2
- Penne Pasta (dry) – ½ lb (225 g)
- Safflower Oil – 2 Tble (30 ml) – sub. Olive Oil
- Ayreshire Streaky Bacon – 6 oz (175 g) – sub. Pancetta
- Garlic, minced or grated on a microplane – 4 cloves
- Eggs, room temperature, beaten – 2 Large
- Scottish Dunlop Cheese, freshly shredded – 1½ Cups – sub. Parmesan
- Freshly Ground Black Pepper – to taste
Carbonara comes together quickly. Make sure you have everything prepared before you begin.
Place 2 plates or bowls in a 175° F (80 ° C) oven to warm.
Bring 3 quarts (litres) water to a rolling boil in a large pot. Season the water generously with salt, so that it tastes like the sea. Add the penne to the water and stir so that the pasta separates. Allow the water to return to a low boil, then reduce the heat to med. high. Cook 8-10 minutes, or until al dente. Drain and return to the pot, covered, to keep the pasta hot. Reserve 1 cup of the cooking water.
While the spaghetti is cooking, heat the oil in a large heavy pan over medium and cook the bacon/pancetta until crisp, but not dark, about 3-4 minutes. Reduce heat to low, add in garlic and cook for another minute.
While the bacon is cooking, mix 1 cup of cheese into the beaten eggs.
Add the bacon, then the egg and cheese mixtures to the penne. Your pasta must be HOT when adding the mixtures. Toss well with tongs or 2 forks. If the mixture is too thick, thin it out with a little of the pasta water (add sparingly)
Divide onto the heated bowl or plates and season well with pepper. Garnish with the remainder of your cheese and serve quickly, while still hot.
Ith gu leòir! (Eat Plenty)
- Spaghetti is more traditional, but you can use any pasta. I had a package of organic brown rice penne in my delivery, so that’s what I used.