In summer of 2015, my parents, brother Angus, and cousins Greg and Denise came to see me graduate from the University of Oxford. We took advantage of the opportunity to combine it with a family trip to Scotland, and spent two days of our holiday in the Munro area. George Munro, secretary for the Munro clan, was our tour guide, and we were privileged to have the chance to meet the chief’s mother, Mrs. Eleanor Munro.
Our day in Munro Lands started with torrential rains, which is not very surprising. We climbed through some muck up to a high point on the edge of traditional Munro territory, where there is a memorial to Munros who died in an exceptionally bloody skirmish with the McDonalds. The story is that the McDonalds wanted to take in tax too many of some stollen cattle that a Munro was herding home (I don’t remember where he had stolen them from), and so it came to violence. Or at least that’s what I remember. I have a feeling the view from the monument might have been much better had the weather been clearer.
We then travelled along the Cromarty Firth to Evanton, where Foulis Castle sits. Mrs. Munro was only supposed to meet with us for an hour, but I think she quite enjoyed the conversation, because our audience turned into three and a half hours, with a tour of the castle and long moments spent chatting in the impressive sitting room.
Mrs. Munro even let my brother complete one of his spiral sculptures in the garden of Foulis Castle!
After such a special morning, we had a lovely lunch in the new Munro Storehouse restaurant, and some of the best tablet I’ve ever had. Yum! Our guide said he sometimes stops in just to have a bit of tablet. (Tablet is a Scottish thing a bit like fudge but actually much easier to make.) We browsed the history exhibit at the storehouse for a bit after lunch, waiting for the most recent downpour to let up.
As it was drying out a bit, we decided to venture some outdoors sites in the afternoon. First, we were taken to two major cemetaries, important to the Munros. We enjoyed perusing them, but found no one to whom we knew ourselves to be directly related.
We ended our day with a climb up to an early pagan standing stone on the edge of Munro land.
That evening we enjoyed a tasty meal in Inverness (though only my mother wouldn’t try the haggis). However, the best was yet to come.
As we drove north from Inverness and back through Munro land on our way to John O’Groats, I recognised a name for a turn-off. We followed the signs, and found the church where I remembered James Munro had been baptised. Obviously once a populated little village, the church stood next to one remaining house, and both were falling into disrepair. Clearly, no services had been held in that church for over fifty years.
I rushed around, intent on finding a long-lost relative. I took to taking pictures of any stones I thought might remotely be connected, gradually losing hope. But then, as the skies were beginning to open again, the last stone in the cemetery that I had not yet examined was the one. I had found my great-great-great-great-grandparents! The picture is the last of a grave in the following gallery, before the images of the gate and the church from afar.
We had to move on, to continue our journey and discover more amazing things in the northern highlands and the Orkney Islands. But the best thing is that I live in the UK, and in the north of England. For me, this graveyard in Kilmuir Easter Ross is just a six or seven hour drive away from my house. Brits may laugh at that, and think it’s much too far, but for me, raised in America, that’s really not bad at all.