I cannot for the life of me parallel park a car! Maybe that’s why I’ve mostly lived in city centres – so that I can walk everywhere! Inverness definitely being the smallest city I’ve ever stayed in – it’s such a friendly place to live and easy to walk around, feels more like a big village! I walk everywhere in Inverness and I’m lucky that my B&B is located right in the city centre. I can walk to all the shops, restaurants and bars and since moving to Inverness from Edinburgh in 2012, I’ve also visited all the tourist attractions in the city centre (on foot!). Isn’t it funny that you can often live somewhere most of your life and not experience everything a place has to offer – I was in my late twenties before I walked through the gates of Edinburgh Castle!
Talking of castles, Inverness Castle is currently going through a major transformation – a total make over if you like. Turning it into a world class visitor attraction, with museum and gallery spaces in which to tell the history of the Highlands, portrait our culture and most importantly highlight the future of this beautiful part of Scotland. There’s promise of an improved outdoor space complementing the terrific views of the city and the hills beyond. Can’t wait to experience it all!
Having explored the tourist attractions in Inverness city centre over the years, I set myself a new challenge. To find out more about the area of the city centre where my B&B is located.
The area is called the Crown, (unfortunately there’s no information on how it got it’s name, maybe because Inverness Castle is located here or because it’s the crown of a hill?) One of the routes to the area was via the Market Brae Steps to reach the cattle and sheep market in the Crown. The market is no longer here, thank goodness but the steps still are, lined with unique shops offering everything from a haircut to a wedding dress!
Crown was really the first new town of Inverness. Many houses were built here around 1855 for railway workers, as the railway was one of the largest employers in the Highlands. It was also where the large and opulent residences were built for the affluent folk of Inverness and are still very impressive to this day.
Our house was built in 1887 and previous residents have included the Reverend John MacLennan during the second world war and a very entrepreneurial woman by the name of Henrietta Ross, who in 1915 owned 25 properties in Inverness in her own name and a further 8 properties with her husband, one of which being our home.
I’ve been told that our house was once a market garden, growing and selling fresh vegetables to the folks of Inverness. And our neighbours have reported that all the gardens in the Crown area have fantastic, dark, nutrient rich soil due to Scottish trading ships returning from Holland, depositing the Dutch soil that was used for ballast on their homeward journey, all around this area of Inverness!
There are many interesting buildings in the streets surrounding our B&B, such as Crown High School built in 1879 (now a primary school) with an attractive clock tower, Crown Church just next door to the school, finished in 1901 but missing its spire! The Royal Academy building was erected in 1895 (boasting handsome architecture and now a creative arts centre and gallery – a brilliant place to visit) and Ardkeen Tower, a former girls school, observatory and now private residence (how many people can claim to have a canon in their garden!)
When we first moved here, I’d been walking past a plaque on a wall several times before I stopped to actually read what it said.
That’s when I noticed the large horizontal slab underneath with a sunken slot carved into it. Turns out the slab dates from around the 12th century (amazing or what!) and is a broad stone.
These were used to support a cross that marked a burgh boundary or in this case possibly as a marker for the location of a drinking well. I’m just blown away that such an ancient historical artifact has been there for over 800 years and is just around the corner from our B&B!
The Broad Stone plaque reads:
“The Broad Stone
The Broad Stone dates from before the 15th Century. The central hole would probably have supported a pillar or stone cross. It is thought to have been a town cross or shrine for pilgrims and wayfarers, possibly marking the well of the “Skower Burn” which used to flow through this area.”
I love living in the Crown area of the city centre, it has it’s own shops, cafés, bars and restaurants and a very gentile feel about it but only a few minutes walk away is the bustling city centre. Crown has its history on show – the streets are lined with beautiful Victorian buildings that I can easily imagine horse drawn carriages rattling along, passing elegant Victorian ladies dressed in long gowns with bustles.
I’ve enjoyed finding out more about the area I live in and would recommend everyone gives it a go. One of the biggest surprises was discovering there is a circle of ancient standing stones only a couple of miles from the B&B! But more on that in my next blog!