Brian was finally able to pull me away from adorable Willow the owl, and we continued our drive up, up, up the east coast of Scotland. We were on our way to drop off some resumes at a company which we thought was on the Black Isle. No worries, the Black Isle is just over the bridge from Inverness. We could see it before we even left the city.
Off we went with our rough directions in our heads and promptly made a wrong turn. Is it a wrong turn if you think you know where you’re going?
Turns out, we weren’t supposed to be on the Black Isle at all. We were supposed to drive right over it and keep on going.
Oh, well. We got a nice scenic drive through some very pretty but windy countryside while we tried to figure out where we were. The Black Isle is rural, and not very big. We got a few odd looks from the locals who probably figured we were lost tourists, which would have been a correct assumption.
It took us thirty minutes to reach the end of the road at the ferry terminal, and another thirty minutes to turn around and go back to the main highway we should have stayed on in the first place. I can think of worse ways to spend an hour.
We finally made it out to Nigg Bay, dropped of CV’s to every business we could find, and then went sightseeing. We were keeping an eye out for those brown signs again, and we weren’t disappointed.
We saw one that pointed up a tiny little road and said “NIGG OLD HURCH”. I thought maybe my Scottish was a bit rusty and asked Brian what a Hurch was. He had no idea (his Scottish must be rusty too). We decided to go find out.
Turns out a Hurch is what you get when the tourism sign has been weathered and neglected and the “C” falls off.
Five minutes up the single track road we found this place tucked away in the drizzling woods:
Now the only question is, What is a Nigg Stone? Is it one of these?
Or maybe one of these?
Nope. A Nigg Stone is an ancient decorated Pictish stone most likely carved in the 700’s. It was originally standing at the gate leading to this little church yard, which is now a burial ground but used to be only a church. There has been a recorded Christian church on this spot since at least the 1200’s. The currently standing church is ‘new’, built in 1727.
We wandered through the grounds, oohing and aahing at the headstone dates (of those still legible, we found some dated in the 1600’s). It’s such a humbling thing to see stone monuments meant to stand the test of time, meant to represent buried loved ones, meant to last forever, but slowly sinking back into the ground while being swallowed up by moss and grass. To see the open spaces in the grass and know that there are graves underneath that have already been lost, already reclaimed by nature despite man’s best efforts is a good reminder. Nothing is permanent.
We try our best. We make our marks, we build our towers and we rage against time, but it passes anyway.
It all passes. All the more reason to seize the day, live our moments and pay attention right now.
This too shall pass, both the good and the bad. There is peace in that for me.
And sometimes humor. See that sign below? There was a cholera epidemic in 1832 (no, that’s not funny). At the time people thought cholera was caused by a ‘miasma’ or vapor. One day the local bishop came out of the church to see a mist floating above the church yard. He promptly threw a blanket over it and covered it with a heavy stone so it wouldn’t escape. He firmly believed he had found the cause of the cholera, and probably saved the town. The stone is still there, right where he left it.
It’s a funny story. I have a picture in my head of a skinny grey haired bishop leaping through the air with a pillow case, trying to catch a ‘vapor’, robes flying, legs sticking out and shoes flying through the air.
Sorry, did my inappropriate sense of humor just come out of the closet? Ahem.
Either way, I hope it worked. I hope he caught that mist and the cholera quietly disappeared.
(Keith over at Traveling Savage has a fantastic photo of one of the grave markers. Go take a look and tell him I sent you. He writes a really good Scottish travel blog, and he’s another source of inspiration for me to see every little thing I can while we’re here.)
The Nigg Stone is normally kept inside the church building, but it’s been removed for now and is in the process of restoration and further study so we didn’t have a chance to see it. I’m OK with that, because the church yard alone was worth seeing.
Three days of accidental adventure later and we are still solid believers that getting a little bit lost and following random signs is the best way to have a great time on the road. We never would have discovered so many great places tucked away off the main road if we hadn’t spent half our time just wandering. I hope our luck never runs out, and that we take every chance we get to go see what’s at the end of each trail.
Because life is short, opportunities don’t last, and as far as we can tell you only live once. Seize the day!
On the map: Click here to see this location on our Google Map.