Monday 12 September, 2005

Inverness Town House.  Famous, you know.

Two weekends ago was – for once – a quiet one spent at home in Inverness, while this weekend past was spent in Aberdeen catching up on all my old university friends and getting my fix of Thain's pie shop. Coincidentally, when I was there, each city was holding Doors Open Day – an annual event whereby places such as public institutions, famous buildings, or important organisations (though not pie shops) fling open their doors for a day and let people come in and find out what they are like inside.

In Inverness I enjoyed a good wander around the Town House. Just like it is impossible to talk here about the town of Nairn without someone chipping in that it is the fastest town in Scotland (just say it like a car speeding past), it is similarly impossible to mention the historic home of Highland Council (and Inverness-shire County Council before it) without being told that it is the only place outside Downing Street to have hosted a meeting of the British Cabinet. It was in the early 1920s, I think, when some sort of outbreak of trouble in Ireland (some things never change) kicked off in the middle of Prime Minister David Lloyd-George's shooting holiday on his highland estate. Given that this was the pre-Easyjet era, DLG decided against trekking back to London for an emergency Cabinet meeting, and instead summoned his colleagues to the highlands.

A boring story, frankly, but when you're a citizen of Inverness you're grateful for any claims to fame. Such as the fact that the Proclaimers were discovered in Inverness, in a fantastic wee place called the Market Bar – a pub described on one website I found as "better than going to the bingo on the mushrooms". But I digress. The Town House was a very interesting place to visit, full of all the parochial paraphernalia you expect from such a place, including grand staircases, gifts from twin towns, and large portraits of old men with beards.

In Aberdeen, I went round St Nicholas Kirk – a lovely old church right in the heart of the city centre, whose graveyard is a popular place to sit in the sun at lunchtimes. The church is a fascinating place, with lots of little nooks and crannies and different halls and places of worship that look like they've been added on over time. It was built hunners of years ago and the discovery of various archaeological stuff under the floorboards has rendered half of the building unusable. I climbed up to the very, very, very top of the tower, up steps, staircases and eventually ladders which got narrower and narrower as I went, with floors that alarmingly got shakier and shakier too. The view was stunning from the top but I didn't hang around to capture the view long as I suffer terribly from vertigo and I'd forgotten my camera.

So that was Doors Open Day. I wonder if they have a similar event on the east shore of Loch Ness called Dores Open Day.

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