One of the most charming towns I’ve visited, Invergordon gives off the vibe that not many unpleasant things happen here. Located off the Port of Invergordon, it’s a quaint, cheerful, colorful little Scottish town with a population of approximately 4,000. However, while small, it’s known world-wide for its vibrant and colorful public murals sprinkled about the town. It’s an old town; records show that a village of some sort was established on the Ness of Invergordon as far back as 1760. Aside from the murals, the town is well-known for the Invergordon Mutiny of 1931, which was a two-day strike of about 1,000 sailors in the British Atlantic Fleet. The mutiny was spurred on by pay cuts due to the Great Depression. It is one of just a few military strikes in British history.
Only a 3 ½ hour drive from both Glasgow and Edinburgh (Scotland’s 1st and 2nd largest cities, respectively), and less than an hour’s drive from the famed Loch Ness, Invergordon could not be any more different from the big city. While Edinburgh is more palatable than cities like London or New York City, it is still a large, bustling city, and you feel it there. Invergordon is the exact opposite. Edinburgh is to a loud, fast, flashy Ferrari as Invergordon is to a cute, little Volkswagen Beetle with a flower in the dash.
Speaking of Loch Ness – super unfortunately for me, we did not go, even though I desperately wanted to. Every other person in my family has already seen it, just a year before, and were solidly on the “no” side regarding going back. According to them, it was nothing more than a lake in the middle of nowhere (hmm, sound familiar – *cough* Stonehenge *cough). To be fair, much of this was due to our extremely limited time in Invergordon, and we did want to check out the town, particularly the murals. While tours of Loch Ness are hugely popular, and people go on them all the time, it is an all-day trip. Unfortunately, this leaves you having to choose between seeing Loch Ness or Invergordon. This time, Invergordon won.
We arrived on the day of a small street fair, complete with food trucks selling “confections”, fun games for children, and informative booths, some put on by police and firefighters. They had a bunch of information and free merch. However, we were not there for a street fair or free merch, so we moved on quickly. Side note – Scottish people are so nice!
Now for the murals. There are numerous murals painted throughout Invergordon, and they’re not there because some artist got bored. Before Invergordon was a vibrant tourist magnet, it was a regular Scottish town with a naval base for the British Royal Navy. Starting as far back as the first World War, Invergordon was a strategic stronghold for the Royal Navy, and was often called “the best natural harbor in Europe”. After the World Wars ended, the naval base was closed in 1956, resulting in a steady decline of the town. Various industries came and went in Invergordon, with none sticking, and none bringing in the desperately needed economic stimuli any area needs to flourish.
Then in 2002, a small group of volunteers calling themselves “Invergordon Off the Wall” decided to address the town’s declining state, both economically and physically, and desperately wanted to find a way to bring in much-needed tourism. So, they came up with the “mural trail”, a loose path throughout the town showcasing 17 magnificent, vivid murals. These murals depict many things; mainly various occupations, animals, and the people of Invergordon and Scotland. According to the official Invergordon website, “… each was commissioned by a different local community group, all united in their enthusiasm to transform our town through the power of our heritage.”
After enjoying a leisurely stroll around town gazing at the murals, we found ourselves in a Scottish grocery store, buying some amazing European chocolate that I only can dream about here in the States. Afterwards, we headed to the Invergordon Museum, which is just more or less a recreated 1950’s-era tuberculosis hospital. They had other things commemorating the history of the town and area, but truthfully, I only can remember all the scary, insane asylum-era medical equipment that was everywhere. There was even an authentic iron lung that I was more than put off by…
Located at 140 High St, Invergordon IV18 0AE, United Kingdom, Google says that it is temporarily closed due to Covid-19. I tried to find its hours of operation, but could not due to it being temporarily closed. According to the museum’s official website, “Given the ongoing developments of the coronavirus (COVID-19), we’re taking precautionary measures to keep our volunteers and our community safe and have therefore decided to not open Invergordon Museum for 2020.” With vaccines being rolled out more and more every day, hopefully the museum will be back and running sometime this year!
After spending about 30 minutes in the museum (approx. how much time it takes to see everything), we hit up a souvenir shop and then made our way back to the ship. As I’ve mentioned in this blog, Invergordon is small, with the main claim to fame being the murals, so once you’ve seen those and visited the museum, there isn’t much left to do.
One last super-cool thing happened right before sailing off: the Invergordon firefighters began doing what I can only assume was a training exercise in the harbor. A man dangled from a helicopter, over the open water, just swinging around. We did not see anyone being rescued or in distress, so I believe it was simply a training exercise. Or who knows, maybe they were just showing off for us. It worked!
I really loved this delightful, little Scottish town, and strongly suggest visiting if you get the chance. I certainly would not mind returning one day. The murals are wonderful, and knowing the back story and purpose makes them even more charming. Also – although I lean more towards being a non-believer in Nessie, I AM going to Loch Ness one day. So, mark my words, I will be back in this neck of the woods eventually! Until then Invergordon, stay colorful.