'But Dad, it's freezing.
We'll get drenched. Can we not just go to the cinema?" My daughter was right … maybe this detour wasn't such a good idea. We were heading up to Inverness for a weekend at the Kingsmills Hotel. We thought we'd take time to relax in one of our favourite places, visit a good friend of ours and maybe do a bit of shopping.
But, by some miracle, we were actually early so I'd taken the turn-off for Culloden, just to waste a few hours and show my two girls what is, I think, the most dramatic, informative, moving historical exhibition I have ever visited.
Loading article content
But, driving towards it, the sky was as grey as the stone walls of the building we were approaching, and I was feeling a definite, uneasy chill.
Was that the weather? I wasn't sure.
I'd been here before, in the summer, and even then in the warm sunshine I had felt the strangeness of the place. But today, on an early-winter afternoon as the cloud sat low above us like a damp blanket blocking out the heat and the light and filling the air with a depressing smirr, it was altogether different. Altogether darker.
But on we went, into the visitor centre that brings to life one of the defining moments in our nation's history.
We snaked through the corridor that explains the reasons for and the history of the great battle. Here, it feels as if the Jacobites and the Hanoverians are still lined up against each other ahead of the battle, and their stories are told using interactive characters that witnessed or were involved in the battle, as well as a host of artefacts and captions incorporating the latest historical and archaeological evidence.
There's no way you can hurry … no way you can gloss over the sense of impending doom that builds with every step.
By the time we reach the exhibition's Battle Zone, which overlooks the moor itself, I feel I have met and come to know the ordinary people who were caught up in this conflict. At the centre of this great hall is a giant map of the battlefield, on which the events of the day are projected, showing in horrible detail what went wrong - or right - depending on which side these poor folk happened to find themselves.
From there, there was only one place to go … outside, back into the darkness of the day and on to the moor itself. I can almost see the advancing hordes, hear the cries of anger and pain. It's odd, truly unsettling, but strangely enriching at the same time.
And, indeed, as we got back into the car to head for our hotel in Inverness, we were drenched and freezing. But there were no complaints. In fact, nobody really spoke until we saw the sign for the Kingsmills Hotel.
We'd been here before too, and had loved it, and our mood was transformed as we walked inside.
The Kingsmills is one of those places … a high-end hotel where you feel treated to a bit of luxury, without the need for stiffness or excessive formality.
How many places have you stayed where you are greeted with a look of near-pity when you suggest that the house white might be the right choice to go with your meal? Or your eyes water and you nearly choke at the price of the coffee you have in the afternoon? There's none of that here.
The facilities are great … there's a fully equipped leisure suite overlooking the beautiful gardens, with pool, jacuzzi, sauna, steam room and gym.
The rooms are spacious and comfortable … and if you have kids, the family rooms are perfect. The one we were staying in had a separate little room for the children, with a set of bunk beds, so when the young 'uns went to sleep we adults still had the freedom to switch on the telly, put our feet up and share a bottle of wine without having to whisper.
The food and service at the Conservatory are fantastic and as we sat in the bar enjoying a drink afterwards, a pianist was tinkling away at the ivory in the background. Yet even now, we didn't feel the need to hide the kids in a corner for fear of disapproving glances from staff or fellow guests.
In fact, it's like visiting a good friend when you come here. It's a huge treat, because you know that his huge leather sofa in front of the fire is waiting for you to sink into, and that the dram he offers after dinner will be a little more interesting than the one in your cupboard at home. But at the same time there's no need to put on any airs or graces. Being yourself here is just fine.
However, that doesn't mean the place isn't changing. Since the last time we were here, the hotel has added the Kingsclub - a lovely little annexe, complete with luxury spa and a range of stunning rooms overlooking the golf course next door.
But the real change is happening round the back of the hotel, where the Kingsmills Suite is taking shape - the first purpose-built events and meeting facility in Inverness for years.
It boasts a space that can be put to a multitude of uses - from a full-on dinner dance or wedding for 250 people to a small meeting or conference for a couple of dozen delegates. Before building the new facility, the hotel went out and asked people what they wanted from a brand-new destination, and then did exactly what was needed to ensure everyone who came here enjoyed an experience to remember.
And, just to put the icing on the cake, these new meeting places come with their own range of accommodation, again built to order to give customers exactly what they needed.
But as I stole a sneaky peek into the Kingsmills Suite the strange thing was that, while it was all very new and luxurious, the sense of welcoming familiarity and unassuming comfort that we like so much about the Kingsmills was already here too. This new space is no sad, soulless conference barn on some motorway junction.
Although it's brand new, walking through it still reminded me of that big, comfy couch in my old mate's house. And the next time we come (because the girls would never forgive me if there wasn't a next time), I hope we can stay in one of these new rooms, because I know we'll all feel just as much at home there.
Andy Clark and family stayed at the Kingsmills Hotel, Inverness. For information about the hotel, Kingsclub and the Kingsmills Suite, go to www.kingsmillshotel.com
For information about Culloden go to www.nts.org.uk/culloden/