t h u r s d a y j u n e 3 1 9 9 9
Pulling out of the Atholl Hotel, we had a flat tire — totally flat and squished. We picked up a nail somewhere and it went flat overnight. We were across the street from a service station, and the mechanic very kindly repaired the tire while we put on the spare. Thankfully, VWs have a full size spare. I kept hearing the current TV ad about the coelacanth.
We could have been 40 miles from anywhere and I told the mechanic so. “No”, he says, “Ten, maybe twelve miles frae nowhere on this island.”. Probably true!
Fixed up and on the new tire, we went up along the road to Dunvegan Castle. It’s still misting (or raining, depending on your perspective). Dunvegan is a neat castle, and still lived in by the Macleods of Skye. We bought a ticket and went in to the gardens and house.
The castle is very gothic-looking. Crenellated towers, gray stone…it really looks like a stone keep. It was built in several stages over many centuries — probably continually. We ended up behind another tour group and we tried to sneak through backwards and were stopped by a very grumpy woman. It’s not like the way through isn’t marked — we just weren’t allowed to go through backwards. The castle is neat, although most of the time I felt a bit like a sheep herded through the corridors with all the other sheep. There is an interesting legend regarding the “Fairy Flag”, which is framed at the castle. It’s a raggedly piece of faded silk, but the legends are numerous, including it being a gift from the fey to the Macleod Lord brought back from the Crusades. It’s been dated to about 400 AD or so, and the legend says that the power of the fairies could be called 3 times by the Clan Macleod, when the flag was carried to ensure their victory. Soldier’s in WWI would carry it’s picture. Probably a silk something from Jerusalem, but there are clan members who truly believe in the Macleod’s connections to the fey.
The gardens were lovely — some amazing tropical plants that seem so out of place on this cold, northerly isle. Rows of honeysuckle and some wild pink flowers that I’ve only seen on pictures of the Caribbean islands. We took the wrong road out of Dunvegan and ended up way up the peninsula — and saw a sign for coral beaches. So off we tromped down the beach…and walked and walked and walked. On and on. We met the talkative English couple again, from the hotel last night. More walking. Did I mention that I had to pee something terrible? We walked more. I’m starting to curse. It was probably the most uncomfortable half hour in Scotland.
We went back to Dunvegan and had lunch and a quick potty break. We made reservations to stay tonight.
Looking at the map, we decided to drive up around the coast of the island and away we went. Duntulm Castle was crowded. It really depresses me to be in a huge crowd of people, especially after spending so much of our trip with only a few. Mark watches a helicopter moving cable spools off a huge hill nearby and I scramble down the cliff side to stand in the broad field below the castle.
The weather had cleared up by the time we went to Armadale Castle, although it was still quite gray. Armadale is mostly restored buildings, because the actual castle itself has been mostly gutted by fire and ruined. The stables have been recently restored, and the grounds are quite amazing. There are some Monkey Puzzle trees on the grounds that are enormous!
The rest of the Isle of Skye is amazing. The mist started rolling in over the mountains and it seemed to have a life of it’s own. We drove out to see Kilt Rock, which really does look like a kilt, and drove by the Quirang, a flat topped bluff that is a popular spot for hikers and rock climbers.
From the eastern coast of Skye, it’s possible to see the faint outline of the Isle of Rassay. We didn’t go across to the island.
Finally! I found some Highland Cows!!
We were running a bit late, but we did want to see Eilean Donan Castle, which is one of the most popular castles in Scotland. Even with the tides out — the castle sits on an island in the loch — the castle is beautiful. We, of course, arrived after they had closed the offices (and the bathrooms!!), but ranged up and down the coast to get some good pictures. The castle has been destroyed and rebuilt a number of times, according to the guidebooks. The arched bridge out to the castle is far newer than the castle itself.
Our hotel for the night is the Glengarry Castle Hotel. What an amazing place! Dinner was stunning (steak and seafood and strawberries) and we took a quick walk on the grounds, which border Loch Oich. The room is amazingly comfortable, and the bathroom is HUGE. Literally the size of our previous hotel rooms. The hotel rents boats and fishing gear, and boasts several hundred acres of woods and gardens.
We want to stay a second night, but they only had a standard room. For another amazing dinner, I’m willing to suffer. They’ll move our stuff tomorrow.