The Isle of Skye

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Romstyrious. Aye Laddies and Lassies,  “tis romstyrious, that island of Skye”. Its the place where the romantic melds into the mysterious, where fairies play tricks and legends touch the heart and fire the imagination. Plunging waterfalls, storybook rainbows, rugged coastlines and placid pastures envelop your senses around every corner. And it’s all best had by braving the “wrong” side of the road and traveling intrepidly in your car for hire. Better yet, take the time to walk, to climb a bit of a “munro” and turn towards a sweeping vista of the Atlantic. Skye has so much to offer. If you can, plan a week there or at least several days.

  1.  ISLE OF SKYE CASTLES

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Not only are Scottish castles full of charm and mystery but they’re often a great way to easily digest a slice of history. The most photographed castle in Scotland is said to be Eilean Donan, meaning the Island of Donan, named for an early Irish missionary sent to Christianize the Scots. The castle itself is partially restored with wonderful docents primed to tell you stories of yore – like where the phrase “the walls have ears” originated. You reach the castle via a picturesque bridge and you’ll soon see why it’s so photographed. Technically, this castle isn’t on the Isle of Skye but in the Kyle of Lochalsh but very close near the charming little burg of Dornie, which was home base for this trip.

Armadale Castle

Definitely on the isle of Skye, Castle Armadale are castle ruins and are host to some of the most marvelous gardens and a museum that does justice to the history of the local area. From the ruins, there is a gorgeous view of the coastline and the on-site restaurant has some delectable local fare. Expect showers and come equipped.

Dunvegan Castle

Dunvegan Gardens

Dunvegan Trees

Dunvegan Castle is jam packed with artifacts, stories and legends. For example, at Dunvegan we learned about the fairy flag. Legend has it that the fairy flag’s magic can only be used 3 times. We know of two times it was allegedly used by the clan – once it was raised to win a battle amongst the clans and once it was used to swaddle a baby – an heir – to keep it safe. Guess they better use their last wish from their “Jeanie in a bottle” wisely.

And how about truly taking one for the team? A dispute over ownership of the now UNESCO World Heritage site of St. Kilda between the MacDonald and MacCleod clans festered. In order to settle the dispute, the clans chose a boat race from the mainland and whichever clan placed a hand on St. Kilda first would be the undisputed owner of St. Kilda. The MacDonald clan was decidedly ahead in the race. As such, a MacCleod clansman allegedly cut off his hand and threw it from the boat onto St. Kilda and that’s how the MacCleod clan came into possession of the island. Now I got to “hand” it to the MacCleods, what a “handy” way to win a race. I know…ugh.

     2.   ISLE OF SKYE COUNTRYSIDE

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Heather in the Isle of Skye

Skye Coastline 1Sound of Rassay

This is what Skye is all about – the breathtaking scenery that abounds at every turn. Just as examples, take a drive through the Black Cuillens  where hikers and climbers train for summiting Mt. Everest; drive near the Sound of Raasay and see Kilt Rock and Lealt Falls. You could literally stand in one place all day and the scenery would change around you as light comes and then shadows grow. I also learned that no matter what road you take here in the Highlands, you won’t be disappointed and you won’t see the same terrain in more than one place. It’s as if every 5 minutes you are in a new country….even a new world – talk about diversity of landscape as evidenced in the photographs herein.

3.  OLD MAN OF STORR

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Visit the spire of granite known as the Old Man of Storr. There’s ample parking roadside and this is one that you have to get out of the car to really enjoy. It can be a slightly demanding hike all the way up but well worth the view – one that only eagles get to see. Even if you can’t make it all the way to the top, you’ll not be disappointed by whatever hike is doable for you. 

4.  FAIRY GLENS

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The Faerie Glens are worth the risk of being teased by the fairies and would be a real miss for you all visiting the Isle of Skye if you didn’t make it there. You’ll find this delightful little glen covered with miniature grassy cone-shaped hills, miniature trees and miniature lakes and you will be almost certain it’s home for the otherworldly (i.e. our little fairies). You may even hear the crystal clear blue Faerie Pools taunting you into a swim in their icy cold water. If you’re going to fall for that siren, may I recommend waterproof pants and jacket for the dip rather than merely your bikini or swim trunks.

So you don’t believe in fairies? Check this out. As I said above, we thought these little magical (and, come to find out not so enchanting,) creatures may have jumped into our KIA and headed back to our Island Bay Cottage in Dornie. For instance, my Papa, with whom I was traveling (along with my Mom – the woman I blame for my wanderlust) – is maniacal about putting his keys in the same place every time and knows exactly who he gave them to last IF he’s even willing to part with them and has been this way his whole life. He suddenly lost the keys. This, in and of itself, doesn’t scream “magical fairies hid our keys” but finding them not just on the bed or under the comforter but INSIDE the sewn shell of the comforter at least whispers “magical fairies friggin’ hid our keys”. It’s our side of the story and we’re stickin’ with it.

5.  WHERE EAGLES SOAR – THE WATERNISH PENINSULA

Sea Eagle of Trumpan

The sun shines on the vast expansive terrain sometimes in Scotland and it certainly did on my travels to the Waternish Peninsula and Trumpan.  This is where, if you are lucky, you can photograph sea eagles which are very rare especially three together which we saw today so we learned from an ornithologist that was out there.

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Here at Trumpan you will also see the ruins of an old church.  This is not just any old church but what used to be the equivalent of today’s courthouse.  See, here, there is a boulder with a hole in it where the Scottish would hold what we might refer to as a trial i.e. if an accused could manage to put his finger in the hole in the boulder he was found innocent. The catch, however, is he must do this blindfolded like someone playing pin the tail on the donkey. If he can’t find the hole on his one try while blindfolded, the accused was executed. Talk about judge, jury, and executioner! Aren’t you glad we didn’t live in these times?

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Dornie, Scotland – Day 2 (Eilean Donan)

Eilean Donan
Photograph by Suzanne J. DuBose on an Olympus Digital Camera
Eilean Donan
Photograph by Suzanne J. DuBose on an Olympus Digital Camera

Photography is the name of the game here in Scotland for me. My mother planned the trip around Scotland with photography in mind. My Papa has been honing his photography skills for the last year and has graciously agreed to impart some of what he has learned. The best place for this is undoubtedly Scotland and, of course, at the most photographed castle in the U.K. – Eilean Donan which is in Dornie where three lochs meet – Loch Duich, Loch Long and Loch Alsh. The one thing you can’t avoid here in Scotland is rain so when it stops, get your camera quick!

Eilean Donan
Photograph by Suzanne J. DuBose on an Olympus Digital Camera
Eilean Donan
Photograph by Suzanne J. DuBose on an Olympus Digital Camera
Eilean Donan
Photograph by Suzanne J. DuBose on an Olympus Digital Camera
Eilean Donan
Photograph by Suzanne J. DuBose on an Olympus Digital Camera
Where 3 lochs meet in Dornie
Photograph by Suzanne J. DuBose on an Olympus Digital Camera
Eilean Donan
Photograph by Suzanne J. DuBose on an Olympus Digital Camera

Eilean Donan

Eilean Donan

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Another thing you can’t avoid here is the kindness of the Scottish people. Today it was Richard from Clan McClaren – a docent at Eilean Donan. He showed me all the secrets of the castle from where the statement “the walls have ears” came from and how a painter made a lifesize painting of John McCrae whose eyes and shoes follow you around the Great Hall at Donan. I won’t tell you how so you’ll have to ask for Richard when you come to visit.

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The other thing you must do here at Donan is try the Scottish Pies with baked beans…yummy!

Scottish Pies

That’s all for now from Dornie and the castle of all castles – Eilean Donan.

Isle of Skye, Scotland – Day 1 (Armadale Castle, Black Cullens and Elgol)

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Where lakes are lochs, where farms are steadings, where bays are firths, where eileans are islands, where meadows are glens and where mountains are definitely not molehills but munros and where the color green needs its own new name.  There is a majestic beauty here in the Isle of Skye around every corner.  From waterfall to waterfall and rainbow to rainbow – you truly won’t believe your eyes.

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Rainbows of ScotlandScottish Rainbows

How to see Scotland properly you ask? By motor vehicle – a Kia 4×4 is the way we are doing it.

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When I say “we” I mean me and my parents – my Mom a/k/a Lita, short for Abuelita, and my Papa, short for Papa ;).

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My parents first brought me to Scotland – which is their favorite country – back in 2011. We stayed in Linlithgow as our base back then and toured Edinburgh, the Borders, Falkirk near Glasgow and Perth and even played a little golf at St. Andrews so it makes perfect sense that when they were headed back to do the Highlands, the Isle of Skye, the Cairngorms and Glencoe that we would all go together. After all, my mother is  largely responsible for my wanderlust and it’s because of her invigorating stories that I have now been to 74 countries out of the 197 there are (according to the state department) and have made it my life goal to see all 197. But when my Scottish friends asked me if Scotland was one of the 74 countries I had been to and I said yes and told them where I had traveled in Scotland, they all matter of factly replied “You have not been to Scotland”. Turns out that the reason for this is if you don’t go to northern Scotland to the Highlands, then you are missing the best part of Scotland so here I am again.

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So, on Day 1, we headed out from our lovely cottage in Dornie on our single track road to see the ruins of Armadale Castle and its gardens.

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We then journeyed through by the Sound of Sleat, the Black Cullens (where hikers/climbers train for Everest) and on to Elgol and – as we did every day – we passed by this charming boat which reeks of a story just dying to be told. And, while you should delve into Scotland’s rich history and all of its stories, not just the one that little blue boat tells, such as the stories of Mary Queen of Scots, the Battle of Culloden where the Jacobites lost the revolution and William Wallace’s fight for freedom and while you should stop and see castles, brilliant gardens where every plant and tree from around the world will grow and the small towns dotted with white houses and double chimneys, the magic of Scotland is undoubtedly in its landscape. In fact, my impression of northern Scotland thus far can be summed up in one phrase – God was showing off when he created Scotland. The photos herein are just a wee taste of what I’m talking about as you will see over the next few weeks.

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That’s all for now from the Isle of Skye. Enjoy.