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.
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.
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 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
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.
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
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
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.
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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