After a lovely breakfast at Viewfield House and a chat with its owner Hugh MacDonald, Helen picked us up and we set out to explore the south-west side of Skye before heading back to the main land.
Another fun sighting were the large, docile Highlander cattle. Helen told us they come in six colors and I think we saw them all in this trip. They certainly are imposing creatures as they mosey along in their fields.
We passed two flat-topped mountains called MacLeod’s Tables. Helen told us a fabulous story about the MacLeod chieftain offering a dinner to traveling clan chiefs with his own men circling the tops of each mountain with torches. Must have been an impressive sight.
Helen drove us to an area called Waternish where we stopped at the ruins of St. Mary’s church and a graveyard. The church was originally built in the 1500’s. High up on a hill behind the church was a stone erected in 2000 called the Duirinish Stone. For some reason the path leading up to the church was calling my name and I felt compelled to follow it. Twice along the path I felt I should probably stop due to a steep incline or muddy path, but I continued to the top. It was a beautiful view, but horribly windy and and cool, so I didn’t linger.
We wandered around the remarkable graveyard that was heavily used by the Clan MacCleod. It was a beautiful spot and Helen said it was quite an unusual graveyard due to the hilliness. Some of the words written on the tombstones were very eloquent and it was a wonderful setting.
Helen then took us to a broch. Dave and I had no idea what this was, so we were intrigued after she told us what it was. Dun Beag is a broch, one of around five hundred to be found across mainly the north and west of Scotland. Brochs were built in the last centuries BC and the first centuries AD. So, they’re older than castles. We walked up a fairly steep hill in some pretty dramatic winds, but it was worth it when we arrived at the top.
It seems that most Iron Age, land-owning families lived in these kinds of stone structures. They would have had several levels for storage, food, and daily living. It’s a fascinating structure and one probably few people in the U.S. are aware of.
We worked up an appetite climbing that hill and stopped for lunch at a hikers hotel/restaurant. We were certainly feeling like hikers at this point, but the group of husky, well-built, outdoorsy men sitting at three or four tables appeared to be the real deal.
Dave tried a tasty soup called cock a leekie, which is basically chicken (cock) and leeks (leekie). He loved it! Another Scottish winner. There was a lovely bridge across from the restaurant with a great view, although fog was covering the mountain tops, it was still fabulous and we took many photos.
Now came the moment Dave had been waiting 25 years to see: Eilean Donan castle! The first time he visited Scotland, there was a mix up in travel plans and he never got to it. It was very disappointing and he was REALLY looking forward to seeing it on this trip. We were even staying in a guest house that is literally across the street.
We walked over to the castle and Dave was just like a little boy, then to add to the excitement a helicopter and police boat were doing drills on dropping people into the boat and picking them up again. I had to admit watching this WAS exciting, but it got old after awhile and there was a castle waiting!
The castle was founded in the thirteenth century, and became a stronghold of the Clan Mackenzie and their allies the Clan Macrae. In the early eighteenth century the Mackenzies were involved in the Jacobite rebellions, which led to the castle’s destruction by government ships in 1719. The present buildings are the result of twentieth-century reconstruction of the ruins. But even though you know a good deal of it was rebuilt somewhat recently, it was still really fascinating and well done.
Above the main entrance is a Gaelic inscription which in translation reads: “As long as there is a Macrae inside, there will never be a Fraser outside”, referring to a bond of kinship between the two clans. Despite scaffolding setup for some re-work, the castle is beautiful. As we exited the castle, we discovered a group of Scottish dancers in the parking lot (car park) who were dancing in normal plain clothes to Scottish songs, mainly the song “Eilean Donan”. They were going to historic spots and dancing. Great fun!
We ate dinner in town at a local pub that had some slow service, they we headed to Donan House, our hotel for the night with possibly the best view of the castle. Our room had THE view and Dave was beyond thrilled when it finally became darker out (not until about 9:45) and they flood lit the castle, Really beautiful!