Sunday, December 30, 2018

Isle of Skye Fairies ... Dunvagan Castle and The Fairy Glen

Up the airy mountain,
Down the rushy glen,
We daren’t go a-hunting
For fear of little men;
Wee folk, good folk,
Trooping all together;
Green jacket, red cap,
And white owl’s feather!

The Fairy Glen
Isle of Skye

There is much fairy lore in Scotland and on the Isle of Skye. And, though I've heard of no particular fairy sighting on this spot, it has become known as the Fairy Glen. With its otherworldly landscape it seems quite fitting!

Here's some music from 600 years ago on an old Scottish wire strung harp to listen to with the photos! Enjoy the journey!

The nearest town is Uig and the Fairy Glen is hidden in the hills above. I'd gone on a few websites for directions but I think we passed the road that leads there more than once!

Down along the rocky shore
Some make their home,
They live on crispy pancakes
Of yellow tide-foam;
Some in the reeds
Of the black mountain-lake,
With frogs for their watchdogs,
All night awake.

The landscape feels mystical and maybe a bit enchanted ...

High on the hill-top
The old King sits;
He is now so old and grey
He’s nigh lost his wits.
With a bridge of white mist
Columbkill he crosses,
On his stately journeys
From Slieveleague to Rosses;
Or going up with the music
On cold starry nights,
To sup with the Queen
Of the gay Northern Lights.

They stole little Bridget
For seven years long;
When she came down again
Her friends were all gone.
They took her lightly back,
Between the night and morrow,
They thought that she was fast asleep,
But she was dead with sorrow.
They have kept her ever since
Deep within the lake,
On a bed of fig-leaves,
Watching till she wake.

The locals spend the winter undoing the stone markers and spirals, returning it back it to it's natural state.

By the craggy hillside,
Through the mosses bare,
They have planted thorn trees
For my pleasure, here and there.
Is any man so daring
As dig them up in spite,
He shall find their sharpest thorns
In his bed at night.

Castle Ewan is a natural basalt rock formation that is said to be a home to the fairies.

One story I read said it was bad luck to enter the fairies' castle realm without an invitation. After listening to fairy folk stories in the car and hearing about their mischievous nature, I decided this was close enough! (Are you reading the poem on this post!? Dark stuff, those fairy stories!)

There is a theory that the ridges were created by landslides during the ice age but I'm not convinced that it hasn't been terraced and landscaped by a thousand wee fairy folk!

My parents and I loved this beautiful landscape that seemed to be Scotland in miniature! Pretty sure you can see that by the smiles on our faces!

Up the airy mountain,
Down the rushy glen,
We daren’t go a-hunting
For fear of little men;
Wee folk, good folk,
Trooping all together;
Green jacket, red cap,
And white owl’s feather!

William Allingham


If there are indeed wee fairies, in the Glen, I believe they must be friendly folk! We left lighthearted and agreed it was one of our favorite memories of beautiful Scotland.

This (below) is the road that leads you to and from the path up to the Fairy Glen. I think we were lucky with the drizzly weather. There were few people and we easily found a place to park that wouldn't block the road. (Definitely don't do that! You wouldn't want to piss off a fairy!)

We had a lovely drive back to our little AirBnB and a wonderful seafood dinner that night in Portree at Seabreezes! Delicious! Don't forget to get reservations a few days ahead, especially in summer!

The next morning we were off to another castle!

Dunvegan Castle
13th-19th Century
Clan MacLeod

"Dunvegan Castle is the oldest continuously inhabited castle in Scotland and has been the ancestral home of the Chiefs of clan MacLeod for 800 years."

The garden is beautiful! Our visit was at the end of August (early fall in Scotland) and it was filled with beautiful blooms. I can't imagine what it's like in the spring!

You can't take photos inside but it's still lived in, quite lovely, and even cozy! (In an old stone castle kind of way!)

There aren't specific stories about Fairies in the Fairy Glen, but there is a very important fairy story at Dunvegan Castle.

from their official website:
Am Bratach Sith (The Fairy Flag of Dunvegan) is one of the clan MacLeod’s most treasured possessions. Probably from Syria or Rhodes and woven of silk in the 4th century AD, legend has it that this sacred clan banner has miraculous powers. When unfurled in battle, the clan would invariably snatch victory from the jaws of defeat.
The traditional tales about its origin can be split into two distinct themes – Fairies and Crusaders. Fairy stories are difficult to relate to fact and often come about as a substitute for forgotten truth. The connection with the Crusades can be linked to the only scientific information we have about the Fairy Flag’s origin. When Sir Reginald MacLeod of MacLeod (27th Chief) had the Fairy Flag conserved and mounted in its sealed frame by the Victoria & Albert Museum in London, he listened while Mr Wace (one of the V&A’s experts) set out his theory about its origins, including the historical evidence that the Norseman Harald Hardrada (one of the early ancestors of the Chiefs of MacLeod), while on an expedition to plunder the pilgrim routes of the Middle East had brought a famous banner back to Britain where he was killed in 1066. Reginald listened politely and then said: “Mr Wace, you may believe that, but I know that it was given to my ancestor by the fairies”, to which Mr Wace replied “Sir Reginald, I bow to your superior knowledge”.

I definitely thought it was worth a visit. It was nice to see a castle that is still lived in by the family and get a sense of the history of the island. There was also a room of wonderful museum worthy Jacobite relics. No photography aloud so I'm trying to remember.  I think their small collection included things owned by the Bonnie Prince and Flora MacDonald.

The garden was especially beautiful and we didn't even see the whole thing! We had a distillery tour to get to!

Clan Mccloud and Dunvegan Documentary! Lots of history of Scotland and views of Dunvegan and more. Each segment is a pretty short 9 1/2 minutes but you can always skip forward.

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3


Hope you are enjoying the Isle of Skye! I think I have a post or two left before heading back into the highlands. 

Until then ...  
Happy New Year!!
SlĂ inte Mhath!
[SLANtchih va]
(Good Health in Gaelic!)

Thursday, December 20, 2018

Painting the Isle of Skye, My Solo Show and Wee Bit of Scottish History

Speed bonnie boat like a bird on the wing,
Onward, the sailors cry.
Carry the lad that's born to be king
Over the sea to Skye.

Quiraing, Isle of Skye 2017

I can't believe it's been since September that I've posted! I spent many hours getting ready for my solo show Through Time and Place: Five Decades which opened on December 2nd. The opening reception was one week before my 50th birthday.

As you might surmise from the title, my paintings represented 50 years of places I've been in my life. I focused on places that touched me in some way. Some were places I lived and other were traveling or on pilgrimage. There were 32 in all and the piece above was one of them.

Loud the winds howl, loud the waves roar,
Thunderclaps rend the air,
Baffled our foes stand by the shore,
Follow they will not dare.

When I last posted on this blog, I told the story of my incredible hike up to the Old Man of Storr. After coming down the mountain, I was cold, famished and needed a restroom! I'd read about a hotel north of the Storr and as luck would have it, it was on our way to our next destination.

The Flodigarry Hotel
A Victorian Hunting Lodge Built in 1892 for Maj. R. Macdonald

This bar was highly rated but when we arrived it was packed so we went and had lunch in the lovely restaurant. Of course, by the time we finished our lunch the bar was nearly empty. It's all about timing!

I'd been wanting to try something called "Cullen Skink Soup." Though the name might sound less than appetizing, the soup was incredibly delicious. It's a very lightly smoked fish soup with a cream base. SO good. I also had some salad and Talisker 10 year. Talisker, by the way, is the only distillery on Skye, but more on that later.

The soup was hot, delicious and perfect after a hike in the drizzling rain!

The hotel had a lovely sitting room and had we been staying there, I think it would have been difficult to get me to leave this room!

I can imagine sitting there for hours sketching and looking out to the sea ...

One reason I wanted to stop at this hotel was the Flora Macdonald Cottage, where you can actually stay! (Someday!!!)  It was her home early in her marriage, from 1751-1756.

Flora was the courageous lady who dressed up Bonnie Prince Charlie as an Irish spinning maid named Betty Burke after the Battle of Culloden (1746) to help him escape the British Army! She went to jail but eventually was released and became a heroine to the Jacobites. She moved to America but eventually moved back to the Isle Skye.

The Major, for whom the hunting lodge (now Flodigarry Hotel) was built for, was a descendant of Flora Macdonald. 

Someone was staying in the cottage but at least we got to see the outside!

And speaking of the Bonnie Prince's escape to Skye, that is the subject of the Skye Boat Song! (Which is now used as the Theme to Outlander but you'll note the different words!)

Press play for this beautiful version of the Skye Boat Song, sung by Laura Wright.

 After walking the grounds of the hotel we headed to the very North of the Isle of Skye ...

Though the waves leap, soft shall ye sleep,
Ocean's a royal bed.
Rock'd in the deep Flora will keep
Watch o'er your weary head.

There is a small "Museum of Island Life" where you can see how people used to live on the Island. It was closed that day but we were still able to see the beautiful stone structures.

Behind it was Kilmuir Cemetery, which was what I had really wanted to see!

Grave of Angus Martin ... said to have stolen the headstone of a king for himself!

Burned are our homes, exile and death,

Scattered the loyal man.
Yet ere the sword, cool in the sheath,
Charlie will come again.

But I didn't come for Angus  ... I came because Kilmuir is where you find the grave and monument to Flora Macdonald.

You know it's windy when your hair goes sideways. It was howling! In the distance you see the ocean. One of my favorite designers is also buried in Kilmuir. Alexander McQueen. It felt fitting that I was in my Stewart tartan shawl.

The image I decided to use on the postcard for my solo show was the very first painting I did in the series. The painting is from a photo I took on my first trip to Edinburgh in 1990. It took me a long time to figure out where exactly it was taken. I couldn't remember but alas with the help of the internet I finally figured it out. 

It was a home designed by James Craig in the 1700s. He was the architect who designed the New Town, in Edinburgh. This structure became the city's observatory until the very Paladian one that was established in 1776 took on the job. The 1776 one also happens to be where my coworker Siri worked years ago. How cool is that? This original "Observatory House" was built in the 1700s on Calton Hill and I have read that you can now rent it out for events. Can you imagine?

"Edinburgh, Scotland 1990"
11 x 14"
Oil on Wood panel

My paintings for the solo show were all on wood panels. As you can see, I start with a very loose underpainting.

Then laying in more color, I started figuring out where I might want to do some silver leaf that would integrate into the painting and even enhance it a bit.

"Isle of Skye"
6 x 12"

The reception felt like a huge success. There was a great energy and so many surprise guests, friends and family showed up. There was a lot of love in that room! On top of that I sold 17 paintings that evening, which was very exciting and quite unexpected! A few more have sold since then so there are 11 of the 32 still available.

I'll post more of the paintings and reception, as well as more Scotland soon! This time it won't be 3 months! Hoping to post again for Christmas about the Fairy Glen!

Speed bonnie boat like a bird on the wing,
Onward, the sailors cry.
Carry the lad that's born to be king
Over the sea to Skye.
~ Skye Boat Song
Lyrics by Sir Harold Boulton (b. 1859)