Friday, August 24, 2018

Eilean Donan and Over the Sea to Skye - Magic Hour on Kilt Rock the Quiraing

Somewhere along the Scottish coast
And emerald island lies
And I will steer my sailing boat
Unto the Isle of Skye
~Andrew Peterson

Eilean Donan Castle

We'd left Inverness that morning and had already been to a highland games and driven through beautiful Glen Shiel. We were almost to the Isle of Skye but had to make one last stop! It's one of the most famous images of Scotland ... Eilean Donan.

My Travel Journal

The tide was high and so was the sun, so it wasn't exactly the optimal time for photographing the castle but still ... 

From their official website:

"The name Eilean Donan, or island of Donan, is most probably called after the 6th century Irish Saint, Bishop Donan who came to Scotland around 580 AD. There are several churches dedicated to Donan in the area and it is likely that he formed a small cell or community on the island during the late 7th century.

The first fortified structure was not built on the island until the early 13th century as a defensive measure, protecting the lands of Kintail against the Vikings who raided, settled and controlled much of the North of Scotland and the Western Isles between 800 and 1266. ...Over the centuries, the castle itself has expanded and contracted in size.

...Eilean Donan also played a role in the Jacobite risings of the 17th and 18th centuries, which ultimately culminated in the castle’s destruction…For the best part of 200 years, the stark ruins of Eilean Donan lay neglected, abandoned and open to the elements, until Lt Colonel John Macrae-Gilstrap bought the island in 1911. Along with his Clerk of Works, Farquar Macrae, he dedicated the next 20 years of his life to the reconstruction of Eilean Donan, restoring her to her former glory. The castle was rebuilt according to the surviving ground plan of earlier phases and was formally completed in the July of 1932."

It was a warm afternoon by Scotland's standards but even so we stopped for coffee in the visitor's center. There was also a good size gift shop. Not a bad view, eh?

My dad took this of me up on rock ...

It felt so nice walking out in the sunshine after being in the car and having a bit of crazy weather in and around Inverness.

If the castle seems familiar, it's been in many films including Highlander, James Bond-The World is Not Enough, Elizabeth the Golden Age and others. I believe it's also been on a whole host of items including cookie tins and postcards. You can tour the inside or even have a wedding there! Can you imagine?

We left the loveliness of the castle and went round a bend expecting that that was our last stop but then ...

Yet another beautiful view! I took probably 80 photos from this vantage point of the castle!  That would include this selfie with my iPhone -in my Edinburgh hat and Clan Cameron Scarf! (It was my Christmas Card last year.)

What could be more fitting music than the Skye Boat Song? Some of you may know the tune as the theme to Outlander but with different words. It's actually an old song about Bonnie Prince Charlie going "Over the Sea to Skye ...!" In fact, when I first watched Outlander I thought that sounds familiar. Well, I'd played the song on the harp when I was a wee lass! Well, maybe 11 or 12. 

This version is without lyrics but is so beautiful and gets me a little weepy. It also goes perfect with the scenery!

The weather on Skye as we drove onto the island was dreamy and magic hour seemed to stretch on and on! After you cross over the big Skye Bridge and drive along the main road you will come upon two smaller bridges side by side. The first you drive over ...

And if I recall correctly, most people just walk over the second.

As you can see, our first views of Skye were stunning!

Look at the beautiful heather!

Because we had such beautiful skies we took advantage of the moment! I'd seen the forecast for a blustery following day so I didn't want to take a chance on losing out on this glorious light! So, we blew past the town of Portree and our little AirBnB and continued on the little road north.

We stopped at Kilt Rock which is named for the sea the cliffs that look like pleats of a kilt! I couldn't quite see the bottom of the falls without falling over the rail so I stuck with this view! Not bad!

Across the road from the cliffs and sea ...

We then hopped back in the car to see if we could make it to the Quiraing before the sun went down! I had seen photos of it, films of it, and even helped a student who brought a Googled image do an acrylic painting of it!

We found a sign for the Quiraing and got on a rather small one lane road. "Are you sure this is right?" my dad asked. "Um, I don't know but ... let's see!"

We met some fuzzy friends along the way but the Quiraing is famous for its incredibly beautiful geological formations.

I love this photo below and had a few friends remark, that because the plant life look like miniature trees, the sheep looks enormous!

This next shot is out the windshield.You can see the road going up up up! We were hoping we were almost there and also hoping no one was heading back down!

Oh, hello.

And then .... tadaaaaaa!!! 

It was everything I hoped for. It was magnificent.

At this point, after taking in one of the most gorgeous views on the planet, we remembered we had a dinner reservation and had to get back to Portree. The summer is very VERY busy on Skye and so are the restaurants. On top of that, don't expect to find a last minute place to stay in the summer months. Many months ahead all the hotels were booked (except for some very swanky 5 star joints). We were lucky to find our AirBnB. So, plan ahead unless you want to just spend the day ... or bring a tent.

Our dinner was at Cuchullin Restaurant down in the main little square.

By the way, the Skye Red Ale was delicious. I think I had mussels and a fish cake. I remember whatever we had was great but I had such anticipation for my hike the next morning that it's a bit of a blur!

OH! And I've been so busy I forgot to mention I'm getting ready for a solo show in December! It's called "Over Time and Place: Five Decades." The latter part of the title referencing my birthday I'll be having exactly one week after my show. 

Anyway, I've gotten started on this piece which, coincidentally, I worked on last night and today! More work to do but the bones are there.


That's it for now! I can't believe I was in Scotland a year ago! Yep, I left for Scotland in August. Right now I'd be heading to Inverness. 

My next post is of my hike up to the Old Man of Storr! Definitely one of my biggest highlights of that trip ... or any trip!

Hope you are all doing well!
Blessings and light!

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Inverness Cathedral, a Highland Games and Glorious Glen Shiel ~ On the Road to Skye

The Mountains are calling 
and I must go.
~ John Muir
Scottish American Naturalist

I was so excited to be heading across the Highlands to the Isle of Skye but leaving Inverness was not easy. I vowed that I would go back someday and spend more time but I did have one thing left to do!

And please press play for music to go with the post! 

I walked out of our cute little lane, umbrella in hand ...

and out of the neighborhood block ...

To catch a glimpse (and a photo or two) of Inverness Cathedral. I think the facade of the church is quite lovely!

Inverness Cathedral
Scottish Episcopal 

From the Website:
"The foundation stone of this, the first new Cathedral to be completed in Great Britain since the Reformation, was laid in 1866 by the Archbishop of Canterbury, and the Cathedral was opened for public worship in 1869.
The Cathedral is built of Red Tarradale Stone, with a Nave of five bays divided by columns of Peterhead granite. The High Altar and Reredos are of Caen stone. ... The Pulpit is of Caen stone and green marble and rests on short columns of Abriachan granite.

The white marble Angel Font is a copy of the Kneeling Angel Font by the Danish sculptor Thorvaldsen in Copenhagen, although the face is that of Mrs Learmouth, wife of General Learmouth who gave it."

I loved the angel!

Looking from the Cathedral grounds in the rain and out across the River Ness ...

And then we were off! We only drove about 20 minutes Southwest, past the northern tip of Loch Ness to Glen Urquhart High School in Drumnadochit. Ahead of the trip I had Googled a list of Highland Games for the summer of 2017.  I wanted to see if any dates coincided with our road trip. Bingo! I found one right on our way out of Inverness on the exact day we were heading off to Skye!

One touch of Nature
makes the whole world Kin.
~ John Muir

Maybe the prettiest parking lot ever? And notice the change of weather!

Glen Urquhart 
Highland Gathering and Games
Drumnadrochit, Scotland

How fun! A local Highland Games!

My travel journal ...

Along with all the various sporting events, bagpipe, and dance competitions there were a few vendors, as well. This gentleman, below, carved and cast all kinds of Celtic and Pictish jewelry and little replica Pictish stones. He was super groovy and though in a t-shirt seemed that he could have played a character in Lord of the Rings. 

He carved this in plaster first and made a mold before casting these miniature versions of stones found in Scotland. I went with pewter pins for my sister and I, and birthday earrings for the lady I work for.

He started describing to me what the various ancient symbols meant and I realized that he was more than just interested in the history. Perhaps he was living it all in real time?  I wondered if he went out and performed rituals by the stones in the light of a full moon but decided that might be too personal to ask. I also might have a bit of a vivid imagination!

Oh, and I had a nice long chat with a Scottish gentleman who was Glaswegian. He was selling lovely handmade soaps but was telling me all about how Scotland is really its own country and that they should part ways with England and on and on. He also went into the the whole Brexit situation as I stood there smelling all the various herbal and floral scents of his vast soap collection. He was quite passionate about it all but I just enjoyed his rather animated Scottish brogue!

At some point my dad came looking for me as I was purchasing the soap which was the color of burnt sienna.  I was told it was made with a plant that is supposed to keep the midges away.  Even though I'd gotten the midge repellent I thought it couldn't hurt and I was a wee bit concerned about getting eaten alive on my big upcoming hike!

It was fun to watch the kids' foot races.

My dad, below, enjoying the games!

I don't remember what this thing is called that was being thrown into the air (below) but I think it's pretty dang heavy. Not as heavy as the big telephone pole they toss however! I believe that is the caber toss which sounds nicer but it is basically what they are doing.

Love the dancing. It's pretty similar (to someone like me who knows nothing about it) to Irish dancing but they do use their arms in Scotland!

Bagpipe competitions!

After we had some meat pies and were on our way!

 The drive from Loch Ness west toward Skye was glorious!

My dad and I were listening to my Scottish fairy tales audiobook (told by the Scottish actor who plays Ian, Jenny's Husband, in Outlander) as we drove through the incredible Highland Landscape. My mom had fallen asleep in the back at some point but now we had to wake her up!

Loch Cluanie

We pulled off the road. "LOOK AT THIS!!!"

And as we drove into Glen Shiel it became more and more wondrous!

At this point my mom and I were both shouting "Pull over! Pull over!" My dad found a spot ...

Glen Shiel

If you'd have said to me that this is what heaven looks like, I would believe you.

Oh, these vast, calm, 
measureless mountain days, 
days in whose light
everything seems equally divine,
opening a thousand windows 
to show us God.
~John Muir

Can you imagine living right here??!

Loch Duich

It really may look a lot like heaven.


Everybody needs beauty as well as bread,
places to play in, 
where nature may heal 
and give strength to body and soul.
~John Muir

Blessings and light!