Thursday, November 20, 2014

Day 13 - We put on the Kilts

We wake at the Laundry Cottage,

 have our breakfast and put on the kilts. After donning the kilts we attempt to once again Raise the Clans

and break into the Castle,

just kidding about breaking into the Castle.

Then it's off to Orbost and the Orbost Estate Farm to visit Rachel Jackson to deliver the stones
from Fort MacLeod and get an update on the Woodlands/Memorial Wall Project.
Together with her husband, Keith, they have organized the Clan MacLeod Woodlands Project, including the Memorial Wall, see the first blog on this trip (

Orbost is situated off the Dunvegan to Glendale road, Orbost is famous for its iconic house – Orbost House, a 14-bedroom mansion originally owned by the MacLeods. Nestling in the shadow of Healabhal Bheag (MacLeod’s Tables South) Orbost lies in the north-west of the Isle of Skye, approximately 4 miles from Dunvegan, seat of the Clan MacLeod.

'That's Orbost, sir, the house under the hill', said Malcolm, pointing with his whip...
('A Summer in Skye', Alexander Smith, 1865).

Orbost House, located in the North West of the Isle of Skye, Scotland, is one of the Island´s finest houses. and unlike some of Skye´s other big houses it has been able to withstand the harsh weather conditions as well as several changes in ownership.

The oldest parts of Orbost House were built in the mid 18th century and more parts were added in later times. It has a long and intriguing history and is mentioned in several books, most famously in Alexander Smith´s 'A Summer in Skye' and W. W. Tarn´s 'The Treasure of the Isle of Mist'. It was home to Otta Swire, famous author of the book 'Skye - The Island and its Legends'.

Orbost House and its magnificent surroundings are unique and have their very own magic. It holds a special place in many people´s hearts and is, as W. W. Tarn put it, 'A True House of Faery'.

The story of Orbost House is a rich tapestry, tightly interwoven with the history of the Isle of Skye and its people. Orbost House has been continuously inhabited since it was built around 1760, second only to Dunvegan Castle, built about 800 years ago.

Orbost used to belong to the estates of the Clan of Skye. However, unlike other tacks (a leased piece of land) on the Island, Orbost was never connected with any single MacLeod family.

The first available records of the Orbost Estate show that in 1683, one Ean Mc Wannane (John McLennan) was paying rent to the MacLeod Chief for the tack of 'Hirbost'. The amount paid for the tack was the third highest rent on the MacLeod estates at that time, indicating its relative status in economic terms.

It is important to note that Orbost, in early days, used to be supplied from the sea and not, as it is now, by the road from the town of Dunvegan. The old road led from the nearby Bharcasaig Bay to the house and no further. People living at Orbost were dependent on boats and lived in a state of relative isolation and self-sufficient economy.

After a wonderful visit with Rachel who baked fresh scones and provided homemade jam, we head off to the old Town of Dunvegan.

On the way we stop into the Castle Dunvegan Estate Offices and discover we are being given a private tour of the Castle tomorrow morning.

It's back to the Laundry Cottage for a rest and then to the Cellar Bar to swap stories with the locals, all around Tennants and scotch.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Day 12 - Dunvegan Castle, St. Mary's Church, Fairies, etc...

We wake up in the Laundry Cottage, built in 1734 and the former home of the Estate Factor. We look out the front door and see this;

We stroll down to the left of the Cottage to the water's edge to see the famous Dunvegan Castle Seals.

Then we walk over the Castle. Dunvegan Castle is a castle a mile and a half to the north of Dunvegan on the Isle of Skye, situated off the West coast of Scotland. Any visit to the Isle of Skye is incomplete without savouring the wealth of history at Dunvegan Castle & Gardens. Built on a rocky outcrop on the shores of Loch Dunvegan once entirely encircled by the sea, Dunvegan is the oldest continuously inhabited castle in Scotland and has been the ancestral home of the Chiefs of Clan MacLeod for 800 years.

On display are many fine oil paintings and clan treasures, the most famous of which is the Fairy Flag. Legend has it that this sacred Banner has miraculous powers and when unfurled in battle, the clan MacLeod will defeat their enemies. Another of the castle's great treasures is the Dunvegan Cup, a unique ‘mazer’ dating back to the Middle Ages. It was gifted by the O'Neils of Ulster as a token of thanks to one of the clan's most celebrated Chiefs, Sir Rory Mor, for his support of their cause against the marauding forces of Queen Elizabeth I of England in 1596.

Dunvegan Castle’s five acres of formal gardens began life in the 18th century. In stark contrast to the barren moorland and mountains that dominate Skye’s landscape, the gardens are a hidden oa¬sis featuring an eclectic mix of plants.

The Walled Garden is well worth a visit. In what was formerly the castle’s vegetable garden, is now a diverse range of plants and flowers that complement the attractive landscaped features including a water lily pond, a neoclassical urn and a Larch Pergola.

The new memorial gazebo was installed in the Walled Garden July of this year in time for HRH the Princess Royal's visit. Various Clan MacLeod Societies from around the world funded the project, including the Associated Clan Society of Alberta.

Over time, the Castle has welcomed many visitors including Sir Walter Scott, Dr Johnson, Flora MacDonald and Queen Elizabeth II.

We leave the Castle and drive to old St. Mary's Church and graveyard.

Since 1835, the burial place of the Chiefs of the MacLeods has been within the ruins of St Mary's Chapel at Kilmuir, Skye. Prior to the 24th Chief John Norman MacLeod's burial, the MacLeod Clan Chiefs were buried at Rodel, Isle of Harris. Norman MacLeod, his wife Anne, and daughter, Emily, a noted Gaelic historian, were all very involved with life in Dunvegan and oversaw major changes to the Castle so it seemed fitting that their resting place should be near Dunvegan. After them, the 25th Chief Norman, and his son Roderick, 26th Chief Norman Magnus, 27th Chief Reginald, 28th Chief Dame Flora, and in February 2007, 29th Chief John MacLeod have all been buried there.

This roofless ruined church, now consolidated, has a date of 1694 over the north entrance and the dedication to St. Mary is still reflected in the name of both the township and the graveyard. Once the parish church for Duirinish, not only are some of the chiefs of Clan MacLeod buried in the north aisle and chancel, but generations of the Clan hereditary pipers, the MacCrimmons, are at rest in the graveyard. An early 18th century ashlar obelisk commemorates the 6th Lord Lovat,  Thomas Frazer, and some late medieval carved gravestones and 18th century tablestones are located within the walled enclosure surrounding the church.

And then off to get breakfast and we find one of the greatest bakeries we've ever had the pleasure to visit, Dunvegan Bakery (Skye's Oldest Bakery).

Dunvegan Bakery has been baking since 1870. This incarnation has been owned by John MacLellan for over 23 years, a big Glaswegian, friendly, humble and a superb baker.

The food is fresh, delicious and we defy you to find better baked goods, anywhere. The bakery is opened all year round.

With full stomachs we head for the Fairy Bridge.

The somewhat modest Fairy Bridge, located three miles from Dunvegan Castle, is the site where some tales place the final moments between a MacLeod Chief and his fairy wife before she left him to return to Fairyland. As the story goes, she gave him the Fairy Flag before her departure, promising that it had the power to relieve him of danger and distress when he waved it.

From the Fairy Bridge it's off to Trumpan.

Trumpan (Scottish Gaelic: Trumpan) is a hamlet located on the Vaternish peninsula on the Isle of Skye, in the Scottish council area of the Highland. Trumpan church, which is now a ruin, was the focus of a particularly brutal incident in 1578, when the Clan MacDonald of Uist travelled to Trumpan in eight boats and under cover of a thick mist, burnt alive all the worshipping church-goers, with only one member managing to escape. This led to instant retribution by Clan MacLeod who killed all the invaders, before they had time to flee the island. This skirmish is known as the Battle of the Spoiling Dyke.

The Battle of the Spoiling Dyke (also known as the Battle of the Spoiled Dyke, Blar Milleadh a’ Ghàraidh, Millegearaidh) was a Scottish clan battle that took place in 1578, fought between the MacDonalds of Uist and the Clan MacLeod.

The MacDonalds of Uist barred the doors of Trumpan Church, or Kilconan Church as it was once known, east of the shores of Ardmore Bay. They then set fire to the church full of worshipers. No one escaped alive except one girl who, although mortally wounded, managed to give the alarm. On hearing the news, the chief of Clan MacLeod and his men set off for Ardmore bay where a battle ensued. The MacDonalds were killed almost to a man. The corpses of the MacDonalds were dragged and then buried in a turf dyke, and the incident remembered as the "Battle of the Spoiling Dyke". The atrocity by the MacDonalds was to exact vengeance on the MacLeods for their atrocity of the massacre of MacDonalds in the Cave of Frances on the Isle of Eigg a couple of years earlier. This again was a tit-for-tat revenge between the two feuding clans.

Trumpan churchyard is the burial ground of Rachel Chiesley, Lady Grange whose husband had her kidnapped and incarcerated on various Hebridean islands.

Rachel Chiesley, usually known as Lady Grange (1679–1745), was the wife of Lord Grange, a Scottish lawyer with Jacobite sympathies. After 25 years of marriage and nine children, the Granges separated acrimoniously. When Lady Grange produced letters that she claimed were evidence of his treasonable plotting against the Hanoverian government in London, her husband had her kidnapped in 1732. She was incarcerated in various remote locations on the western seaboard of Scotland, including the Monach Isles, Skye and the distant islands of St Kilda.

Lady Grange's father was convicted of murder and she is known to have had a violent temper; initially her absence seems to have caused little comment. News of her plight eventually reached her home town of Edinburgh however, and an unsuccessful rescue attempt was undertaken by her lawyer, Thomas Hope of Rankeillor. She died in captivity, after being in effect imprisoned for 13 years. Her life has been remembered in poetry, prose and plays.

The date of Chiesley's marriage to James Erskine is uncertain: based on the text of a letter she wrote much later in life, it may have been in 1707 when she was about 28. The young Lady Grange has been described as a "wild beauty", and it is likely the marriage only took place after she became pregnant.

As the Erskines' marriage trouble increased, Lady Grange's behaviour became increasingly unpredictable. Her discovery of an affair her husband was conducting with coffeehouse owner Fanny Lindsay can only have made matters worse. In April of that year, she threatened suicide and to run naked through the streets of Edinburgh.

Lady Grange was abducted from her home on the night of 22 January 1732 by two Highland noblemen, Roderick MacLeod of Berneray and Macdonald of Morar. After a bloody struggle, she was taken out of the city in a sedan chair and then on horseback to Wester Polmaise near Falkirk, where she was held until 15 August on the ground floor of an uninhabited tower. From there she was taken west by Peter Fraser (a page of Simon Fraser, the 11th Lord Lovat).

We leave Trumpan and head back to the Cottage for a wee rest before going to the Local pub, the Cellar Bar,
where we try to get the bartender to run as a Member of Parliament in next May's election for the Scottish National Party. Yes this involved Tennants and scotch.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Day 11 - The drive to Skye takes us through the Glennfinnan Monument, where Bonnie Prince Charlie raised the Jacobite Standard

We wake for a Scottish breakfast at our hotel, the Alexandra Hotel.

Part of the very fabric of Fort William, since 1876, The Alexandra Hotel provides traditional Scottish Hospitality at its best, located in the centre of Fort William, an ideal base to explore the Highlands and Islands.

After breakfast we attend the Remembrance Day Ceremony held out the back of the Alexandra.

Following the ceremony we drive to the Isle of Skye.

The drive takes us through Glennfinnan, a chilling moment as we understand where we are standing. Every Scot needs to visit this site.

Glnfinnan (Scottish Gaelic: Gleann Fhionghain) is a village in Lochaber area of the Highlands of Scotland. In 1745 the Jacobite Rising began here when Prince Charles Edward Stuart ("Bonnie Prince Charlie") raised his standard on the shores of Loch Shiel. Seventy years later the 18-metre-high (60 ft) Glenfinnan Monument - at the head of the loch - was erected to commemorate the historic event.

Prince Charles initially landed from France on Eriskay in the Western Isles. He then travelled to the mainland in a small rowing boat, coming ashore at Loch nan Uamh just west of Glenfinnan. On arrival on the Scottish mainland, he was met by a small number of MacDonalds. Stuart waited at Glenfinnan for a number of days as more MacDonalds, Camerons, Macfies and MacDonnells arrived.

On Monday 19 August 1745, after Prince Charles judged he had enough military support, including Donn Lovett, he climbed the hill near Glenfinnan as MacMaster of Glenaladale raised his royal standard. The Young Pretender then announced to all the mustered clans he claimed the Scottish and the English thrones in the name of his father James Stuart ('the Old Pretender'). A MacPhee (Macfie) was one of two pipers with Bonnie Prince Charlie when he raised his banner above Glenfinnan. Afterwards brandy was distributed to the assembled highlanders to celebrate the occasion.

Eight months later Charles Stuart's claim to the thrones of Scotland and England ended in failure at Culloden on the 16 April 1746. Many Macfies, who came from Glenfinnan, followed Donald Cameron of Lochiel on the right flank of the Jacobite Army at the battle.

Charles Stuart returned to the area after Culloden during his flight to evade the government troops of Prince William, Duke of Cumberland. After being hidden by loyal supporters, he boarded a French frigate on the shores of Loch nan Uamh close to where he had landed and raised his standard the previous year. The Young Pretender died in Rome in 1788 after never setting foot on Scottish soil again. The Prince's Cairn now marks the spot from where he departed into exile.

In 1815, the Jacobite cause was no longer a political threat. Alexander Macdonald of Glenaladale, a minor branch of the Clan Donald, built a memorial tower at Glenfinnan to commemorate the raising of the standard of the Young Pretender. The tower, which is surmounted by a statue of an anonymous Highlander, was designed by the Scottish architect James Gillespie Graham. The monument's location at Glenfinnan was made possible because in 1812 a new road - built by Thomas Telford - opened between Fort William to Arisaig.

Since 1938, the Glenfinnan Monument has been in the care of the National Trust for Scotland. The tower has also become a monument to Alexander Macdonald, who died before its completion.

Hundreds of Jacobite enthusiasts gather at the tower each year on 19 August to remember the Rising of '45.

Directly across the road from the Glennfinnan Monument is the place where scenes from the Harry Potter fils were shot. Notably the Hogwarts train crossing the bridge.

Leaving the monument, a very short drive up the hill on the left we discover a marvelous church, St. Mary and St. Finnan, Glenfinnan.

The church was consecrated in 1873. Designed by E Welby Pugin in the Gothic style, the church enjoys an elevated and commanding position overlooking Loch Shiel with a spectacular view of the loch and surrounding hills. The church is a memorial chapel to the MacDonalds of Glenaladale, the family with whom Bonnie Prince Charlie stayed prior to the raising of the Jacobite standard at Glenfinnan in August 1745. The church contains a memorial to the Prince and headstones of members of the MacDonald family. Near the altar is the burial place of Father Donald MacDonald, the first parish priest, also one of the family who built the church.

We depart the church and drive the rest of the way to Mallaig, where we will catch the ferry to Skye.

Mallaig  i/ˈmælɪɡ/; (Scottish Gaelic: Malaig [ˈmal̪ˠɛkʲ]) is a port in Lochaber, on the west coast of the Highlands of Scotland. The local railway station,Mallaig, is the terminus of the West Highland railway line (Fort William & Mallaig branch), completed in 1901, and the town is linked to Fort William by the A830 road – the "Road to the Isles".

The village of Mallaig was founded in the 1840s, when Lord Lovat, owner of North Morar Estate, divided up the farm of Mallaigvaig into seventeen parcels of land and encouraged his tenants to move to the western part of the peninsula and turn to fishing as a way of life. The population and local economy expanded rapidly in the 20th century with the arrival of the railway. Ferries operated by Caledonian MacBrayne and Bruce Watt Sea Cruises sail from the port to Armadale on the Isle of Skye, Inverie in Knoydart, and to the isles of Rùm, Eigg, Muck, and Canna. Mallaig is the main commercial fishing port on the West Coast of Scotland, and during the 1960s was the busiest herring port in Europe. Mallaig prided itself at that time on its famous traditionally smoked kippers but today only one traditional smokehouse remains, Jaffy's and Sons. Mallaig and the surrounding area is a popular area for holidays.

The majority of the community speaks English, with a minority of residents speaking in both English and Gaelic. In addition, traditional Gaelic is still taught in the school to pupils who choose to learn the subject.

Prior to catching the ferry, we stop for a late lunch at the Mission cafe. Very good home-cooked food, served by wonderful, friendly people. The Mission Bunkhouse in Mallaig offers simple hostel accommodation right opposite the train station.

We board the small ferry to Skye for a 40 minute trip.

We arrive on Skye and make the trip to Dunvegan through the darkened sky, reaching our destination, the Laundry Cottage at Dunvegan Castle.

The Laundry Castle was built in 1734, originally the Estate Factor's house, then the Castle laundry.