Thursday, November 27, 2014

Day 15 - Depart Dunvegan and Look for an Amazon

We pack up and prepare to depart the Laundry Cottage and Dunvegan Castle. We are headed to find the amazon who taught men how to fight.

We stop in for a final breakfast at the Dunvegan Bakery and a visit with the owner, John MacLellan. This was one of our favourite spots on the entire trip.

We stop in again at Drynoch to see if we can get any more information on the home of James F. MacLeod, no luck. We head down the road a wee bit to Carbost.

Carbost (Scottish Gaelic: Carabost) is a village on the south shore of Loch Harport on the Isle of Skye in the Highlands of Scotland and is in the council area of Highland. Carbost becomes a tourist hub in summer months due to the presence of the Talisker Distillery which is also one of the main employers in village along with the local pub, The Old Inn and the award winning local emporium.

Talisker distillery is an Island single malt Scotch whisky distillery based in Carbost, Scotland—the only distillery on the Isle of Skye. The distillery is operated by United Distillers and Vintners for Diageo, and is marketed as part of their Classic Malts series. The brand is sold as a premium whisky.

The distillery was founded in 1830 by Hugh and Kenneth MacAskill, and built in 1831 at Carbost
after a number of false starts on other sites when they acquired the lease of Talisker House from the MacLeod of MacLeod. The distillery was rebuilt 1880 - 87 and extended in 1900. When a new lease for the distillery was negotiated with the chief of Clan MacLeod in 1892 the annual payment was to be £23.12s and a ten-gallon cask of best-quality Talisker. It was rebuilt in 1960 after a stillhouse fire completely destroyed the distillery. The distillery operates five stills; two wash stills and three spirit stills. All the stills use worm tubs (condensing coils) rather than a modern condenser, which are believed to give the whisky a "fuller" flavour (itself an indication of higher sugar content).

During this early period, the whisky was produced using a triple distilling method, but changed to the more conventional double distilling in 1928. Talisker was acquired by Distillers Company in 1925 and is now part of Diageo. After the 1960 fire, five exact replicas of the original stills were constructed to preserve the original Talisker flavour. In 1972 the stills were converted to steam heating and the maltings floor was demolished. Talisker’s water comes from springs directly above the distillery via a network of pipes and wells.

The malted barley used in production comes from Muir of Ord. Talisker has an unusual feature—swan neck lye pipes.

A loop in the pipes takes the vapour from the stills to the worm tubs so some of the alcohol already condenses before it reaches the cooler. It then runs back in to the stills and is distilled again. Talisker now has an annual output of three and a half million litres of spirit.

Talisker was the favourite whisky of writers Robert Louis Stevenson and HV Morton. In his poem "The Scotsman's Return From Abroad", Stevenson mentioned "The king o' drinks, as I conceive it, Talisker, Islay, or Glenlivet."

We leave Carbost and head off to Broadford and some stops along the way. The next road we drive through the village of Ord, heading for Dunscaith Castle.

Dunscaith Castle also known as Dun Sgathaich Castle, Dun Scaith, and Tokavaig, is a ruined castle on the coast of the Isle of Skye, in the north-west of Scotland. It is located in the Parish of Sleat, in the Highland council area, and in the former county of Inverness-shire. Also called Fortress of Shadows, it is named after and was the home of the warrior maiden Sgathaich, or (more properly) Scáthach.

The castle is featured in the Ulster Cycle of Irish mythology as the place where Scáthach the Shadow, legendary Scottish warrior woman and martial arts teacher, trained the hero Cú Chulainn in the arts of combat.  The Irish name for the fort, Dun Scathiag, was named after her.

Scáthach, or Sgathaich,
is a figure in the Ulster Cycle of Irish mythology. She is a legendary Scottish warrior woman andmartial arts teacher who trains the legendary Ulster hero Cú Chulainn in the arts of combat. Texts describe her homeland as Scotland (Alpae); she is especially associated with the Isle of Skye, where her residence Dún Scáith, or "Dun Sgathaich" (Fortress of Shadows), stands. She is called "the Shadow" and "Warrior Maid" and is the rival and sister of Aífe, both daughters of Árd-Greimne of Lethra.

Scáthach's instruction of the young hero Cú Chulainn notably appears in Tochmarc Emire (The Wooing of Emer), an early Irish foretale to the great epic Táin Bó Cúailnge. Here, Cú Chulainn is honour-bound to perform a number of tasks before he is found worthy to marry his beloved Emer, daughter of the chieftain Forgall Monach. The tale survives in two recensions: a short version written mainly in Old Irish and a later, expanded version of the Middle Irish period. In both recensions, Cú Chulainn is sent to Alpae, a term literally meaning "the Alps", but apparently used here to refer to Scotland (otherwise Albu in Irish). Cú Chulainn is sent there with Lóegaire and Conchobor, and in the later version also with Conall Cernach, to receive training from the warrior Domnall (whose hideous daughter falls in love with the hero and when refused, promises revenge). After some time, Domnall assigns them to the care of Scáthach for further training.

Cú Chulainn and his companion Ferdiad travel to Dún Scáith, where Scáthach teaches them feats of arms, and gives Cú Chulainn her deadly spear, the Gáe Bulg. Cú Chulainn begins an affair with Scáthach's daughter Uathach, but accidentally breaks her fingers. She screams, calling her lover Cochar Croibhe to the room. Despite Uathach's protests, he challenges Cú Chulainn to a duel, and Cú Chulainn dispatches him easily. To make it up to Uathach and Scáthach, Cú Chulainn assumes Cochar's duties, and becomes Uathach's lover. Scáthach eventually promises her daughter to him, without requiring the traditional bride price. Scáthach also grants Cú Chulainn the "friendship of her thighs" when his training is almost complete. When her rival, the warrior woman Aífe (Aoife is the modern Irish spelling), threatens her territory, Cú Chulainn defeats her in battle and forces her to make peace. Aífe also sleeps with Cú Chulainn, producing his son Connla, whom Cú Chulainn kills years later - realizing their relation too late.

The castle itself sits on an off-shore rock. The rock rises 40 feet above sea level and there is a gap of 20 feet between the rock and the mainland. The gap was once spanned by a walled bridge with arches 6 feet apart. This stone walled bridge then led onto a drawbridge, the pivot holes for which are still visible on the far side. Once on the other side of the drawbridge a door opened to a flight of stairs which was also sided by two walls. The flight of stairs led up to the castle.

Parts of the castle curtain wall still survive on the cliff edge but most of the inner buildings have gone. The curtain wall was about 5 ft thick. In the courtyard is a well and the remains of a stairway which once led up a tower.

Originally the castle belonged to the Clan MacDonald of Sleat, a branch of the Clan Donald or MacDonald. At some time in the 14th century it was taken from them by the Clan MacLeod and held briefly by the MacAskills, allies of the MacLeods but it was recaptured by the MacDonalds sometime in the 15th century.

In the 15th century the castle was again captured by King James I of Scotland when the Chief of the Clan Donald, Lord of the Isles was broken by King James I. The MacDonalds were allowed to keep possession of the castle. The MacDonalds abandoned the castle in the early 17th century.

Leaving the castle we toast

Scáthach the Shadow
before heading down the road to Broadford where we will stay the night.

Broadford (An t-Àth Leathann in Scottish Gaelic), together with nearby Harrapool, is the second-largest settlement on the Isle of Skye, Scotland, lying on the SW corner of Broadford Bay, on the A87 between Portree and the Skye Bridge. Overlooked by the eastern Cuillins, Broadford is in a beautiful tranquil area as well as having many services available.
Like many places in Skye, Broadford derives its name from Old Norse. To the Vikings this was Breiðafjorðr - the wide bay. The Gaelic name is of modern derivation and assumes that the "ford" element meant a river crossing.

West of Broadford in Glen Suardal, on the lower slopes of Beinn na Caillich, is Goir a' Bhlàir, 'the field of battle' (grid reference NG624234). The battle concerned was apparently a decisive action by the Gaelic Clan Mackinnon against the Vikings.

Broadford was a cattle market until 1812, when Telford built the road from Portree to Kyleakin. Veterans of the Napoleonic Wars settled during the first half of the 19th century. Writing in the middle of the 19th century, Alexander Smith said, "If Portree is the London of Skye, Broadford is its Manchester."

Legend holds that the recipe for the liqueur Drambuie was given by Bonnie Prince Charlie to Clan MacKinnon who then passed it onto James Ross late 19th century. Ross ran the Broadford Inn (now the Broadford Hotel), where he developed and improved the recipe, initially for his friends and then later to patrons. Ross then began to sell it further afield and the name was registered as a trademark in 1893.

In Broadford we stayed at the Dunollie Hotel.

We are told stories of ghosts that live in the hotel and the sightings of these same ghosts by the husband of the reception.

We hear a story about a skirmish that happened on the Totternish Penninsula on the Isle of Skye. A skirmish between the MacLeods and the MacDonalds which led to the MacLeods defeat - the victors decapitated all the bodies and rolled the heads down a hill to the loch below. As the heads rolled, they could be heard chanting 'We almost won today!'

A mantra later adopted by Stephen Carter and the Alberta Party.

After supper we are entertained by a local Scottish accordion player and the bus tour, singing and dancing, a lovely end to the evening.

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