We spent much of our last day in Scotland walking the streets of Stirling, shopping, eating, and visiting the castle.
The city is built on the slopes of an extinct volcano, and walking from the town center to the castle was a bit of a hike.
It was great.
We bid farewell to Plockton a wee bit unsure of our plans for the day. Our itinerary sent us back to the Isle of Skye and south to Armadale Castle, and then across the bay to Malaig.
However, we'd been cautioned that due to high winds, the ferry schedule might be scrubbed, which would send us back the way we came by bus before we could head to Fort William. Quite the long way 'round.
As you can see from the photo, the day moved from a bit dreary to brilliantly blue, though the winds remained a cause for concern. But they did not hinder our visit to Armadale Castle, the spiritual home of Clan Donald.
Dunvegan, originally a Norse fortification, is the home of Clan MacLeod and the only Highland fortress to have been continuously inhabited by the same family for over 800 years. Rising up from the rock, it is an imposing site.
Dunvegan Castle's restoration was carried out between 1840 and 1850. Underneath lies 5 different buildings which were built and added on to from 1200 to the 1850s.
Alexander Croatch (the Humpbacked), was known as the MacLeod's greatest chief. He was injured by a MacDonald battle axe in the Battle of Bloody Bay off the Isle of Mull and known as a belligerant warlord. However, he had a softer side and actively encouraged dancing, poetry, and music. He added a tower on the south-east corner of the castle. Intended as guest accommodations, it was dubbed the Fairy Tower.
Inside the castle resides the Fairy Flag of the MacLeods. According to legend, a MacLeod chief and a fairy princess fell in love. Her father was against the match, but he finally relented, though only allowing his daughter and the chief a year and a day of handfasting. They were blissfully happy and a son was born to them.
After the year and a day, the fairy princess was compelled to return to her people, taking nothing of the human world with her. Sadly, she parted from her husband and child, and made her husband promise he would never allow their child to cry, for she would hear it in the fairy realm and be greatly distressed.
The chief reluctantly agreed to let her go and plunged into great despair after she left. Thinking to cheer him up, his clansmen threw a great party for him. The revelry lasted long into the night, and the nurse watching over the sleeping bairn slipped away to watch.
Sometime during the night, the babe kicked off his blanket and began to cry. His mother heard him and came to cover him with her own shawl and sing him back to sleep. When the maid returned to check on the child, she could hear the lullaby, but could not see the fairy mother. She gathered the bairn, still wrapped in the fairy blanket, and took him to the chief and told him what had happened.
The child grew up and told his father a strange story. He claimed the blanket was a talisman which would protect the MacLeods. The chief had to but wave the blanket as a flag and a host of fairies would arrive and save the day. The only catch was, the flag could only be used three times.
The fairy flag has reversed the MacLeod fortunes twice. Once, when the MacLeods were in a terrible battle with their enemies, the MacDonalds, the chief waved the flag and the battle's tide turned in the MacLeods' favor. The second time, the MacLeod cattle were stricken with a disease and the entire clan was on the verge of starvation. The chief again waved the flag and the health of the cattle was restored.
Dunvegan Castle is also known for its beautiful gardens. Paths wind through carefully planted yet barely contained gardens past waterfalls and over burns. There is also a walled garden where vegetables are grown next to a manicured, formal garden. A third garden exists behind a wall as well, and contains a Monkey Puzzle tree which fascinates me each time I see one.
Even with the castle blurred in the background, the castle touted as being the most photographed castle in Scotland is easily recognized as the beautiful Eilean Donan Castle.
Home of the MacRaes.
Eilean Donan Castle was held by the Mackenzie clan from the early 13th century. The MacRaes arrived in Kintail around 1362, and a bond between the MacRaes and Mackenzies grew due to the MacRaes' loyalty and distinguished service. MacRaes were expert marksmen and served as archers and warriors in service to the Mackenzies where they were hailed as 'the Mackenzies' shirt of mail'. As the Mackenzie power grew from chiefs to barons, then as lords and earls, the MacRaes were appointed constables of Eilean Donan Castle. Though historically known best for their prowess in battle, MacRaes were also counselors to the chiefs and tutored the chiefs' sons. They were poets, ministers, doctors, and musicians.
The original name MacRae was given to men thought to have an unusual gift of sanctity and grace.
Let's start with some of my favorite photos.
Our day at Dunrobin Castle didn't end with just a tour of the castle and gardens. We were there in time for a falconry display.
If you look in this photo, you'll see rows of benches about midway down the right side. The long stretch of open garden before those benches is where the display was held. And it was awesome!
The falconer introduced us to three different birds, (two falcons and a hawk) one at a time, extolling their virtues and sending them soaring over our heads.
Did you know a gyrfalcon can catch his prey on a straight course, flying at 90 mph or at dives approaching 200 mph? Or that the Peregrine falcon strikes its prey with the force of diving speeds clocked in excess of 240 mph? And pulling 25Gs? (FWIW, 9Gs is the human limit. Let that sink in a moment)
This is where I talk about things in my life outside of writing. Mostly gardening and dogs.
All Adventures With Rezso After Christmas Angus The Cat Anne Martin Gaelic Singer Armadale Bay Armadale Castle Arthur Cormack Gaelic Singer Basketball Bath Bath Time Beltane Tours Ben Best Toys Beth Malcolm Birthday Brough Of Birsay Caithness Caledonia MacBrayne Ferry Castles Of Scotland Cathy MacRae Ceilidh Celtic Crosses Celtic Music Chiropractic Treatment Christmas Church Of The Holy Rude Corgi Dixie Dog Training Dunnottar Castle Dunrobin Castle Dunvegan Castle Edinburgh Eilean Donan Castle Emily Smith Traditional Scottish Singer Euphonium Falconry Exhibit Ferry Fiddles Flowers Freki Fun On The Farm Gaelic Songs Gardening Gardens German Shepherd Gunnar Happy Birthday Harry Potter Train Harvest Helper Highland Distillery Holyrood Abbey Holyroodhouse Holyrood Palace Iain MacFarlane Fiddler Ingrid Henderson Harpist Isle Of Skye Jacobite Steam Train Jennifer & Hazel Wrigley Jim And Susie Malcolm Jolly Ball Kelpies Kirkwall Laidhay Crofting Museum Life With Dogs Life With Freki Maeshowe Malaig Malinky Band Monkey Puzzle Tree New Puppy Ninja Dog Obedience Class Odin's Wolves Orkney Pool Time Ring Of Brodgar Rosslyn Chapel Scotland Food Scotland Tour 2019 Service Dog Skaill House Skara Brae Snow Soccer #Sonicdrivein Spring Springtime Square Foot Garden Square-foot Garden Standing Stones Standing Stones Of Stenness Stirling Castle St Magnus Cathedral Swimming Pool Then And Now Thorfinn The Mighty Tracking Treats Vikings Water Games Where's Thorfinn? Whistles Winter Fun Wonderful Wednesday
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