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.
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