The Troublemaker Begins

You’ll all be glad to hear that breakfast this morning was innocuous enough, us having turned down the black pudding menu item in advance. The selection of music playing during the meal did have its moments, though. The rotating CDs featured a mix of bagpipes and vaguely Celtic-sounding music. Think of the music you typically hear at any Italian restaurant, and substitute “Oh Sole Mio” and “That’s Amore” with “Amazing Grace” and “Scotland the Brave” and you’ll have the picture. The best part was undoubtedly when the reggae version of “Amazing Grace” came on. Is there an unlikelier pairing than bagpipes and steel drums? I don’t think so.

We did wake up to some lovely little birds breaking their fast on some seeds outside our bedroom window, though.

breakfasting birdies

Heading out for the day, we turned southwest and made for Dunvegan Castle, home of the MacLeod clan.

Steve at Dunvegan Castle

Anne at Dunvegan Castle

Dunvegan Castle

We had a lovely time visiting this castle. The docents were very friendly and knowledgeable about Scotland and Clan MacLeod history. We were also happy to go on the 40-minute guided tour around the interior. Unlike our experience at Cawdor Castle, clan history was evident throughout, and the tour featured the legendary Fairy Flag and the MacLeod Claymore Sword.

We also saw the small collection of materials linked to Bonnie Prince Charlie, acquired through Flora MacDonald’s actions helping the fleeing prince escape from the Isle of Skye following his defeat at the battle of Culloden. Flora’s daughter married into the MacLeod clan, and her daughter entrusted the collection to the MacLeods and Dunvegan Castle.

I stumped the docent when I asked if the MacDonald clan had ever, in the history since, asked for the materials to be given to them. After all, it was Flora MacDonald who had saved the bonnie prince. I was beyond surprised by the sincere comment that no one had ever asked her that before.

We are planning to visit Armadale, seat of the MacDonald clan, in the coming days. I am contemplating my ability to begin a clan conflict anew by whispering in a few ears while there about why this important collection of MacDonald history lies in MacLeod hands. . .

Meanwhile, upon reviewing some genealogical materials provided by his mom, Steve discovered that he is related to both the MacLeod and MacDonald clans via his maternal line, back in the 1600s. He was therefore allowed to sign the special guest log for individuals who can claim MacLeod lineage.

Viewed from the castle, we were also finally able to get a decent view of MacLeod’s Tables as the clouds that had earlier obstructed our view had finally begun to disperse, at least a bit.

MacLeod's Tables from Dunvegan Castle

MacLeod's Tables from Dunvegan Castle

We left the castle and drove to the end of the road for our hike o’ the day, along the coast and out to the Claigan coral beach.

coral beach near Dunvegan Castle

coral beach near Dunvegan Castle

I realized upon reaching the beach that I had never been on a coral beach before. I’m not entirely sure what to even rightly call the substrate under our feet, because it wasn’t sand yet. The beach was covered in coral pieces about an eighth of an inch long. It was remarkable. Very cool to look at and, as a side note, much easier to walk across than sand.

coral beach near Dunvegan Castle

Anne on coral beach near Dunvegan Castle

We spent a fair amount of time on the beach and the walk itself taking in the beautiful views all around.

landscape near Dunvegan Castle

landscape near Dunvegan Castle

Steve near Dunvegan Castle

Dunvegan Castle

Before leaving Dunvegan, we made a quick stop at St. Mary’s old church cemetery, which holds the remains of several MacLeod chiefs. The oldest headstone I found was from the 1700s, although many more were worn away to the point of being illegible. What was particularly interesting, though, was that, despite the church being in ruins, the most recent Clan MacLeod chiefs are also buried there. The space is small, and the footing uncertain, so I imagine internment must be a fairly private affair.

cemetery near Dunvegan

cemetery near Dunvegan

cemetery near Dunvegan

cemetery near Dunvegan

cemetery near Dunvegan

Our final touring stop of the day was to be Talisker Bay, which the guide books assured me was lovely, complete with sea stacks and a waterfall. What the books failed to mention was that you had to drive the longest 5-mile stretch of road in your life – an extremely narrow single-lane road with very few passing places to allow for oncoming traffic, complete with sheep in the road – only to come to the end and find a series of private roads that were unfit for cars anyway. We could have walked to the bay along one of these roads, but it was a least a mile to the bay and it was getting very late in the day by this point.

I contented myself with a few photos of the picturesque bay, and cow pasture leading to it, complete with a promised sea stack seen on the left.

Talisker Bay

Talisker Bay

Talisker Bay

We also met an extremely friendly cat hanging out near a driveway. Before I even had a chance to offer a greeting and request permission to approach, she came trotting up to me and began purring as I scratched her head. She quickly settled in for a session on Steve’s lap, before moving to mine for a spell.

Steve with friendly feline near Talisker Bay

Steve with friendly feline near Talisker Bay

friendly feline near Talisker Bay

Anne with friendly feline near Talisker Bay

I would much prefer she was an indoor cat, but it was a nice chance to get a little kitty lovin’. We could tell from her friendly nature and well-kept long fur that she was someone’s pet, and not a stray, but we did consider committing theft for a second.

friendly feline near Talisker Bay

Finally done with our touring for the day, we headed to the Cairidh Restaurant at the Sligachan Hotel for a nice birthday dinner for Steve. We got there a little early before our reservation, so we had plenty of time to admire the view of the Red Cuillin that surround the area, including an up-close of Glamaig, the highest peak of the Red Cuillin.

Cuillin Mountains

Cuillin Mountains

Anne with Cuillin Mountains

bridge near Sligachan Hotel

Steve with Cuillin Mountains

We had one of the best dinners we’ve had the entire trip at the Cairidh Restaurant, finally encountering a Scottish restaurant whose menu did not consist solely of haggis, chicken stuffed with haggis, or fish and chips. It was a brilliant end to the day.

Sligachan Hotel