Monday, June 26, 2006

A Week On Skye - Coral Beaches and Dunvegan Castle

Coral Beaches

Another sunny day so we decided to head North West to the Coral Beaches just north of Dunvegan. These aren't really made of coral but are in fact the tiny skeletons of a plant algae called Lithothamnium Calcareum. That's the science bit over but the result is a bright white beach and if you look closely it really is made of small bones.

Coral Beaches, SkyeCoral Beaches, Skye

Anyway, after parking the car at Claigan, it's only a short walk out to the beaches and we spent a few hours lazing on the coral. Never one to lie about for too long, I get fidgety, we climbed up the little hill there called Cnoc Mòr a'Ghrobain for an excellent view over the little islands of Isay and Mingay towards Ardmore Point and the island of Harris in the distance.

Dunvegan Castle

Since we'd gone all the way up to Dunvegan, we thought we'd better visit the seat of Clan Macleod, Dunvegan Castle. It was still sunny and getting late on in the afternoon so we declined going into the castle itself, favouring a walk around the gardens, which date back to the 18th century.

Dunvegan Castle, SkyeDunvegan Castle, Skye

I'd have liked to have seen their famous Fairy Flag, which legend says was a gift from the fairies. The story goes like this…

Long ago the clan chief fell in love with a fairy princess and she with him. Seeking permission of her father to wed the chief, the king of the fairies reminded his daughter that the Shining Folk folk live forever and her heart would only be broken when her mortal love grew old and died.

However, seeing how much in love they were he granted her leave to marry but only on the condition that she returned to the land of Faerie after one year and a day, leaving everything of her life in the human world behind. She agreed and it was no suprise when a child was born to the happy couple some months later but it wasn't long before the day arrived when lady MacLeod must return to the land of her father.

When that sad day arrived, she made her husband promise that the boy would never be left alone or given cause to cry or she'd hear his cries in the land of Faerie and that would be too much to bear. With a final hug from both, she ran in tears to join her father waiting at what is now called "The Fairy Bridge". Some months later, with their young chief in low spirits at losing his beloved, the clan arranged a ceilidh to try and raise him from his depression and true enough the music of the pipes lifted his spirits and he soon joined in the dancing and and carousing.

However, the nursemaid assigned to look after his son couldn't resist a peek at the festivities and she slipped out of the nursery for a look at all the fine folk dancing. But while she was away, the child kicked off his covers and started crying in the cold air and, as predicted, his mother heard his wailing and appeared at once by the crib to pick him up and comfort him, wrapping him in her fine silk shawl. She laid him back down again, sang him a lullaby and whispered some words in his ear and then was gone again. The nursemaid returned just as the last haunting sounds of the song were fading and then she found the strange square of silk by the crib and took it straight to the chief and told him what she'd heard.

Years later the boy recounted to his father what he remembered of the night and said that his mother had told him the cloth was a magic talisman that must be kept safe and only taken out if the clan was in mortal danger. In that event, it should be waved like a flag three times and the host of Faerie, the Knights of the Fairie Raide, would ride to the defense of Clan Macleod. This was a special gift from her to him and it could only ever be used three times. It has been used twice so far!

They also run boat trips out to see the seals in Loch Dunvegan but Lorna's no sailor and we've seen loads of seals before so another miss there. The gardens were okay but only just. Maybe I'm failing to appreciate how difficult it is to create such gardens on Skye but they didn't seem anything special to me and, if anything, didn't give that good value for the entry fee.

The Black CuillinThe Black Cuillin, Skye

We got some excellent views of the Black Cuillin on the way back to Fiskavaig in the evening light. Tomorrow, we're hoping to do a bit of walking in those hills.

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