Showing posts with label Scotland. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Scotland. Show all posts

Nostalgia #3

Nostalgia. Isle of Skye. First visit. First stop off. Garage for matches to light van fire.



My holidays on the Isle of Skye always inspire me. As I edit the final draft of my 4th novel, the seed for my 5th has now already germinated. The characters in the next book will be a heavy metal band, a photographer, a farming family on the remote Faroe island and a Lycanthrope! I have just written the basic story outline as we head out of Scotland. I have high hopes for this story...

Heading Home Through Glencoe

And so our holiday has come to an end. I had so looked forward to spending another week on Skye and being able to show my children around the place and now it is over. All that is left is just memories and photographs and a few sound recordings [1][2][3][4][5][6] to remember it by.

Heading down to Glenfries now for an overnight stay near the Scottish border, then it will be a sad farewell to my daughter at Birmingham train station so that she can head home to Norwich whilst the rest of us head back to Wales. Anyway, here are my last set of pics of the holiday as we headed back through Glencoe:

The snow peaks of Glencoe

Glencoe Mountain Range

Snowy Glencoe

Heading home through Glencoe

Waterfall, Glencoe

Lovelocks at a Glencoe Waterfall

Lovelocks at a Glencoe Waterfall

Loch Ness

We couldn't leave Scotland without paying a visit to Loch Ness now, could we! Beautiful, ain't it!

Loch Ness, Scotland

Sauropod Dinosaur Footprints, Duntulm Bay

Our last full day on the Isle of Skye was marred by heavy rain. Our (adult) children decided to make the most of the cosy holiday cottage and remain indoors for the day. But my wife and I had our hearts set on seeing the world -famous dinosaur footprints, which were located just around the corner from us at Duntulm Bay.

Duntulm Bay, Skye
It was cold and wet and the path down to the beach was not easy to navigate. And, perhaps unsurprisingly, we found ourselves alone on Duntulm Bay. Thankfully, the 170 million-year-old Sauropod footprints were easily located, so we did not have to linger outside for long :o)

Duntulm Bay, Skye
The footprints, which are only visible at low tide, are ranked as some of the very best in the world. They were formed when the area was a brackish lagoon and the huge Sauropod dinosaurs used the swampish waters to help support their lumbering weight.

Sauropod Dinosaur Footprints, Duntulm Bay, Skye
It is difficult to imagine how different this location looked back in those times. Skye would have been filled with swamps and dense vegetation and its climate would have been warm and tropical. In fact, at the time these footprints were made, the island was actually located south of the equator!

Sauropod Dinosaur Footprints, Duntulm Bay, Skye
It was a strange feeling stood amongst these dinosaur footprints, knowing that a huge beast, now long extinct, had walked this very path.

Sauropod Dinosaur Footprints, Duntulm Bay, Skye

Sauropod Dinosaur Footprints, Duntulm Bay, Skye
Feeling somewhat small and insignificant in the grand scheme of things, we finally headed back to the cottage to dry and warm ourselves and to make the most of our family time together.

You can learn more about these dinosaur footprints in this interesting Guardian article here.

The Northern Lights, Skye

There were a couple of reasons behind us visiting Skye in March, rather than heading up to to the Isle during our Summer holidays. The first was monetary considerations (it is far cheaper to holiday during winter months). The second was my wife's life-long wish to see the Northern Lights. Whilst most people head to Iceland for the chance of seeing them, the Aurora Borealis is also visible from Skye and the north of Scotland. Unfortunately, they are best discerned during the colder months of the year! Of course, it is still down to luck whether your visit coincides with a show of the lights, or whether the weather permits seeing them even when they are on display. We visited Sky last March in the hope of glimpsing them, only to have the sky overcast on the one night they were active! Thankfully, we were lucky this time. And we only had to take a few steps from our holiday cottage to photograph them!

The Northen Lights, photographed over Loch Cleat, Skye

This glimpse of the Aurora Borealis has fuelled our desire to see a more spectacular display now and we are already making plans to hopefully visit Norway in a few years time. When the conditions are right, the displays there can be truly spectacular!

The Old Man of Storr, Skye

Heading back to our holiday cottage from the Cuillin Mountains, we took our favourite route past the Old Man of Storr. Again, we had neither the time nor the inclination to climb this today, but we have climbed this range in the past (I will post some photos of my previous visits to Skye some time in the, hopefully near, future). For today though, the best we managed was a quick stop-off in one of the numerous lay-bys in the road here for a couple of pretty shots :)

The Cuillin Mountains, Skye

Our penultimate day on Skye :) Time, we thought, to head out to the Cuillin mountains :)

En route, flying high over the sea loch at Carbost, I got the chance to photograph this mighty birdy of prey - a White-tailed Sea Eagle!

A White-tailed Sea Eagle

White-tailed Sea Eagle

Probably my best shot of the White-tailed Sea Eagle

The wing-span of the White-tailed Sea Eagle is massive
The Cuillin Mountains are a magnificent mountain range located in the south-west of the Isle of Skye. Its natural beauty led to the range being designated as a National Scenic Area.

The road to the Cuillin Mountains

A rainy day at the Cuillin Mountains
The weather today, as it has been all week during our holiday in Skye, was ridiculously changeable, as you can see from these photographs. We often found ourselves in the midst of a torrential downpour one moment, only for the skies to clear a few minutes later. With this in mind, and with our energy levels running low, today was very much a day to drive around and just take in the spectacular scenery.

The Snow-topped Cuillin Mountains

Gushing waterfall at the foot of the Cuillin Mountains

Sligachan, Skye

The Isle of Skye, famed for its rugged landscapes, was not always as it appears to today. According to legend, the dramatic mountains and verdant valleys, which have made Skye one of the major tourist draws in Scotland, were carved into the island by two sparring warriors.

Scáthach was the fiercest warrior Scotland had ever known. So renowned were her skills and strength in battle that she soon gained the reputation as the world's greatest warrior. However, when word of her notoriety reached Cúchulainn, the Irish warrior who believed he should wear that crown, he was none too happy with the claims. Believing he alone deserved that accolade, he headed over to Skye to fight Scáthach and reclaim his former glory.

Scáthach and Cúchulainn were both mighty warriors and their battle was intense and prolonged. For weeks they fought, their swords gouging entire mountains across the islands as they fought. But their skills were evenly matched and neither could thwart the other. However, on they continued to fight.

Seeing no end to the battle, Scáthach's daughter began to weep. And the faeries took pity upon her tears as the fell into the Sligachan river. They instructed the girl to head home and collect certain herbs and nuts along the route. Brewing these up in a cauldron over her cottage fire, the daughter wafted the smoke from the cooking meal out onto the wind, where it was carried to her warring mother and Cúchulainn.

The scent of the food reminded the two warriors just how hungry they both were and, agreeing to take a rest for a while, they lowered their weapons and followed the trail of smoke to its source. Discovering that the food had been cooked by her daughter, Scáthach invited Cúchulainn into her home to eat. The meal was delicious and hearty and filled both warriors with a sense of well-being that both warriors decided to call a permanent truce to their fighting and thereafter became firm allies.

Sligachan Bridge, Isle of Skye

The spot where Scáthach's daughter's tears had fallen into Sligachan river is now marked by a picturesque stone bridge and the waters beneath its arches are said to be magickal. Eternal beauty, it is believed, is bestowed upon those brave enough to lower their face in the icy enchanted waters here. 

Digg, Skye

If I could live anywhere in the world, it would be here, in the hamlet of Digg on the Isle of Ske:

Digg, nestled beneath The Quiraig on the Isle of Skye

Tulm Bay, Skye

Our holiday cottage in Duntulm, Skye

I took an early morning stroll down to Tulm Bay this morning, which is about a 5-minute walk from our holiday cottage in Skye. It was a lovely walk down a gently sloping path with the brooding remains of Duntulm Castle dominating the view to the left.

Duntulm Castle was built in the 14th Century and was the home of Clan MacDonald of Sleat during the 17th Century. The castle fell into ruins in 1732 when Sir Alexander MacDonald built a new home, Monkstadt House, 8 km to the south, using much of the castle's stone for its construction. Legend holds that the owner abandoned the castle after his young son fell from a window and was dashed on the rocks below. The infant's nursemaid's punishment was to be set adrift on the sea on a tiny boat. It is said that the nursemaid's sobbing can still be heard in the castle as she wanders the ruins, clutching the dead infant in her arms. The ghost of a prisoner in the castle has also been reported several times from the castle. Starved of food and water in its dungeons, he went insane and tried to eat his own hands to satiate his hunger! The castle is a forlorn and ruinous site today. And its grim and moody appearance makes no secret of its ghostly heritage.

Duntulm Castle

Beneath Duntulm Castle lies Tulm Bay. Its rocky beach has good views out to Tulm Island,  the Shiant Isles and the Isle of Harris beyond.

Tulm Bay

Tulm Bay, with Duntulm Castle and Tulm Island

Tulm Island, the Shiant Isles and the Isle of Harris beyond

Tulm Island, the Shiant Isles and the Isle of Harris beyond

The beach turned out to be a great site for one of my favourite hobbies, beachcombing, and amongst this morning's finds were:

A sheep bone, washed up on Tulm Bay

Seaglass found on Tulm Bay

Old sea-worn pottery found on Tulm Bay

Tulm Bay
A small murmuration of Starlings, Duntulm, Skye

Its not often that Wednesday mornings turn out to be as good as this one :)

Highland Cows, Skye

Highland Cow, Skye

The Highland Cows of Scotland have to be the most beautiful breed of cow in the world and we were lucky to spot a good few of their number during our week's holiday on the Isle of Skye.

There is a nice bit of folklore attached to these cows on Skye. Apparently, Scottish fairies had their very own fairy cattle that used to occasionally swim to the island from Rassay as they found the grass sweeter on Skye. When the fairies saw that their cattle had absconded, hey would call out to their heards, whereupon the cows would swim back to the fairy's pastures.

However, if a farmer threw some graveyard soil between the fairy Highland Cows and their tru home, the cows would be deafened to the fairy's calling and would thereafter remain as part of the Skye farmer's own herd. Such fairy cattle were considered prized animals and it is believed now that over the centuries, most Highland Cows now have some of the fairy cattle genes!

A Highland Cow near the Cuillin Mountains, Skye

The Quiraing, Isle of Skye

This has got to be my favourite place in the world - the Quiraing on the Isle of Skye:

Yours truly walking The Quiraing

Of all the sacred and beautiful places I have visited, none have captured my imagination more than the Quiraing. Located on the north-east slopes on the island's Trotternish Peninsula, this magnificent landscape is the result of a massive Jurassic landslide!

Whilst much of the Quiraing has now settled, parts of the land here is still on the move at a rate of nearly 3cm a year. The A855 road beneath it needs regular repair work as a result of this continued activity.

The Quiraing takes its name from the old Norse 'Kvi Rand', meaning 'Round Fold' and it is believed that farmers used to hide their cattle amongst the dips and valleys here during Viking attacks of the island. 

In such surroundings, it comes as no surprise that this is believed to be the meeting place for the fae.

Dragons, too, are said to fly over this land, resting on the mighty crags that decorate The Quiraing like Tolkienesque mountains.

On my walk through The Quiraing I saw neither fae nor dragon, but I did see this standoff between a large Buzzard and a sheep at the summit of the above crag!

The magickal sights to be had in The Quiraing have been used to great effect in many movies, including Stardust, Macbeth, The Land That Time Forgot, The BFG, 47 Ronin and Snow White and the Huntsman.

Walking The Quiraing is a real pleasure and the route has lots of places to stop and chill and just take in the breathtaking land about you.

Whilst the walk is not too energetic, there are a couple of spots to be mindful of, with some sheer drops to the edge of the path. 

All that is required here, however, is to concentrate on the path ahead and not be distracted by the sheer beauty about and around you, and you will be fine.

Skye is, without doubt, the jewel in the crown, of Scotland. And The Quiraing is the finest jewel set in that crown! If you are thinking of paying this area a visit, trust me, you will not be disappointed :)