Virtual Book Tour of Skye: Day Three

 

Celtic Cross

(Celtic Cross in the cemetery at Kilmore Church.)

It’s another lovely day on the Isle of Skye. Thank you to Jane for our delicious breakfast. Shall we go?

Sheep

Time for our final day of touring Sleat, the southern region of Skye. It’s also referred to as “the garden of the Isle.” In times past, this area was covered in woods. Now it’s covered in sheep. Being as we’ve time traveled to spring, it’s covered in lambs. Aren’t they cute? I do realize they’re being raised to eat. I personally cannot bear to eat any young animal. My husband doesn’t share this burden. I know. I hear you. The meat is so tender. That would be because it’s a baby! Just sayin’. But let’s not argue about that. We’ve wonderful things to see. More magic tales to tell.

Sabhal

Our first stop is Sabhal Mór Ostaig, Scotland’s Gaelic College. It was established in 1973. Courses are taught in Gaelic. (Kathryn took Gaelic for Beginners and a course on the history of the region here in THE STONE MANOR.) If you’re interested, the college offers summer courses, in addition to year around classes.

Chruch ruins

Just down the road is Kilmore Parish Church and cemetery. It is believed that this was originally a site of pagan worship. In 585 AD, St. Columba is said to have arrived here and preached to the local inhabitants. There is a reef just below the church grounds known as Sgeir Chaluim Cille, St. Columba’s Rock.

Tombstone

The original church was built in the early 1100s and lasted till the 1600s, when it burned to the ground during a battle between the MacLeods and the MacIntyres, a sept of Clan Donald. When the MacIntyres took sanctuary in the church, the MacLeods barricaded the doorways and set fire to the thatch roof, burning it to the ground along with all inside. Such a violent tale.

2nd Kilmore Church

The second church was built around 1681 by Sir Donald MacDonald of Sleat. It was this church Dr. Johnson and James Boswell visited on their tour of the Hebrides almost a century later. It was used until 1874 when it fell into ruin.

3rd Kilmore Church

A third and final church was built in 1876. It is still standing and in use to this day. It is part of the Church of Scotland. A Gaelic service is held the third Sunday of each month.

Knock Castle

Leaving the church grounds, let’s travel a wee bit further to Knock Castle, also known as Caisteal Chamuis. It was originally the site of an Iron Age fort, Dun Thoravaig. The first castle was built here in the 1300s by the MacLeods. As was the way of most castles on Sleat, in the early 1400s it came under the control of the MacDonalds. James I seized it in 1431 to impose his authority on the Lord of the Isles, but it was recaptured by the MacDonalds and remodeled in 1596. By 1689, it was abandoned and became a quarry for other building projects in the area, a common practice. The current occupants are said to be two ghosts, the Green Lady, associated with the fortunes of the former residents of the castle, and a ghost that cares for cattle. Since the castle is in ruins, and most cattle were replaced by sheep, it appears these ghosts have very little to do these days.

Sheep video

Turning off the main road, let’s cut across the island and head north on a single track road. Look more sheep. It’s cool and windy! But, no complaints on our part because the sun has decided to shine. Rare, indeed.

Ord

After stopping several times for sheep crossing, we’ve finally made it to the village of Ord on Loch Eishort. You can see the Cullins across the Loch. Let’s stop for a walk on the sandy beach, one of the few on Skye. It’s low tide so we might find treasures along the shore. Keep your eyes open.

Druid Wood

Back in the Rover, and we’ll head south along Srón Daraich, the Durid Wood, named for the oak that grow among the hazel and birch. These were considered sacred woods in ancient times. They covered much of Skye. However, there were terrors in the woods. Wolves. Lots and lots of wolves. Many of the trees were cut down for firewood, boat-building, and as a way to remove the home of the wolf.

Dunscaith Castle

Look, our final castle ruin for today. We’ll park and walk to the point. Take care. Castle of Dunscaith is more correctly known as “Dun Sgathaich,” the Dun of the Shadow. Legend states this Dun was built in one night and was home to Sgathach, the mythical Amazon queen who instructed Cuchullin, a young Fingalian hero, in the martial arts. It was said to be protected by a pit full of snakes and beaked toads. Between the powerful goddess, the snakes, toads, and wolves, this was quite a fearsome spot. As I said before, take care and watch your step.

Loch Donald

Alright, are we all accounted for? Good. Let’s load up and head back across the island  on yet another single track road toward our B&B. This time we’ll be driving through much of the Donald Land Trust. The loch to your left is full of all manner of fish. It’s possible to get permission to fish here, but I’ve been told there is a Waterhorse that lives in the loch. A Waterhorse is a mythical creature. And, this one isn’t friendly. I’d be inclined to take my fish from another loch.

Lamb

Look. We’re returned safe and sound. No encounters with wolves, since the last wolf in Scotland was said to be killed in 1680. And, we escaped the Waterhorse. Hungry anyone? I say we find some local fish. No lamb, please.

 

 

 

 

 

Skye Book Tour: Day Two

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Good morning! I hope your sleep was wonderful. Step outside now that it’s daylight. This was Kathryn’s view, and it’s ours as well. Veiled in the mist are the Hills of Knoydart just across the Sound of Sleat. Isn’t it lovely? A wee bit of heather here and there. By the way, someone left their sunglasses in the rover. You’ll not find a lot of need for them here.

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Here’s a magical bit of information. First one of the day. When my husband, Jim, and I first came to Skye this is where we stayed as well. I chose it from the internet solely based on the names of the proprietors being Macdonald and the fact, he was a top tour guide. When we awoke, and I saw the view my first morning here I squealed (ever so softly as not to terrify Jim or the Macdonalds). This was the view I had written into my novel for Kathryn to see when she rented her very own cottage. I know! Magic.

Enough about the view, let’s head to Armandale Castle, home of the Lord of the Isles, the MacDonalds.

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Failte! Welcome to my ancestral home! Of course, I’ve been unable to locate just exactly where my Skye MacDonald ancestors lived. But, I think this might have been a nice spot. So why not?

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Much of the castle was burned in 1855, but it is formidable. In the 15th century, the Clan Donald was established on the Isle of Skye. From the 1650s, the MacDonald chiefs began to stay at Armandale in addition to their other castles around the island. In 1925, the MacDonald family moved to a smaller house, abandoning Armandale to the elements.

25 Sound of Sleat from Armandale

The gardens surrounding the castle and the wild woods adjacent to it are wonderful. The plantings seen around the castle grounds were started around 1790. The view from the front lawn is breathtaking when the mist chooses to lift. I’ve seen pictures of lovely weddings here.

23 Armandale Forest Path

Let’s take a walk through the woods. But beware. We will have to pass the guardian of the wood. Prepare yourselves. First, we’ll pass through the Dreamcatcher. Watch your heads . . . and well, just watch it.

47 Spider Tree Armandale Forest

Here we are. The guardian of the woods. You’re welcome to take photos while I speak with her. There now. All are welcome to pass. What did I say to her? That would be between me and the guardian. Wee bit of magic and all.

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The forest path is lined with wild flowers and ferns. Can you detect the scent that hangs heavy in the air? Yes, you’re right. Wild garlic. And there are orchids and blue bells of Scotland aplenty. Giant fir, beech, and birch trees fill the woods.

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The Clan Donald estate is home to red deer and golden eagles. And if we’re lucky we might spot a sea eagle. Oh look! A Viking boat in the middle of the woods. I’d say this is a good time to leave in case there are any lurking in forest. On to the gardens.

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The gardens are filled with beautiful Rhododendrun bushes in full bloom. What a sight! In East Texas we have Azalea gardens that are beautiful, but these plants are fantastic. There are many exotic plants from around the world planted in the castle grounds, as is only right for the home to the Lord of the Isles.

A visit to the Donald Library on our way out is always a good idea. My family tree is housed in this library. My actual personal family tree with the names of my children and grandchildren included This makes me so happy.  After we take a quick look in the library, we will tour the Museum of the Isles. It’s fascinating! We’re sure to be ready for a bite of something chocolate and a cup of coffee after the museum. The former stables of the castle are now a gift shop and restaurant. All the tartans of the MacDonald Clan hang on the walls around the dinning hall. I’ll be sure to point mine out!

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I hope you enjoyed the visit to Armandale. It’s a short drive along the Sound to the end of Sleat. There’s a story to be told along the way. I promised you yesterday. Are you ready?

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Local legend says there were three young men swimming in the small bay on the southern shore of Sleat. Three seals were watching them and magically transformed into three beautiful young women. They swam over to the young men, who had no idea they were Selkies, and instantly the boys fell in love with the young women. Once they all reached shore, the young men saw the seal skins on the beach and realized who these girls were. Two of the boys told the third to take the skins and hide them while they distracted the girls. Reluctantly, he did this. They all three married the girls soon after their meeting. A year passed and one of the wives tricked her husband into showing her where the skins were hidden. She took them, and the three wives returned to the sea with their skins and became seals again. The three young husbands were heartbroken and followed them into the sea. The young men turned to stone. If you sit along the hillside to this day you might catch a glimpse of three seals sitting on the three rocks. There’s the final bit of magic for today’s tour.

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We’ve had a full day. With the sun setting, let’s stop at the Ardvasar Restaurant for dinner. It was one of Kathryn’s favorites. Who knows? Sarah might be working. If so, she’ll be happy to see us. Haggis anyone?

 

Virtual Book Tour of Isle of Skye: Day One

Me in archway of Armandale

I believe a great way to promote my new novel, THE STONE MANOR, is to promote the Isle of Skye. Allow me the privilege of being your personal tour guide to the Misty Isles. I promise it will be informative, with lovely photos, numerous anecdotes, and a wee bit of magic.

For your riding pleasure, we will be traveling in Kathryn’s blue Land Rover. It’ll be a blast. I promise to remember to stay to the left. So buckle your seat belt because the roads and the rover are a bit bumpy. Keep your eyes open for sheep, especially lambs. I’ll be driving slowly, as is the rule on Skye to protect not only the sheep, but all God’s creatures. The wee bit of magic part of this tour has to do with time. Even though it’s November in real time, we will be flashing forward to late May. It’s a lovely time for a tour of Skye.

Blue Land Rover

Our tour begins not on Skye but on the mainland of Scotland where the 1692 Massacre of Glencoe and the escape of Mairi Macdonald’s grandmother, Margaret took place.  The drive from the airport in Glasgow up through the Trossachs is breathtaking. The scenery is wild and desperate looking. Be prepared to feel quite small as we walk through Glencoe. The massive glen and jagged peaks dwarf even the tallest among us. The rugged landscape carries with it the story of a people whose spirit matched their environment.

Me in Glencoe

Walking along the stream the silence is deafening. Only the occasional cry of a bird of prey interrupts the quiet. You can, if you listen carefully, hear voices carried on the wind as it blows through the valley between the mountains. And just so you’ll know, these are not fairy songs or sounds of laughter. The voices you hear are grief stricken, haunting. You will never forget the emotions this single glen evokes. One minute we stand in awe of the landscape, marveling at the expanse of it all. The next, there is an overwhelming sense of pain and sadness.

Waterfall in Glencoe

If you’ve never read the history of Glencoe, and the massacre that occurred here, I suggest you do so. Check out the website: www.glencoescotland.com. It’s a story of political treachery, clan rivalry, and honor and hospitality compromised with sword and fire. On a lighter note, because I feel we need one, scenes from Harry Potter were filmed here. Hagrid’s Hut with all the pumpkins, and the high wooden bridge to name two. This can also be found on the above mentioned website. See, I promised you a wee bit of magic.

Leaving the tragic history of Glencoe behind, let’s journey on to the Isle of Skye and look for better days. We’ve driven for five hours now and are minutes away from the Skye Bridge. Bump, bump, thud. What’s that? An unplanned stop on the side of the road. It can’t be. A flat tire. We were warned about the roads and the pot holes. It’s really my fault. I’m so anxious to show you Skye, I’ve been driving too fast. If you’ll just stand to one side, we’ll get it changed in a flash. It’s dusk, so we need to hurry before it’s too dark to see. What are all those small swarming bugs you ask? I know. They bite! They’re called MIDGES. Tiny biting bugs from Hell. Jump back in the rover. I’m about finished here.

Skyebridge

(Photo courtesy of Wiki Library.)

Back on the road, rounding the bend and there it is! Sure, I’ll pull over for pictures. The Skye Bridge was built in 1995. Before that the only way to cross the strait of Loch Alsh was by ferry. The charm is gone, replaced by convenience. If you ask a Skye man or woman, you’re sure to find varying opinions on the subject.

21 Castle Moil Kyleakin Skye

In the bay, you can see the ruins of Caisteal Maol, also known as Castle Moil. Around the year 900, the Mackinnon clan chief married a Norse princess nicknamed “Saucy Mary.” One can only imagine the reason for this nickname. They put a large chain across the strait and extracted a toll from all boats passing through. I’m sure there’s a great story just waiting to be told about this mysterious Nordic princess!

20 Saucy Mary's Lodge

It’s Sunday evening. I don’t know about you but I’m starving. Let’s stop at this pub for fish and chips. I’ve heard it’s fabulous and the atmosphere is fantastic. Live music. Backpacker’s sharing stories of their adventures.

This can’t be. It’s 8:00 pm, and the cook just left. Most restaurants are closed on the island on Sunday evening. There is an Indian Restaurant just up the road. Not my favorite, but let’s try it anyway. I realize you didn’t come all the way to Scotland to eat Indian food, but such is life.

Dinner is over. I’m glad you enjoyed our meal. All I can say is, I’m glad I bought the bag of peanuts at the airport. This is no reflection on the restaurant, only on my finicky taste. I’m afraid you’ll have to get used to this if you’re traveling with me. But, it’s okay. I also have a bar of chocolate . . . always.

22 Macdonald B & B

Finally, we’ve reached our destination. A lovely B&B owned by a Peter and Jane Macdonald. I’m sure we’re cousins. He’s the number one tour guide on the island. He took us on a private tour of Skye on our first visit. It was amazing.

16 Hills of Knoydart at Sunset

We’ve had a full day. Get a good night’s sleep. Tomorrow we’ll explore Sleat, (pronounced slate), the southern portion of Skye. We’ll visit Armandale Castle and Grounds, the Donald Center, and take a drive along the coast. I’ll even tell you the tale of the three young men and their Selkie wives. See you in the morning.

 

THE STONE MANOR IS HERE!

Book Cover

After almost three months of working on updating this blog site, it’s finally up and running. (Thank you, Andrew Hale and Andy Fronius!) AND, after beginning my novel, THE STONE MANOR, over six years ago as a short story, it’s finally published! I’m beyond excited. It was a very long pregnancy. The labor was intense, but a labor of love. Now that my baby is here, I just sit and stare at it.

I attempted to have it published by October, but realized it just wasn’t going to happen. Things always take longer than you think. I started looking at dates in November, as in, what happened in history, famous people’s birthdays, famous and infamous inventions. You know me. Why wouldn’t I? Suddenly, a thought came to mind. I should look at the birth dates of my MacDonald ancestors, since the story is partially based on them. AND GUESS WHAT? The first MacDonald in my line born in the US to my Isle of Skye ancestor was born on November 6, 1788. There it was!

28 Violin and Fam Pic

(This is a photo of my great-grandparents. My great-grandfather, James Rueben Little, was the great-grandson of our MacDonald ancestor. This is also his fiddle!)

I realized I had very little control over the exact date my novel would be for sale. I knew November 6th was a long shot. However, my novel is all about ancestral dreams, fairy glens, and fate. In keeping with the fairy tale theme, it was, in fact, published on November 6th. This just makes me smile.

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(Your dreams are worth your best efforts to achieve them.)

Last night, Jim and I went to our favorite Thai restaurant in Percha, Germany (near Munich) to celebrate my dream finally coming to fruition. This was my fortune at the end of the meal. The dream theme continues. This also made me smile . . . and laugh.

Dreams do come true. I’ve loved the journey, from putting the first words to paper to pressing the PUBLISH button on my laptop. I know newbie novels don’t sell themselves. I’ve a lot of work ahead of me. But, I’ll be doing it with a smile on my face and a song in my heart, a fairy song I once heard in my dreams.