(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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.