Virtual Skye Book Tour: Day Four

Ruins of Cill Chriosd

Today our tour will take us north of Sleat to Broadford. Here we will turn left and drive through the expansive valley of Strath Suardal. Skye Marble was quarried here for several centuries before the onset of WWI. Now the valley is very quiet, guarded by the ruins of Cill Chriosd, “Christ’s Church.”

Interior of Cill Chriosd

This location dates back to the 600s, when St. Maelrubha preached from atop a nearby rocky knoll, still known as Cnoc na-Aifhreann, “Hill of the Mass.” The first stone church was built in medieval times. The church whose ruins stand today likely replaced an earlier church, much grander, some time in the 1500s.

Ancient tomb in Cill Chriosd cemetery

The cemetery is the final resting place for many of Clan MacKinnon. Two ancient stone markings, one of a clan chief complete with hieroglyphics and one pre-Christian stone, mysteriously disappeared sometime after 1913.

Phonebooth

Let’s continue our drive further west, past Torrin toward the Cullins. Anyone need to make a call? It is still in working order.

The Old Post Office

Or maybe you’d like to mail those postcards you bought at Armandale Castle yesterday? The sign says “The Old Post Office.” I’m not sure it is still functioning. Maybe we should hold onto our mail.

The Cullins on road to Dun Ringill

The vastness of the glen and the mountains dwarfs the many sheep along our drive today. The Cullins are magnificent.

Rock wall across hillside

There are few walls on Skye, but here is a beautiful stone example snaking its way across the hillside toward the sea.

Our second stop today is Dun Ringill. I’ll park by the Kilmarie House situated on the Strathaird Penninsula. This house once belonged to Ian Anderson, lead singer for Jethro Tull! How fun it that? It’s still a private residence so no peaking in the windows. Follow me through this gate.

Gate to bridge and path to Dun Ringill

After crossing the bridge spanning Abhainne Cille Mahaire, we’ll pass one of the largest examples of an intact cairn on the island, Kilmarie Chambered Cairn. Not sure who is buried here, so let’s be sure to keep to the path. Wouldn’t want to disturb them now, would we?

Bridge to Dun Ringill

Cairne near Dun Ringill

The woods are full of fern and bluebells. I believe they could be enchanted.

Bluebells and Ferns in Dun Ringill forest

Blue bells in woods

Let’s continue on the narrow path to the sea just ahead. Then, it’ll be a short walk across the moor to the Iron Age fort, Dun Ringill. Ringill means “point of the raven.” Nice, huh? Here it is. What do you think? It’s not much to look at now, but it was the seat of the Clan MacKinnon long before the 16th century.

Dun Ringill

It overlooks Loch Slapin. If you listen closely you can hear voices on the wind and the sound of steel in the air.

Me at entrance to Dun Ringill

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I know it’s hard to leave this amazing spot. The view is spectacular and the shoreline begs to be explored, but alas, we’ve a boat ride to catch to an enchanted loch. Keep your eyes open as we walk back through the forest and you just might see a wood elf or a fairy.

Path to Dun Ringill

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?