The Fairy Glen Revisited

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In 2008, my husband and I traveled to the Isle of Skye so I could do a wee bit of research for my first novel, THE STONE MANOR. I was enchanted by everything I saw and everyone I spoke with. It is the ancestral home of my maternal grandmother. (Well, one of them.) We were Macdonalds, from Skye, who emigrated to America around 1774. I must tell you I felt very much like I had come home when I crossed the Skye Bridge that first time. Nothing has changed.

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When I saw the bridge with the Cuillins just beyond, my heart began to sing! I felt all warm inside. And as we crossed the bridge onto the Misty Isle, a smile spread across my face. It continues, and it’s day three. Just sayin’.

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This was the Fairy Glen in 2008. Cloudy skies. I was wearing a sweater that day, and it was the last week of May. The weather is fickle in Scotland. I didn’t climb to the top of Castle Ewen that trip, although I had Kathryn, Beth, and the boys do so in my novel. I was determined this trip to take in the view from the precipice, as it were.

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Here we go! Join me for a wee bit of a climb.

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Oh look. A narrow trail leading up the backside. Hmm.

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Let’s do this! Watch your step. The small pebbles are loose and slippery along the narrow path. And it’s best not to look down if you’ve ever had Vertigo. I didn’t realize that till I tried it.

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We made it!!!! Well done!

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View from the top! It was so worth it. After spending a few minutes taking in the panoramic scene, it’s time to make our descent. This will be much easier. Just below the pathway to Castle Ewen we find the stone circle labyrinth. Join me in walking through it clockwise. When you get to the center you’re supposed to make a wish. Just one, not three.

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For our final taste of the enchanted, climb with me along the sheep trails to the Portal to the Otherworld. If you read my novel, you’ll remember Kathryn leaves something here as an offering. She felt badly about this afterward, and in the sequel, she makes amends by joining the group of folks that clean up the Fairy Glen from time to time to try and get it back to its original condition, without all the manmade offerings left with the best of intentions. (So, this is me saying, don’t take or leave anything in the Fairy Glen. Respect this place, please.)

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It’s been such a fantastic visit to the glen. Unfortunately, there were a number of people wandering around, so I saw no fairies. I plan to return one final time before we leave Skye to say my goodbyes . . . maybe, just maybe.

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As we were leaving, I took out my novel and had a couple of photos taken with it in its birthplace. I’d like to think the wee people were pleased with my offering in words. (I didn’t leave it there. Just took the pic. Remember, don’t take anything away. It’s very bad luck. And don’t leave anything behind, you’ll mar the beauty of the Fairy Glen.)

I’ll leave you with one final pic of the Fairy Glen. Do you see any wee folk peaking out from under a flower or maybe from behind a rock? They’re watching you.

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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.

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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

On Writing A Novel: A Vacation of Research

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Sometimes you just have to pack your bags and go there…

My husband and I have taken a week of vacation and driven to Kaysersberg, Alsace, France. As I’ve said so many times before, it is my favorite Alsatian village. The people are enchanting! It’s the perfect place to set a novel in the Middle Ages, which is just what I’ve decided to do.

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1. Restaurant LE CAPUCIN, 60, Rue du Général de Gaulle. 2. View from our window.

We found this fantastic apartment online. The ground level is the restaurant. The next three floors are apartments to rent. Our apartment is on the top floor. The views are amazing, enchanting, transporting. I look out the windows and am taken back to a much earlier time. When there were no cars, no telephones, no internet. At first this can seem fantastic until I take a deep breath and remember there was no sewer system, and I see the woman below me dumping the waste from her bed chamber pot onto the street below. The horses have left their deposits in the streets, as well. Hmm. Snap out of it. Back to the enchanting view.

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View from my writing spot.

As I sit and write this post, the church bells are chiming. They’re beautiful. A few days ago, it was Pentecost Sunday, and the bells rang long and loud. It’s was a beautiful call to prayer. This is sweet music to write by. When we first arrived in Kaysersberg, our landlady met us at the bridge to show us the way to the apartment. We parked on the street, which was filled with tourists (It being Saturday.) and quickly unloaded our things. After finding a parking spot nearby, we returned to the restaurant and met the owners in their private garden in the back for a glass of wine. This was the only warm sunny day we’ve had. It was perfect. Gabrielle speaks English quite well. She’s delightful. Her husband, Jean-Jacques, grew up in Kaysersberg in this very building! It was his home, and he has inherited it. They turned the garage into a restaurant. And his father’s dentist offices into apartments. Their family living quarters are also now apartments.

When I told them I’m a writer, and I’ve come to research and write, they got very excited. Gabrielle said, “Oh, my husband will be so happy. He started a book about this area, but his computer died, and he lost it all. You must talk to him and help him.” And, talk we did. Over several glasses of wine and as many hours. Jean-Jacques’ English is not as good as Gabrielle’s. But that didn’t stop him. He did drink quite a bit of wine. He said he also speaks Chinese, but only after the 7th glass of wine can anyone understand him. So as our conversation went along, he would pour himself another glass of wine, saying, “Oh, I need another glass to lo0sen my tongue so my English will improve.” It was such a fantastic afternoon. He told me that Arthurian legends really began here. Lancelot in particular was from here. I gasped when he said this and told him I had already written this into my novel. They both looked at me and said, “We have been waiting for you to come!” Magical!

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Local delivery truck.

So you’re asking yourself, Is everything in this village cute? The answer is a resounding YES! Even the delivery trucks are cute. I wish I would have stood next to this one so you can see how tiny it really is. And it has a stork hanging from the rearview mirror, a symbol of good luck in this region.

When I wrote my first novel, The Stone Manor (which will be published at a date soon to be announced), I had been to Scotland before, but not to the Isle of Skye, which is the location of the novel. I did all my research from books, libraries, online, and memory from my first trip. Then, when I had finished writing we took a trip to Skye, and I retraced the steps of my novel to make sure it was all accurate. Or as accurate as a work of fiction should be. It was wonderful walking through my novel so to speak.

This is a similar feeling but in reverse. I’ve come here many times. But I’ve written very little so far. This week is a “jump start” for my novel. It ‘s incredible to sit here in this village and write my story. To hear the characters speak to me as I walk through the narrow cobblestone streets. I love living in the middle of my story. I’d love to bring you along as I write and explore. Stay tuned for A Night at the Museum.

Faerie Glen: Dragons Not Allowed

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(Faerie Glen with wee loch, portal to the Otherworld, and Castle on Isle of Skye, Scotland. Photo by Jim Hale)

While writing my novel, I searched the internet for photos of the Isle of Skye. I’d never been there, and since it was the main setting for “The Stone Manor” I needed to find out all I could about the island. I came across a couple of pictures of the Faerie Glen and a short travel post. I was hooked! I googled it and began reading all I could about it, which at the time wasn’t much. It became the focal point for my back story that takes place in the 1700s.

I’ll never forget the feelings I had when we first drove into the wee glen with our personal tour guide, Peter Macdonald. It was 2008, and my husband Jim and I were spending a week on Skye so I could research my ancestors and check out all the places I’d written about in my novel. Like the actual time it took to drive from the Glasgow airport to Skye. Did I guess correctly? And did it really look like I said? That kind of thing. I’ll elaborate on this more in a later post. Lots of craziness happened. Anyway, back to the Faerie Glen. Peter didn’t normally take people there. In fact, I had to tell him how to get there…and that wasn’t easy. It was tucked away down a one-track road just outside Uig. He humored me and we found the road. As we rounded the corner there it was!!!!! I gasped and yelled, “Stop the car. Stop the car.” He did. I jumped out  and stood next to the miniature loch, crying and laughing at the same time. It was MAGICAL. It was BEAUTIFUL. It was ENCHANTED. And I was there!

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(Me walking along the sheep trails in the Faerie Glen, Isle of Skye, Scotland. Photo by Jim Hale)

As I wandered off up the hillside toward the Portal to the Otherworld and the Faerie Castle, Jim tried to explain to Peter (a former police officer/faithful Presbyterian Skyelander) that I was off in search of the faeires. After a short visit in the glen I made my way back to the car, and Jim promised we’d return and stay as long as I’d like. When we did return several days later I wandered and searched and dreamed to my hearts content. It was glorious. Really! As we were leaving I picked up a tiny stone from the loch, as I am in the habit of doing. (I have a collection of memory stones from around the world. Doesn’t everyone?) But as I climbed into the front seat of our rental car I remembered what I’d read. It had to do with taking things from this faerie land. I even wrote about it in my novel. How could I have forgotten?! If you take anything…anything at all from the Faerie Glen you’ll bring very, very bad luck on yourself. The faeries will not take kindly to it. Not at all. So I got back out of the car and returned the stone to the loch, placing it exactly where I’d found it. I apologized and walked back to the car. (I’m serious people.) I was really sad not to take a part of this amazing place back home with me, but I just couldn’t. As I reopened the car door I looked down and on the ground by the car was a coin. I smiled. I picked it up. I thanked the glen…and the faeries for the gift. This did not belong in the glen, so it was a compromise of sorts. I still have the coin. It sits in the coconut-hull bowl filled with all my tiny treasures from the many places that are special to me.

So, there it is. Just as you’ve always suspected. I’m a bit of a nut. Actually, I’m a romantic…a romantic with a universe size imagination and a love for all things enchanted. Which is why I wrote my very own fairy tale. And someday, I hope you’ll be able to read it. Till then, I’ll keep blogging.