Guinevere’s Grave and Pictish Stones

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Image: Meigle Kirk

The wee hamlet of Meigle lies just thirty minutes north east of Perth, Scotland. It doesn’t sit on a tourist route, but for those interested in Arthurian legends or Pictish stones, this village is a must see. In the graveyard of the local kirk stands a mound with a plaque. It reads Vanora’s Mound. This is where legends begin.

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Image: Vanora’s Mound Plaque

The plaque reads:

Vanora’s Mound

This mound is by tradition the burial

place of Vanora or Guinevere, the

legendary queen of King Arthur.

The stone claimed to be her

momunent is now situated within

Meigle Museum at the south west

corner of the churchyard.

 

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Image: Vanora’s Mound

There are several variations of this local legend. One says King Arthur was leaving for Rome on Crusade and left his nephew, Mordred, as regent of the kingdom and Guinevere in his care. Mordred soon took Guinevere as his wife, either by force or of her own free will and then made himself king of the Pictish kingdom. Arthur learned of this treason and returned with his army. They battled until Arthur killed Mordred, but was himself mortally wounded. He died before Guinevere was able to seek his absolve. She was arrested and held at the fort at Barry Hill nearby until tried and found guilty of treason and adultery. She was torn to pieces by a pack of wild dogs as her punishment and buried in the kirkyard. A curse was placed on her burial mound, and it is said that to this day if a young woman walks upon the mound she will be barren.

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Image credit: Pictish Stones at Meigle Museum from Undiscovered Scotland

In a small former school building, 26 Pictish stones are housed. One is an 8 foot carved stone. A series of figures on horseback are carved on the top back side with mythical animals carved along the lower section. In the middle is a carving of a person in a long robe with four animals tearing he or she apart. The official interpretation says this is a rendition of Daniel in the Lion’s Den. Even though, Daniel was not torn apart in the Biblical account. The local story says this is the depiction of Guinevere’s death. This stone once stood at the mound, and her name is found on the stone.

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Image: Me at the mound

I found this amazing landmark while researching for Arthurian sites in Scotland. This is only an hours drive from where we office while in Europe. What makes this personally fascinating and quite enchanting pertains to my second “yet to be published” novel. It begins with a backstory, a piece of Arthurian legend having to do with this very story. However, I had not heard this particular version. I took one of the more romantic tellings and added my own personal touch. Being a fiction writer and lover of legendary tales, this was not a difficult undertaking.

This is one of the many reasons I love writing. I love finding myself in the middle of a story, even when I’m not looking for one!

 

 

 

The Last Skye Seannachie: George W. Macpherson, Scottish Storyteller

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George W. Macpherson is the last traditional storyteller on the Isle of Skye. His Gaelic name is Seoras. He is a national treasure, truly. This man has thousands of years of story put to memory. He has the ability to tell a story in his soft thick Scottish accent that will transport you from wherever you are into a different time and place, a distant place where giants roamed the landscape and the fairy folk danced. As I sat in his living room, along a ridge above Glendale on the Isle of Skye, his voice carried me away. I was surrounded by color and scent, I heard the voices of those he described and stood in the middle of each tale, fully engaged, fully part of it. It was magical.

I asked when he first began telling stories. “Well, I started when I was three years old. My grandfather took me on his knee, and he told me a story, and I’d have to tell it back to him. And he’d say, ‘No, that’s not the way it was.’ And he’d tell it to me again, and I’d have to retell it till I was tellin’ the story the way he told it. And I did that then for seven years till I was ten. Then, I was allowed to tell a story outside the house for the first time. That was the kind of training at that time for a seannachie. After that I was collecting stories and telling them ever since. So all together I’ve been learning and collecting and telling stories now for over eighty years.”

He comes from a long line of seannachies. (Pronounced  shan-nach-hee.) Both his paternal and maternal grandfathers were seannachies, as was his father. So all the stories and all that comes with this ancient bardic office funneled down to him. He told me there are three levels of stories for story tellers, the “big stories,” the “middle stories,” and the “small stories.” Only a seannachie could tell the “big stories,” and they must be told exactly the same, word for word, as they were passed down. If you aspire to be a storyteller, you should begin with at least fifty stories committed to memory, always building your collection to include more and more. George has hundreds of stories. Eighty years and generations upon generation of stories passed down from his ancestors and others. He has one story that takes three days to tell. “I’ve only told it once!”

He also said he knows many story tellers today who practice in front of a mirror, so they can get all their facial expressions and hand motions and body movements down just so. “They’re trying to tie attention to the teller not the story. And that’s wrong, it’s not the teller that’s important it’s the story.” The power is in the story. I loved these words. So much truth in them on so many levels.

Seoras Macpherson is the last Skye seannachies and one of the last three in all of Scotland. He has been writing his stories down and publishing them, so as not to lose all of them. It is an oral tradition, an oral office of bard, clan historian, druidic heritage, but we have lived long enough to see the last of these great men and women aging without apprentices to carry on this legendary gift. I found myself saddened as I listened to this wise, gentle man and his powerful stories, and I wished with all my heart to be three again and sitting on his knee, repeating them . . . word for word . . . until I heard him say, “That’s just right. Now for the next story.”

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Sample story by George W. Mapherson

 

 

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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Latest on Amélie!

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I’ve finished the manuscript for Amélie: An Alsatian Tale (Book One)! FYI, this is a working title. It is currently being read by several Beta readers. Then, time to edit once again, and again, and again. I’m still up in the air on whether to continue my path of indie publishing or wander down that rocky road of traditional publishing. Decision to come soon. Input welcome.

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As this novel sits and marinates, I’ve begun the sequel to The Stone Manor! It’s been great fun to reconnect with my old friends, Mairi, Kathryn and Duncan, Beth, Ian, and Sean. Angus wondered why I’d taken so long to get back to them. Then, there are the new characters I’m meeting for the first time. I hope you’ll love them all as much as I do. For now, back to writing!

Virtual Skye Book Tour: Day Five in the Fairy Glen

Wide view of me in Fairy Glen

I’m beyond excited for our tour today! We’ve traveled north from Sleat through the middle of Skye. We’ve seen the Black Cullins, such beautiful mountains. A lovely lone lighthouse sits near Dùn Beag, an Iron Age fort. Continuing north, we came to Dunvegan Castle, home to Clan MacLeod. Being MacDonalds, we made a quick stop there being as it’s a lovely castle, still occupied, and it houses the famous fairy flag. Always been a bit jealous of the fact that they had their own fairy flag.

After Dunvegan, we cut across the northwestern part of the island and up toward Uig. We took a right on the road to Sheader. It’s a single-track dead-end road. As it should be, since it leads to the magical Fairy Glen.

Me standing on knoll in Fairy Glen

Here’s a small area to park the Land Rover. Follow me to the knoll overlooking the wee loch and hillsides. We’re the only humans here at the moment. So enjoy the peace and quiet of the glen. Watch your step and try not to disturb anything.

Me standing beside loch in Fairy Glen

Look. Sheep on the hillside and a fairy inviting us to walk the path along the loch and up the hillside. Remember, don’t pick up anything from the glen as a keepsake. If you take anything with you, the locals say it will bring you very, very bad luck. Just wanted to warn you.

Path leading to Portal and Castle in Fairy Glen

This is the path leading to the Portal to the Otherworld on the right and Castle Ewen on the left. The portal is where Kathryn left her Box of Terrors (buttons) in THE STONE MANOR.

Portal to Otherworld in Fairy Glen

Here’s a closer view of the Portal. Feel free to leave a gift or something of yourself in the entrance. Just don’t lean in too far or you might be snatched away into the deep fairy mound. If you leave a knife blade stuck in the ground of the opening, you can enter the portal and return at will. Otherwise we might not see you again.

Castle and Portal View

Castle Ewan is the site where Beth and the boys climbed. There’s a great view of Glenconnan from the top.

Mossy knoll in Fairy Glen

If you glance to the right on the moss covered ground you might see a fairy. But don’t let them know you’re looking for them. They like to surprise you.

Path on top of Fairy Glen

Walking past the portal and the castle, we’ll take this rocky pathway to the stone spiral. There are many stone altars up here with various gifts left for . . . well someone.

Stone circle on hillside in Fairy Glen

On the far right side up ahead you can see the stone spiral. This is where Mairi returned the Snowdrop her grandmother, Margaret, had taken from the Fairy Glen. It’s also where, Kathryn, Beth, Ian, and Sean made their wishes.

Close up of stone circle in Fairy Glen

Go ahead. Walk through the spiral to the center, turn three times, and make a wish. Be careful though. Don’t disturb any of the rocks. There are several missing. This could not have gone well for the person who removed them. We don’t want to suffer their same fate. I know it couldn’t have been good.

Enclosure ruins in Fairy Glen

Let’s walk down the road to the end. There’s something I’d like you to see. First, we’ll pass these stone ruins. Such a lovely peaceful place.

Rowan tree with sheep

Oh look! It’s the rowan tree where Mairi practiced her shooting skills with her bow. And her sheep are resting under the tree. Just around the bend we’ll come to a farm and a view worth seeing.

Falls view across glen at Fairy Glen

Breathtaking, isn’t it? I’ve been told the falls are normally much bigger. This spring was unusually dry. They’re still amazing. Glenconnon is massive. Looking back toward the bay and Uig you can see some houses. These belong to the Graham clan. Billy Graham’s family came from here.

Wizard Hat conical in Fairy Glen

Alright, everyone back to the Fairy Glen and the Rover. Say your goodbyes to this magical place and those who live here. I thought the final view of the Wizard’s Hat conical would be fitting. Now, on to Uig to see the standing stone and the pier where Duncan and Kathryn had an up-close encounter.

So tell me, who was fortunate enough to have a fairy sighting?

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

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.

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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.

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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 Art of Waiting OR Can I Get a Bit of Closure SOMEWHERE

64 Me at Highland Loch

(Me, in 2002, in the Highlands near Inverness, Scotland, listening for a word from my ancestors. I had to wait three more years before they spoke up.)

It seems I’ve been spending a lot of time waiting lately. And I just have to say, many of the things I’m waiting for are good, or the possibility of good things anyway. Now I don’t want to complain, I really don’t mind waiting from time to time, but it’s a bit crazy for me right now. What do you mean? Glad you asked.

65 Sonic after 1st PET Scan

(Stopped at Sonic to get my caffeine/sugar fix after a 24 hour fast for my PET Scan in February. PS: I was radioactive in this photo can you tell? Are my superpowers showing? I had my cape on just for the occasion.)

I had labs drawn last week in anticipation of my oncology appointment tomorrow. I’ve been waiting for three months since my last one to see if all is well…to see if I’m holding steady in my battle against cancer. This time around it was fairly easy on the front end. I just had blood drawn. No tests, no scopes, no scans, no…well you get the picture. I’m not so much in a battle right now, I’m waiting. And this is one time I don’t mind the wait! I’m hoping for healing or a new form of treatment that is less destructive to the rest of my body. This is the heavy one when it comes to waiting. It’s better from here on out. I promise.

30 FJ40 on Trailer

(Here he is! Dr. Livingstone at Stuart’s, Land Cruiser mechanic extraordinaire!)

I’m waiting for my sweet ride to get a makeover. Dr. Livingstone, my 1974 FJ40. I love him. He’s rough and rugged and has been known to rescue many a young man’s TRUCK out of the mud. Just sayin’. You all know who you are. He is right now in the greasy but loving hands of Stuart, my new mechanic. This will be worth the wait. In the meantime, I’m without wheels.

31 The Stone Manor Spiral

(This is sitting atop my dad’s desk. Just wanted you to know I don’t keep a large current photo of myself atop my own desk.)

Then there are three very cool events I’m waiting on that have to do with The Stone Manor, my novel. I’ve entered it in two different writing contests for unpublished novels. The first is the Golden Claddagh Contest, of which my novel is a finalist in the Celtic category. Woohoo! The winner will be announced September 5th. Waiting! The second contest is The Catherine Toronto Romance Writers Contest. Finalists to be announced mid-late August. Waiting. And last but by no means least, I have submitted my manuscript to a NYC agent. She’s considering representing my work. No timeline on this one. Waiting!!!!!

66 Moving from Berg Container

(Our container preparing to leave our German apartment for Texas. Bon Voyage! Or I should say Gute Reisen!)

Jim and I are moving from Munich to the Black Forest in Germany. We are also downsizing (if that can be possible) so we’ve shipped most of our personal belongings back to Texas, where we’ve taken an apartment near our daughter and her family. So at this very moment, much of our earthly things are in a container on a ship somewhere in the Atlantic Ocean. Wait! I didn’t word that quite right. Hopefully they’re not in the ocean literally, the ship is sailing ON the ocean. Does that sound better? I have seen pictures of freighters plodding through stormy seas, containers sliding off into the water. Not a pretty sight. Image be gone! The container should be here in about a month. Wait for it.

32 Me and Jim Smiling Fam

(Isn’t he handsome? Well worth the wait!)

Finally, Jim has been in Germany without me for a month and will arrive back in Texas on our anniversary, in just a few short days. BEST ANNIVERSARY PRESENT EVER! Waiting!

I could go on, but I won’t. We all are waiting for one thing or another on any given day. Some of us wait expectantly, some excitedly, some with great fear and dread. The danger is always this, we’ll miss living in the moment, the here and now, while waiting for the future to get here. Each day is a gift. It comes and it goes and we can never, ever get it back. I don’t know what you’re waiting for, but I hope you don’t miss what’s right in front of you while you’re looking ahead. I’m writing these last words for my own benefit, really. I needed to hear them. What about you?