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 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.

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(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.

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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.

 

Indian Food and Presbyterians: A Skye Tale

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(Saucy Mary’s Lodge, Kyleakin, Isle of Skye, Scotland. Photo by Jim Hale.)

In the first draft of my novel, my main character, Kathryn, arrives on the Isle of Skye and stops at Saucy Mary’s for some fish and chips. It’s one of the first places to eat once you cross over the bridge from the mainland. I loved the name, and I loved the story behind the name even more.

The feisty Norse Princess Mary married Findanus Mackinnon. He was Lord of the Isles around 900 AD. Local legend says she laid a chain between the mainland and the Isle of Skye to collect a toll from passing ships.

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(Castle Moil, aka Saucy Mary’s Castle, Kyleakin, Isle of Skye, Scotland. Photo by Jim Hale.)

As you cross the bridge from Kyle of Lochalsh to Kyleakin you can see the remains of her castle. There is a Hostel Guest Lodge that bears her name complete with a pub. It was here I had Kathryn stop to eat her first meal on Skye.

Because of this, I intended to do the same when my husband and I took our trip to the Isle of Skye in 2008. I was following the story line to see if what I’d written worked. After driving the long five hours from the Glasgow airport to the Isle of Skye, we were ready for dinner…fish and chips from Saucy Mary’s. We’d stopped at Loch Lomond and Glencoe along the way, and unfortunately, had a flat tire on our rental car just before reaching the Skye Bridge. It was twilight. It was also our first encounter with the tiny vampires of Scotland…also known as midges. Once my handy husband changed the tire, we were off to the Misty Isle. I was so excited! After several years of writing and research I was finally going to experience Skye for myself. And search for my long lost ancestors…the Macdonalds!

As we rounded the final bend in the road, Skye came into view. I screamed, followed by uncontrollable clapping and laughing. Jim was undaunted, as this is a typical response when I’m really excited. I had him stop the car for a photo-op of the bridge, with the Cullin mountains in the background. Beautiful view! I still remember the awe of seeing it for the first time. The drive from Glasgow through the rugged landscape of western Scotland was fantastic, but the Isle of Skye was truly breathtaking.

With camera in hand we continued across the bridge and looked for Saucy Mary’s. Now here’s where my fairy tale trip took its first detour. (Cue impending doom music.) It was 8:05 when we pulled into the car park at the pub. We walked in and took a seat. I was doing the silent clap and giggle so as not to draw too much attention to myself. Someone said we had to order at the bar, so we walked over and asked for fish and chips. DENIED! The kitchen had closed at 8:00. (The cook had just left the building.) Are you kidding me? I wanted to scream, “I just flew over an OCEAN, and drove (technically Jim drove, but you get the point) for five hours to eat fish and chips at Saucy Mary’s for our first meal on Skye!” Instead we asked where we could find a place to eat. Jim was really hungry! It was Sunday evening, and as Skye is very Presbyterian, lots of places were closed on Sundays. They suggested the Indian Restaurant just up the road, as they are not Presbyterian. Now this is where I tell you how much I do not like Indian food. And it just seemed wrong on so many levels to eat it as our first meal on Skye. But alas, it’s what we did. We paid fifty dollars for some really, really bad Indian food. I’ve heard there are lots of great Indian dishes. We evidently did not choose any of these.

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(Peter and Jane Macdonald’s Bed and Breakfast, Sleat, Isle of Skye, Scotland. Photo by the Hales.)

Well anyway after let’s call it “dinner,” we drove to our bed and breakfast. Tired and hungry. But when we arrived and met the Macdonalds and saw the beautiful view of the Sound of Sleat with the Hills of Knoydart in the background, the fairy tale took a turn for the better.

As I lay in bed that night my mind would not rest. It was off on all kinds of adventures, searching for a stone manor, lost ancestors, and a faerie or two.