Dornie, Eilean Donan, and Flodigarry - May 3, 2010
Had a delicious breakfast overlooking the castle we're about to visit, Eilean Donan. That's my Dad, Aunt Becky, and Mom in the photo, with the castle visible through the window. Watching the new, gorgeous day dawn on the castle right before our eyes only served to enhance our anticipation.
(Click the pics for Hi-Res.)
Had a lovely chat with a couple who were also staying at our B&B, and then headed out for a tour of the castle. We got there before they opened for the day, so I found a quiet spot near the loch and sat alone in the pleasantly chilly air, happy to be exactly where I was.
The Castle has had an exciting history, given its strategic location at the meeting of three lochs. To quote their website:
Although first inhabited around the 6th century, the first fortified castle was built in the mid 13th century and stood guard over the lands of Kintail. Since then, at least four different versions of the castle have been built and re-built as the feudal history of Scotland unfolded through the centuries.Partially destroyed in a Jacobite uprising in 1719, Eilean Donan lay in ruins for the best part of 200 years until Lieutenant Colonel John MacRae-Gilstrap bought the island in 1911 and proceeded to restore the castle to its former glory. After 20 years of toil and labour the castle was re-opened in 1932.
We weren't able to take pictures inside, so you'll just have to go see it for yourself. It's very well cared for by a friendly staff that clearly loves the place even more than the guests do. There are spyholes in the banqueting hall, fascinating recreations of food and cooking practices from the 1930's in the kitchen, and bedrooms fitted out as they would have been in earlier days, complete with little nooks and crannies and stairways to other places in the castle. It was a great day with beautiful weather (a brief spell of grey mist only embellished the scene).
I can never pass up a gift shop, but this time Mom and Dad got more goodies than I did. Dad got a vest, mom got table linens, and I looked for warmer weather clothes that I can wear at home, but only ended up getting some postcards and a cling sticker for my car.
From there, we traveled on to Skye, stopping at the T.I. for some info. The mountains are getting even higher, but there are still sporadic sheep dotting the hillsides. Mom, Aunt Becky, and I resist no opportunity to point every one of them out.
Lunched at a cafe, enjoying the cool and clear weather. We've been so lucky on this trip, that any wet weather has been light and/or brief.
Right in the center of this photo is a tall, slim rock formation called the Old Man of Storr, to the left of it, the larger formation, is called The Storr.
We decided to take the bridge to the Isle of Skye, and on the way back, we'll take the ferry. Heading through the beautiful, stark landscape we finally arrived at Flodigarry Country House. I realized as we got there, that the houses might not be so sparsely spread out as I first thought, because Flodigarry is somewhat hidden from the road, down the hill a bit, and separated from the road by a wooded drive (and more sheep).
The main house is simply gorgeous - lots of wood, plaid, and stuffed game, with a welcoming tray of whisky just inside the entrance. I could see would really like it here!
The house overlooks the bay, from high on a hill. Their website states that it is a popular spot for outdoor activities - hiking, climbing, fishing, swimming (brr!), biking, etc. - and I believe it! Some day I want to come back here and stay a lot longer.
Mom & Dad's room is in the main house, and Aunt B and & I are in the Flora McDonald cottage - named for the Highland heroine who played a part in Scottish history by helping "Bonnie" Prince Charlie escape following his defeat at Culloden moor. She lived in the cottage for several years, and the larger adjacent house was built about a hundred years later by an ancestor of hers.
After settling in to our cosy cottage room, I enjoyed a nice warm bath in the Victorian-style cast-iron tub, then Aunt B and I joined Mom and Dad for a wee dram of whisky and a chat in the sunroom before dinner. It was impossible to hide how simply happy we all were to be here and in each others' company.
For dinner, I had the langoustines, a native variety of what look exactly like crawfish to me, but were less salty, perhaps due to the method of preparation. After dinner, we all retreated to our respective rooms, and I took my laptop over to the big house to partake of the wi-fi signal, which apparently can only be had in the lobby. I stayed there until well after dark, and quietly made my way back to the cottage. The house was so pretty at night, the ground damp and the air cool, that I dared to stray from the path a bit to enjoy the liberating feeling of solitary exploration of the grounds after dark before snuggling into my warm bed right by the dormer window in the attic room.