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Fairy Glen

“How beautiful they are, the lordly ones
Who dwell in the hills, in the hollow hills.”
From ‘The Faery Song’ by Fiona Macleod

Up a hilly road just outside of Uig is a place known as the Fairy Glen. It is exactly that. I went on a lovely sunny late winter afternoon and felt like I had found home.


I had heard of the Fairy Glen the first time I went to Skye, but failed to find it on that trip. This time I was determined and it transpired that previously I had missed a turn. I guess I had yet to be invited. This time I felt very welcome.

It is claimed that this wonderful miniature landscape of grassy, cone-shaped hills, was formed by a series of landslides (smaller than the landslips that formed the Storr and the Quiraing) that were then smoothed by later glaciation. Obviously that’s nonsense; it was clearly made by fairies.


Taking centre stage is Castle Ewen, a fairy fort. Yes, an actual fairy fort. It is as awesome as it sounds. From the top there are large waterfalls visible in the distance, while a smaller one bubbles away nearby. All around I found offerings of shiny things that had been left for the Little People. Interesting to see that modern people, people who have access to wifi and Nando’s, still feel the need to honour supposedly mythical beings like fairies. Maybe we still need them.

Maybe in spite of society’s desire to cleanse our minds of anything other than the allegedly concrete and control our hearts with meaningless baubles, we will always know there are unknowable things and have a certain love and respect for that which we can never possess.

Next: Fairy Bridge

“O Lord of the Heights, whose eye encircles
The Land and the sea, and smiles through thunder,
Smile on us too, as sail we outward
To far blue Isles, with tales of wonder.”
From ‘The Iona Rainbow’ by Kenneth Macleod

I saw my first Golden Eagles in early January this year near Forsinard. Having searched for them on and off for the last few years it was exhilarating to finally see them (more about this in another blog). While on Skye I saw five. One pair and three alone. It will never get old, they are as unmistakable as they are beautiful. However, one more prize, but for a tantalising glimpse, still eluded me: the White Tail, the Sea Eagle.

And so I boarded the Brigadoon and set sail from Portree harbour in search of this magnificent bird. I also got a peek into the cloak and dagger world of boat trips – apparently there is a rival boat that will snag stray tourists by claiming to be the tour, then charge you much more for it!

Out in the warm sunny harbour I enjoyed the scenery as well as the wildlife. There were all the usual suspects, various Gulls, Shags, Cormorants, the odd Harbour Seal. A golden eagle sailed over the hills in the distance. We caught brief sight of some Common Porpoises and then sailed on for some fantastic views of Harbour Seals hauled out on the rocks of a small island.

Eventually we spotted my prize, a White Tail, sitting on a rocky outcrop, seeming to glower down at us imperiously. Another Golden Eagle perched above (like waiting for a bus, they were all turning up at once) and flew out, soaring over the bay. The White Tail cocked his head. We waited. Our captain threw out bait time and again, drawing in wonderful views of Great Black-Backed Gulls. Then suddenly another White Tail that we had failed to spot launched itself into the air. It was spectacular!

Next: Fairy Glen

“Seven herrings are a Salmon’s fill,
Seven Salmon are a Seal’s fill,
Seven Seals are a Whale’s fill,
Seven Whales are the fill of a Cirein Croin*,
And seven Cirein Croin are the fill of the Big Devil himself.”
From Campbell’s ‘Superstitions of the Scottish Highlands and Islands’
*Sea Serpent

Something I love to do while travelling is trying out the local food. I also love sea food. This makes Skye pretty heavenly for me. The Oyster Shed is a must if you are visiting Skye and have a taste for seafood or game. A small farm shop and takeaway by Carbost, what it lacks in looks it more than makes up for in quality food.

Getting there also involves going by Talisker Distillery. Having tried a dram or two (okay, probably a good few more than that!) I may have discovered my all time favourite whisky.

Everything I bought from The Oyster Shed was divine. The smoked salmon in particular. The takeaway seafood was also fabulous, so fabulous in fact I went back for a second course to take away with me. This was a very good idea, as on my way back to the car I spotted two Golden Eagles flying quite close by. I ate while I watched them, feeling indulged and honoured. What could be better than this?

The scenery around Carbost, as with virtually everywhere on Skye, was beautiful. Nearby is Glen Brittle, where you can enjoy stunning views of the Black Cuillin and venture to the Fairy Pools.

Unfortunately the weather had turned a bit nasty by the time I got there and I decided to go home and curl up with a dram.

Next: Seals and Sea Eagles

The Quiraing

“And the big hills up behind it, like the monarchs of the land

Sitting throned above the waters, dreaming…hand in hand…”

From ‘The Glen of Dreams’ by Lauchlan Maclean Watt

The first time I visited Skye I passed through the Quiraing in a mist and saw absolutely nothing of it. As someone else was in the driver’s seat that time I got plenty of opportunity to take a good look at the big grey nothing too. The ride was fairly unpleasant, on worn out single track roads winding up and down hills in what seemed like the middle of nowhere. I’m so glad I went again.

With blue skies above the Quiraing is a stunningly beautiful place. A pleasant drive too.



It is said that the lack of myths and stories about the Quiraing can be attributed to parts of it being of such evil nature that none have escaped to tell the tale. Quite a yarn, that one!

Next: Golden Eagles at the Oyster Shed

“Thou who dwellest
In the heights above
O succour us in the depths below…
May the clouds hide us,
May the moon shine on the foe…”
From ‘Dunvegan Sea-Hymn’ by Kenneth Macleod

 

The Storr Rock, said to take its name from Facaill Storach, meaning a bucks tooth, is a rocky hill on the Trotternish peninsula of Skye about five miles from Portree. Storr is the highest point of the ridge of mountains that form the backbone of Trotternish, with the ‘Old Man of Storr’ at its foot. The ‘Old Man’ lost his head in a storm about half a century ago, but remains impressive nonetheless.

There are a number of myths about the ‘Old Man’, involving magicians, giants, brownies and fairies.

I had a very enjoyable morning climbing to the base of him, with spectacular views all the way – the Western Mainland, Gairloch, Lochcarron, the hills of Affaric and much of Skye lay spread out before me.

The area in front of the Storr is known as the Sanctuary, a place peppered with many beautiful rock pinnacles. Like the ‘Old Man’ himself, this place seemed wonderfully peaceful. With Skye being so full of stories of Little People and strange happenings I assumed there must be something about this place, but, having done some research, thus far all I have is a hunch and a vivid memory of feeling very safe and watched over.

Next: The Quiraing

A Room with a View

“O come with me where the sea-birds fly
Remote and far by the Isle of Skye–
Away with the winds a-sailing!
Where dreams are the gifts availing–
Will ye come with me?”

From ‘Come with me’ by Pittendrigh Macgillivray

On this year’s trip to Skye I stayed at Fir Chlis (Gaelic for Aurora Borealis), a self catering apartment in Ullinish, near Dunvegan. I highly recommend it, a wonderful studio space with fantastic views and very welcoming hosts. They gave me plenty of peace and privacy during my stay but were always happy to help if I needed anything. The perfect combination.

From my room I could enjoy views of Loch Bracadale, the Cullin Hills and Oronsay Island, as well as plenty of wildlife, all enticing me to go out and explore. Dun Beag and Oronsay Island were both within walking distance giving me plenty of interesting places to start with.

Dun Beag is one of a number of ruined forts (or ‘Picts’ houses’ as they are known to some) found around Loch Bracadale. Dun Beag is reputedly the best example of these, having yet to fall into complete ruin. Big finds of Stone Age and Bronze Age weapons have been found there, indicating that the Duns have been used since Neolithic times. Local tradition would have it that these places are the dwellings of the Little People, or ‘Sithichean’, fairy homesteads or entrances to fairy country. According to these beliefs there is danger in approaching places like Dun Beag, especially at night, with mortals, cattle and all sorts being carried away into the Dun.

I was unaware of these beliefs about this particular place during my visit. It was only a short walk up the hill, with fantastic views from its walls. It felt very welcoming. Perhaps the fairies liked me.

Oronsay Island is a small tidal island in easy walking distance of Ullinish (3.5km). On my way to the tidal causeway I saw Great Northern Diver, Ringed Plover and Oyster Catchers without much effort. When I reached the other side of Oronsay a flock of Great Black-Backed Gulls was drifting around the cliff along with a couple of Ravens. The scenery was stunning; I was blessed with calm blue skies that day and for most of my trip.

I walked back to Ullinish awash with the sound of Song Thrush and Blackbird singing, looking forward to the adventures to come. Next: The Old Man of Storr

“My heart is yearning for thee, O Skye, Dearest of Islands.”
From ‘Song to Skye’ by Alexander Nicolson

My trip to Skye began with a drive from Inverness, where I had been staying with friends, through Lochcarron to Kyle of Lochalsh and on over the Skye Bridge. The weather for the trip had looked bad the day before, but on the day it was blue skies all the way and absolutely beautiful. Lochcarron looked gorgeous and I stopped at a viewpoint along the way for some lunch and to enjoy the views.

I attracted the attention a couple of Hooded Crows via the medium of biscuits and they kindly posed for me in return.

Then it was onwards through the wonderful scenery and over the bridge to a lovely evening on Skye.

Next: A Room with a View

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