Wednesday, August 28, 2019

Scotland '19

Gardens Cottage, Dunvegan Castle, Isle of Skye

We had been in Britain for almost a week by the time we boarded the ferry in Mallaig for Skye.  The sea approach gave dramatic views across the water to the island and the outer Hebrides beyond.  Once on Skye we drove toward Dunvegan, stopping at Broadford for groceries.  It was after 6:00 pm.  Traffic was heavy in the opposite direction with folks leaving the island.  We continued northwest, like heading to the edge of the earth.  The Cuillin Mountains were an otherworldly backdrop to the late afternoon sun.  We drove past Loch Bracadale where in 1802 my g-g-g-great grandmother had left Skye with her eighteen month old son, John, my g-g-great grandfather (see previous post).  

We arrived at the Gardens Cottage on the grounds of Dunvegan Castle where we stayed for three amazing nights.  

Stone cairn erected in memory of Roderick MacLeod, d. 1530.  Mountains of the Isles of Harris and Lewis beyond.

Before our trip I read up on what genealogy I could, and benefited greatly from the efforts of a cousin in Nashville, TN.  A chance meeting with an uncle of mine in 1963 spurred him on to a decades-long involvement with the Associated Clan MacLeod Societies.  Through that group, and before the internet and, he was able to piece together a detailed family tree of our ancestors on Skye.  In his research he discovered stories of their exploits from centuries ago, including those of my 15-great grandfather, Roderick MacLeod.  Roderick and his father, John, were killed in 1530 in the second of two "Battles of Waternish." (see this link)  

In 1983, my cousin oversaw the erection of a stone pile, or cairn, in memory of Roderick on the site where he was killed.  A similar monument to John stands about a quarter of a mile away but visible over the treeless moor.  We spent a day hiking that part of the island and visiting the cairn. It was well worth it if only for the hard-earned "wow" from our two children.         

Dunvegan Castle

With the rental of the Gardens Cottage came access to the castle grounds after visiting hours.  The grounds consisted of a walled garden, a wooded trail that passed by two waterfalls, a lawn, and several other areas around the castle.  As great as that was, stopping to sketch would attract a swarm of midges, leaving my pages smeared with the guts of several hundred.  Keeping moving was the key, and the gardens are beautifully maintained with modern sculpture and creative interpretations.  

In the loch next to the grounds is a large seal colony.  We took a seal boat tour of the loch and were able to get pretty close.  They were unimpressed with us as they sunned themselves on the rocks.  Late one afternoon as the tide came in we saw from the grounds a large group of adults and young perched on rocks near the castle.   

Lewis Chessmen at the National Museum of Scotland, Edinburgh.  Detail of a "berserker."

In Edinburgh

Balmoral Hotel, Edinburgh

St Pancras Station, London from our hotel room on the first night in the UK

St. Paul's Cathedral 

Sir John Soane's sitting room

Docent showing Hogarth's original oils of A Rake's Progress in Sir John Soane's gallery.

The London Eye from across the Thames River

WWII era fighter plane in the Munich airport