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Giants, Clouds, and Tartan Togas {Haggis Tour, Day Three}

Note: This is the extremely belated post about the third day on the Five Day Haggis Adventures tour that I went on in July of 2012. It is being published a year later, though written last July, because I ran out of time while travelling to both travel and enjoy and madly format and load photos. I apologize for the delay.

After our (slightly uncomfortable) night at Saucy Mary’s Lodge, we set out to explore the Isle of Skye, much immortalised in song, poetry, and film.

We stopped first at a waterfall, one of many that Chris seemed to think we’d find fascinating, on our way to Dun Beag Broch, a prehistoric stone roundhouse. The multi-level broch was built between 2300 and 1900 years ago and artifacts found in and around the broch strongly suggest that they would have been used for human and animal habitation as well as for defense. We climbed up a hill to get to the broch, passing a gorgeous patch of heather, before picking our way around sheep droppings to get to the broch.

Heather by the side of the road.

Heather by the side of the road.

One of many sheep.

One of many sheep.

Here’s an interesting bit of information completely unrelated to prehistoric buildings: the sheep around the broch were sheared, but many of the sheep we’d been seeing and would see during the rest of the tour had all their wool. Chris explained this by saying that  the price of wool was plummeting, making it more expensive for farmers to hire labourers for the shearing and pay for transportation of the wool than it is worth. Many farmers are leaving their sheep unsheared. It rather defeats the point of having sheep, I should think.

Anyway, we climbed up to the broch, read the information signs, then began climbing all over the prehistoric building as though it were a jungle gym. Oh, yes, I did it too, but hindsight is 20-20.

I said "Smile!" and they began waving their arms like air traffic controllers... :D

I said “Smile!” and they began waving their arms like air traffic controllers… I love my Aussies! :D

And here’s a photo down towards our wee yellow bus,

A view from the Dun Beag Broch towards the road.

A view from the Dun Beag Broch towards the road. And our yellow Haggis bus.

From the broch we set out for Portree, the largest town on Skye. Our stop meant as a bathroom break as well as time to pick up food for our lunch, which Chris was planning to have picnic-style later on. He recommended (as I now do, too), MacKenzie’s Bakery in Somerled Square. Most of us purchased items from MacKenzie’s and we weren’t disappointed! Not only was it very tasty, but the prices were amazing! I’m pretty sure that two small chicken buns, a dessert item, and a bottled drink were under £5. And it was so good. Seriously, if you happen to be on the Isle of Skye, go to MacKenzie’s Bakery in Portree!

We travelled up from Portree to the Quiraing, a landslip on Trotternish Ridge. We drove up and up and up, eventually passing into the clouds. When Chris stopped the bus, it was to find ourselves above the clouds! Windy, cold, and utterly breathtaking.

The Quiraing on Trotternish Ridge.

A view of the land disappearing into the clouds, from the Quiraing on Trotternish Ridge.

For those of you familiar with the 2007 film Stardust, this was a filming location for two scenes. The first is where Lamia casts her runes and the second scene was where Tristan and Yvaine (and then Septimus later on) see the stone milestone marking the distance to Wall.

The drop was very long from our viewpoint, but we went close to the edge…

Jumping near a cliff- definitely a good idea.

Jumping near a cliff- definitely a good idea.

From Trotternich Ridge, we drove to Kilt Rock. When we pulled into the parking lot, Chris groaned and pointed towards two girls in their mid-teens, one with a bagpipe, the other with a snare drum, setting up to play for the three bus loads of tourists.

“Everywhere you go- you cannae ever escape ’em- if they play Scotland the Brave, don’t tell me, I dunno if I could handle it.”

On our way between the Quiraing and Kilt Rock, Chris told us the story behind Kilt Rock’s name.

Legend has it two ways. The Irish way and the Scottish way. Chris prefaced his story by saying that the Irish are great neighbours, fun drinking buddies and the sort of people you want on your side in a fight- but they are liars. According to Chris, you can’t trust them to ever tell a story straight. With this in mind, the story of Fingal and Fionn McCool goes a little like this…

There was once a giant and his wife who lived on the coast of Scotland, and their names were Fingal and Fiona. They lived quite happily until one day while Fingal was out, Fiona had an unexpected visitor drop by. Fionn McCool, an Irish giant, was travelling through Scotland to meet some relatives when he spotted Fingal and Fiona’s house. He stopped to ask for something to eat and drink. When he saw Fiona, Fionn became transfixed with her beauty, but Fiona refused his advances and asked him to leave. Fionn left, but declared that once his business was finished, he would be back to fight for her.

Upon her husband’s return, Fiona told Fingal all about her visitor, but warned him that the Irish giant was much bigger and a fearsome warrior. Though insulted at the idea that he didn’t have a chance against Fionn, Fingal agreed to the plan that Fiona had come up with. During the next week, Fiona instructed her husband to built a giant cradle and she began to knit a large blanket and a large baby bonnet.

A little over a week later, Fiona was sitting outside hanging her laundry out to dry when she saw Fionn McCool coming towards their home.

“Fingal, quick! Strip down to your underwear and wrap yourself in this blanket!” Baffled, Fingal did as she asked.

“Now get into the cradle!” Aghast what Fiona was asking of him, Fingal protested and began to leave but as he passed a window, he caught a glimpse of Fionn coming towards their home. Far taller than Fingal and clearly a toughened warrior, the sight of Fionn scared Fingal witless. Fiona was adjusting the knitted baby’s bonnet on her husband’s head just as Fionn burst in.

“Fiona, I’m here to take you away! Where’s that husband of yours? I’ll win you fair and square!” Fiona offered Fionn tea and calmly set about preparing some refreshments, telling Fionn that her husband was out but would be back quite soon. As the water boiled for the tea, Fiona excused herself to bring the washing in.

She came in and began to fold a large table cloth. Once folded, Fiona placed it on the table near Fionn, saying it was her husband’s kilt.

“His kilt?” asked Fionn, alarmed at the neatly folded mass of cloth next to him.

Fingal, hiding in the cradle peeked out at Fionn, making the cradle creak.

“What’s that?” asked Fionn.

“My wee baby boy- you can hold him, if you’d like.” Fionn walked over to the cradle and stared at the massive, ugly baby sleeping inside.

“How old he?” Fionn asked, panic rising in him- if the baby was this big, the father must be massive.

“Och! My wee boy is just a year old, and still growing,” Fiona added with a small smile. Fionn nodded and excused himself. Fiona watched from her window as Fionn McCool ran from the house and back towards Ireland, destroying the bridge connecting Scotland and Ireland as he went to prevent a jealous husband of undetermined size from coming after him.

Kilt rock, with it’s unusual basalt columns, is said to resemble a kilt’s folds, specifically the kilt that Fiona used to scare Fionn.

Kilt Rock, Isle of Skye.

Kilt Rock, Isle of Skye.

Do you see how it could be a kilt? No? Whoever named it had been enjoying a few drams of the water of life? Yeah, I agree ; )

We left Kilt Rock and the offending young piper behind for Leallt Falls, where we ate our lunch before admiring more views, the water falls, and the steep drop below us. We also saw the ruins of a building. I don’t know what it was originally built to be, but the ruins had a mysterious quality, especially as they were too far away to explore.

The ruins below Leallt Falls

The ruins below Leallt Falls

We drove away from the coast of the island, enjoying a playlist from Chris’ iPod and the lush green of the Isle of Skye.

One of the delightful things about this tour is that Chris frequently told stories. History and myths all had a place on our wee yellow bus; Here’s another:

There once were two clans who had been at war with each other for generations. Finally, it happened that the leader of the MacLeods had a daughter only a few years younger than the son of the head of the MacDonalds. The wives of the two leaders  put their heads together and agreed that their son and daughter would marry, ending the feud between their clans and accomplishing the peace that had eluded their husbands and the previous clan leaders.

When the time came for them to marry, the daughter was sent off to the MacDonalds with a manservant and his dog. While crossing the Sligachan River, the donkey the bride was riding slipped on a loose rock, and she fell into the river. The manservant quickly pulled her out, but she had landed badly, with one arm broken and her face badly injured, one eye hanging from it’s socket. He wrapped her his coat and tried to comfort the distraught girl.

With both clans depending on the marriage to keep the peace, she decided to continue to the wedding.

The ceremony went forward but when he lifted her veil and saw the condition of his bride-to-be, the groom flew into a rage at her ugliness. Thinking that the MacLeods had disfigured her to humiliate him, he used his dirk to gouge her other eye out, as well as an eye from her manservant, her donkey, and one from the dog as well. The groom swore revenge on the clan, as the MacLeod bride, her manservant, the donkey and the dog fled from the ruined wedding.

They reached the banks of the Sligachan River, where the trouble had started, and collapsed beside the water. A passing man noticed their horrific appearance and stopped to ask what  had happened. The blinded girl, with help from her faithful manservant, explained the events of the day.

The old man, who was a fairy in disguise, felt badly for the girl, so he placed an enchantment on the river and told her to dunk her arm into the river for seven seconds. Not seeing the point, but also not seeing a reason not to, the girl had be manservant help her to the edge of the river, where she did as the fairy told her. To her surprise, when she drew her arm from the river, it was healed completely. Smiling, the fairy instructed her to dunk her face for seven seconds as well. She did so, and emerged, both eyes in their sockets and more beautiful than she had been before the accident!

Elated, she helped her manservant dunk his face, who also regained his eye and grew handsome than before. The donkey and the dog both dunked their faces, whereupon they also regained their previously gouged eyes.

The girl, her manservant, as well as the donkey and dog returned to the MacLeods, where they explained what had happened to the astonished clan before announcing they the girl and the manservant were going to marry.

Chris told us this story as we stood on the bank of the Sligachan, and had someone dunk their face into the river each time the girl, the servant, the donkey, and the dog did. After four of our tour-mates had been good sports about being volunteered for a face wash, he told us that the passing fairy was also very forgetful, and hadn’t lifted the enchantment from the Sligachan… and that he expected all of us to dunk our faces into the river for seven seconds to achieve eternal beauty.

Awkward silence.

The saying “When in Rome”, applies, I suppose, to travel outside of Italy, too. So I tied my hair back, handed my camera and bag to a friend and dunked my face in a cold Scottish river for seven seconds. Actually, except for two, we all did it! Hurray for embracing the whimsy and spontaneity of travel!

Although, if you look at it from another perspective, fourteen adults chose to stick their faces in a cold Scottish river because someone we’d known for two and a half days told us to.

But let’s not talk about that.

The bank of the Sligachan River.

This is where I dunked by face in a cold Scottish river. Because some guy told me to. Clever, eh?

And here’s a view of the bridge we crossed over the Sligachan. More people slipped, I guess ; )

The Sligachan River.

The Sligachan River.

We emerged from the river dripping with shockingly cold river water, refreshed, and laughing. It was fun- I’m glad I did it.

We crossed over the Skye Bridge and back to the mainland, stopping again at Eilean Donan Castle for photos from a different angle, before heading North.

Our beds for the night were located in Fort Augustus, which is on the banks of the most famous loch in Scotland… you guessed it, Loch Ness!

As Chris drove us towards Fort Augustus, he told us some facts about the loch, such as how it is the second longest loch in Scotland, the second deepest loch in Scotland, and ties with lochs Maree and Sheil as being the narrowest for their length.

When we arrived in Loch Ness, the very first thing we did was attend the Clansman Show at the Clansman Centre. A Mr. Robinson gave a presentation on traditional Highland dress, and how they would have used the plaids both for warmth and as clothing. He demonstrated how to properly fold a plaid (pleats and all!) before dressing two audience members in a close representation of traditional Highland Scots garb (the Indian man from our tour was chosen as was a girl from a Belgian group sitting behind us). Mr. Robertson also vividly demonstrated the uses of various weapons including a dirk, a spike, and a Claymore- we all kept very still!

That night was spent at Morag’s Lodge. We had the option of adding dinner to the cost of accommodation, which I did. The food was good, and the pub was attached to the hostel!

We came down after dinner to find a woman and man playing a fiddle and a bodhrán. They continued for a little over an hour before we were told that it was Tartan Toga time!

Our guide was very clear that those who did not wear the tartan togas would not be welcome on the bus the next day. Now, we didn’t take that threat too seriously. More important, however, was that more people from OUR Haggis bus wear the tartan togas than the people from the other Haggis bus…

So basically, we won Tartan Toga Night. Ah, sweet victory. ; )

Tartan togas were provided by Morag's Lodge... so we wore them!

Tartan togas were provided by Morag’s Lodge… so we wore them!

I had loads of fun that night- tartan togas, Aussie friends, attractive bartenders, and new drinks… specifically the Rusty Nail… tasty and effective!

Morag’s Lodge: http://www.moragslodge.com/

The Clansman Centre: http://www.scottish-swords.com/

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2 thoughts on “Giants, Clouds, and Tartan Togas {Haggis Tour, Day Three}

  1. Holly Campbell on said:

    I enjoyed reading this and reliving the Haggis tour I took as an undergrad fourteen years ago! We stayed in many of the same places and visited many of the same landmarks. We actually made that treacherous hike down to the falls and that mysterious ruined building you photographed. Our guide told us it had been an explosives factory. What I don’t remember now is if it had blown up in an accident or just deteriorated over time. The falls were amazing to see up close! Thank you for this fantastic write up!

    • thetravellinghapa on said:

      Wow! It’s great to hear from you, Holly!
      Thank you for telling me about that ruined building- the more I know about a place, the better I can appreciate it :)

      I must apologize for how late this reply is- I rarely check the blog when I’m not actively travelling which is why it took so long to approve and reply.
      Thank you & take care!

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