This is way overdue. I spent a fabulous 2 weeks in the United Kingdom last fall, and although I think about those experiences almost daily, I have yet to put them down in writing – except for the sea glass outing, where I met a local sea glass artist on the Isle of Skye, Rosie Cameron. I’d like to describe to you 2 weeks of pure magic, that included fairies and firearms.
My husband, aka the Bomb, and I flew from Missouri to Glasgow, Scotland, last September. After an overnight in the city during a Comic-Con event next door to our hotel, we headed north to the Isle of Skye. During our short stay in Glasgow, we saw most of the super heroes from comic books wandering the streets and in our hotel lobby. We could have used a Bat Mobile, because our “hire car” suffered from 2 “punctures,” aka flat tires, because hubby swerved to avoid an oncoming vehicle on our side of the narrow Scottish 2-lane road during our drive to Skye.
We found our cottage, Beacarrie House, on the Isle of Skye late in the evening. Although we had a GPS, our landlady – the aforementioned Rosie – drew us a “wee map” so we could find the place and not fall off the cliff into the ocean in the process. She thought the GPS service might get spotty. And, it did.
We arrived at the cottage, and that evening so did our grandson, born on the other side of the ocean! What a big day for all of us. As we wove in and out of cell service, we had been getting updates from our son about the pending birth of his son, and I finally spoke to the new father – thousands of miles away – while standing on a Skye hillside (the only place I could get cell service) in the dark, overlooking Loch Bracadale.
The next 3 days we put miles on our rental car and miles on our hiking boots. Skye is truly a wild place, and very quickly you must learn to negotiate the pull outs with oncoming traffic on the (mainly) single-lane roads.
Rosie had included a pile of guides in the cottage. In the pile, we found a little guide book, Tramping in Skye, by B.H. Humble that was published in 1933, but still very applicable since things had not changed much since then. The book was to be extremely interesting and helpful. I read it cover-to-cover during the evenings, scratching notes about where to go and what we’d learn. I liked it so much that my husband bought a copy for me in a bookstore in Portree, the largest town in Skye.
Fairies play a large part in the history of this area in Scotland. One of the most popular fairy stories surrounds a flag in Dunvegan Castle, the seat of the MacLeod Clan, which has been around since the 13th century, and claims to be the one that has been the longest continually occupied by the same family. Made of brown silk, the flag is threadbare and patched, and hangs in a frame in the dining room of the castle. Some believe the flag came back from the Crusades. It dates somewhere between the 4th and 7th centuries. Others, with more romantic notions, like the story where a beautiful fairy fell in love with the 4th Chief of the Clan, Iaian, and married him. Her father insisted that she only be with her husband for a year and a day – since she was immortal and could not remain with mere mortals, and to save her the disappointment of saying goodbye to him later in life. She honored her father’s wishes, and left her husband and baby son.
Getting on with his new life, the chief hosted a party one night in the castle, and the baby’s nanny left him in the nursery to check out the festivities. Meanwhile, the baby started crying, and when the nurse came back to the nursery, she heard someone singing to the baby and saw the cradle rocking and the baby wrapped in a new shawl – but couldn’t see anyone else in the room. Years later, the child told his dad that it was his mom, the fairy, in attendance that evening, and that the shawl, aka the fairy flag, would be a talisman to protect the family. So far, it has been used twice and waved as directed, 3 times, to bring a mass of fairy legions to the aid of the flag waver. Once, when their arch enemies, the MacDonalds, invaded, the MacLeods waved the flag and turned the battle to their advantage. The second time, the MacLeods decided to deploy the flag when their cattle were dying of starvation. After waving the flag, the MacLeods’ cattle became miraculously well and some even came back from the dead.
Supposedly, Dame Flora MacLeod said she would wave the flag from the Cliffs of Dover should the UK need her to do so during WWII. That wasn’t necessary; however, according to the legend after the third time whoever is waving it will be returned to when it (the flag) came from.
Near the castle stands the Fairy Bridge, where Iaian said goodbye to his little fairy wife. Supposedly she gave him the fairy flag here.
There are many more fairy stories and associations with knolls, glens, rock piles and such. It’s fanciful and fun to imagine, and gets very Tolkien-ish at times while you’re traveling about. Our time on Skye went too quickly, and we left our cottage on the cliff to travel all day toward our next stopping place – a weekend with The Shotgun and Chelsea Bun Club in Worcestershire, England.
Publisher/Editor Barbara Baird is a freelance writer in hunting, shooting and outdoor markets. She is a contributing editor at "SHOT Business," and her bylines are found at several top hunting and shooting publications, including NRA, NSSF and Field & Stream. View all posts by Barbara Baird