Wednesday, 18 July 2012

More Highland wonders and dangers

The highlands are full of excellent views but sometimes you come across one that seems a little better than the rest. One such is Eilean Donan castle (Eilean Donan is from the Gaelic for Island of Donan). I'm sure that anyone who has read any scottish tourist information will recognise it - it's one of the iconic views of the country.

It was out first destination after crossing the bridge from Skye. Even at our tourist amble, it can't have been more than about a quarter of an hours drive from the bridge to where the castle sits on the corner of Loch Alsh and Loch Duich (I think it's officially in Loch Duich).

You can just see the portcullis sticking out at the top of the gate.

Later inside we saw the mechanism for the portcullis. Being a bloke, I couldn't resist a very small meddle and I can say that with the counterweights it moves very easily. I earned myself a minor reprimand.

A rather sweet gallery.

There was a small exhibition on the way in with some models which showed the development of the castle well. The island had been occupied since the iron age times but it was in the 13th century, in the reign of Alexander II, that the castle was built (No 1 in my photo). By the end of the 14th century the castle was reduced to about a 5th of it's original size, probably to make it easier to defend, and towards the end of the 16th century the little bit that sticks out the front was added to accommodate cannons (No2).

The two Jacobite uprisings, in 1715 and 1745, are well known but there were other events in struggle to try and place James III & VIII on the throne. In 1719 300 Spanish troops landed and occupied Eilean Donan to try and further the cause. On the 10th of May the government sent 3 ships to the castle. When one of the Spaniards fired at the ships, the three ships opened fire on the castle and bombarded it for an hour. As a result the castle was almost completely destroyed (No3)

The castle remained a ruin until 1919 when Lt. Col. John MacRae-Gilstrap and Farquhar MacRae rebuilt the castle into the building we see today (No4).

Stalactites forming in a doorway - probably from rain getting through the brickwork and dissolving limestone in the rocks or mortar.

A couple of views over the lochs from the castle

Shortly after leaving Eilean Donan we drew into a lay by overlooking Loch Loyne and found that the area around it was surrounded by hundreds of little cairns built with varying degrees of skill and balance. One rock near the middle has on it, "God save the Internet" - although the internet offers many pictures of the site, it has no explanation. Some other have a message on them by most are just little piles. My guess is that there has been a fallen down cairn here at some point and somebody has built a few little cairns from the rubble. Once one or two have been built, other passers by built others and so it continues. We didn't build one.

The Commando war memorial stands  by the roadside near Spean Bridge. It is located here because it is on the route that commando trainees passed when the first arrived in the area for training. They would get of the train at Spean Bridge station and speed march in full kit to Achnacarry Castle, 7 miles away, where commando training was based during the second world war. Anyone who didn't complete the 7 miles in an hour was returned straight away to their original unit

From the Commando memorial you can see Ben Nevis, Scotland's, nae, Britain's highest mountain at 4409 feet. The top is the bit that's disappeared into the cloud just over a third of the way in from the right in this picture.

To finish, some of the cracking views from our last campsite at Invercoe just outside Glencoe.

All very pretty, but you don't need a huge amount of experience of Scotland to realise the danger in the combination of camping, Scottish lochs and summer (even a wet one). We were eaten alive by the midges. The ferocious wee beasties were unbearable. Time to pack up and go home I think.


Shundo said...

Looks like you picked a beautiful day for the castle visit. I'm sure playing with the portcullis was well worth the reprimand. What does the Gaelic (?) inscription above the entrance say, do you know.
As for the midges, the thought had already crossed my mind... I remember being at the Kyle of Lochalsh with my family at the age of ten, and our camper van windows being black with them...

Gretel said...

Beautiful landscapes and what a well preserved castle!

Laoch of Chicago said...

Wow, brilliant photos.

The Glebe Blog said...

It's definitely midge season Bob, they're even becoming immune to 'Skin So Soft'.
Your pictures here look almost like a Scottish Tourist Board brochure.
Fabulous !

The Glebe Blog said...

Sorry Bob ? I meant Sandy of course.
Mind you you might be Sandy Robert for all I know Lol

Sandy's witterings said...

Shundo - It's not everyday that a chap gets to meddle with the castle gates. I was too on with the defences to note the inscription above the gate. I tried typing into google but no result this time.

Thanks Gretel - this castle is more rebuilt than preserved - they made a right old mess of it back in the 18th century,

Thank you Laoch.

Jim,I had a bottle of Skin so Soft and it seemed to help on the first evening. By the morning when we were packing up the squirter on the top of the bottle failed to work. It's very difficult to concentrate on fixing something when you're under attack.

Definately not a Bob, Jim, though Bob is my uncle.

Crafty Green Poet said...

I really have to actually visit that castle one day, I've passed it often enough!

I've seen cairns like that somewhere else too, can't remember where though.

Sandy's witterings said...

Juliet, when I was trying to find out about the cairns on the net I found some more in Scotland, so they may be the ones you saw. I think they might have been on Skye somewhere.