isle of skye // day 3

After taking off from Loch Buie and saying farewell to Kyleakin, we drive by a sign that reads - I kid you not - “Welcome to Wester Ross”. In case you haven’t yet picked up on my clues, this tour is a must for all Game of Thrones fans. And there’s more to come.

We then stop for some photos of Eilean Donan Castle, located at the intersection of three lochs (Loch Duich, Loch Long and Loch Alsh). Back on the road, Richard tells us the sad/hilarious (this guy manages to make any tragedy funny - the trick seems to be adding curse words, sexual innuendos and alcohol to the story) tale of the Five Sisters of Kintail. You can read a more PG version of the legend here - though it seems it also slightly differs plotwise from Richard’s (but this is part of the magic of oral storytelling!). Anyhow, the story is perfectly timed, as we arrive at the Five Sisters of Kintail mountains just as it ends.

As we drive through the Glen of the Weeping Haggis, Richard enlightens us as to Scotland’s most infamous dish: haggis. Apparently, haggis was illegal in the US up until only six months ago, because it contains lungs. I find this rather absurd, considering all the shit already in the American food industry (pink slime, anyone?). Anyway, little do I know, haggis was once actually a real animal. It’s extinct today, but the legend goes this wee animal was the size and shape of a rugby ball. It had spikes similar to those of the porcupine, except they were only around its neck and were used offensively rather than defensively. Most strange of all is the fact (remember, facts are just social constructs) that the haggi evolved to have only three legs. If you’re interested in what this funny creature may have looked like, I found this pretty neat photo on Wikipedia.

After cruising along Great Glen, where we get fantastic views of Loch Lochy, we soon arrive in the incredibly ugly town of Fort William. Luckily, the town has two redeeming assets. For one, it is home of the Hogwarts Express! Indeed, Richard shows us the warehouse where the Jacobite steam locomotive train, which is used as the Hogwarts Express in all the Harry Potter films, currently rests. You can still ride it today! Fort William is also home to the ruins of Old Inverlochy Castle, which we make a quick stop to under the pouring rain. We then make a quick scenic stop to take in the view of Glencoe.

Back in Perthshire, we drive by Crieff, the hometown of Ewan McGregor. Good stuff, as the Scots would say. A little later, we arrive at Doune Castle. I’ve already been to the castle back in January, when I did the wonderful Hair Coo tour. However, we had only strolled around the site’s grounds last time, while today we actually visit the Doune Castle itself. Entrance is five pounds, which is not too bad considering it includes a great audio guide (narrated by none other than Monty Python’s Terry Jones). I can’t resist taking a photo of Richard Madden, who happens to be in last month’s Glamour UK magazine I am carrying with me, in front of Doune. Taking the King of the North back to his rightful place in Winterfell, you know?

Fun facts I couldn’t place anywhere:

  • We say ‘Gaelic’ in Ireland and ‘Gallic’ in Scotland.
  • The expression “armed to their teeth” (which I didn’t even know existed in English) comes from a battle that took place at the Teith River.
  • The only sport in which Scotland has been world champion for two consecutive years is elephant polo. Richard tried to make us guess which sport it was, and when someone tried “sheep polo”, his response was: "For the record, sheep polo is not a sport, it's a way of life."
  • The Scots can be credited for a number of great inventions, including the telephone, television, penicillin, library and university systems, autopsy, euthanasia, Dolly the sheep clone and capitalism (Adam Smith ring a bell?).
  • ‘Clan’ is the Gallic word for ‘children’
  • ‘Mc’ and ‘Mac’ mean ‘son of’
  • The MacDonalds and the MacLeods were the two main clans on the Isle of Skye.
  • Hazelnuts are the nuts of knowledge.
  • Scottish faeries are ugly and evil.