Balquhidder Kirkyard, Trossachs. A few miles off the A84, between Lochearnhead and Callendar, lies a narrow road that leads to the Braes of Balquhidder (pronounced Bal-wh-idder).
The haunting landscape provides the perfect backdrop for the true history to which it is connected, that of the Children of the Mist, the clan MacGregor,
and its most famous ancestor, Rob Roy. For nearly three hundred years the story of Rob Roy MacGregor has endured. His life and character carved as much by the scenery of this part of the country as
by the terrible persecution of his clan. Forced from their homes, and even forbidden to use their name of MacGregor,
Rob and his clansmen were so adept at suddenly appearing to plunder cattle and collect "blackmail", they became known as the "Children of the Mist".
It is not at all to be supposed that Rob Roy was a mere vulgar robber. He was kind and generous to the poor, and believed himself to be justified in the revenge which he took on those who persecuted him.
The Scotsman's Robin Hood. He was brave, daring, and never cruel, described as being incredibly strong, broad of shoulder, and with very long arms.
And ever after is he known for his dignity and honor.
This lonely church ruin seems a fitting final resting place for him as he lies alongside his wife, Mary, and two of his sons, beneath a plaque that bears the words,
"MacGregor Despite Them."
Glencoe, Highlands. Though more than three hundred years has passed since the events which shaped Glencoe's history, this haunting windswept glen still seems to echo with the tragedy.
It was in 1691 that King William III offered a pardon to any Highland clan who had fought against him on the condition that they took the oath of allegiance to him before a magistrate by 1st January 1692.
The MacDonald clan Chief, MacIain of Glencoe, was reluctant, but finally agreed to take the oath for the sake of his clan. Unfortunately, however, he
mistakenly went to Inverlochy in Fort William instead of Inveraray near Oban in order to swear his allegiance to the English king. The magistrate at Inverlochy refused to take his oath, so the MacDonald
was left no option but to trudge through the Highland snow, reaching Inveraray on January 6th. Though he had missed the January 1st deadline,
MacDonald had been assured that since he had attempted and reached Inverlochy on time, he and his clan would be safe. Unknown to him, however, a force of Campbells, a MacDonald enemy clan, had already been
assembled at Inveraray and given orders to exterminate the whole clan.
The force left for Glencoe on February 1st, led by Captain Robert Campbell of Glen Lyon, a man with a grudge against the MacDonalds.
Campbell arrived at Glencoe asked for quarters for his 130 soldiers. Bound by the ancient and unwritten law of Highland hospitality,
the unaware MacDonalds invited them in, feeding and entertaining them for ten days. On the night of the 12th of February, Campbell
determined to bring his mission to its the final stage, to kill all MacDonalds under the age of seventy. At 5 am the next morning,
the soldiers rose from their beds even as the MacDonalds still lay sleeping
and set about the massacre of their hosts. Although only forty MacDonalds were killed, many more escaped to the hills only to die of hunger and exposure,
in an act of treachery whose scar yet remains against this stark landscape.
Some even say the glen today is haunted, and swear they can hear the weeping of the MacDonald souls so tragically cut down whispering on the wind.
The Isle of Skye, Western Hebrides. Located on Scotland's western coast, Skye is the largest and best known of the Inner Hebridean isles.
Known in Gaelic as Eilean a' Cheň (The Misty Isle), Skye is renown for its natural beauty and history, and the Scottish Gaelic language is still
spoken widely about the isle. The main towns are Broadford and Portree, and scattered all about them are quaint villages replete with whitewashed cottages
and miles and miles of stunning scenery. |
It was here that Bonnie Prince Charlie hid out after the defeat at Culloden, and where the Scottish heroine, Flora MacDonald helped him to escape capture by the
British, dressed as her maid (what a sight that must have been!) You can read a bit, both fictional and actual, about the prince's escape in my novel,
The Pretender which is set on this most beautiful island.
Memories of the prince and his adventures are evident all across the isle, in the rugged mountains and historic castles, the memorial cairns and natural landmarks.
Dunvegan Castle, Skye. This majestic fortress has been seat and stronghold of the Chiefs of Clan MacLeod for nearly 800 years. Its longevity through centuries of
feuds and strife has been attributed to a unique and utterly "enchanting" relic, called the Fairy Flag of Dunvegan. There are a couple of stories as to how the clan came
to possess this ancient flag, and no one can say with any certainty. Inspection of the now tattered remnant revealed it to be made of silk fabric, being unquestionably of
oriental origin about one thousand years old.
Legend tells that if ever the clan faced mortal danger, the Fairy Flag was to be waved three times.
Only in the most dire consequences should the Fairie magic be used for it could only be used on three occasions in such a protective manner.
To this date, the Fairy Flag has been brought out to save the clan twice, once when MacLeods had been besieged by a rival clan and were on the very brink of
defeat and again when a terrible plague had killed nearly all the MacLeod's cattle, threatening starvation for the chief and his people.
The flag still hangs, protected by a glass case, in Dunvegan Castle, there awaiting the next threat to the Clan
Luib Folk Croft and Museum, Skye. Ever wondered what it must have been like to live on a Scottish crofter's "blackhouse" a hundred years ago?
Be sure to pay a visit to this thatched cottage and farm just off the A87. It is said that when the very last inhabited croft on Skye was vacated,
it became this museum. Inside, the cottage has been restored to faithfully demonstrate what a crofter's
life was like, complete with cooking utensils and box bed.
Castle Urquhart, Loch Ness. Castle Urquhart (pronounced urk-hurt) stands on a rocky promontary on the shores of picturesque Loch Ness near the
village of Drumnadrochit. In many respects, Urquhart should be called the castle that belonged to no one and everyone at the same time.
There is no one clan to which it is attributed and evidence of habitation stretches back at least 4000 years, with a burial cairn at nearby Corrimony dating from
about 2000 BC. Evidence has been found of a fort on this promontory dating from the Iron Age,
and also remains from Pictish times. Earliest written record for the existence of a castle dates from the 13th century.
From the late 1200's, the castle was passed back and forth from English to Scottish through battle after battle.
Later, it was passed from the hands of the Scottish crown to the MacDonalds, Lord of the Isles, for a further 150 years.
Finally, in 1689 Urquhart Castle saw its last action, when a small garrison supporting the Protestant Monarchy of William and Mary held off a much larger
Jacobite force. The garrison later left, blowing up much of the castle as they did so in order to prevent the enemy from making use of the stark fortress.
Signs of the explosion can still be seen around the gatehouse.
One cannot visit Urquhart Castle without encountering Scotland's most famous legend, that of the "monster" that is reputed to inhabit the murky waters of the loch
beneath the castle's walls. Loch Ness is deeper than the North Sea and is very long and very, very narrow and has never been known to freeze, thus it is not a far stretch of the
imagination to conclude that a monster could indeed be swimming somewhere below. Sightings of "Nessie" have been going on for centuries, including one
by Saint Columba! (You can see live images of the loch on my web cams page.) Yet even without this "monstrous" legend, Loch Ness is an attraction in its own right. Just south of the city of Inverness, a drive along her shore offers
stunning scenery. You can take a tour by boat, submarine, or as I did, on horseback, during which I was treated to a glorious rainbow that stretched over the surrounding hills.
While there, consider a sidestep onto the A887 at Invermoriston. The journey will take you through beautiful Glen Moriston.
Just before the junction with the A87, you'll see a memorial cairn at the side of the road, and across the street, a simple cross marking the grave of
a fallen Jacobite hero. During the time when the bonnie prince was on the run for his life, capture more than once closely threatened. On one such occasion,
the prince was in the company of Roderick MacKenzie, who (it was said) bore a stong resemblance to the prince and had the forethought and courage to run straight at the advancing
redcoats instead of away, creating a diversion. When felled by one of the soldier's bullets, Roderick was heard to cry out "...you have murdered your prince..."
This convinced the British army they had at last succeeded in killing the young prince, and the manhunt for the capture of the Young Pretender was called off...allowing the "true" prince
to flee to the Continent in one of the grandest escapes known to history.
Culloden Battlefield, Inverness-shire. A lonely, windswept moor marks the site of the last battle fought—and lost—on Scottish soil.
The intrepid Jacobite rebels had every reason to be optimistic, for they had succeeded in defeating the British army through more than one
skirmish, and had advanced into England as close as 150 miles from London. But a series of missteps brought them on the morning of 16 April 1746
back to Inverness, tired and hungry and expected to face the British forces once again. The site of the battle couldn't have been more unsuitable
for the execution of the famed "Highland Charge" that had won them success so many times before. This was a bog, exposed to the winds and cannonfire
of the British artillery. It only took "Butcher" Cumberland's soldiers some forty minutes to crush the prince's army, afterwhich they employed the most
brutal tactics ever displayed by the British army to ensure that the Jacobite would ne'er rise in rebellion again.
Fallen soldiers were murdered where they lay wounded on the field. Some were taken to a nearby barn where they were locked inside and burned alive.
Even the Highland citizens who had not taken part in the battle were made to suffer the wrath of the order of "no quarter given."
Perhaps in acknowledgement of the savagery demonstrated by "Butcher" Cumberland (who was King George II's own son!),
the English never claimed battle honors for the Battle of Culloden.
Crathes Castle, Aberdeenshire.
This fairytale castle was begun in 1553 by Alexander Burnet of Leys, however it was not completed for more than forty years.
The tower tapers towards the top, making it easier to drop missiles on any attackers, also the rounded corners made it more difficult
for the corner stones to be knocked out. There was an iron yett, and on the turnpike stair, a tripping stone, a step set at a different
height to the rest to catch unaware any attacker running up the stair.
The Burnetts retained possession for over 350 years, until 1952 when the 13th Baronet made over Crathes Castle itself and part of the estate to the National Trust for Scotland.
The ghost said to appear at Crathes has been witnessed over the years by many members of the Burnett family, staff at Crathes, and
even they say Queen Victoria herself. Called affectionately "The Green Lady," she is said to glide across the 'Haunted' room to stand beside the
fireplace where she picks up a child before both apparitions vanish. Some years ago, when restoration work was being done at the castle,
the Skeleton of a woman and child were unearthed near the fireplace. It has also been said that the Green Lady heralds a death in the Burnett family.
Craigievar Castle, Aberdeenshire.
Another fairytale castle located not far from Crathes is Craigievar. Though today a National Trust property, it stands much as it did when it was family
home to members of the Forbes family. Outstanding plasterwork and carved woodwork have lent to its description as the "Most Romantic Castle" in Scotland.
There is only one entrance to the castle, and also a secret stair, built as an escape route for the laird, with access to the hall from the top of the tower.
They say the castle is haunted by more than one ghost. The most famous of these is (they say) the ghost of a Gordon who had come courting the daughter of
the 3rd laird, "Red" Sir John Forbes. Finding the unfortunate Gordon wholly unsuitable, "Red" John simply pitched him out the window of the Blue Room, and it
is his footsteps which can sometimes be heard, climbing back up them again.
Fyvie Castle, Aberdeenshire.
Fyvie, Fyvie, thou's never thrive,
As lang's there's in thee stanis (stones) three,
There's ane intill (one in) the oldest tower,
There's ane intil the ladye's bower,
There's ane intill the water-yett (water gate),
And thir three stanes ye's never get.
Thus is the curse of Fyvie, uttered, they say, by Thomas the Rhymer, who was affronted when the open gates of the castle
blew shut in his face one gusty day, and he thought himself unwelcome. Only one of the stones has been found.
Today it is kept in a wooden bowl at Fyvie. At times it is bone dry, and at other times is seen to "weep."
And since Thomas' curse, the castle has never passed from father to his eldest son.
But the curse isn't the only mystery of Fyvie. It was back in the 16th century when Lord Fyvie, Alexander Seton, cast aside his wife,
Dame Lilias Drummond, for failing to provide him an heir. Some say to rid himself of her, he locked her in a tower at the castle and
threatened any who dared try to provide her food or water. She eventually expired and Seton quickly married another, younger lady.
On the night of their wedding, they both were disturbed by strange sounds and heavy sighs coming from outside their window.
With the dawn, they were stunned to discover scratched into the sill the name "D. LILIAS DRUMMOND." The words remain to this day and it is her ghost often seen walking
the grand staircase within Fyvie Castle. She, too, is known as the "Green Ladye" and has been seen and written about for centuries. This ancient keep is indeed a most fitting
place for her to haunt.
Want to read more of my travelogue?
Continue on to the next page.
— or —
Please any comments or suggestions.
Copyright © 1996-2009, and beyond by Jaclyn Reding and
Webscribbler Designs. All Rights Reserved.