Archive for the ‘Highland Clearances’ Category

The Highlands, part 1   8 comments

Well, we’re finally back in Edinburgh now.  We didn’t have internet access where we were yesterday so I’m trying to play catch-up here.  Don’t know how much I’ll write tonight but wanted to post something.  I’ll make this Part 1.

Yesterday morning we took off early and headed up through Scotland to visit Eilean Donan Castle, in Glen Shiel.  The Castle is the stronghold of the Clan Macraes, and having a grandmother that was a Macrae was of particular interest to us.  The castle is one of the most photographed monuments in all of Scotland—and for good reason.  We were once again surprised that it wasn’t as large as we thought it would be, but nonetheless extremely impressive.  Needless to say, we took TONS of photos of this castle from every conceivable angle and lighting conditions.  Ryan and I even went out after dark and took photos at night.  Weather was still bad and we had lots of rain but we did as much as we could under the conditions.

One thing I have to mention is that we have been saying how beautiful the countryside is using words like breathtaking, etc……well on our trip up to the highlands we reached new levels of breathtaking!!!  Once we got to the highlands our vocabulary became limited to words like…WHOA!!!….WOW!!!…AHHH!!!…LOOK AT THAT!!!!….and other grunts and neanderthal-type sounds… was BEYOND Breathtaking!!!

Before we got to Eilean Donan, we went through Inverness and then made a stop at Lock Ness and visited Urquhart Castle.  (No, we didn’t see the monster….however I will be carefully checking my photos just in case… 🙂 )  It is a beautiful (duh..) place and the history of the castle is really interesting.  Here is a Panorama I took while there:

After spending a while there we headed off to Eilean Donan.  We got a room at a little hotel there just a stone’s throw away from the castle, and believe it or not turned out to be the ONLY guests at the hotel that night.  Everywhere we go the people are wonderful and make us feel right at home.

One of the things we found interesting was that the further north we got the more we found that the road signs included the place directions in Gaelic as well as English.  Having studied Gaelic, myself, I found this quite enjoyable to see.  We also saw something we don’t usually see in the US—road signs to watch for Sheep!!

The sheep that you see all around in the pastures are quite picturesque and interesting to see but gives me a bitter-sweet sad feeling.  During the heyday of the clan system, tenants paid their land-holding chieftains rent in the form of military service.  However, with the destruction of the clan system after the Battle of Culloden, landowners began to demand a financial rent, which their tenants were unable to afford, and the land was gradually bought up by Lowland and English farmers.  In what became known as “the year of the sheep” (1792), thousands of tenants were evicted, forcibly and brutally, to make way for livestock.  Many emigrated to Australia, America and Canada.  The ruins of their crofts can still be seen in many areas.  It was a very sad and dark period of Scotland’s history.   I have read extensively about this period, so seeing the sheep brought many mixed emotions.  The clearances lasted well into the late 1800s.  The widespread evictions resulting from the Clearances severely affected the Highland population and culture.  To this day the Highland population is sparse and the culture is diluted, and there are many more sheep than people.  Seeing the Highlands and knowing the history as I do brought a sadness to my heart.

OK, sorry, history lesson side-trip over.  Here’s a panorama I took of the Castle before it got dark:

And, of course here is a shot that I took at night, followed by the slide show of a collection of photos taken while we headed up and of the sites we visited.  Next post I’ll try to continue about what we saw and did on our trip to the Highlands.  Hope you are enjoying these.

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