As part of the WordPress Daily Post Weekly Photo Challenge theme of Tour Guide, I thought it might be of interest to find something that ties back to this week’s Tuesday Photo Challenge of Exotic.
My favorite island of the Inner Hebrides is Skye, for its amazing, rugged landscape and mountainous range that are just a dream to photograph, as every different incident angle of light creates a completely new environment, sometimes even otherworldly.
One of the interesting places to visit on the isle of Skye is Dunvegan Castle, the seat of the MacLeod of MacLeod, chief of the Clan MacLeod. Probably a fortified site from the earliest times, the castle was first built in the 13th century and developed piecemeal over the centuries. In the 19th century the whole was remodelled in a mock-medieval style. The castle is built on an elevated rock overlooking an inlet on the eastern shore of Loch Dunvegan, a sea loch.
The castle sits on a massive site on Skye, much of which is cultivated into a stunning garden that includes many exotic species, such as the tree in this photo. The people standing next to it give you a sense of the scale of this wonderful tree.
If you’re ever visiting Skye, the castle and its grounds are well worth a look!
In this final installment as your tour guide of beloved Mull, there’s one thing that I cannot overlook from our visit to Mull and really all of Scotland: Gorse!
Ulex (commonly known as gorse, furze or whin) is a genus of flowering plants in the family Fabaceae. The genus comprises about 20 species of thorny evergreen shrubs in the subfamily Faboideae of the pea family Fabaceae. The species are native to parts of western Europe and northwest Africa, with the majority of species in Iberia.
The first thing that you do notice about gorse is the intense yellow flowers, which are in bloom nearly year-round. When lit by sunlight, these bushes create beautiful patches of yellow across the landscape, which can stand out against a blue sky (yes, we found plenty of blue skies in Scotland)
Gorse is closely related to the brooms (Scottish Broom is a very hard plant, that we have in our backyard in New England), and like them, has green stems and very small leaves and is adapted to dry growing conditions. However it differs in its extreme thorniness, the shoots being modified into branched thorns 1–4 centimetres (0.4–1.6 in) long, which almost wholly replace the leaves as the plant’s functioning photosynthetic organs. The leaves of young plants are trifoliate, but in mature plants they are reduced to scales or small spines. All the species have yellow flowers, generally showy, some with a very long flowering season.
In this image you get a good view of the thorns, which you do not want to try to walk through without some adequate protection. The gorse in Scotland can grow rather large, as I saw bushes well above 2 meters in height.
In this fourth installment as your tour guide of beloved Mull, I’d like to show some of the beauty that we found there during our visit.
When visiting Mull, we had a general idea of what we’d expect from Scotland: mountainous terrain with expansive lochs and a sense of ruggedness that would be everywhere. While there is plenty of such terrain, there are also some tender, hidden gems that show up with the right light and transport one into a completely different environment.
Getting views of this kind gave me a sense of where our inspiration for works, such as ‘Lord of the Rings’, comes from. There are many places within Scotland that I found these utterly magical scenes…
Walking along the wandering paths of Mull, on a beautiful, sunny day, there were little treasures to be found around every bend.
In this third installment about our visit to beloved Mull, we take a look at one of the prominent features of the isle, which is seen upon approaching it on the ferry from Oban to Craignure.
Duart Castle sits high atop the hill with a great vantage across the Sound of Mull toward Loch Linnhe; it is rather imposing from any angle of approach, as even from the landward side, there is a bit of a rise to climb, while approaching the castle. Duart Castle was probably built by Clan MacDougall in the 13th century, and appears to have come into the hands of Clan MacLean in the following century.
In 1350 Lachlan Lubanach Maclean of Duart, the 5th Clan Chief, married Mary, daughter of John of Islay, Lord of the Isles and Duart was part of her dowry. In 1647, Duart Castle was attacked and laid siege to by the Argyll government troops of Clan Campbell, but they were defeated and driven off by the Royalist troops of Clan MacLean.
There was quite a bit of to and fro over Duart castle between various factions until it was abandoned in 1751. Descendants of Archibald Campbell, 1st Duke of Argyll sold the castle in 1801, to MacQuarrie, who then sold it to Carter-Campbell of Possil who kept it as a ruin within the grounds of his own estate to the north, Torosay Castle. He later sold his Torosay Estate which now included the ruins of Castle Duart to A. C. Guthrie in 1865. On 11 September 1911, the ruin was separated from the rest of the Torosay Estate and was bought by Sir Fitzroy Donald Maclean, the 26th Chief of the Clan MacLean and restored.
In 2012, the centenary of the 1912 restoration, the Chief of Clan Maclean announced that his family could no longer afford the upkeep of the castle in light of the expense of major repairs. When we visited during the Spring of 2013, we noticed the Chief of Clan MacLean working on the upkeep of the castle himself; he was even nice enough to provide us some directions.
Unfortunately, in the winter of 2013-14 the castle lost four ceilings, which were brought down by water penetration through the chimneys. In July 2014, a Restoration Appeal was launched.
I certainly hope that the restoration will bring the castle to its former glory, to the delight of many visitors!
Factoid: Sean Connery is a MacLean through his mother’s side of the family.
In this second installment about our visit to beloved Mull, we pick up the era between 600 BC and AD 400, when Iron Age inhabitants were building protective forts, duns and crannogs. Whether or not they were Picts is unclear.
In the 6th century, Irish migrants invaded Mull and the surrounding coast, establishing the Gaelic kingdom of Dál Riata. The kingdom was divided into a number of regions, each controlled by a kin group, of which the Cenél Loairn controlled Mull and the adjacent mainland to the east. Dál Riata was a springboard for the Christianisation of the mainland; the pivotal point was AD 563, when Columba, an Irish missionary, arrived at Iona (just off the south-west point of Mull) and founded a monastery, from which to start evangelising the local population.
Another thing that we learned during our visit to Mull, is that the significant number of sheep roam free everywhere on the island and do not concern themselves with traffic; on the mostly single-track road one may have to stop for sheep that find it a comfortable place to rest.
The other aspect about sheep is that they will eat whatever they find; therefore, if you want a garden you put up a fence that is necessary to keep the sheep out!
Have a wonderful day, wherever you are in the world!
As I was going through some of my photos in preparation for writing a couple of posts for the upcoming week, the thought crossed my mind to write something about the wonderful island of Mull that my wife and I visited during our trip to Scotland in 2013.
Mull is the second largest island of the Inner Hebrides (after Skye, on which I will also do a series of posts), off the west coast of Scotland in the council area of Argyll and Bute.
With an area of 875.35 square kilometres (337.97 sq mi) Mull is the fourth largest Scottish island and the fourth largest island surrounding Great Britain (excluding Ireland). In the 2011 census the usual resident population of Mull was 2,800 a slight increase on the 2001 figure of 2,667; in the summer this is supplemented by many tourists. Much of the population lives in Tobermory, the only burgh on the island until 1973, and its capital.
Tobermory is also home to Mull’s only single malt Scotch whisky distillery: Tobermory distillery (formerly Ledaig).
It is widely believed that Mull was inhabited from shortly after the end of the last Ice Age, around 6000 BC. Bronze Age inhabitants built menhirs, brochs and a stone circle with examples of burial cairns, cists, standing stones, pottery and knife blades provide compelling evidence.
The Lochbuie (Lochbuie means Yellow Loch, which makes sense given the sea of yellow gorse on the island) Stone circle stands beautifully in sight of Ben Buie; this circle consisted of 9 stones at its onset and still radiates ancient power. While the circles orginal purpose is a matter of speculation, I can tell you that walking through the area of the stones and the paths toward them, I could feel energies flowing through me that were extremely potent.
Another opportunity for me to share some vacation shots, as there was a particular variation on the theme of lock. Boat lock, that is.
The Falkirk Wheel is a one of a kind solution to boats having to traverse a large number of locks due to the different elevation levels in canals. The canals in question are the Forth and Clyde canal and the Union canal.
As you can see, the wheel is a rotating boat lift, which raises the boats 24m. This elegant and simple design first opened in 2002 to transport boats and re-establish the connection between the canals for the first time since the 1930s.
Views of the Falkirk Wheel
The wheel is always perfectly balanced, as Archimedes’ principle is used rather effectively; the contents of each the water-filled caissons is always in balance, as the weight of the boat displaces an amount of water equal to that weight to create the buoyant force keeping it afloat.
If you look carefully, you may notice the name of one of the boats: Archimedes.
The town of Falkirk is fairly close to Edinburgh, with which it is connected by the Union canal. It is also close to the Antonine Wall, which is within walking distance of the wheel.