Sunday, August 16, 2009
With the atmosphere of Glencoe weighing heavily on our Protestant consciences, Hilary and I drove north and east toward Fort William with the intention of stopping at Glengarry Castle near Invergarry for a stay.
My parents had alerted me to this opportunity. "A real castle, Doug, with the old stained beams, tapestries, stags heads on the wall, sword and shield regalia, the sense of tartan in everything." We couldn't resist the opportunity, and were met happily by the owner's black and white Scotch Terriers in the parking lot.
Beautiful room assigned with fascinating highland art on the walls and a large window overlooking a pasture of grazing cattle. Dinner, we were told, would be served at the ringing of the bell at 5:30. Nothing Holiday Innish about this! Beautiful dining room. Plaid everywhere. Dazzling white ironed and pleated table-cloths. A specific menu with "tonight's offerings". Courtesy and good cheer abounding. Tables were all small and intimate, but toward the end our waitress invited us into the Desert Parlour for tea and treats. Now this is where the Scots excel: cakes, jams, tarts, shortbread, squares. (Only in a Mennonite buffet decades later did I see its equal.)
We were seated in a lounge atmosphere and struck up a conversation with a couple slightly older than ourselves. The husband was a London taxi-cab owner-driver. He fascinated us with stories of the intense "cabby" training and metropolitan whirl of the Great City. Not a bad living. Even owned a boat and sailed the North Sea to Scandinavia. Hours passed. Many cordial laughs. (We would see them again at the top of Edinburgh Castle.)
At a nearby sofa were two widow women (spinsters?), elderly, trim and straight out of a "Miss Marple" mystery movie. Their conversation obviously had to do with other naturalist-type wanderings which they had shared. (The following morning as we left we saw them hunched over like walking-sticks with elaborate cameras taking close-up shots of meadow flowers.) They encouraged us to detour slightly north-west toward the Isle of Skye and to visit Eileen Donan Castle.
We were curious and did as instructed, passing through a merry-go-round of changing weather and no less than five rainbows before reaching the little fairy-tale island structure. What a delight! Majestic photo in any travel literature which I have ever seen thereafter on Scotland. Sitting at the head of a narrow inlet in from the Atlantic, having more the appearance of a Norwegian fjord.