I was up early to do some chores and the alarm went off at 7 am. Looking out the window of Kintail Lodge, I noticed that the Loch was very still and the water was glassy and smooth. Was this a good omen for the day?
Breakfast time came at 8 am. I waited and decided to go ahead because I wanted some good coffee. They serve it in French Press coffee makers. The breakfast room was in the other part of the hotel and it was filled with people. There was one table that had a very large party of very happy people. I started with a bowl of Corn Flakes and the waitress brought toast. I ordered the Salmon and scrambled eggs. Alan appeared, he ordered the Haddock and a poached egg. I was sitting in the bay window looking out on the Loch and that was nice. This was day 12 of our 21 day trip.
After breakfast we dallied in the room getting packed. Eilean Donan Castle didn’t open till 10 am so we had time. Getting our luggage down to the car was not easy because the steps were many and they have these heavy fire doors. We went through the bar area and found a door that was unlocked to the outside. The day was going to be a great with sun and some clouds.
Eilean Donan Castle is one of the most photographed castles in Scotland. It is situated on three saltwater lochs making it very strategic: http://www.eileandonancastle.com/
The castle was close and located at the other end of Loch Durich. It did not take us long to get to the very busy and crowded parking lot. Apparently the tourist buses come early.
Take a look at this tourist map of the area. We were at the Kintail Lodge just past Shiel Bridge on the south end of the Loch Durich. The Castle is where the Dornie sign is. We are getting close to the Isle of Skye. You will see some place names of interest if you study this.
We made our way to the visitor center and took our time for their was a piper playing his bagpipes. It was time to pay the piper, giggle. I did record him but WordPress won’t let me upload for security reasons and they want me to pay them for audio and video.
Eilean Donan is set out on a peninsula and there is a bridge to it. They had to repair it all because it was in ruins and it took a long time to make the castle safe. You can take pictures of the outside and the interior outside of the castle but you are not allowed to do so in the inside.
Here is a map of the castle:
We entered this room and learned about the beginnings of the castle in the medieval period. Castles have history and stages of styles. They change over the centuries. There was mention of Vikings trying to take this Castle but they failed. I believe this was the first real mention of Vikings on our trip. I was happy. I was hoping that Alan would get some ancestral stories.
A smaller version of the Viking long ship called a Birlinn was used in the Western areas of Scotland. These ships worked better in the lochs and were faster and smaller.
There are a lot of stairs and narrow passageways in this castle and thin windows:
There was a large room with a big table, portraits, artifacts, furniture, dishes, books and more. It was very grand. Apparently someone did live it in this castle after the renovation. I did not take this photo, I found it online.
We climbed around, up and down stairs and saw many small and large rooms and different levels of the castle. There were lots of MacRae Honor roles on the walls. Two very fancy grand dresses in a display. I do not know how they would have managed the large skirts in this castle. The kitchen had dishes, fake food and wax figures standing around. It was a bit eerie.
The last room had the portcullis and we couldn’t figure out where the gate came out. Alan saw that it was the big front door. If you looked closely you would see these teeth sticking out from the top which looked pretty scarry.
Well this castle was owned by the MacKenzies and maybe MacLeods and later the MacRae’s. However, they did have a bit of trouble with Donald Gorm MacDonald a Lord of the Isles in 1539. I will let Wikipedia explain the history it is just to complicated with clan feuds and fighting, AUGH!
You can climb around the interior outside area of the castle and experience mismash of buildings styles, the different levels, views and strange narrow walkway areas.
We wandered back to the visitor center and headed for the cafe where we had tea and coffee and rested up. There was a woman in a wheel chair who was looking at a video of the interior of the castle which was very cool. Apparently they offer this computer video at the visitor center for the disabled because there is no way a wheelchair can get inside the Castle.
We then wandered through the very crowded gift shop and I found a map and a book for Alan about Vikings and he bought them. Book: The Vikings and all that, by Allan Burnett and illustrations by Scoular Anderson. It is done in a carton manner but does describe the Viking culture with illustrations. I thought it was for kids but I am not so sure after reading some of it. Table of contents: The Viking Age, Boats and Battle Axes, The Viking Empire, How to be a Viking, Viking Explorers, The Viking Universe, The curse of the Horned helmet. In the back is a timeline of Viking events.
It was time to move on the next adventure and that would be the Sky Bridge that connects the Isle of Skye to the mainland at Kyle of Lochalsh across to Kyleakin. We could see the bridge in the distance as we were driving toward it.
I kept expecting the Scottish towns to be flat but they never are. Kyle of Lochalsh was hilly. It was also tightly packed with narrow roads. We were soon up an over the bridge to Skye in no time. It was too quick. I had Alan take us into the town of Kyleakin on the Skye side so I could take pictures of the bridge.
The Skye bridge is not a fancy bridge with gargoyles and pillars, but it does have a lovely gentle arch. The bridge is a little further from the town of Kyle of Lochalsh via another flat bridge to this island area then to the bridge.
It was a lovely day and we lingered along the shore of the Loch before we went over to the Castle Cafe Moi and had some lunch. I had an Italian soup and Alan had the Haddock soup which looked something like a clam chowder. They called it a broth which was a little confusing.
As I ate my lunch, I watched the cars and trucks cross the Sky Bridge. It was built-in 1996. There was a ferry from Kyle of Lochalsh before that time. The pier is still there. This ferry would cross to Kyleakin and the little harbor is where it docked. There is another ferry from Glenelg to Skye but it is operated only during the summer, I believe?
After lunch we went over to the visitor center called the Bridge of Brightwater. https://www.undiscoveredscotland.co.uk/skye/brightwater/index.html
The nice lady at the desk was helpful and answered our questions. She told us that you couldn’t go over to the Castle ruins because it was too dangerous and they had it blocked off. So I took pictures from afar. It is called Caisteal Maol.
The visitor center had a gift shop with many tempting items. There was this wonderful sculpture of an otter but it was very expensive. Outside was a statue that was similar.
The visitor center also had a museum with all kinds of history of the area, artifacts and a huge relief of the area with the Skye bridge. They had a small genealogical section and one of the two volumes of very thick book. The second volume has a 2 on the cover – The Great Book of Skye: http://www.greatbookofskye.com/
It was time to head to Portree the main town of Skye and where our lodging was located.
The Isle of Skye was not what I expected but then I am not sure I really understood its topography even though I studied photos online. As we drove along we both remarked that it looked rather desolate and I even compared it to the moon. This made Alan laugh. I am not being critical, just surprised and amazed at the landscape there. It is so varied.
It took about 50 minutes to get to Portree and the road was winding its way along the eastern coastline next to the Inner Sound. We passed through Broadford and it was bigger than I was led to believe. It is also flat, at least where the highway was located. We would be back to experience a little more of this town.
The road once again came close to the water at Loch na Caindh and the Isle of Scalpay was across from it. Then the A87 turns and follows Loch Ainort past a mountain called Glamaig and around to Loc Sligachan. You pass through Sligachan and head up to Portree with the Loch of Portree on your right and you might get a glimpse of the Sound of Raasay and the island in the distance. The traffic was not too bad but we did run into one lane construction areas with the stoplight. As we drove along, approaching Portree, I could see the Old Man of Storr in the distance. That was very cool.
The navigation system would not accept the Viewfield House as our destination. Viewfield House is located on A87/Viewfield Road before the A87 and A855 junction in Portree. I kept an eye out for the signage and spotted it. Alan turned left into the steep driveway and a van was coming down the road blocking the entrance and forced us to back up into the busy road. Alan managed to avoid that problem. This van was coming from a garden center along the road to the house.
We parked out front of the Viewfield House. I entered through a huge door and found the buzzer on the wall and a tall man came out and greeted us. He confirmed that we could park in front.
He took us into the hall and told us about drinks before dinner at 7 pm and showed us some of the rooms. He then took us to our room which was on the top floor in an apartment with a dormer. Yes, lots of steps and fire doors to the upper floor. It had sloping roofs in some areas. It was a large room with a sitting area and a big bed. The bathroom was small but useful. The Viewfield House is set on a hill so our view out the window was the Loch of Portree (harbor)
This hotel was a bit pricey but I was having trouble booking lodging back in January a full four months before our trip. I liked the way the house looked and their website made it very tempting. I decided to go for it.
I was happy to learn that I could wash my clothes for they had a laundomat in the hotel. It took us a bit to figure out the coins for the laundry but we got it done. The laundry machines were downstairs in the coat closet off the main hall. I had dallied too much in the room and someone had arrived before us. They were using the washer and almost done with the cycle, darn. We left and came back and I got my wash into the washer for two £1 coins. Alan monitored it and we used the coin that is silver with many sides like a hexigon for the dryer. I can handle the bills and the small £ coins but the rest is too confusing. We did 40 minutes so that was two hexigon coins. In any event, my laundry was done and I was happy.
Alan and I went outside to enjoy their garden and lovely green lawn. We sat on the bench overlooking the Loch. It was beautiful but a little cold, the weather was changing. We moved over to the lawn area and arranged a bench so we had the sun on us. The lawn was beautifully mowed grass with tufts of grass around the daffodils clustered and scattered about the lawn. Behind the house was the garden and a hot-house. A lady was tending that garden. It was very pretty and well maintained.
The Viewfield House was a hunting lodge at one time. So you see a bit of taxidermy in the main hallway and in some of the display cases. Apparently this has offended people who have stayed there. This little guy greeted us in the porch area before the big door to the house. They had him covered so I removed the cover for a minute. I was surprised to find a Red Panda.
It was a lovely home. The man who had greeted us was a descendant and owner of the house. He is a MacDonald of Viewfield.
We were told that drinks would be served at 7 pm so we moved into the lovely large room with a grand piano in it and they had a fire going in the fireplace to the right of the wing backed chair.
A nice couple from Utah chatted with us. They were serving drinks and Alan and I decided on the Merlot. Other couples arrived in the room but we didn’t get a chance to talk to them for the woman who had the load of laundry before me was dominating the conversation by that time. Happily the announcement for dinner came and we went into the large lovely dining room. They had the tables numbered with our room number on it. Alan and I got a nice table right in the middle of the room.
I had the cod and Alan had the lamb. The white potatoes were delicious. The dinner was surprisingly good. My dessert was vanilla ice cream and their ice creams are very lovely. Alan had some type of pudding. The server asked if I wanted to book dinner the next night but I said no. I wanted to eat in Portree. We will be here two nights. Tomorrow is a big day. Dinner had been served at 7:30 pm so it was late when I crawled into bed. I was tired.