Places to Visit
- Dunvegan Castle, Skye
Built on a rocky promontory, this huge 14th century keep, 15th century tower and a hall built in the 17th century, has been continuously occupied by the chiefs of the clan MacLeod> since at least 1270 (longer than any other family castle in Scotland). It appears that the first Leod obtained the castle when he married the local Norse Seneschall (Sheriff) in the 13th century.
Overlooking the sea in the north-west corner of Skye, at one time the castle had a curtain wall surrounding it. The ornamental battlements which are seen today were added during a remodeling of the castle in the 19th century.
In the tower house is the Fairy Flag of Dunvegan>, said to have been given to an early chief by his fairy wife. Whenever it is unfurled it is supposed to give victory to the Clan MacLeod. It certainly seemed to work at the battles of Glendale in 1490 and Trumpan in 1580 (after the MacDonalds> had massacred many MacLeods in the church there). Other powers of the flag are said to be to make the marriages of the MacLeod chiefs fruitful - and to charm the herrings in the loch when it is unfurled. Historians have suggested that despite its legendary history, the "Fairy Flag" may have been captured from a Saracen on a crusade. Nowadays it is a frail relic.
Amongst many other objects on display to visitors in the castle is Rory Mor's drinking horn, with a capacity of between one and two pints. The heir to the MacLeods is expected to empty it of claret in one go. The guide book claims that the present chief accomplished this in 1965 - in a time of just under two minutes!
The castle has some interesting memorabilia of Bonnie Prince Charlie> when he came "over the sea to Skye" and Dr Samuel Johnson reported that he had spent a wet week at Dunvegan as the guest of the 23rd chief and slept in the Fairy Tower. Sir Walter Scott> followed in his footsteps, some time later.
The castle is not particularly attractive and neither is the high entry fee but there is a picturesque woodland garden. There was an outcry early in 2000 when the present clan chief announced that he was having to sell the Black Cuillins mountain range in order to pay for the costs of repair to the roof of the castle and develop the castle so that it could pay its way in the future.
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