11.10.2011 - 11.10.2011 15 °C
Sunshine this morning!!! YEAH! (I really couldn’t live here in Scotland… I mean more rain than anything else gets really wearing after a while!!)
With the sun shining I thought I had better do at least some walking and photo taking around the town of Oban. This was one of the key places that my folks had told me “I had to go to” so I figured it must have something going for it! The town itself is set on the coast off the Isle of Mull (and I guess most people go to Oban on their way to Mull). Mull is supposed to be a really lovely little island (and is number #1 rated in my guidebook) but will need to go on my ‘next time’ list as I just don’t have enough time left in Scotland to see everything! What I could see from the shore (its not very far off the land) looked really nice. Mull is also the gateway to the Isle of Iona the home of the first Christian pilgrim to Scotland- Saint Columba.
Oban is obviously an old fishing village (and probably still has a large fishing industry) and has a really delightful, ruined castle sitting on the banks of the loch. So after taking a few pickies of the loch, the islands and the castle I decided I had ‘done’ Oban (as much as you can in an hour) and headed on the next leg of my voyage to Fort William!
The drive today to Fort William was much shorter than the day previous, which meant plenty of time for me to stop on the way to check ‘stuff’ out. First stop was this gorgeous castle that I found sitting on the banks of some Loch (the castle is called Stalker). The castle is one of those ones that is built on a tiny island out in the middle of the loch. I stopped at a road side café (that has gorgeous views over the loch and castle) for a cuppa and some info. It was one of the castle’s used in the Highlander series (although not used as much as Eilean Donan—the uber famous ‘castle on the loch’—I’m planning to visit later in the week) and was also the scene for Monty Python’s Holy Grail! It was originally the home to the MacDougal Clan, before it was lost in battle to the Stewart’s, who then eventually lost it in a bet in the 1600s to the Campbell Clan! Now it is again privately owned by a member of the Stewart family who have done it up and actually live in it!
I really enjoyed my cuppa and my rest by the loch.. I enjoyed it so much that I just had to rub it in via facebook to everyone back home! My next stop on my drive to Fort William was to Glencoe.
Glencoe is this really nice valley at the start of the Great Rift (of which Loch Ness is a main part). Many people do a lot of hiking and stuff in the valley and it is really quite pretty. I came to Glencoe not to go walking but to hear all about the Glencoe Massacre. The Massacre occurred back in the 1600s and it was a massacre of the MacDonald Clan. What lead to the massacre had by the sound of it been brewing over many hundreds of years. For a long time the MacDonald Clan were the dominant clan in the highlands, to the point where they appointed themselves Lords of the Isles and almost ruled as a separate kingdom to Scotland. (From what I can work out they were sworn to the Scottish Kings but largely acted alone in the Highlands). Over many years they had tyrannised much of the Highlands and in fact they seemed quite savage (raiding into other clan’s territories, stealing cattle etc)—I’m sure all of the clans did it though… So they were quite disliked within the Highlands.
By this time, the MacDonald’s were no longer the dominant force but still continued the raiding etc of other clans. In particular, they weren’t popular with the Campbell’s or with the Stewart’s (the old royal family of Scotland). The massacre occurred during the time of William of Orange- many of the clan’s had rallied to the Jacobite banner (including MacDonald) and so William wanted to make an example in the highlands to ensure they would all ‘toe the line’ and actually back him as the new ruler. What William did was make all of the clan’s swear fealty to him by the end of one year (I think it was 1659 but don’t hold me to it) and sign a document indicating so.. in return, he would pardon the clan of any past crimes or issues with the crown (ie being members of the Jacobite revolution). The head of the MacDonald family decided to leave his signing of the document to the last possible day.. When he went to swear fealty to the Sheriff in Fort William he was told that he couldn’t and that he had to travel to Inverary to swear fealty to the Duke. Therefore, the MacDonald clan did not swear fealty or sign the document until a week or so after the deadline. The head of the house was assured that this would be ok so he returned home not worried about any retribution from the crown.
William and the Duke of Argyll took a different view and probably deliberately decided to make an example of the MacDonald clan and decided to kill the entire clan (even the children). They therefore arrived on an appointed day to Glencoe and were hospitably received (this being the Highland way in winter that anyone who comes to your door will be granted to enter your home and share your food etc). For a fortnight the soldiers stayed within the houses of the MacDonald’s and then one evening the massacre began. Many of the MacDonalds actually escaped the massacre but an untold number of people probably died in the Highlands after the killing because it was winter. The full death toll was never understood. The official number is 38 killed.
So after this sombre (but very interesting) visit I decided to continue on my way to Fort William to really start my trek into the Highlands!