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A mythical tale….   Leave a comment

Nobody knows for certain when exactly the first Eilean Donan castle was originally built; all we do know is that the first mention of it in the anals of history was around the 13th century during the reign of Alexander II. It was built as a defence against the marauding Vikings to protect the lands and people of Kintail.

Highlanders love a good yarn, and a far more colourful story is the mythical tale of the castle’s origin arising indirectly from the conflict between a wealthy chief said to be a Matheson, and his son. As an infant, the son had received his first drink from a raven’s skull and this had given him the power to understand the language of birds. One day, his father asked him to explain what the birds were saying and was told that they were talking about how one day his father would be waiting upon his son like a servant.

This so angered his father that the son was turned out of the house to make his way in the world. Eventually he landed on the shores of France only to hear that the French King was greatly annoyed by the chirping of birds around the palace. The boy set off to offer his help in getting rid of them and soon discovered that the cause was a noisy dispute among the birds, which, together with the King, he was able to resolve.

The King was so pleased that he presented the boy with a fully manned ship which took the boy to many distant lands.

After an absence of ten years, the young man returned to Kintail and his ship anchored at Totaig. The sight of such a royal vessel caused a considerable stir in the district and all wondered who the richly dressed wealthy young man might be.

Arriving at his father’s door, no-one recognised him and he was received with much hospitality. His father set him at the table and waited upon him the young stranger himself, thereby fulfilling the prophecy of the birds. The son revealed who he was, proving his identity by a birthmark on his shoulder and his father was reconciled to the boy who he acknowledged as his heir. His son’s abilities and knowledge of the world brought him into the favour of Alexander II who commissioned him to build Eilean Donan and protect his subjects against the Norwegians.

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Posted September 4, 2010 by eileandonan in Tales & Stories

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A big girls blouse………   4 comments

I thought I’d share an amusing little story with you today, just for a change.

As you’d expect, we have a state of the art security system in the castle; so sensitive that if a large spider were to walk across the wrong piece of floor, then all hell would break loose!

Well, last year, that’s exactly what happened, and one night I got roused from my bed around 3.00am to the sound I dread most. Dornie is a very quiet place, especially at night, and sound can travel huge distances across the water, and our alarms are NOT quiet.

Hurriedly throwing some clothes on, I arrived at the front door of the castle at almost exactly the same time as a number of large, burly, local policemen, none of whom would have looked out of place on the front row of any International Rugby team!

One policeman positions himself at the front door, directly below the kitchens, while the rest of us started a systematic room by room inspection of the castle. Now there are a number of different bunches of keys that have to be used in the internals of the castle, and on this particular occaision I’d stupidly neglected to pick up all the bunches I required. This was a rather daft oversight on my part as certain lighting systems we have can only be operated by little fish-tail keys. The Law of Sod was definitely at work that night as the one bunch of keys that had the required fish-tail key was not on my person!

Now castles can be rather spooky places in the depths of a dark night, with lots of strange creaking noises, shadows and suchlike playing tricks on the mind. Remember the fact that Carlos, our Spanish ghost is also reputed to haunt the place, though I have to confess we have yet to be offically introduced.

Having checked the majority of the castle, we arrive at the kitchens where I realise that the afore-mentioned fish-tail key is required! Doh! Now as you’d expect, I’m very familiar with every room in the castle, and the darkness doesn’t bother me at all, so I proceed to enter the dark and gloomy kitchens with the policemen behind me to check things out. (Those of you who have visited the castle will be fully aware of the fact that the recreated kitchens have a number of lifesize dummies in them, and herein lies the tale!)

I’ve just about reached the far end of the kitchen, and about to enter the scullery, when the most blood-curling scream I have ever had the misfortune to hear rents the air! Suffice to say, one of our big burly local policeman who has never been inside Eilean Donan before this night, has bumped into the model of Isabella MacRae-Gilstrap, and had more than a little start!!! Now I’m quite sure Isabella was quite a formidable woman in her time, but she was all of about 5 feet tall, yet has managed to turn our local bobby into an absolute quivering wreck! Having established the cause of his panic, we all proceed to have a good laugh at our man in blue’s expense. I’m quite sure that his colleagues ribbed him mercilessly for weeks afterwards!

An unforeseen tangent of this whole fiasco is that the policeman stood below at the front door on sentry duty hears his colleague’s scream and starts to get more than a bit twitchy himself! By the time we arrive back to the front door he is VERY relieved to see us.

For those of you not familiar with the kitchens, here’s a wee photo of it, in daylight! Isabella is the lady on the left!

Posted July 15, 2010 by eileandonan in Tales & Stories

A little human kindness…..   2 comments

Despite the fact that we meet and greet hundreds of thousands of people every year at the castle, sometimes something will happen that both surprises and reminds me that you can never take people for granted. Acts of  genuine kindness and humanity are still out there.

Yesterday, a foreign family, speaking very little English, arrive at the Ticket Office with an Amex card, a Diners card, US Dollars, and some Euros (none of which we accept) but have absolutely no Sterling money whatsoever! As such, they are not able to pay for a ticket and the three young daughters are looking extremely disappointed.

As they stand there wondering what to do, from nowhere, a complete and total stranger steps forward and says, “I’ll pay for their ticket” and proceeds to do so.

The look of surprise, astonishment and delight on the entire familys faces is something that will remain with me for a very long time. I should probably add that the stranger in question also declined to accept the US Dollars that were offered in exchange.

The whole experience left me with a warm fuzzy feeling, and whoever this stranger was, I salute you.

So todays question and challenge is, what can you do today to add a little sunshine to someones life. Go on, surprise someone…….

Posted July 9, 2010 by eileandonan in Tales & Stories

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