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Charlotte Juarez's Going Home
Tuesday, March 25 - Over the Sea to Skye


March 25, 2003
Greshornish House Hotel, Isle of Skye

It’s a rainy day in a wonderful place. We arrived here last night after leaving Dundee at 8:30 in the morning. When I do this trip again (if I can find about a dozen people who’d like to come with me) I think I would break the journey at Ft William, miss out Dalwhinnie and Loch Laggan (because that was a special side trip for us who enjoy watching Monarch of the Glen on BBC America) and replace that with the coffee experience at Gleneagles and the Distillery Tour at the Famous Grouse.

As always, my friends were terrific, going along with our adventure in exploration and finding joy in each other’s companionship and pleasure in Scotland’s beautiful scenery. On a road trip like this Steven’s sixteen seater mini van is very comfortable, lots of space and with it only being eight of us (including the mighty driver, Steve) we are stretched out very, very comfortably, each of us with a wide window seat with windows left over. There’s a very happy, party atmosphere in our van and this trip is replenishing my spirit, giving me plenty of time to reflect on my life and values, and allowing me to set personal and professional goals for my future.

Everyone is adding a stronger or new dimension to each other’s life – good humour, interesting perspectives on life and its meaning, varied shopping and hobby and career interests, etc.

We had a long day getting to Skye, but made frequent stretch and photo taking stops. My friends and I had a very nice gentle hike at Killiecrankie to the Solder’s Leap, commemorating the Redcoat’s leap across the river to escape from Bonnie Dundee’s Covenanters. The scenery was as wild and beautiful as I remembered it from my childhood trips.

Steve called the ferry at Mallaig from Spean because it was not until we reached there that we were sure we would be able to reach Mallaig in time for the one and only four o’ clock ferry to Skye. We were the last reservation accepted, and later when we got to Mallaig we learned there were four stand by cars waiting. Two of these cars were squeezed on, but the other two, if they still wanted to get to Skye, had to back track and go up by the Kyle of Lochalsh, or wait in Mallaig until tomorrow.

It took us over an hour and a half to drive the 45 miles to Mallaig along a single lane road amidst beautiful mountain and glen scenery. When we got to Mallaig we had time to stroll the harbour and watch the seals and seagulls under a clear sky on a beautiful windy day.

When it was time to board we stood above the car loading dock and watched the ferrymen direct the drivers to reverse onto the boat. That’s when we understood why the cars and vans were measured – these vehicles were literally bumper to bumper.

We’re a sturdy lot of travelers, and five out of the eight of us rode the ferry up top. Windy, cold, and wonderful. We were able to see Skye appearing through the mist and I developed a much stronger sense of respect for the courage of Flora McDonald and the brave boatmen who helped Prince Charles Edward speed in that bonny boat over the sea to Skye. And I did sing the song to myself as I stood up top.

We landed on Skye around 5 and at 6:30 p.m. arrived at Greshornish. Skye is deceptively large and even though you’re always within seven to twenty five miles of the sea, the mountains are high and the road winding and very narrow at times. It was daylight all the way to Greshornish and we were able to see white washed cottages and larger houses dotted along the hillsides; sheep all over the place and the sun sparkling on the Minch, the burns and rivers and glistening on the mountaintops.

We pretty much did a circular tour of the Isle to Dunvegan, and had no trouble finding our destination, a large country home with a history dating back to the 13th Century. Dinner was scheduled for 7:30 p.m. and we were greeted by our charming host, Jane Dickson – a slender, bustling dynamo of a highland woman, filled with welcoming charm and amusing anecdotes about Skye and highland life that came so fast we found ourselves laughing so much we couldn’t keep up with the flow and missed the next two or three that came barreling right behind.

Jane treated us as honoured guests visiting her home. Our large and airy rooms at Greshornish were brightly decorated and furnished with solid country pieces – large comfortable beds, inviting chairs, desks and side tables all polished to a bright shine. Solid doors with old fashioned locks and keys – but I felt so safe I only locked my door when I left my room – slept with my door unlocked, just as I did at Dunlaw.

We all gathered in the bar and billiard room about 7:30 and were piped into dinner at 7:45, by the resident piper, Jane’s handsome son. My group dined at the long mahogany table, crystal goblets, heavy silver dinnerware, candles and candelabra adding a warm glow and charm to the gracious surroundings. Our meals were prepared specifically to our requests made on our arrival – I had scotch broth, home made bread, venison and fresh steamed vegetables and roast potatoes with honey whisky ice cream for dessert. I joined my friends in the drawing room after dinner where coffee and tea were served.

An unforgettable day, which if I am fortunate, I will be able to share one day with my family and other friends.

***

The Day of March 25th

I went to bed last night about 10, but sat on top of the covers, wrote a little to try to catch up with myself, then read a little of my book about the Stuart dynasty.

Finally, feeling sleepy about midnight I was ready to turn out the light. Crawling under my blankets, curtains drawn and the window open to let in Skye’s lovely fresh and clean air, I was delightfully surprised to find an old fashioned, blue rubber hot water bottle warming my sheets. This was so reminiscent of going to bed as a child with that comforting warmth to snuggle into that I cried. Not sad tears, but those filled with memories of, overall and in reflection now, a happy childhood that has given me a foundation of strength to be able to face adult challenges.

I’m grateful to have been born and raised in a proud Scottish home; I’m pleased to have had the option of dual citizenship; I’m happy to be an American and hope I can impress upon my grandchildren the best of the gifts my mother and grandmother have given me.

But, to today. After a wonderful Scottish breakfast we piled into Steven’s van and headed over to Dunvegan Castle. We had a little rain this morning, but nothing significant, and by the time we had completed our castle tour around noon, we were walking Dunvegan Castle’s gardens in bright sunshine.

Dunvegan Castle is filled with antiques, portraits, and relics associated with the Clan McLeod. I was especially taken by the Fairy Flag which provided a measure of safety to McLeod’s engaged in battle and gave a thought to any McLeods who may be in battle conditions today, and hoped they would have a photo of the flag with them as other McLeod’s have in recent wars.

(A wee note here, now that I’m typing this back in the United States, I’ve been enjoying seeing again on TV weeknights from 5 – 6 p.m., "The Highlander" series with Adrian Paul as "Duncan McLeod of the Clan McLeod." I enjoyed that show many years ago, in reruns then, and my now married daughter, a mother herself, and I watching it together during her high school years. I did enjoy those swordfights, the music by Queen, and Adrian Paul wasna’ sae bad himsel’! )

Leaving Dunvegan, we headed toward Portree, taking a side road (single lane) into "the village." Our "Kodak moments" included a highland traffic jam of sheep on the road and another of a group of six hie’land coos quietly grazing alongside the road. "Quick, girls – everybody out and get pictures." We also stopped by a sparking and fast rushing burn to take pictures of peat to remember out day of highland traveling.

We had lunch in Portree’s center, took more pictures, shopped, and spent time in the harbour area before heading back to Greshornish.

Dinner, true to form, was superb – Aberdeen Angus steak for me, and lively conversation and laughter as my group interacted with our wonderful hostess. The only sadness I have about our stay in Skye is that it ends tomorrow. In fact, one of the girls asked if we couldn’t just take a run into Inverness and then come back for another night at Greshornish. And she was more than half serious.

So, here I am – getting ready to climb into bed and picture myself as once I was, a little girl cuddling down for the night in my Scottish home. I’m happy and at home. My girl friends have told me how much they are enjoying this holiday with each other – one said it was "above and beyond." My friends are happy and so am I. And, as usual, I hope I can share Scotland like this with others again. It’s just been too great an experience to put away. Although there will never, could never, be another trip like this, there’s a whole world of people out there whom my country can bless by this kind of people to people contact.

Inverness tomorrow.

See Picture Album 10


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