| self catering isle of skye
self catering isle of skye
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In the time-scale of the geologist, the history of man on this planet would be measured in the blink of an eye. The rocks of Glencoe were shaped in the Tertiary period, scores of millions of years ago. They had weathered countless millennia before human life appeared on earth and the two-legged predator emerged from the steaming swamps and lifted covetous eyes to the hills.
The very aura of those hills turns the mind to thoughts of human tragedy rather than speculation on the awesome antiquity of their geological past. Glencoe is doom-laden; tragedy had to happen here. It is as if the ancient glaciers possessed a prescient spirit enabling them to forge a prophetic landscape, perpetuating in tortured rock a physical symbol of the vicious inhumanity of man to man.
The Great Herdsman of Etive, Buachaille Etive Mor, keeps watch over the desolate Moor of Rannoch and the Black Mount at the mouth of Glencoe. From the head of the glen, below a flat-topped rock – known in Gaelic as Innean a’ Cheathaich, the Anvil of the Mist – the Coe plunges through a gorge under a high waterfall of the Allt Lairig Eilde. Precipitous rock face surround the pass – a wild army of gaunt peaks, savaged by bleak ravines – heavy with brooding melancholy in rain and mist; towering in a fearsome, sombre majesty under snow.
At five o’clock on the morning of 13 February 1692, in the aftermath of a blizzard, the most infamous massacre in Scotland’s gory history took place in this glen.
MacDonald men, women and children, who had billeted the soldier-assassins in their homes, were done to death by a company of Argyll regiment under the command of Captain Robert Campbell of Glenlyon. It was murder under trust, universally regarded, even by seventeenth century brigands weaned on the blood feud, as the foulest act of treachery known to man.
In Glencoe Village, near the old Bridge of Coe, a tall Celtic cross commemorates the odious deed in words of moving simplicity: In memory of MacIan, Chief of Glencoe, who fell with his people in the massacre of Glencoe.
MacIan – ‘the old fox’ – has his lair on the little island of Eilean Munde in Loch Leven, opposite the foot of Glencoe, for centuries the burial place of the people of the glen.
The mere recollection of Glencoe made Charles Dickens shudder. ‘The pass is an awful place,’ he wrote when recording impressions of his Highland tour in 1841. ‘There are scores of glens high up, which form such haunts as you might imagine yourself wandering in the very height and madness of a fever. They will live in my dreams for years – I was going to say as long as I live, and I seriously think so.’
An even more illustrious, though less imaginative traveller than Dickens was left with no such gloomy recollections after a visit to Glencoe. Queen Victoria thoroughly enjoyed a picnic in the glen in 1873. The royal party made their way from Clachaig Inn, then a stage for coaches between Fort William and Glasgow. Clachaig, at the western entrance to the glen, is on the old road from Ballachulish, a welcome sanctuary under the forbidding dark ridge of Aonach Dubh.
The royal picnic took place on the lofty eminence of The Study. By one of those curious corruptions to which language is prone, The Study has become the meaningless English substitute for the beautifully poetic Gaelic, Anvil of the Mist. Overlooking the confluence of the Meeting of Three Waters, Innean a’ Cheathaich, The Anvil of the Mist, commands a fine view of the Three Sisters of Glencoe, Beinn Fhada, Gearr Aonach and Aonach Dubh.