This is a good week to dream about castles. Not the modern 20 bedroom houses in the suburbs, but real castles in the Scottish countryside. The kind of castle that has a moat, a catapult, knights and damsels. You know, castles!
What is it about castles that stirs our imagination? Is it the bloody history? The Medieval Architecture? Sweeping landscapes and lush gardens? Or perhaps the hidden torture chambers in the dungeons? Maybe you’re like me and just want to get away for a while, sit on a stone battlement with a flagon of mead and bask in the pristine countryside.
Castles strike a strong chord with the imagination and occupy prime real estate on the chess board. Whether we like to dream about feasts or flagons, drawbridges or dragons, it the stark beauty of a castle wakes the restless spirit. Eilean Donan Castle in Scotland is a perfect example. Situated on not one but 3 lochs, surrounded by stunning mountains, it features in calendars, postcards, movies and my Photo of the Week!
The steady rain doesn’t dull my excitement as I jump out of the car. My bucket list is coming to life! After a night feasting on beef pie and tasting great whisky, I began the day with a cafe breakfast in Inverness. The morning was filled with a beach walk overlooking the dark Loch Ness waters and a tour of the crumbled Urquhart Castle. Turning West onto A87 I entered the magnificent landscape of Glen Shiel. Rugged mountains stand shoulder to shoulder, guarding deep lochs and thousands of my dreams. Noting a small parking area I pulled over to take it all in.
Looking up at the sky I feel like Andy Dufresne, laughing uncontrollably at the wonder that surrounds me. I walk down a short trail to Loch Cluanie, inhaling the moist mountain air and marveling at the sky reflected in the deep waters. Large shrubs of Wild Rose brighten the muddy shores, inviting me to balance on small round stones to sample their fragrance. Returning to the car I remember that my ankles are 25 years removed from their basketball days, so I stretch them out, dry my glasses and devour a large snack. The best is yet to come.
Continuing my drive I note countless waterfalls tumbling down steep mountains to the lochs. Every one of them is beautiful and deserving of a name, but their ubiquity here keeps them anonymous. The mountains create a rugged wall on either side of the river, but there are many places where grazing sheep fill emerald green fields. I wonder several times if I am truly awake, gasping at the scale and beauty of this landscape. Its magnitude and awesomeness defies superlatives, putting to shame any knowledge I thought I had learned watching Braveheart. Hollywood cannot capture a place and a feeling this big – it must be experienced to be believed.
Eilean Donan lies at the west end of Loch Duich, the point at which my stomach really starts to growl. Glancing at the trail mix in the back seat I feel a punch on my shoulder. The castle is directly ahead, and it is spectacular. A break in the clouds allows the sun to warm the valley. The softly illuminated walls of Eilean Donan shine against the colorful mountains beyond, and cast a beautiful reflection in the waters of the loch. Hands shaking I stop the car for a photograph and another reality check. My arrival in Skye will have to wait a few more hours while I have a late lunch and explore this 13th century masterpiece!
“Eilean Donan Reflections” captures my first impression of the castle as I approach from the East. The solid walls, the reflection and the mountains combine to take my breath away.
Thank you for sharing this experience with me. Please share this with your friends and return next week for another photographic journey! In the meantime, please visit my website to buy “Eilean Donan Reflections” at a 25% discount!! No coupon code is required – discount is applied automatically until January 28th!