Another day out, yet more dramatic scenery and beautiful Scottish villages, some of which will most likely be terribly familiar. I only realised as we drove into Plockton that we’d done part of a ‘HIghland Film Location Pilgrimage’ and this is why there were so many tourists about so early in the season.
Eilean Donan Castle
Yes this is the one in Highlander. Every time I mention we visited here people quote huge chunks of the film at me, while I look on flummoxed as I’ve only seen it once! It has starred in quite a lot of films and television series of course, and many a shortbread tin lid. I’d visited before, about twenty years ago, for a hand-fasting performed by a member of the Findhorn community which took place in banqueting hall of the castle. This makes he place sound huge, but it is in fact a castle on quite a small scale, while being simultaneously grand, mainly It think due to its location (location, location).
I mean look at this place:
Isn’t she beautiful, she must be one of the most photographed castles in the world! We were really lucky with the weather on the morning we went there (yes I am obsessed with the weather) having set off in slight drizzle it then cleared up so we could take amazing pictures here, and by the time we were trying to find the entrance to the Co-op car park in Kyle at 5pm it was absolutely throwing it down.
The castle was a stronghold of the Clans Macenzie and Macrea, but was bombed out by government ships during the Jacobite Rebellion in the early 18th Century. It remained a ruin until the early 20th century, when Lieutenant-Colonel John Macrae-Gilstrap (there’s a name) constructed the building we see today.
I’m afraid there are no pictures of the interior as Photography Is Not Allowed. The entrance has a very good timeline type display, with ghostly projections on the walls of ‘former inhabitants’ explaining things to you about various events in the castle’s past – I love this kind if thing, I admit (there’s a brilliant example of it at Warwick too). Then you’re routed through the apartments, which are really so dinky it’s almost like an enlarged doll’s house, and out the other side. Sadly there’s no longer any access to the battlements, though I remember going up there at the wedding, in high heels and a long dress, I expect that’s why it’s imprinted on my memory! This was a bit of a disappointment to the boy as he was hoping to find an owlery up there (one for the Harry Potter fans) or at the very least an excitingly scary very low balcony to lean over, to give his mother a heart attack.
From there we went for lunch in the pub in Dornie, the village over the road – there is an excellent cafe at the castle, but we’d already had scones and tea earlier (what is a holiday for if not for eating more than usual? – then we decided to drive over to Plockton.
There are two ways to drive to Plockton from Kyle, one of them is I suspect much less exciting that the route we took by following a brown sign promising a ‘scenic drive’. It certainly was scenic, as far as I could make out from the occasional glimpses I managed to take as the driver. It was also very winding and rollercoasterlike, with occasional good natured standoffs with approaching vehicles as to who was going to stop in the stopping places, or not. I was driving a massive Jeep so maybe that’s why I managed to do a bit less stopping that I might have done. There are so many stopping places on these Highland roads though, it’s not so much of a hassle as it is down south. Quite an exciting drive then, but also a route I’d quite like to do on foot one day (though not on the road, obviously).
Plockton lies on the edge of Loch Carron, it’s a beautiful Highland village, the kind of place you would expect to find in a story really. Of course this place has also been used as a filming location, most famously in the BBC adaptation of the Hamish Macbeth novels, a favourite of my Sunday night television viewing once, the slightly oddball story of a local village bobby (Robert Carlyle) and the goings on in Lochdubh. Plockton was also a location in The Whicker Man, which was also oddball but not in at all the same way (this was the proper 1973 version, not the awful remake).
It’s a tiny village of white houses, a pub and a few shops – the afternoon we were there it was very quiet (I can imagine it’s packed at the height of the season). We had an amble around and went in lovely little craft and gift shop ‘The Studio’ where I spent quite a lot of money stocking up our greeting card stocks. We walked round to the pier and wondered what all the police were doing there, and out on the little island in the middle of the loch. I saw more police in one afternoon here than I generally do in a month in Oxford.
However, I had a major camera battery failure moment – note to rookie photographer self, take a spare battery – and didn’t take any pictures, so you’ll need to go there and see it for yourself (or watch an episode of Hamish Macbeth). I did take this on my phone though. It shows we must have some ancestral claim in this village, according to this boy. It wouldn’t be a completely awful place to live, I feel.