Ruined Crofts on Sea Lochs

I was in a faraway land, the rays of the morning sun bathing me oh so softly. I stood by the burn that April day, the sound of the gushing water in my ears, and chirped out ‘howdy munchkins’ to the startled sheep. The whole flock started and stared for a few seconds at the intrusion. If their baa could have been translated into humanspeak, it would surely have run along the lines of, ‘Look ye, a streenger’, the Scottish burr coming through strong. They are Highlanders too, you know. Just a more fleecy variety, but I bet if we had a conversation they would let me know that they are passionate about the land too. They live off it. Literally.

The moorland heather had yet to shake off its brown winter coat, turn that hue of purple which enchants the eye. Dry stone walls ran along the gorge and burn, keeping it all in. The remnants of a simple crofting life. Our cottage was part of a croft sprawled over 17 acres of grassland. The ruins of a crofter’s cottage and some outbuildings sat nearby.

The word ‘croft’ is a part of the landscape of Skye. Simply put, it is land fenced off by regulations – and it is a legacy of the troubled past of the Highlands. A clutch of stories – quilted with heartache, aspiration, pride, defeat, devastation – revolve around it. And they are not myths or products of the imagination, mind you. In the late 17th century, in a standoff between the Roman Catholic and Protestant faiths, the latter had a thumping win. The Roman Catholic Stuart king, James VII (of England and Ireland) and II (of Scotland), was deposed by his daughter Mary II and her Protestant Dutch husband, William III.

The Hanoverians sat upon the throne, and with that, the Jacobites came to the fore. The single-minded aim of their rebellions was to restore the Scottish Stuart kings to their ‘divine right’. Who cared about the writ of the Parliament? Not this devout lot who got their names from the Renaissance Latin word Jacobus for James. Thus, the supporters of James.

Now in Scottish Gaelic – which is sprinkled all over the isle – they have a word called cuimhnich. It means ‘remember’. The Skye folk remember. The entrance of Bonnie Prince Charlie, the grandson of the exiled James. This young man was deemed The Young Pretender, his father having been titled The Old Pretender to the throne. In 1745, Bonnie Prince Charlie arrived in Scotland and rallied an army around him to take on the king’s forces, and a year later, lost all at the historic Battle of Culloden but his life.

On the Waternish peninsula, where we were, the Bonnie Prince had been rowed over the waters, for refuge, by a brave young woman. Flora MacDonald is the famous daughter of the isle. She is straight out of the novels of Walter Scott where the feisty heroine makes you sit up and take notice. Though it must have been the other way around. Scott would have been inspired by her story when he set about writing his historical novels. It is reality, after all, that provides the best fodder for the imagination.

The Bonnie Prince fled to France but in his wake left devastation. His supporters, fierce clansmen, were decimated by the Cumberland Redcoats. Their graves lie in Culloden, marked by grave stones, grouped under the broad umbrella of their clan names.

The disbanded clansmen were hunted out. There was mayhem on the isle. Houses, boats and whole villages burnt. No wonder the Duke of Cumberland, the son of the reigning King George II, was nicknamed The Butcher as he went about systematically after the culture and language of the Highlanders. They were stripped of their tartans, the usage of Scottish Gaelic and their estates were annexed by the Crown.

Outsiders were made landlords of these estates. They rented out the infertile lands as crofts to tenants, formerly clansmen, chucked the rest from the land, driving them into small villages where they had to make their livelihood from fishing. This is also when there were mass immigrations of Scottish farmers to faraway lands – Australia, New Zealand and Nova Scotia.

So you see there is great heartache lodged into that beautiful landscape. You can hear the haunting strain in the ‘Skye Boat Song’, a Scottish folk number which derives the words from Robert Louis Stevenson’s poem.

“Sing me a song of a lad that is gone,
Say, could that lad be I?
Merry of soul he sailed on a day
Over the sea to Skye.”

You must have heard it in Outlander.

We sat in the conservatory in the mornings, before setting out for our drives, and soaked up the view which was one for the books. The eye tumbled over the green squares and strips patchworking the length and breadth of the hills and rolled into the sea loch. Beyond the gentle dip of the slope lay the headland preceded by a  cluster of stone-washed cottages. In the evenings, we would sit outside the cottage with glasses of wine, by the sea, then lay back on the cold grass and stare at the stars as they popped up in the evening sky, one by one.

 

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Waternish Peninsula
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Solemn neighbours
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The conservatory of the cottage
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Views like these made it surreal
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Part of the crofting life
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Trawler on Loch Bay
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Sunsets in Waternish

101 thoughts on “Ruined Crofts on Sea Lochs

  1. It’s one of my dream locations. Since I was a child I’ve always been fascinated with Scotland. You capture the beauty and also the soul of the place with the history you insert into your writing. And don’t you just want to squeeze one of those cheap with a big hug?

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    1. Did you call the sheep cheap? I love how it rhymes but our chubby baby might shrink with sadness, no?

      Thank you for the lovely words, beauty 🙂 Did I tell C and you that I did start on Outlander? So Walter Scott-esque. We are both hooked. I wonder why we had not started on it before!

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      1. The film-making is.so beautifully done on that show. I haven’t read Walter Scott in a long while. I wonder if I have anything of his on my shelves? I don’t think so. Time to buy another book 🤔😀

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Oh, Dippy what a beautiful informative post! ❤ Excellent narrative as always with lovely illustrations. Thank you for sharing the Sky Boat Song. 🙂 We loved our stay on Skye. 3,5 days were nothing. We thought we had plenty of time to soak in the sland, but no -so we have to come back.:-)
    Have a wonderful weekend, the two of you
    Dina & co

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you Dina & co. I remember your gorgeous shots. You did a hike or two which we missed out on. So we have got to get back too to indulge in a few.

      The Skye Boat Song is so haunting. Makes me shiver with its beauty. Skye invites it, doing nothing, that is!

      You all have a lovely weekend too! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  3. There is a lot of dark history to this beautiful, lush green landscape. Wonderful post! Loved the drinks and the sparkling sunset – always a plus to have those at the end of the day 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank ye! Those moments of sunset are carved into the memory.

      The history is startling in its darkness, indeed. It is amazing how our travels drill the backstories into the psyche, so effortlessly. No painful history lessons in school and passing exams, hurrah!

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  4. It’s amazing how travel to new places teaches us about the local history that we might not otherwise think to learn about. Something deep inside of me longs for Scotland and Ireland. More so Ireland I think, but Scotland too. Maybe I should write a post about that someday… Anyway, thanks for another lovely post and history lesson.

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    1. My thoughts too. I am yet to go to Ireland but I sure hope to soon. The thing is that it is so immersed in the history of the Highlands, it is difficult to evade it. I would love to read your post on that yearning 🙂

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  5. Good old Scotland. Rory’s grandparents are from there, they have the strongest accents. We’ve always loved to go, but like with so many other spots we need to find the time and money. Got enough drinks in that last photo though? Looks a little sparse? 😛

    Liked by 1 person

    1. With that view, I could slip down three glasses without even realising it 😛 Aw the Scottish burr. They must sound adorable! The Scottish are such lovely people too – simple and kind.

      Do they live there? You could visit them. The isles are expensive just because accommodations are. Once you have that sorted, you can cook at your rented place and reduce costs, apart from popping into a pub once in a while.

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      1. His grandparents live in New Zealand now. He does have other family there, but he has never met them. Accommodation is always one of the costs that seems to add up when you visit places

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  6. Love the way you’ve portrayed this beautiful part of the world. I’ve often thought it can look barren and foreboding (especially in winter) but your writing has convinced me that’s it’s crammed with character and charm! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh no Rachel, it is barren alright. I saw it in spring. In winter, I am sure, the isolation might drive me up the walls with desperation. But I did love it. The history, the landscape, the hikes we did not end up doing, … we want to get back and explore the other Hebridean isles. It sounds like you have been there in winter. Have you written a post on it? xx

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      1. I haven’t I’m afraid! My good friend spent about a month there and her photos were beautiful but in a very wild way. The furthest north I’ve visited in Scotland is St Andrew’s in summer – a very different experience I’m sure! I wrote about it here -https://rachellishman.com/2014/05/25/visiting-scotland/ 🙂

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  7. The isle of Skye – quite wonderful! And thank you for the potted history. It looks like your cottage was in the perfect spot and you had the weather – you were lucky, it can get desperate up there in the wind and rain! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Oh my Dippy, you bring the craft of writing to a new level. Always beautiful prose. I want to add that I am pretty sure the line “I chirped out ‘howdy munchkins’ to the startled sheep” will be on my mind everytime I enter a store from now on.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Wonderful post–again, I am just itching for next June when I can see the beautiful Highlands for myself. And well done on the history of the rebellion. I would struggle to sum it up or retell it, but you did so masterfully. I am always sad when I think about all the Highlanders lost…

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    1. Thank you Kristyn 🙂 You will feel the history seeping through you as you find yourself following willy-nilly in the footsteps of the ones the highlanders revere. The Scots are such wonderful storytellers.

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      1. Oh my goodness, I can hardly wait to be immersed in it. In addition to Skye, I am very excited about two nights we will be spending near the Culloden Moor. I’m thinking we are apt to hear some good storytelling there…

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      2. Culloden Moor! Oh oh… are you guys camping around there? Oh the shivers as you come across the graves of the clans, the imagination working at twice its pace trying to revive the battle on the vastness of the moors. Do watch out for the Redcoats. xx

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      3. We are staying one night at a farm b&b that is about half a mile from the battlefield site. The second night we will be at the Culloden House, where the Bonnie Prince made his headquarters prior to the battle. I think my focus at the farm will inevitably be the fluffy sheep (who I will of course try to befriend), but the Culloden House will surely provide some chilling history. During the day, I hope to spend sufficient time at the battlefield, wandering around and taking it all in.

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      4. Gosh, I am excited at the sound of it all. Sounds like a dream, Kristyn. Well done on all the thoughtful planning. Shows that you have done your research well. May the weather gods be with ye, my bonnie lass 🙂 xx

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      5. Aw thanks! Yeah, I have been fairly obsessed with this one. I have always been somewhat interested in Scotland and Ireland, but then that darn Outlander got me even more eager to visit Scotland. So when I began looking into it as a possible destination and reading more about the history, I became thoroughly smitten. As for the weather, here’s hoping! Though I have heard that there is no bad weather, just the wrong clothing, right? This will be all about the packing…

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      6. Oh yeah baby, now you are talking. It is indeed wrong clothing. So packing shall be a whole lot of fun for this one 😉

        You might like Scott then. Outlander takes you back to his kind of writing and it is so engaging. I think you might have already read him, right?

        Liked by 1 person

      7. Hahaha, not at all. Nothing is blasphemous. If anyone tells you, oh you have not read Scott, tell them, pfft, have you not been to Puerto Rico you numskull and that will be it. Anyone will do. Rob Roy? 🙂

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      8. I love the Puerto Rico defense. I will use it all the time. A police officer pulls me over: sorry I was speeding, sir, but have you been to Puerto Rico? I thought naught! 😛 (By the way, will you please post my bail?)

        Rob Roy? I just read the first line of a synopsis and I am already sold. I will have to read soon and report back…

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      9. Sadly every time I have ever been pulled over it has ended with a ticket. Crying didn’t help, respect didn’t help, good excuses didn’t help, my brother-in-law is a cop didn’t help… so really, maybe the PRD (Puerto RICO Defense, as it is widely known) is truly the best option for me. 😆 Though I will continue trying to be a law abiding citizen as long as I can, no need to exercise the PRD right away 😉

        Our weekend is slow and lazy, thank goodness. How about you??

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      10. I just got back home, Kristyn, from a long day out. Pampering myself at the salon, having my first Chick-fil-A burger, some shopping, exploring Hoboken and listening to a bluesy rock band in a tavern, buying old bound books and an expensive Italian dinner to set Adi’s heart racing 😀 All in all a wonderful day. Tomorrow for us shall be real slow.

        You would get away with trying Rachel’s line – ‘Officer Handsome’! I am sure. xx

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      11. Your day sounds amazing. I’m so glad you are enjoying New Jersey. Tell me what you thought about Chick Fil-A. Most everyone I know thinks it is the best, but I have never been able to get on board. I don’t dislike it, just don’t think it is the end all be all of fast food. One of my dearest friends threatened to disown me over it. 😛

        I really should try using my feminine wiles with the police. Though I would have to find them and dust them off first…

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      12. I tried the Deluxe Spicy chicken sandwich. But I thought it was not spicy you know. There was a mere aftertaste of it, much later. I was a bit disappointed. Adi had raved about it saying that it was up my alley. He had it last in the south of the country and he said it was tastier there. He did not care much for my not ecstatic feedback. I thought Popeye’s made a better chicken sandwich 😛

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      13. Interesting. I think all the hype sets it up to be a letdown when it is not perfection. But I’ll say this, they’ve got great sauces. And let Adi know that he has a friend in Cam. They can swoon over chicken sandwiches together. 😆 I have never tried Popeyes chicken. Maybe worth a visit one of these days…

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      14. Oh then please do go for the large fries at Popeyes. They are OMG Gorgeous as a gay make-up guy would say 😉 I just realised there is no apostrophe there in Popeyes! My bad 😛 Adi and Cam clearly can declare the Chick Brotherhood open starting now 😉

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      15. Should we hold a ribbon cutting ceremony for the brotherhood? And I am making a mental note: fries at Popeyes! As for the apostrophe, is it your bad or their bad? I think there is an apostrophe desperately wanting to sandwich itself in the name!

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      16. You are right. I should be shooting them an e-mail next. Grammar police on the move. Possibly they would allocate a big bag of fries to me every time I step in? Who knows. One can dream.

        Ribbons and ceremony! That’s a plan. Shall we spit on that and seal the deal?

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      17. If I were the big wig at Popeyes, it would be raining fries. Then surely I would be facing a lawsuit regarding french fry injuries and such. I would also quite possibly develop an addiction to chicken. Hmmm, I should probably avoid this scenario…

        Liked by 1 person

      18. My apologies. I just don’t know how I would hold up in the midst of a French fries crisis.

        By the way, I drove by Popeyes the other day and it took all my restraint to pass by without stopping to try their fries. It’s on my to-do list. Maybe this weekend??

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      19. Tee hee hee. Without restraint, please. Though I know people might call me loony? Recommending Popeyes to an American. My sister-in-law was most unimpressed by my enthusiasm about Popeyes and Wendy’s 😉 xx

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      20. Hahaha, I am a Popeyes newbie, so you’re doing right by them with your recommendation. And I wonder am I a bad American for my lack of Popeyes experience? Hmmm…

        As for Wendy’s, I am a fan of the frosties, but have never been super impressed with the burgers. Sad, huh?

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      21. Okay, so I have not had the chicken sandwiches at Wendy’s, only their weirdo square burgers. Might be worth stopping by for a spicy chicken sandwich and a frosty. And tell Adi there is a fine line between burgers and sandwiches (even finer for people like me who refuse to care about the differences). I mean c’mon, there are two slices of bread/bun and some food in between, right? 😛

        Not sure about the bad Americans. I’ll have to think on it. Surely Benedict Arnold…

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      22. I knew you were extraordinary. Adi chooses to be a bit lame but he is the husband so I have to shut my eyes and let love step in to save the day. I have to try this frosty that you vouch for. I shall get onto the job, my fine lady.

        As for Arnold, this ignoramus had to google him. He had traitor tattooed to his name I see! As if a powdered wig was not enough.

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      23. Oh my gosh, I am laughing too hard right now, there are errant tears trying to escape my eyes. You have hit on a really troublesome time in our history with those darn powdered wigs. Don’t they just seem to make everyone a villain or at least a bit of a louse? What good man with nothing to hide is going to wear a wig? And then powder it??? 😛

        And you are doing the right thing. As wives we must love our husbands in spite of themselves, even when they cannot be bothered to form rational opinions about food!

        Liked by 1 person

    1. I am watching it too in the evenings. It is lovely. We had it sitting in our collection for long now and my friends reminded me of it. I decided therefore that I could not put it off any longer. Thanks, the sunset in Waternish was always special. It was not a flaming one but a gradual melting of the sun into the sea.

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