Trotting Around Trotternish

In Kilmuir, a tranquil village on the Trotternish peninsula where they speak the Scottish Gaelic tongue of their ancestors, we came across a strange sight. A prodigious Highland cow on a pasture staring at the sea. Add a single horn to that profile and we were in the exalted company of a one-horned meditating creature. I walked closer, yet keeping her at arm’s length, since startling cows and earning sharp pokes in the ribs was not on my list of things to do on Skye. The good news is that the Highland cattle do prefer to save their horns for more useful things like foraging during harsh winters than goring meddling humans.

As she turned her head towards me and watched me with bovine curiosity through a sheath of feminine fringe , I realised that I had besmirched her beauty. There was a second horn. It shot straight down, past her ears, hugging those bonny cheeks. Of course there was a customary one-sided conversation (what am I without those?) after which she decided she had had enough of this odd human. Swaying her sizable hips in slow motion, she turned her back to me and plodded through the long grass in the direction of the sea. There are a couple of shots below of this picture of highland gentility, but if you could pardon their poor quality. In those days I was afflicted by the overt use of effects, and for the life of me, I could not fish out the original frames.

It is a given that you will meet more cows and sheep on the Isle of Skye than your own fellow creatures. And you know what, I was content with that. No intelligent questions to deal with, no curiosities to fend off, nil judgement…it is easy to bask in the company of the four-legged beauties of this world. In the backdrop, the blue stretch of the Sea of the Hebrides, in the foreground a whitewashed cottage or two and a couple more stone cottages with thatched roofs on open grasslands.

There’s a cluster of stone cottages on Kilmuir for the history buff. The Museum of Island Life. An old croft, barn, smithy and weaver’s cottage. Inside they have recreated the picture of how a highlander and his family would have lived in the old days. When there was no electricity – even now on one of those islands on the Outer Hebrides they do not have electricity, if you will believe that – when life was hedged in by the simple chores of existence.

In his typically single-room home, after a long day of eking out a hard living, the highlander would have sat around a cosy peat fire with his family, reading well-thumbed copies of Gaelic bible, possibly instructing the children in the art of playing the bagpipe or the harp, the women busy sewing bed linen, cooking and performing other such household chores. Entertainment would have been cèilidh –  gatherings in Gaelic culture where storytelling, dancing and singing form an intrinsic part of merry evenings. Tankards of home-brewed ale or drams of whisky would have made the rounds. It spoke of a hardy life, one of self-sustenance, and as a traveller you might view it with dewy eyes, but how lonely life must have been and still is for the islander… the kind of loneliness that is bound to get to you unless you are born into this way of life, in which case any other way of living would surely be unbearable.

There is also buried nearby that great icon of Skye, Flora Macdonald. The rescuer of Prince Bonnie Charlie. A woman whose story inspires this woman sitting in the middle of the 21st century.

We pottered through Portree (the Pride of Portree, if you get the quidditch ref., played for this very village), which happens to be the single biggest settlement on the isle and its capital. Then onto the pride of Trotternish, a landslip. Pinnacles, cliffs, buttresses, gullies, waterfalls. An antiquated landscape that reinforces that it has been shaped by the elements for more years than the mind can grasp.

Meet Bodach an Stòrr. Scottish Gaelic for Old Man of Storr. A giant who was buried on the peninsula and his thumb stuck out. An ancient landslide that left jagged ridges sticking out like digits. Moody and mysterious even on a sunny day, stoking the imagination with possibilities. And that wonderful escarpment, the Quiraing, which looks like someone decided to unfurl a length of cloth and it froze with the folds in place. Folds that helped in the concealment of cattle from Viking raiders once. More Highland cattle nestling at the foot of the round-topped slopes of the Red Cuillin.

Beaches with prehistoric footprints of dinosaurs and towering above them vertical columns of basalt that look like they have been pleated together like a tucked kilt. So the name Kilt Rock. And streaming down it, waterfalls that free fall into the turquoise waters of the Sound of Raasay below. To add to the overall effect, a bagpiper braving the cold wind to pipe out tunes that tear through the isolation with a haunting certainty.

A rugged land of crofts, waterfalls, sleeping giants, princes, shaggy cows and whisky. Is it any wonder that fairies people this remote land where you are stuck in time?

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Kilmuir
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The Museum of Island Life
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On Kilmuir he sways to the tune of the wind in the grass
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Sepia tones
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The Outer Isles across Kilmuir
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Beinn Edra, the highest point on the Trotternish Ridge.
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Red Cuillin
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Gorse

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Dreamy noons
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The Cuillin
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Portree
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Scottish Gaelic bands in the house
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Mealt Waterfall with Kilt Rock in the backdrop.
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Erstwhile stomping grounds of dinosaurs and now that of the bagpiper and the traveller
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Curious inhabitants of the Cuillin

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79 thoughts on “Trotting Around Trotternish

  1. I imagine that camping out in those open fields would be quite beautiful. Unlike the gorgeous furry cows (I love them so) I have questions. Does the night sky get very dark there? Could I bribe or flirt my way into petting one or more of those cows? Can I climb down to the lower end of that waterfall and have a picnic? Can I lay in those soft swaying grasses for hours? Will the cows pierce me in my sleep? I want to travel to country such as this so badly, ugh.

    Liked by 5 people

    1. Their beauty can lure you. I would say, fashion horn masks before you take on these gorgeous girls?

      I think a picnic with dinosaur footprints, no one around you for miles, and the waves dashing against the dark rocks, sounds like a piece from a dream. You can also lay in the grass for hours, just pick a spot without sheep/cow poo and the infamous midges? And also preferably not in the pastures of the Highland cattle. I mean if they step on you that is 500lb atop you straight away.

      The night sky is quite so dark there. Inky black because there are hardly any street lights around the villages.The stars unleash their twinkling charm on you so grandly, Lyz. You would luxuriate in that beauty, I bet. xx

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  2. What a dreamy place… for a week or so! I love the idea of the isolation and serenity (what a place to get away and recharge!) And all the magic and mystery of Scotland… Although maybe not the weather! As always, your writing is immersive and almost fairytale like…. a great way to escape the last half hour of work!xx

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    1. You do me kindness with those sweet words, Mia. Just for a week or so is perfect. I do not think I could live So isolated where nature is your only foe-friend. Hope you had a productive day. xx

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  3. There is a château for sale near our home in Cantal. I converted this place long before it came on the market. The main reason is how strongly it reminds me of the ancient and strong bond between Scotland and France and to emphasise it there is a herd of highland coos (stet) who graze peacefully in the grounds. The landscape and life you portray goes a long way to explaining my enduring love of Cantal and why I always feel I’m home there. Simply idyllic. Xx

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    1. Thank you, mademoiselle. The chateau sounds like a dream. You say that you converted it. Does that mean you have been undertaking interior designing projects? It is a fascinating job in itself and then such picture perfect surroundings as the Cantal would only accentuate it. I remember your post on the region. The gorgeous moos are in the neighbourhood, is it? I think they are the best ambassadors of Scotland. Do I err? xx

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      1. Actually my Adolph Autocorrect has elevated me …. coveted not converted though actually Yes, I was an interiors princess in England before I moved to France. There are 3 does to every human in Cantal … praps I should take commissions for cowsheds 😅 xx

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  4. That photo with the waterfall is incredible!! It also scared me a little, cause of the angle, felt like I would tip, but maybe that’s just me 🙂 Scotland always looks amazing, I’m surprised you didn’t try to get closer to that one sheep in the photo. You got pretty close to the cows though it seems 😀

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    1. Two sheep 😛 A big one and her baby. The sheep are such quick things despite their bulk. It is a miracle of sorts, I tell ya. I have never managed to catch hold of one till date.

      The waterfall was something, Angela. It is the angle indeed but it is easy to tip in too especially with a bagpiper playing along. Musical downfall/free fall so to say. 😉

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  5. That highland cow looks like me having a bad hair day and the cyclist is riding on the WRONG side of the road 😉 Outside of that, it looks like a lovely place to visit! Thanks for posting Arundhati!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hey Bruce, thanks. You sport a long fringe? That surely is a sign that the metrosexual man has arrived. And I harbour doubts that you would be able to get on to a cycle if you were as hefty as our highland girl here 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Great post! I found myself laughing when thinking what Lynn would do if she came upon such a cow. Unlike you, neither the horn(s?) nor my ardent warnings would have been sufficient deterrents. It is quite possible she would have attempted a hug. I fear the day she follows through with her threats to go on a proper African safari. 😬

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I was picturing that, Justin, and it cracked me up. The thought of an African safari and a hug-prone Lynn. I usually do edge closer for hugs but things such as horns tend to be a deterrent. As long as Lynn is not hugging an anaconda, you are quite okay 😉 And thanks for dropping by and leaving such a funny comment.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. I do like Celtic music. It comes across as otherworldly. I am partial to bagpipes too though my husband grimaces at the best of times. When he was a boy, he used to be woken up early every morning to the tunes of the bagpiper, in a cantonment! 😀

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      1. My wife loathes bagpipes too. But with breton ancestors they are natural to me. Now, if you listen very carefully to Celtic music, there are some tiny commonalities with Indian music. Very minute. But there are common influences. (our ancestors from the caucasian mountains I guess) Be good.

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      2. The last bit I could not follow through, alas! I shall try in the future though.

        Celtic and Indian…I fancy I might know the tiny commonalities you refer to. We have a simplistic cousin of the bagpipes in India. I also did read something regarding Celtic and Vedic cultures sharing some common ground. Frankly, it is astonishing.

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      3. (Or be bad…) 😉
        I am so pleased to finally meet someone who noted the tiny details. Most times when I say that, people look at me weird.
        There were celtic – and viking – classes similar to the caste system: warriors, merchants, priests… Astonishing indeed. Have a great week-end.

        Liked by 1 person

  7. I can’t shake the sense that these cattle are in some way related to the docile sheepdog. Probably the long matted hair hanging over their eyes (how DO they see anyway?). And I can almost see your head shaking as you look back of the photo effects rendered on the cow with the beautifully misshapen horn;)

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    1. Can you? I want to smack myself, turn back time and… but well I have to make peace with the fact that we have got to lumber back to Skye. Beautifully misshapen horn! I like the sound of that for what is beauty if not flawed?

      It might be a deadlock, I am afraid. If there is a competition between the two breeds. Unless the cow scores one with its impressive horns.

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  8. Omg you have to convinced me to try to visit Scottish highlands! It looks absolutely blissful. The scenery looks so pristine and the cows are cute too. Gaelic looks to me a bit like Icelandic. Hard to believe that some people still use the language. Your words about a typical Scottish highlander’s life in the past made me picture the scenes in my mind. 🙂 Looks like I need to get there while I am in Europe!

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    1. Pooja, you would love it. Isle of Skye is just another cup of tea altogether. You will be in communion with nature and it feels heavenly. Scottish Gaelic is tough to pronounce and they have a school on the isle where they teach the language. Some young islanders are learning it in an attempt to hold on to a dying language. A bit of sounded like Bengali, if you will believe it 😉 The use of the ‘bh’ sound, for instance.

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  9. You are so brave to get close to that cow with horns! Although s/he is so laid-back looking… love the flop of hair over the face… so 1970s, lol. Lovely photos! 😃

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    1. Thank you Paula. She was busy scratching herself, so I could take advantage of the moment. There were calves nearby and they are incredibly protective as all mammas are, so I had to did have to switch on my stealth power 😉 xx

      Liked by 1 person

  10. I cannot wait to get up to Scotland “proper” next year. The closest we have come so far this year is Gretna (we nipped over the border for the EV supercharger …) I love your photographs – especially the Meald waterfall, wow :o)

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  11. More delights of Scotland, thank you. Can you believe I just read about Flora McDonald? I was writing about a Georgian building and her name caught my attention. Also, cows are bigger (and spookier) in person than we think, that was a brave picture!

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    1. Imagine that! She was such a braveheart and her story is immensely inspiring. I am curious about the connection between the Georgian building and her…what is it?

      The cows are bigger and spooky indeed. I once had the distinct pleasure of fleeing the scene where a herd started advancing towards me with stony expression. These coos look too cute though. They are more wary only when they have their young ones around.

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      1. That must have been very scary! I am glad these were of the peaceful kind 😉
        I was writing about the Horse Guards building, built in 1753 and had to read about all the wars and rebellions including the Jacobite Risings (it’s a military building). But my mind, which loves to wander, always picks up on the quirkiest characters of the story and after a little clicking here and there I ended up reading her story. I still need to do more research about her as I am sure there’s more than what I read.

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      2. She was brought to London, I remember reading, and she was treated with utmost gentility because she was a gracious person and commanded it. The Jacobite uprisings are filled with such stories. Dark and disturbing but romantic as well! Enjoy your research 🙂 xx

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  12. She is looking rather gorgeous that cow. They are – if this doesn’t sound too weird – strangely attractive! Also, everyone talks to cows. It’s practically the law 🙂

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  13. This place looks spectacular! I love mountains and being completely in nature like that without the eyesore of buildings and houses. Also, that cow is really cool looking! I’ve never seen one like that.

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  14. What a fabulous post Arundhati! I love the way you write…truly romantic. That cow! How adorable. I have never been to Scotland, never mind Skye. I have read about Flora McDonald. Imagine living her life? I saw her portrait at the Ashmolean museum in Oxford recently. Thank you once again for a brilliant read over my morning coffee!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you Sophie! You could always pop into Scotland whenever 🙂 It woos the imagination. I cannot imagine how brave Flora was – given the times she was living in. And the cows are such poppets. They definitely demand a visit. 😉 xx

      Liked by 1 person

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