Albion, ancient sites

Dreaming Stones: The Fairy Rock Motel

We sensibly headed back towards Portree, guessing that, the later it got, the more visitors would have departed. There was every possibility of finding a parking space, dinner and lodgings. First though, we had to get there and, as we saw a sign for the first inn we had seen on the island, we reckoned a stop was in order. And anyway, why go into town if the inn might cater for our needs?

Fairy Bridge, Skye, image © Copyright John Lord at Geograph (CCL)

Another single track road wandered round sharp bends and down steep hills towards the shores of the Waternish Penninsula. Had we but realised, the bridge that we passed and admired was the famous Fairy Bridge. Around here, the legend runs that the Fae-woman who married the MacCleod could stay with him but one year and it was here she said her farewell, wrapping their infant son in a silken shawl… the Fairy Flag of Dunvegan.

The inn sits long and low by the waterside, with zen rabbits meditating under the incongruous palm trees that dot the island’s shores. The date carved above the door, 1790, refers to the present construction, though there are parts of the inn that are older. It boasts accommodation, good food and a selection of a hundred and thirty whiskies. All I wanted was the first coffee of the day! Considering how far it is off the beaten track, it was exceedingly busy. We stood no chance at all of either a meal or a bed… but coffee was enough for now.

We passed a pleasant hour there before heading off, once again, to Portree. The evening was advancing rapidly, so we knew we would find a parking space, if nothing else. And we did, straight away. It was at this point that the heavens opened once again, tipping rain by the bucketful on the car. We tried to wait it out, but eventually got the message and gave up. We were obviously not supposed to be in Portree. But if not, where exactly were we supposed to be?

The rain stopped as soon as we drove away, heading back past Bride’s Veil waterfall and the Old Man of Storr, who was wreathed in clouds and emanating a rather self-satisfied vibe. There was a distinct impression that we were being herded and would get no peace until we went where we were guided. Bearing in mind that I had once again been driving all day and we had done the circuit of the island at least twice by now, we headed back, yet again, towards Uig. At least we would be handy for the ferry… and, if all else failed, we’d seen a parking spot on the cliff top and another in the village that might do for a couple of hours.

The space on the cliffs proved to be way too exposed. What had looked like a nice place to pull off the road was just a widening of it and right on a bend. Plus, the wind and rain would have battered the car all night. The one in the village was full and didn’t feel right anyway. We had no idea where to go… and then, suddenly, I did.

Taking the main road back out of Uig, the way we had arrived in the morning, I found a tiny turning I had noticed. We had no idea where it led… it could have been a farm entrance for all we knew. The track was tarmac, but had seen better days. It was barely wide enough for three sheep abreast… and there were far more than any three, causing the first traffic jam we had seen for days.

They were curious, unused to strange vehicles, and the lambs were delightful… you could actually see them ‘asking’ their mothers if we were safe and how to handle us and watch as Mum reassured them and told them to be cautious… but that we were okay. A couple of hundred yards down the track, we found a hollow with raised sides… a little amphitheatre by the side of the track and sheltered by a small rock face. It was perfect… private… quiet.

Thankful that we’d packed blankets and a sleeping bag, we snuggled down for the night. Not that I could get to sleep… I was quite happy and completely at peace, watching the clouds race and the rain fall. Late as it was, there is no true darkness that far north in summer and the curious little sheep, once we had reassured them that we were not going to move for a while, clambered over the rocks for a better look at the strange creatures in the glass cave.

It was an odd night. The rain lashed down upon us as if determined to veil the land from sight. Stuart woke at one point, sleepily convinced, after a vivid dream, that we were going to float away. Meanwhile, I watched the rocks come alive after midnight, with faces and forms moving, dancing and watching us as I finally fell into sleep and a vivid world of dreams. When I told Stuart about them, it appeared that we had both seen them… and the spot became the Fairy Rock for us. Next morning we were up early, strangely refreshed and heading towards Uig and the ferry. But that was not the end of the tale…

Researching this as I wrote, something prompted me to see if I could find the spot on Google Maps. It was almost reassuring to see it actually existed as it had seemed quite surreal, both at the time and in memory. The road even has a hamlet at the end of it called Cuidrach. And then the same something nudged me to check those capricious sources of mine… the ones that had erroneously told us there were only three ancient sites on Skye before we left, but which have since revealed hundreds of the things.

Image of the ‘road’ to Cuidrach and the Fairy Rock, lifted from © Google Maps

I tapped in Cuidrach and it came back with a map image… showing the position of a site we had known nothing about, a hundred yards from where we had parked. Cuidrach stone setting is ruined circle of stones with a cairn which was probably a prehistoric burial site. There is little to see now, but learning of its presence, so close to where we slept, was a rather strange feeling, especially with all the faery lore associated with the ancient sites in Scotland. It became even odder when I did a little more research on some of the other pertinent places on that trip… but they come later in the story. Odd, too that, long before the research, for the title of this narrative I should have chosen ‘Dreaming Stones‘…

Perhaps the faces in the Fairy Rock were not so fanciful after all? If so, they seemed to be watching over us… and, although we did not know it as we left, we were about to need all the help we could get…

Image lifted from ©Google maps

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