S C O T L A N D : D A Y 6
AUGUST 24 (Thursday) -- Oban to Kyle of Lochalsh
The next day was Wedding Day. Ann and I decided that we would get up early and do laundry, so we drove into Oban to try to locate a laundromat. We found one, but since there weren't many machines and most of them were in use, when the time came that we had to be back at the hotel to change into our wedding clothes, we wound up having to take our wet clothes back with us. (I never did find a dryer, and since I didn't think Jon [with whom I was sharing rooms] would appreciate my leaving socks, shorts and shirts draped across everything the entire time... well, let's just say it was an uncomfortable few days.)
But the wedding itself went off without a hitch. Gin looked beautiful, Bill looked proud, everyone else looked happy, and I didn't drop the ring when the time came. It was a wet, drizzly day outside, but inside the brightly-lit old church we were as snug as could be, while the minister's words echoed warmly around us.The church in Connel
Now that's how to have a wedding.
Afterwards, we sorted ourselves out back at the hotel, where Tricia scored many points in my book by making sure I got my share of little sandwiches and cold Cokes. Then it was off on the road again for everyone but Bill and Gin, who would be enjoying an abbreviated honeymoon there in Connel.
One of the places I desperately wanted to see was scheduled for this part of the trip: the aptly- named Glencoe: the Glen of Weeping. A turnoff to the east from our northerly progress (which we missed the first time) led us to the Glencoe Visitor's Centre. Here we saw a short video program that told the story of how the MacDonalds of Glencoe in the late 1600s had angered the Scottish ministers to the Dutch king of Scotland and England--a king who had supplanted the Scottish king by birth, James VII. These MacDonalds of Glencoe were not without flaw (cattle theft being the most well-known of their vices), and they were cordially despised by their neighbors, but the response to their support for the deposed Scottish monarch was to become a national scandal for its severity.
Late in 1691, the Master of Stair (Secretary of State and chief Scottish advisor to the new king, William III, earlier known as William, Prince of Orange) proposed that Jacobites be given "amnesty" by forcing them to sign an oath of loyalty to the new king. Perhaps seeing a convenient way to eliminate a few enemies of the state, the king was convinced to require the signing of this bond by January 1 of the new year, and in only a few places.
As hoped, the MacDonalds of Glencoe were one of those clans that had trouble complying with this order. Never too enthusiastic about it to begin with, they arrived in Fort William just before the end of the year to sign... only to be told that they could not sign there; they would have to travel back south. MacIan MacDonald of Glencoe signed on January 5, 1692, and thought that was the end of it.
In early February, government troops under the command of a Captain Robert Campbell of Glenlyon were quartered in the homes of the MacDonalds of Glencoe. The MacDonalds took them in, showing them the open-handed hospitality which was a Highlander custom rarely refused even to one's enemies. Twelve days into their stay, the government soldiers rose before dawn and repaid the courtesy of their hosts by--according to their orders from London--putting to the sword every soul they could find under seventy years of age.
There were some 150 men of the clan. Captain Campbell and his 128 soldiers slaughtered 38 persons, including two women and two children. Most of the clan escaped to the snowy and inhospitable hills, where they endured for several months on the run.
This event may have been on the minds of the American Founding Fathers when they insisted on the Third Amendment to the U.S. Constitution in the Bill of Rights: "No soldier shall, in time of peace be quartered in any house, without the consent of the Owner, nor in time of war, but in a manner to be prescribed by law." Few in America today may remember why such a law was deemed so important, but in Glen Coe I saw Scottish faces grim with a 300-year-old memory of injustice.
After we left the Visitor's Centre (where I managed to find another book store), we drove through the hills of Glen Coe. This was, for me, one of the most heart-stoppingly beautiful places of the entire trip. As dramatic as Mull had been in its openness, so Glen Coe was in its misty mystery. Ridges like green spikes shot up without warning, their peaks disappearing into the low gray fog that lay over the land like a shroud. They say that it is always so in the Glen of Weeping, and I believe them.Glencoe
Finally we shook ourselves free of the glamour of the place and piled back into our cars to find our road north again. Tricia and I were sharing a car at this point, which let us get to know one another better--one of the really enjoyable moments of the trip for me. And then, having passed Eilean Donan Castle (probably the most-photographed castle in all of Scotland), we reached our hotel at Kyle of Lochalsh.
The Lochalsh Hotel is one of those seaside hotels with great charm. Though large and somewhat expensive, it repays you with lovely vistas and all the cool, fresh ocean air you can draw into your lungs. As you look out your bedroom window across the narrow channel to Skye, seagulls will catch crackers tossed into the air.
That night found us all at what must have been the hotspot for all nearby night life--the local dining establishment. It was crowded and noisy and hot, and everyone in the place seemed to be having a rollicking good time. After several hours of this, we stumbled through the darkness back to our hotel by the water.
Later on that night we all sat together downstairs in the lobby, where some of us insisted on sampling various odd and unpalatable things from the nearby bar. Beth brought out a deck of cards, so Tricia went to work on several games of Solitaire which she kept losing. All of us except Tricia thought it was pretty funny when we realized that she was playing with one-half of a merged Canasta deck. (Having duplicates of some cards while others were missing completely would have made it pretty difficult for anyone to win a game of Solitaire.)
When the billiard table proved to be equally unworkable, we retired for the night.
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