Monday, 28 February 2011

Wee Folk - many folk

The tour begins again for Jennifer, Charles and their daughters.

Jenn has been at a workshop in Glasgow for the last few days, Living in the Heart, and the family have been experiencing the city.

We picked them up this morning and traveled east to Rosslyn Chapel.  There we met with the workshop friends and the host, Ron Laplace.  A grand bunch of people with big hearts and bigger smiles.

I had not been to the chapel for many years.  It now sits under its own roof, not the temporary one that was in place, like a big steel gazebo, for 14 years.

A photo would have been good, but tour guided-error left the camera in the van.  I've noticed the camera doesn't work very well under such conditions.  Sorry about that.

The place is much changed.  We were blessed to be present when a prayer ceremony took place.  The pews were full with visitors amidst red and white barriers to keep people falling into the open holes left by the workmen who are still working away on the fabric.  They could be heard outside banging lumps of metal together and shuffling quietly through the seated throng sporting hi-viz vests and tool boxes.  Quite an incongruous energy at first glance until the little old lady reading out the prayer requests calls for healing for a family, whose father is one of the workmen on the chapel.  Brought it all together.

The new lead roof on the chapel is very fine and apparently a lot better than the original one that leaked, so the curator says, since the beginning in the 13-14th century.  Our guests enjoyed it, more so for being able to share it with friends.  Perhaps we'll hear from them in their own words later.

From there we headed down into the Glenn that the chapel sits above.  Ron Laplace's guests and all.

It's more of a gorge than a glen, with shear sandstone cliffs at some points.  The place is full of native trees and today had warm sunlight dappling the river over a hundred feet below the rim.  There is an ancient quality, a human quality even, to the glen.  Perhaps the presence of hand cut caves into the sandstone and old monastic walls in the fields above give the impression of a place of much sacred daily life, only recently grown over.

I led us down and then along the river finally coming up beneath the Rosslyn Castle.  From this angle it looks more like a castle in Transalvania or Wallachia, perched on the gorge face, trees encroaching.

The imposing stone was softened by the wild garlic that is just coming into leaf all around the castle on the slopes below.  Their bright green blade-like leaves shone in the sun beneath the leafless trees.  The smell was clear and refreshing.

This evening the girls were awed by having late lunch /dinner in another castle.  "It's like, a real castle", said Assata.  "It is a real castle", came the reply.
"So how old is it?" she asked.  "Well bits in the middle are about 700 years old, but this bit here by the door is quite young, maybe only three or four hundred."
"Yeh," she said, looking a bit non-plussed, "only three or four hundred."

I have performed a couple of weddings here and I told the story over dinner of the couple who wanted their rings delivered to the altar by an owl.  I raised an eyebrow at this one when they sprung it on me half an hour before the ceremony.

As we called for the rings in the wedding, I wasn't much surprised when the owl did not fly down the isle as trained but veered off and crashed into the pews.  A long minute of self containment passed before the poor bird finally hopped up onto the best man's gauntlet and the rings were retrieved. 

Tonight we are sleeping in an old smiddy, deep in the Highlands.  Water rushes by, courtesy of the falls outside the house.  The place is surrounded by trees and it's below freezing.  Math gu dearbh! (Good indeed!)


Thursday, 24 February 2011

Day 3 in search of ... silkies

I thought some images of the house we have been staying in would be of interest.

First flowers of the year - Snowdrops

Birch Owl - every home should have one to catch the wooden mice

Now, some words from yesterday from those who were there.

Assata (eldest daughter): “its been fun here in Scotland,we've done a lot..We've gone to lots of places and seen lots of things."

Jenn: "A highlight for me in Kilmarten was the sacred well near the remains of a settlement. We were all (children and adults alike) entranced by the water – its taste, its marking stone with the Middle Eastern cross and pagan symbols, its reflection, its temperature, and all of the life bubbling up inside it. We encircled the tiny well pool for some time, gazing into it. To me, it felt connected to the heavens."
Investigating the holy well

The place engages the attention
So, that was a little more on yesterday.  Today we are in search of Wee Folk for wee folk - it's off to the aquarium.  Shy octopus, seals, sea stars.  We are all in our little child mode, gazing upon beautiful things with awe and wonder.

Here endeth part one of the tour.  Jenn is taking part in a workshop in Glasgow for a few days.  The children and Charles will have play a plenty in the big city.

I'm off to a conference of thespians.  Could be hell in a bottle...

Bidh sinn gur faicinn a-rithist. We'll be seeing you again, next week for a trip into the Highlands in search of earth energies.

Wednesday, 23 February 2011

Tour Day 2 of the Wee Folk

Meeting Stones and Water
Might be a good title for the day.  The guests are all in bed.  We wore them out, so there will be no words from them.  I sit by the fire (as seen in yestere'en's post) and recount the Tale of the day.

Aven has been joining us on our tour - in the blogosphere.  Nice to hear from you and know that you are with us, lass.  As many will know, our tours are a bit like a select club of followers, guests, friends.  Like the Cosa Nostra, anyone can join but they can never leave, so you are welcome with us Aven.  Send my regards to your quiet man, John.

To the day...

The posse, ready for mischief
We've been finding out about our guests.  That's Cee Cee in the front in pink.  She's too cute to be trifled with.  She sits in the middle seat of honour in the van, surveying the road ahead and bursting into song and great volume and enthusiasm.  "Dingle beh, Dingle beh, dingle aw duh ay!"

We went today to a place who's name I won't publish here, for the downside of the internet is that search engines can soon rack up a huge amount of publicity for a place, much more than the fragile beauty can cope with.  I'm thinking that if you're meant to find the place, you will.  It's one of Britain's gems and constitutes a huge collection of ancient sites in a fertile glen of Mid Argyll, named after a Celtic-Christian community of the 6th and 7th century founded on the teachings of Martin de Tour.  Nuf said?  You can work it out.

Samantha and I lived in this Glen for 5 years and I spent most of my time guiding visitors around it or with my nose in the archives researching it's history, so I know it quite well.  There are a large number of ancient burial chambers, amongst the many, many attractions.

Cee Cee and Charles make their own ceremony to raise the dead.  They sit in a burial ciste 4000 years old.  The ceremony involved Cee Cee singing, of course.  "Dingo beh, dingo beh..."
The stone circle with it's flooring of cairn stones

We went then to an even less visited place where the roofless dwellings of the families from the 1600s still stand, surrounding and caring for a sacred well that produces the most sweet water.  We spent much time drinking and getting close to this soothing elixir, playing with lampreys and tiny fresh water shrimps ("caterpillars" to Cee Cee) that inhabit the well, like water spirits.
Towering over a byre in the clachan (hamlet) is a most beautiful larch tree, and my favourite image of the day, below.

"Number 3, The Larch"
The final stop of the day was a castle, burnt out 350 years ago.  It's not in bad shape. We climbed two of its towers and gazed the length of the great hall.  Tonight after a wonderful meal from our host, I told the Tale of the man that built it and published the first book in the Gaidhlig language from the castle, to the grandson that lost the place to a bloody feud and vengeful MacLeans bearing torches and daggers.

Worthy of mention is our meal this night.  We are staying in a rather sumptuous estate house with Mathew and Yvonne.  It is a "Dinner B&B" which is a title that does it no justice.  We are staying in the home of two fine people, which we share with them.  Mathew is a most excellent cook.  He prepared a fresh four course meal which was enjoyed in his regal dining room.  Not bad for a man who left of pouring the concrete floor of his new shed not two hours before.  Busy and varied people are highlanders.

Tomorrow?  Oh I don't know, castles?  the ocean? the repository of wonderful creatures?  the capital of an ancient kingdom?
You'll have to follow follow follow...

Monday, 21 February 2011

Tour - In Search of Wee Folk

Also known as The Adventures of Charlie's Angels.

So, blog followers, Scot writes to you from a fine mansion house on the West Coast of Scotland.  We are guiding a private tour for Jennifer, Charles and their three lassies.  A grand bunch of explorers in the Outlandish Spirit.

It's a private tour request and the focus is "the sacred sites and haunts of the Wee Folk" to paraphrase Jennifer.  We have many of these to choose from and we know more than enough to keep our braw guests happy and satiated for a week.

We picked them up from the airport this morning and they are very tired, so we'll be gentle with them - just a wee hill hike, or two.

The first adventure for the girls is a ferry ride Doon the Watter, as the Glaswegians say.  We're over to green and luscious Cowal to a strange wee ravine where as the water pours down and the trees block out the light, the moss and mist drip into the fast clear water and you might think that every lump of rock, buttress of root and branch is sentient.  The place is more than alive, where eyes watch you, eyes that sit secretively in beings that are part animal, part mineral and mostly tree.  There's a good reason that they call this place Puck's Glen.
Wee Folk in Puck's Glen
Jennifer's description "a magically alive glen that was somehow brought even more to life by the snow falling.  The light coming through the canopy...  I saw more in the periphery than simply by looking up."
Yup, that's Puck's Glen.

So, upon settling into our B&B, they are looking much better after a picnic dinner we brought along. We're now sat in the comfortable drawing room in front of the open fire playing cards amidst the silken curtains and brocaded armchairs.

An antiquated photo of our wee mansion.

A bit of Luxury - Like walking into a Country Home magazine!
So, Outlandish Followers, a bit of luxury on this private tour to ease the jet lag out of the body and nurture the soul with beautiful surroundings,  a warm fire, fantastic cuisine being prepared for us tomorrow and welcoming, friendly hosts .  Tomorrow we will be visiting some of the greatest ancient places, standing stones and folk where the wee-folk live.  Want your name spoken into a sacred tree?  A stone placed in the earth with your name on it? Live vicariously this week.  Perhaps next time it will be you.

Scot AnSgeulaiche, storyteller, regaler of history, stealer of blogs.