Scottish Highlands | Corrupt Uncorrupted Lands of Scotland

RootlessRoutes 2018

Scotland is a beautiful country. The Scottish Highlands, magnificent to behold. To revel in the grandeur of its ethereal terrain is a privilege I hold dear.

Scotland draws thousands of visitors each year. Most are now drawn to the fetching scenery of Scotland’s northern wilds. The Scottish Highlands are now Scotland’s largest tourism draw after Edinburgh.

As we hike, bike, drive and enjoy the breathtaking landscape and exhilarating roads, the wonder of this place is undeniable.

Yet a dark narrative lurks behind its stark allure.

How did such a magical landscape become a domain for mostly sheep?

RootlessRoutes Scotland 2018
Sheep in a treeless vista. Bealach Na BA Scottish Highlands 2018

Although never highly populated, the uncultivated land we see today and subsequently the sparse population of the Scottish Highlands is not a completely natural occurrence.

Centuries of clear cutting helped to deforest an already receding woodland. Regrowth, suppressed to make room for sheep.

The populace, cleared by force… much like the trees. Ripped from their roots, to also make room for sheep.

By the 1850s the Highland culture, demonized and disregarded for centuries had been virtually eradicated.

The insidious nature of centuries of repression, maintains its steely grasp on much of Scotland’s countryside today.

RootlessRoutes Northwest Highlands 2017
Northwest Highlands. RootlessRoutes Scotland 2017

The caustic relationship between England and Scotland runs long and deep.

For centuries a Brit marrying a Scot, was a crime punishable by death. The borderland between England and Scotland, a bloody no man’s land.

In time, Britons melded a bit with the lowland Scots, albeit with a wary eye. But the rogue nature of clan culture made it hard to tame the Highlands.

The dividing line between the Highlands and Lowlands has never been distinctly clear. The negative view of the natives of these Highlands have remained crystal clear

The Stuarts / Stewarts 

The House of Stuart (Stewart), started with Robert II. The Stuarts bared Kings and Queens of Scotland from the late 14th Century. When Queen Elizabeth I died in 1603 the true reign of the Stuarts began with James I.

It was a Renaissancian time for Scotland.

Except for the brief time that England was a Commonwealth (1649  1660), the Stuarts remained monarchs until the death of Queen Anne in 1714.

In 1707 the independent Kingdom of Scotland merged with England. The Act of Union created the Kingdom of Great Britain. In many ways this benefitted both nations. Scotland needed money and Britain needed a way to control their feral neighbor to the North.

The Jacobites of the Scottish Highlands

Although flawed, James I of England VI of Scotland, was highly regarded by his people, having experienced long standing peace and fairly low taxation.

Upon his death his son Charles I ruled with a steady hand, yet at a turbulent time. His unyielding disagreements with Parliament and the rise of Cromwell as a Commonwealth leader, led to the loss his head.

Portrait of King James
James I of England & Ireland VI of Scotland.

Nine years later, with the monarchy restored, Charles II became another much beloved King who reigned true. He died young. 

His arrogant and disagreeable brother James II succeeded him. With the blessing of Parliament, James II was quickly deposed by William and Mary (James II son in law and daughter). The Convention of Estates in Scotland, recognized William and Mary as legitimate monarchs over James II.

Death & The Divine Right of Kings

But Jacobite leanings in the Highlands stemmed mostly from the supportive treatment of the Highland clans by James I, and their continued belief in the “Divine Right of Kings”. Because of this, numerous Jacobite attempts were made to restore James and his descendants to the throne.

On April 16, 1746, the Jacobites met their most devastating defeat at Culloden Moor. 

Culloden Battlefield Rootless Routes Inverness Scotland 2017 by Elizabeth Whitener
Culloden battlefield

Thousands of men died in the name of Charles Edward Stuart. (The Bonnie Prince).  An ominous sense of foreboding still permeates that boggy hill in Inverness.

Cause & Effect

In the hope of suppressing any possibility of future Jacobite uprisings. The Duke of Cumberland (King George II’s son), did everything he could to end the Highland way life.

Kilts and Tartans were banned. Clans forbidden. Anyone suspected of Jacobite connections were imprisoned, executed or forcibly transported to the Americas. Scottish Gaelic was discouraged and suppressed.

Sadly, this is not where this tragic decimation of the Highland culture ends.

The Clearances

Most Highlanders were monetarily poor and living off the land. At the time of the final Jacobite rebellion, they mostly lived as tenant farmers. This meant paying rent (aka tax) to clan chiefs and land owners for land that had been passed down through their families for centuries.

The process of clearing out people began prior to 1745, but sped up quickly after the final Jacobite rebellion.

The deconstruction of clan society created a detachment between clan chiefs and their kinsman. In a short time, many of the chiefs grew to closely resemble British aristocracy, and saw their kinsmen a disposable commodity.

Shocked Scottish sheep. Rootless Routes Scotland 2017 photo by Elizabeth Whitener
Sheep shocked by the dreadful driving skills of tourists driving on Skye. Scotland 2017 Arnisdale / Glenelg by Elizabeth Whitener Rootless routes

In the name of agricultural improvement, tenant farmers were forcibly relocated to make room for the more profitable sheep.

With no laws to protect these farmers, most moved to coastal areas to fish for kelp. Many Highland Scots had no choice but to emigrate. Entire ancient communities were completely wiped out.

In the 1820s the fishing and kelp industry died. To prohibit people from moving back inland, owners raised rents to unreasonable levels.

Then 1844 saw a devastating potato famine and more Scots were forced to emigrate or die.

Landowners continued to clear people from their lands until the 1850s.

Today there are more full blood Highlands descendents living in North Carolina than in Scotland.

Who the Hell owns Scotland?

Recent studies show that 432 people own half of all privately-owned land in Scotland, making this one of the highest concentrations of private land ownership in all of Europe. There is no way for the public to discover who owns what in Scotland. Nor how that land got into their hands.

The Scottish Land Commission (SLC) was formed to analyze the situation and make recommendations which could lead to significant changes in land law. It is their job to establish whether so few people holding so much land is detrimental to society.

Until something is decided, the vast open tracts of stunningly remarkable landscapes shall continue to draw visitors. As will the lochs and mountains dotted with rotting ancient brochs, farms, estates and castles on the horizon.

Winding single track roads will continue to curve through baaing sheep, and the tourists will keep coming.

Now What?

A sad irony in this grim history is the accidental but prudent result of this mass misappropriation of land. If more land goes into the hands of more Scots, what does that mean for the landscape?

The uncommercialized and undeveloped land of the Highlands, undoubtedly is one of the reasons why it remains so unique. The uncorrupted vistas are the crux of Scotland’s tourism boom. Subsequently supplying a new found wealth to Scotland. Albeit, who is most gaining from the monetary insurgence in Scotland remains to be clear.

With the indubitable right for more Scottish citizens to own land, build homes and live their lives, comes the need for more roads, more shops and more commercialization. In order to progress, the things that make this land so very remarkable may also be the most vulnerable.

How does a country offer fair opportunity to regain some of the losses of a people long repressed, without destroying the best parts of itself in the process? I simply do not know.

What I do know, is that when experiencing this awe inspiring environment, as it stands today or as it may be in the future, it is important to understand its history and contemplate the depths of the loss that got them here.

When you gaze upon the huge swaths of stunning vacant land, you should also appreciate the lives that once called this place home. The harsh realities of a culture so thoroughly washed away, that its remnants have become as natural a part of the environment, as the sheep.

Splendor on The Isle of Skye Scotland

Waterfall at the Fairy Pools, Isle of Skye 2018 Rootless Routes by Elizabeth Whitener

Isle of Skye Scotland 

An t-Eilean Sgitheanach / Eilean a’ Cheò

The Isle of Skye. Awash with astonishing scenery, enchanting locations and otherworldly landscapes. Skye also holds historic significance in the tumultuous story of the Highlands of Scotland.

Brimming with pure splendor. Packed into a mere 650 square miles of immutable space. Skye is quite simply a wonder.

Driving the magical island is truly a one of a kind experience. Staying there is simply brilliant.

Looking back on the Old Man of Storr
The Storr, taken from Tobhta Uachdrach view point. Isle of Skye Scotland Rootless Routes photo by Elizabeth Whitener 2018

The Island may be compact, but it is filled with resplendence.

And… don’t forget the fairies.

The Fairy Glen near Uig, Isle of Skye Scotland / Scottish Highlands Rootless Routes 2018 by Elizabeth Whitener
The Fairy Glen near Uig, Isle of Skye Scotland / Scottish Highlands Rootless Routes 2018 by Elizabeth Whitener
NC500 Fairy Pools Isle of Skye Scottish Highlands Scotland 2018 Rootless routes by Elizabeth Whitener
Fairy Pools / Glen Brittle / Carbost / Isle of Skye Scottish Highlands Scotland 2018 Rootless routes by Elizabeth Whitener

Skye’s deep connection to fairies, prehistoric archeology and geological anomalies is as entrenched in its heritage and lore, as is its formidable terrain. With such mystical vistas, it is no surprise that Skye is rich in ancient Norse, Celtic and Pagan lore.

Skye’s distinctive topographies are both lush and barren, contained and wild. A perfect analogy for much of Scotland and the Scottish Highlands. Historically, environmentally and geologically.

Abundant in wildlife, including Red Deer, Golden Eagles, Sea Eagles, Gannets, Seals, Whales, Puffins, Otters, Pine Marten and a large variety of birds. The Island offers much to do and see.

It is not difficult to imagine a fairy choosing the Isle of Skye as their home.

Dunvegan Castle Gardens holds the precious Fairy Flag Isle of Skye Rootless Routes 2018
Gorgeous falls at Dunvegan Castle Gardens. Isle of Skye Scotland Rootless Routes 2018 Elizabeth Whitener

Everybody Wants a Piece of Skye

Since the Norse stepped foot on this ethereal land thousands of years ago, the magic of the Island has been a fairly well kept secret. First savoured by the Brits, then by parts of Europe. This is no longer the case.

More than 600,000 vehicles cross the Sky Bridge / Crossing every year. Scotland’s boom in tourism is indeed taking its toll. Its effects can be seen on the environment as well as on the infrastructure. A common plight with which all of Scotland is now attempting to cope.

Isle of Skye puzzle piece like coastline. NC500 route. 2018 Rootless Routes
Water view from Tabhta Uachbrach view point. Rootless Routes 2018 Elizabeth Whitener Isle of Skye

An Enduring Skye

Yet unlike the ever unstable and inimical Quiraing, created by ancient rock crumbling beneath the weight of the invading rock above. The people of here remain warm, welcoming and unremitting. I imagine it is difficult to feel overcrowded with views like this.

The largest, northernmost, major island in Scotland’s Inner Hebrides. Skye has been inhabited since the Mesolithic period. Much like the Orkneys, Skye’s ties run deep with early Norse occupation.

Fairy Glen NC500 Rootes of the Routless
The Fairy Glen near Uig, Isle of Skye Scotland / Scottish Highlands Rootless Routes 2018 by Elizabeth Whitener
Dunvegan Castle NC500 Isle of Skye Rootless Routes 2018
Dunvegan Castle Home of the MacLeods Isle of Skye 2018 Rootless Routes

The Powerful Clans of Skye

Skye’s legacy includes a lengthy ascendancy with Clan MacLeod and Clan MacDonald  and was greatly impacted by the final Jacobite uprising.  You can find Flora MacDonald’s grave site here, as well as fascinating relics of her history in Dunvegan Castle . This ancient fortress and home to Clan MacLeod, is a fantastic visit. I should know, I’ve visited a lot of Scottish Castles. And within the walls of antiquity, this formidable castle, that remains inhabited by MacLeods yet to this day is the prized Fairy Flag

Jacobite Connections

After the the failed rising and the tragic end at Culloden. Flora, dressed the Bonnie Prince in women’s clothing and helped to secret him away and out of Scotland. She is seen by many as a brave Jacobite heroine. Ironically she was not likely a jacobite at all, just a very sweet, nurturing woman who liked to help people. But regardless, she likely saved Prince Charles life and her connection to the Island of Skye runs deep.

Portrait of the Bonnie Prince

The resulting clearances that continued for over 100 years after the uprisings tragic end, resulted in a huge population decline on Skye, the effects of which are still keenly felt today.

Fairy Glen, Isle of Skye NC500 route
Fairy Glen sheep with an attitude problem Rootless Routes Isle of Skye 2018 by Elizabeth Whitener

Most of the land is still owned by those that do not live on the Island. The sheep farms are mostly (if not all) tenant run with little rights over the whims of the land owners. And although the island is teeming with tourists, much of that money does not find its way to the crumbling infrastructure, nor to the people that live there.

Wages on the island are lower than average and rents are much higher (so tip… yes you should indeed tip). Long term rentals are nearly non existent. Nonetheless, the people of Skye seem to maintain an indubitable spirit. As do their sheep.

Visit The Isle of Skye

It is well worth a full day, if not two, to explore this magical place. In fact, you certainly would not run out of things to do or see, if you spent an entire week there. Sky offers endless attractions for young and old alike.

If you are planning to visit Scotland, do not miss out on this stunning place. I suggest you do it soon. For even the most enduring of communities can only bare the weight of such a severely overburdened infrastructure and countryside, for just so long.

Routes for traveling this gorgeous little island will be added to RootlessRoutes very soon and then linked here.

Great Britain, Ireland & Colin Farrell (What You Didn’t Know About The UK)

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Johnny Rotten wants to save the Queen

The Union Jack is the flag of the United Kingdom of Great Britain.

That is Johnny Rotten standing in front of said flag… to me he is about as British as one can get. He really has a thing for the Queen. Although he goes by John Lydon these days and he lives in LA. LA is in fact not part of Great Britain.

Now the flag of Great Britain, consists of the English flag

St. Georges Cross
St. Georges Cross aka The English Flag

The flag of Scotland

Scottish Flag
St Andrews Cross aka The Flag of Scotland

and Northern Ireland’s flag

St. Patrick's Cross
St. Patrick’s Cross aka The flag of Ireland

Wales, you don’t get a mention.

Already united with England when the Union Jack was created, Wales ends up screwed and does not get a represent! (You’d think for stickin’ it out with the imperialist monarchy for so long, they’d at least get a mention.)

GB Great Britain
GB ‘Great Britain’ logo

Great Britain is not a country. Really, it’s not! It is an island consisting of England, Scotland & Wales.

The U.K. (United Kingdom) is a country consisting of four (4) nations or perhaps provinces, that are really also technically countries depending on to whom you speak.

For centuries many Scots have resisted being part of the U.K. and pockets of daring souls have periodically risen up through time against the English to gain their solidarity.

Kildrummy Castle
Kildrummy Castle. Kildrummy prospered for centuries until that little English rebellion bit.

Scottish rebellion against the English pretty much has always lead to the complete ruination of everyone involved including ancient dynasties…

Ireland is NOT a country. It is an island, like Great Britain. It is mostly not part of the U.K., beyond that wee little Northern bit. Many of the Irish had rebelled against English rule for centuries.  The Irish Free State officially gained their absolute independence in 1922 when both parliaments ratified the Treaty, formalising independence for the 26 county Irish Free State. Ireland dropped the “Free State” part in 1937, and declared itself a Republic in 1949. The 6 county Northern Ireland remains part of the United Kingdom.

Map of Ireland
Map of Ireland

Cork is in Ireland and it makes great gin. Colin Farrell is from Castleknock, which is 2.5 hours from Cork and completely irrelevant to this post, but now you know. Remember it! Oh and I’m pretty sure Colin lives in LA. LA is not in Ireland.

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Colin is not a Brit.

Ewan McGregor is a Scot and as you can see, wears a kilt. He is also a Brit. I kinda think he may also live in LA. LA is not in Scotland.

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Ewan is a Brit and a Scot. He doesn’t look unhappy to be in a kilt

I have no fucking clue why Colin Farrell is wearing a kilt. He certainly does not look very please about it.

Colin Farrell in a kilt
Colin Farrell is not a Brit, is not from the UK, is not a Scot.

As mentioned before, Ireland is made up of two (2) provinces or countries, depending on to whom you speak. Northern Ireland is part of the U.K., The Republic of Ireland is not.

Everybody knows this but for Americans. As in those from the United States, not North Americans, because Canadians know this. They learnt it in school. Unlike Texans, who learned Texas history over US history.

Now I’m not sure if Mexicans know this, because I’m American and know little to nothing about Mexicans, even though they boarder us and I’ve visited there a few times.

What I do know is that all of Great Britain and all of Ireland (even those in the Republic of Ireland) and likely even Ewan Mcgregor and Colin Farrell… maybe even John Lydon, drink far too much tea. Not that yummy herbal stuff but that caustic, tannin filled, black, black tea shit you must add milk to or die. They also almost all think Nescafé is actually coffee and not an insult to coffee.

coffee in a tea cup
Coffee; not that very black tea shite and not that crap called nescafe’

That’s real coffee in that enormous I ❤️ Tea cup. Thankfully my Airbnb host in Arnisdale Scotland provided me real coffee, yet also provided the ironical cup.

In much of Great Britain, showers look like this.

British shower
Shower in Great Britain (actually Glasgow Scotland)

< lt; lt; lt; lt; lt; lt; lt; lt; ne dials the power, the other controls temp. And they don’t have clothes dryers. Clothes dryers are made up of clothes lines with clothes pegs (not clothespins)

bathroom heater towel warmer
Bathroom heater/towel warmer

< lt; lt; lt; lt; lt; lt; lt; lt; ut they do have bathroom (aka toilet) heaters that function as towel racks. Which don’t suck! Many Brits end up hanging their wet laundry bits to dry upon these heated racks. Apparently, dryers are not energy efficient, but turning your heat up so that your knickers dry quickly, is.

Wine Glasses
Wine in Great Britain

< lt; lt; lt; lt; lt; lt; lt; lt; hen you order wine in the U.K. they ask you, small, medium or large? I’m not kidding! Order the large. It’s the American way. Oh yeah, they also drive on the wrong fuckin side of the road. And their yield signs say ‘give way’. (how polite)… and you can’t fucking turn right, you must circle first. Once miscounted, you must turn about the fucking circle again. There are rules to this, but no one knows them. They just close their eyes and pray to the Queen. In Inverness a roundabout ends you up at the police station, because it imitates exit number 4, when actually it’s the damned police station. I did it numerous times and shared the experience with confused tourists every time and likely a few Scots as well. But it was Sunday so the police station was closed. Because police stations actually close in the UK. But Inverness is quite lovely, once you’ve found your way out of the damned police station car park.

Glasgow scene
Inverness

< lt;lt;lt;lt;lt;lt;lt;lt;ell so, I’m in Glasgow. Three (3) large wines in, filling the tub as the towel rack warms and have little more to give than this post. Hope it suffices.If not “give way” man. Give way!<<<<<<<<< t;<<<<<<< lt;<<<<<< <<<<<< ;<<<<< t;<<<< gt;<<< ><< p>< /p>

The Standing Stones

Wailing wind chastens the prehistoric stones. Monoliths older than the advent of time.

Prehistoric Stones Scotland
Standing Stones, Ring of Brogdar, Stromness, Scotland Monoliths

Stoic and secure they pay no heed to the powerful, shrieking force.

After millennia of standing against much harsher arguments, they show no sign of submission. Not even a sway.

Orkney Island Stones
Orkney Island Stones, Ring of Brogdar

Throughout Scotland stone structures and stone configurations have for millennia, been impervious to the bellowing, bluster and fury that so readily berates them.

 

Monoliths ignorant of time are surely unaware of the weathers provocation.

Orkney Monolith Scotland
Orkney Monolith

For thousands of years they have stared out onto wonders of which we will never know.

The Orkney Islands have stood the test of time, rivaling even the rest of Scotland’s abundant prehistoric, ancient and similarly historic sites.

Will the recent, invasive and violent invasion of tourists coming by the bus load, be their first truly triumphant adversary?

Celtic Ruins
Skara Brae, Stromness, Scotland Orkney Islands

Surrounded by an often raging sea, the weather changes with the scurrying of an Orkney vole. One moment glorious in its vivid serenity, then deadly in a torrent of blustering wind and rain in the next.

Standing stones, Viking relics, faery hills and even some crofts, seem untouched by the taint of time.

Scrubby and mostly flat, with exiguous tortured hills and dales, this chain of small, mostly sea level, snippets of rocky land, holds fast against the elements that appear to wish to push it into the sea.

Sunken ships, burial mounds the caustic tides of Autumn and Winter, churn into the Spring and Summers “Celtic” clear blue skies.

There is nowhere to hide when the glorious yet petulant sun makes its play, and a serene sea is almost ever a cautionary tale to the oncoming furious wake.

Resilient is Scotland. Battered, torn and bleak, yet seemingly always hopeful.

The land represents the people, as the wind represents the rain. More than 5000 years of cohabitation on one land creates a unique commonality between land and man. One not known by many.

And then the English…

Dunnottar Castle and the Jacobite rising
Dunnottar Castle 2017 by Rootless Routes

Scotland lays claim to some of the most magnificent castles in all of Britain. Due to the Jacobite rising ‘s Scotland today bears some of the most magnificent castle ruins.

The evocative remains of Dunnottar Castle, command the seas from a massive rock promontory. For more than 2000 years man has inhabited this redoubt.

In the 5th century, Picts built a church on the rock from which Dunnottar now rises, that grew into a fort and then a settlement. It took 300 years before vikings successfully invaded the subsequent castle, killing King Donald II.

More than one hundred years of sieges plagued the Rock of Dunnottar until the Keiths took hold of the land. Dunnottar then maintained its steely stronghold for the Keith’s for centuries.

Dunnottar Castle grew with time becoming a regal and impenetrable fortress. Valiantly aiding its inhabitants in winning wars, warding off attacks, even saving Scotland’s Crown Jewels.

As the Keith family rose in rank and stature, Dunnottar Castle grew in might and grace.

Dunnottar Castle and the Jacobite rising
Dunnottar Castle today 2017 by Rootless Routes

And then the English… found George Keith, the 10th Earl of Marischal (and the last), guilty of treason for his part in the Jacobite rising. In 1715 Dunnottar Castle was seized by the British Government and left to fall to ruin.

Kildrummy Castle and the Jacobite rising
Kildrummy Castle Today

Built in the early 13th century, Kildrummy Castle (Caisteal Cheann Droma) was one of the most extensive castles in the area. For hundreds of years the castle was considered “the noblest of the north”. Long dominating the Strathdon for the earls of Mar.

Kildrummy Castle survived numerous seizes, gallantly defending the family of Robert the Bruce . In 1374 the castle’s heiress Isobel was seized and married by Alexander Stewart, who laid claim to Kildrummy and the title of Earl of Mar.

In 1435 James I took control, making the already regal Kildrummy, a truly royal castle. The castle passed on through clan hands for more than 200 years growing in elegance, size and repute.

And then the English… forced out clan Erskine after the 1716 Jacobite rebellion and the mighty castle was left to fall to ruin.

Kildrummy Castle ruins
Kildrummy Castle 2017 Rootless Routes