A Storied Landscape
I’ve written a couple posts about the Isle of Skye in Scotland now, and I think it’s time for a disclaimer: You don’t go to the Isle of Skye to be entertained. You go there to be awed.
In other words: Just looking at stuff should be enough.
The Isle of Skye is sparsely populated. However, number of people on the island balloons in summer, when the weather is good for hiking. The mountains on the Isle of Skye are world-renowned for being home to some of the most difficult scrambling paths in the world. (Scrambling: difficult hiking that occasionally requires you to go on all fours so you don’t fall down the chasm of doom.)
If you look in any guidebook, all the major points of interest on the Isle of Skye are natural wonders. And if you actually go to the Isle of Skye and put your phone down for about three seconds and look around, you’ll see why.
One of my favorite things about the Isle of Skye is that the natural landscape is imbued with stories. Not only do they have beautiful landscapes that go on for miles, every single one has a story. And as befits a landscape that is as surreal as Skye’s, most of those stories have to do with the things beyond our ken. So, without further ado, let’s take a look at another one of them.
Once Upon a Time…
A Lowlands Party
A Lowlands laird invited all his friends to his grand hall, newly built, for a feast celebrating its completion. The lairds came from all around, from the Lowlands, the Highlands, and the Islands, for the party.
At the dinner, the host grabbed one of his guests, a laird from the Isle of Skye, by the shoulders, and showed him around the room.
“Have you ever seen such a magnificent chandelier?” he asked his guest, pointing at the elaborate fixture with hundreds of brilliantly burning candles. His guest just smiled.
“And this food,” the host continued, “Have you ever seen such delicacies?” The guest looked over the stuffed meats, roasted vegetables, and sweet pies, and just smiled.
“What of this furniture?” the host asked. “I dare you to name one table so fine and sturdy as this one!” He smacked his hand against the table to proof its solidity. His guest just smiled.
After the party, all of the guests trailed off to their own halls and families, stuffed to the gills. (And probably hungover – uisge beatha almost always makes an appearance at Scottish parties.) When they returned home, they slept off their festivities and dreamed of the day when they would have a hall so grand and a feast so sumptuous as the one they’d just attended. All but one laird.
Back to the Highlands
The laird who’d seen all the glories of his host’s wealth started planning his own party back up on the Isle Skye. He invited all of the guests who had been at the previous party, and extended a special invitation to his former host.
When the guests arrived, the Island laird took his guests up to the top of a mountain, where he’d had his men lay out a spread. As his guests were eating and making merry, he found his former host. He grabbed him by the shoulders and showed him around.
“Have you ever seen such a magnificent chandelier?” he asked his guest, sweeping his arm towards the stars in the sky.
“And this food,” he went on. “Have you ever tasted anything better?” He gestured around him. Freshly caught venison roasted over open fires. Loaves of bread were passed around. Casks of uisge beatha sat around, free for all to dip from.
“What do you think of the furnishings?” he asked his guest. He stamped his foot against the mountaintop. “Find me a larger and sturdier table, if you can!”
The Moral of the Story
His guest laughed and shook his head sheepishly. “Truly, you’ve put me in my place,” he told the Island laird. “No man could match the dining hall of God.”
The Island laird, the story goes, was the chieftain of the Clan McLeod. The mountain that served as his dining hall sits on the lands of Clan McLeod, on the Isle of Skye, and has ever since been known as McLeod’s Table. Whether or not this story is true, it serves to illustrate just how much the Highlanders love the land they live on and just how beautiful it is.
Visiting McLeod’s Table:
Getting there: If you’re driving, you’ll be able to go right to the start of the hiking trail. However, if you’re using public transport, you’ll need to ask for accommodation. Take bus 56 toward Glendale, and ask to be let off at the end of Orbost Road. That’s about 3.5km from the start of the hiking trail. For more information, click here.
Admission: There is no admission fee for hiking McLeod’s Table.
Opening hours: There are no opening hours for McLeod’s Table. However, it’s a good idea to go during daylight hours.
Good to know:
- The area around McLeod’s Table is pathless, so you’ll have to go it alone!
- The distance is roughly 11km (6.75 miles), and usually takes between 4 and 6 hours to do.