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Friday, June 20, 2014

What we Found of Medieval Scotland

Remnant of Fortrose Cathedral
I will skip the Viking era of northeastern Scotland because there is little left but place names and Scots with red hair to show that the Vikings dominated the Hebrides and inland Scotland for many centuries. So, we will move on to medieval Scotland. I prefer less-traveled places, so we never got around to visiting intact castles. Above is what was probably the chapter house of a medieval cathedral at Fortrose on the Black Isle, about 6 miles northwest of Inverness, where we stayed our first week.

It was raining rather hard and we were the only people looking about.

The entire cathedral was very large, but Oliver Cromwell had most of it pulled down so he could build a fortress in Inverness. He had little use for either the Catholic Church or the Anglican Church.

Sarcophagus of a medieval bishop 
The chapter house is such a ruin that we are on the outside looking in through the side to take our photos.

It still has nice vaulting in the ceiling. Soaked and hungry, we raided the bakery across the way for hot tea and treats.

This next photo is of a ruin of a foot bridge. I assumed it had been built before 1600; but since posting this, discovered it was built in 1717. It is still the oldest stone bridge in the Highlands.

Packhorse bridge at Carrbidge

We spent our second week across from the Isle of Skye at Kyle of Lochalsh. And from our window, we could see the ruins of Castle Moil (also called Maol, Dun Akyn, etc) across on Skye above the village of Kyleakin. It was the ancient seat of the Clan Mackinnon.

This ruin dates from 15th century, but was built on earlier ruins
Having acquired a recumbent stationary bike to strengthen my legs a few months before our trip, even at 68, I really wanted to climb up to the ruins. And so we did, clambering up like old clumsy goats.
Beware the Tides - with no supervision, the sightseer is on his or her own.

Again, we were the only tourists about as I took a photo of Jay on the easy part of the climb.

There is a Norse connection, for the castle came into Mackinnon hands by marriage in the year 900 to  a Norse princess. And later, King Haakon IV is thought to have assembled his fleet of longships there before the Battle of Largs in 1263 (hence the name Kyleakin - Haakon's kyle). Haakon's defeat at Largs effectively ended Norse domination of the Scottish islands.

Looking over the Strait of Kyle Akin

View of Kyleakin from the castle ruin
Protected on the tidal side by water, but always aware of possible attack from behind.
 Weather has not been kind to this ruin - parts of it have continued to fall down because of great gales.
Here's an old photograph I discovered in a restaurant of how it looked some years ago.


  1. Wow, these are amazing. You found the perfect places to visit, and no people.

  2. Nicely situated. Wonderful medieval ruins on a damp day, within an easy walk of hot tea and pastries. The footbridge is so graceful, and runic crosses are my favorite of the many varieties. Thx.