The ‘north end’ of Skye is 3 distinct peninsulas rather than the one ‘end’ that is implied. From East to West these are Trotternish, Waternish and Duirinish. Resting in the sea loch between Waternish and Durinish is the large village of Dunvegan, pronounced Dun-Veh-Gan. The meaning of the name is thought to be fort of Beccán, where Beccán is a person’s name rather than any derivation of the gaelic for small.
There is a huge choice of accommodation in the area, necessarily so, since Dunvegan is a deservingly popular holiday destination. Kinloch campsite provides for visitors with tents or caravans and there are hotels, b&bs and self-catering accommodation to please all tastes and budgets. Dunvegan village has grocery shops, a post office and medical centre. There are also daily busses to Portree.
Activites available in or around Dunvegan are many and varied from walking and fishing to the unusual Giant MacAskill Museum. Skye could easily have a cake trail to rival the whiskey and castle trails of Scotland’s East coast. Every café and cake shop has it’s quirk, doubling as galleries, studios and craft shops and of course, for eight hundred years, there has been the unmissable attraction of the castle itself.
The Dunvegan Castle is one of Skye’s most popular attractions. The ancestral seat of the Clan MacLeod, the castle has been home to the MacLeods for all of those eight centuries, a Scottish record. The castle is built on a rocky outcrop of Basalt and was until recently surrounded by sea. Although what is seen today looks like one castle, in reality it consists of six buildings, built in 10 separate stages so is of significant architectural interest. The Keep was built by the 3rd chief, in the mid-14th century and is the oldest part still standing but there was a fort of some sort here long before that. In addition to this protracted history Dunvegan castle boasts an intriguing mythology, here the famous Faery flag, said to call the faeries to aid the clan in battle, is on display.
Another wonderful MacLeod story tells that the clan chief was in Edinburgh, attending a state dinner, when he was provoked to boast about his home. MacLeod said that he had a larger dining hall, a grander table and more precious candlesticks at home in Skye. When his companions doubted him, MacLeod challenged them to come to Skye and see for themselves. So it was that a party of Lords and Ladies came from Edinburgh to Dunvegan to disprove the Clan chief’s boasts. The clever MacLeod had a banquet laid out atop MacLeod’s tables and, although it was a starry night, his men carried torches to lead the party up the path. MacLeod impressed his guests saying that this was his great dining table, his loyal men were more precious than gold candlesticks and the heavens themselves were his dining hall.
MacLeod’s moonlight picnic might not have been so successful in poor weather but there are alternatives. North of Dunvegan, the Claigan coral beaches are the perfect venue for a picnic and the Dunvegan Bakery can provide all the necessities. It is locally quite famous for the wonderful range of baking, the warm welcome and the high standard and affordability of the café meals. Dunvegan is rich in eateries, from quirky cafés to hotel bars and traditional restaurants. A meal in the three chimneys, one of Skye’s michelin-starred restaurants, would be a grand alternative to a picnic indeed.