Worldwide Clan MacLeod Parliament dates for 2018

Recently announced at the winter meeting, the NRG service project for MacLeods age 18-29 is 15-20 July 2018, with the clan worldwide gathering for Parliament 21-28 July 2018 in the village of Dunvegan, Isle of Skye Scotland.

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Would you like to fly away to Skye?

800px-chilean_dhc-6_twin_otter_in_flight_1990Councillors on the Isle of Skye and Raasay recently approved a proposal to reopen the Broadford airstrip on Skye to small passenger planes from Glasgow. The proposal will now be sent to the Highland Council for a decision. If approved, flights between Glasgow and Skye could start in roughly 2 years….just about time for MacLeod Parliament! Read the full story here.

For more information on 2018 Clan MacLeod Parliament click here.

Isle of Harris

Just to the northwest of the Isle of Skye is another island with deep MacLeod history. The Isle of Harris along with its conjoined twin, the Isle of Lewis, are believed to have become MacLeod territory in the mid-13th century; under the leadership of clan founder Leod. Harris is separated from Lewis by a mountain range, and makes up the southern part of the island. Today the Isle of Harris is best known for its signature product, Harris Tweed. In order for a fabric to be called Harris Tweed it must be made of new wool that has been dyed prior to being spun into yarn. The yarn must be spun in the Outer Hebrides, and the cloth must be woven in the home of crofters from the Isle.Click here to see a great video about how the cloth is made.

Aside from tweed, Harris is popular tourist destination with amazing beaches and beautiful scenery. The following video shows some highlights from the island.

If you are interested in seeing more of the island in person, the pre-Parliament trip for the 2018 MacLeod gathering will be to the Island of Harris and Lewis!

Road to the Isles

A story of driving to the Isles.

Flying into Scotland, I liked the idea of riding the train. That is, until I saw ticket costs, and that the train could only take you as far Northwest as Kyle of Lochalsh or Mallaig. So, rental car it was. The “Gateway to the Isles”, Oban is a mere 2:30 drive from Glasgow airport. If you are considering a similar trip, you should know that the average rental car is both Diesel and Manual. Right hand drive is a mild challenge, add manual transmission to that and it becomes a bit tough, add city traffic and roundabouts and it feels really hard- then get out north, and the roads become terrifyingly small. This last Parliament, we flew into Glasgow, and with only one traffic infraction that we know of (who puts a stoplight INSIDE a traffic round-about… Madness I say!) got out of the city without incident. This however then led to the terrifying drive north on the A82, which in some sections might best be described as two bike lanes next to each other. A rock wall immediately abuts the northbound lane, and a cliff to Loch Lomond lurks just inches from the paint of the lane on the southbound lane, which was populated almost exclusively with euro semi-trucks and tour buses. It kind of reminded me of the Star Wars X-wing trench run on the Death Star (no connection to the previous posting intended), except there was opposite traffic. Generally, if you were not hitting the hedges and plants growing out of the rough rock wall, your driver side mirror (on the right, which feels REALLY odd, mind you) whizzes past the fenders of passing ‘Lorries’ with less than an inch clearance.

Scotland's answer to the 'Jinga' Truck

Scotland’s answer to the ‘Jinga’ Truck

Oban was a welcome relief, finally able to peel my white knuckles off the steering wheel and heave a sigh of relief.

Oban

Oban

Despite the warren of one-way roads, Oban was no more difficult than driving in the small villages of Germany. Extra points for English translations below the Gaelic on street signs.

Is it just me, or does everything sound far more epic in Gaelic?

Is it just me, or does everything sound far more epic in Gaelic?

Oban Distillery and Harbor

Heading further requires retracing your steps inland a bit, as the ridges and long lochs of highland geography mean there is usually no direct route anywhere. During this trip, these are some of the most frequently spotted signs:

Sharp Turns & Falling Rocks

Sharp Turns & Falling Rocks

Due to the “New” bridge to Skye (1995), getting from Oban to Skye no longer means a boat ride.

The bridge to Skye

The bridge to Skye

The old ferry slipway at Kyleakin, Isle of Skye

The old ferry slipway at Kyleakin, Isle of Skye

Arriving on Skye requires a calibration to island time- I wish I had a picture of the traffic backup for the road repaving that was ongoing… with the tarmac being laid by hand, dumped from a bucket, and spread by hand with a shovel, 18″ strip at a time. The interesting thing is, due to the expense of paving roads, aside from the 2 or 3 major roads, most road on Skye is Singletrack. This means meeting opposite traffic is best timed at a passing place, a small 1-2 car length temporary lane to allow cars to ease past each other. Which you soon learn the locals have timing to a tee, speeding up and slowing down to time the intercept just right– Attempting this maneuver your first day on the island is sure to cause a code brown for an American however. By the end of the week, you will be able to spot those timid souls just finding their way off the beaten track and scoff yourself at their lack of boldness, but at first it is rather intimidating. In the end, the scenic vistas make the learning curve worth it. Enjoy the gallery of some of the scenery to be found, at least from passing places where I could snap a photo…

"Calum's Road" on Isle of Raasay. Made by Calum MacLeod over 10 years, single-handedly with only hand tools.

“Calum’s Road” on Isle of Raasay. Made by Calum MacLeod over 10 years, singlehandedly with only hand tools.

Guardrails? Who need guardrails?

Road past Brochel Castle ruins, Isle of Raasay

Road past Brochel Castle ruins, Isle of Raasay

At least the very serpentine road leading up the Quiraing on Skye has Guardrails.

Road up to the Quiraing

Road up to the Quiraing

Speed is very effectively regulated by the curves and sheep.

More effective than Speed-bumps for making you wary

More effective than Speed-bumps for making you wary

The Quiraing

The Quiraing

If you think it is too small to be a Road, it’s still probably a Road…

If you think it is a footpath, guess again- Road

If you think this is a footpath, guess again- Road

Also passes for road

Also passes for road- in Sleat, Skye

Cuillins visible from the road leading from Carbost, Skye, where the Talisker distillery is located

Cuillins visible from the road leading from Carbost, Skye, where the Talisker distillery is located

View across the B884 in Colbost, from "The Three Chimneys" to Loch Dunvegan

View across the B884 in Colbost, from “The Three Chimneys” to Loch Dunvegan

On the road back from visiting "The Three Chimneys" restaurant

On the B884 road back from Glendale and Colbost

Livestock always has right of way!

Ferdinand the Bull does not like subcompacts.

Ferdinand the Bull does not like subcompacts

Sheep graze freely on Skye

Sheep graze freely on Skye

One thing is for sure, don’t forget to plan your fuel stops- Many places in the Isles are not open on Sunday!

Dunvegan Garage, Isle of Skye

Dunvegan Garage, Isle of Skye

There are consequences here for poor planning. The scenery does make it worthwhile however!

Clan period grave on St Columba's Isle

Clan period grave on St Columba’s Isle

(All Photos Copyright 2014)

Dunscaith Castle

An often-forgotten MacLeod castle, Dunscaith is today a ruin on the Isle of Skye.

Ruins of Dunscaith Castle

Ruins of Dunscaith Castle

It is in Sleat, the traditional lands of MacDonald of Sleat. It was their main seat in the 1400s-1600s. It was probably built in the 1200s on the site of an earlier fort. At that time, MacLeods would have possessed all of Skye through inheritance from the Norse vicecomes (Latin for Viscount or Sheriff, but really just meaning he was the  Lieutenant of the Crovan Dynasty Hebridean King, Olaf) Pal Balkison.

The older fort may have been  the location where the character Queen Sgathaich in the Irish Ulster Cycle trained the hero Cuchulainn on Skye. The origin of the name Dunscaith (which means Fort of Shadow) probably comes from the story, as the Castle in Gaelic is called Dùn Sgàthaich.

At some point in the 1400s, when the MacDonalds expanded onto Skye, the castle was taken from the MacLeods by the MacDonalds. A few times it changed hands between MacDonalds and MacLeods, including some time being garrisoned or belonging to the MacAskills, before it was eventually forfeit to the King.

If you do go to visit the ruins on the Isle of Skye, the drive is rather exciting. It begins by coming off the main road up a small side road, becoming very narrow singletrack with many hills and blind corners. At times, we could not see over the hood where the road was, and only the cliffs and sea ahead. Driving on Skye is worthy of a post of it’s own, but this was exceptionally memorable. There are sheep in the road often, and they know they have right of way.

Traffic on the way to Dunscaith

Traffic on the way to Dunscaith

Read more about Dunscaith at the official site of the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland. Another source about many of the castles in the area is The Mediaeval Castles of Skye and Lochalsh by Roger Miket and David L. Roberts.

Parliament 2014

Dunvegan castle

We’ve just returned from an exciting trip to the Isle of Skye for the 2014 Clan MacLeod Parliament. More than 200 members of the of the worldwide Associated Clan MacLeod Societies gathered in the village of Dunvegan near Dunvegan Castle, the oldest continuously inhabited castle in Scotland and the ancestral home of the Chiefs of Clan MacLeod for 800 years.

Parliament logoEvery four years, clan members meet for a week of clan-related activities, known as Parliament. The week included business activities to discuss and agree actions on issues raised by the national societies spread around the world. The nine national societies are in Australia, Canada, England, France, New Zealand, Germany, Scotland, South Africa and the USA. However, the major purpose of Parliament is to have fun and meet fellow MacLeods from around the world. Many delegates proudly wore badges showing their attendance at up to ten previous parliaments. We were thrilled to see so many of our international MacLeod friends along with many Texas MacLeods gathered at Dunvegan this year.

Clan members dueling it out at tug of war outside Raasay House

Clan members dueling it out at tug of war outside Raasay House

Delegates had the opportunity to attend daily ceilidh workshops and then put their new-found skills into use at the closing ceilidh on the Friday evening. There were workshops/lectures on the music of Scotland, tours of the Castle and Gardens, trips to the Trotternish peninsula and Raasay, a barbeque in the Castle grounds and a whisky tasting session!

Hugh MacLeod, and HRH The Princess Royal

Hugh MacLeod, 30th Clan Chief, and HRH The Princess Royal officially open the John MacLeod Memorial Gazebo

Parliament delegates enjoyed a superb week of sunshine: the famous Black Cuillin mountains and MacLeod’s Tables provided a spectacular skyline. One of the highlights of the week was a visit to Dunvegan Castle by HRH The Princess Royal. Her visit – two years in the planning – was arranged to commemorate the attendance by HM The Queen at the first MacLeod Parliament meeting in 1956. Princess Anne was greeted by Clan Chief Hugh MacLeod of MacLeod who showed her round the Castle and its beautiful gardens. During the visit, all two hundred delegates were presented to Princess Anne when she formally opened an impressive gazebo in the walled garden; the gazebo had been funded by the Clan Societies and was dedicated as a memorial to Hugh’s father, Chief John.

We hope to see all this year’s delegates again in four years. If you haven’t already become a Clan MacLeod member, sign up now so you can join us in 2018! Also, remember the Clan has a number of exciting Youth Programs that also take place during Parliament….so bring the whole family!