An Island on Loch Lomond
Note: I’ve edited the introductory post after counting more carefully! All told, we did 23 tours, and during the pandemic, 5 online concerts, for around 180 travelers (plus all who watched the concerts), involving about 60 musicians meeting us privately, not counting the public musical events. I added some info about Dorothy there too!
The trip we ran the most, and usually first in the summer, took us through the Highlands and to the Isle of Skye. We called it “Niel Gow’s Scotland” (yes that’s how he spelled it) because this was an area where the famous 18th century fiddler, composer, father of musicians, and through his son Nathaniel, provider of a great deal of Scottish music still central to the repertoire today. During the trip we even visited Gow’s home, his grave, and I was authorized to play his violin at Blair Castle. But more of all that later.
Usually (though not on all trips), we began at Loch Lomond. Just now I’d like to share some photos from our 2022 visit to that area, in particular to an island in the loch called Inchcailloch. The name of the island means “Island of the Old Woman.” Some say this name refers to St Kentigerna, for whom a church on the island was named and used until the early 1600s. We got to see ruins of this church, as well as the graveyard behind it, which was used until the 1940s. It’s hard to say what “Old Woman” means in this context. In Gaelic is “Cailleach” and there are many place names with that word in them, because the pre-Christian religion of the Picts and Scots focused on women and honored them; the old woman was sometimes an image of winter, turning into a young maid in spring, and various hill or mountain formations are named after women because they appear to have a woman’s reclining silhouette. So Inchcailleach could have been a very old name for the place, which was then adapted to refer to St Kentigerna.
Here’s a picture of Loch Lomond taken from the little boat we took over to the island:
On the island we walked uphill, eventually getting to the top, where there are some very nice views such as this one:
The geology of the area is fascinating. In some places you can see the shape of hills shift abruptly because of the Highland Boundary Fault, which traverses Scotland from southwest to northeast. The fault goes right through Inchcailloch.
In the foreground of the picture above, you can see bracken. One famous Gaelic song, which I included in our little music book, is called “Tha Mi Sgith,” meaning “I Am Tired” — from cutting bracken. Bracken looks like a fern but has a stem before the leafy part branches out, while the ferns grow their symmetrical leaves right from the ground. Bracken spreads quickly, and to farm an area requires cutting it, which is difficult because the stems are so strong.
Here’s some more bracken, on the right, and a view coming down to the water on the other side of the island.
The other side has a nice beach that we hung out at for a short while and grabbed a picnic lunch. On one of our trips, some people put their swimsuits on and went swimming. They said it was refreshing and not too cold!
We were joined that evening by one of Scotland’s finest and most entertaining accordionists, Sandy Brechin, and guitarist and singer Ewan Wilkinson. Ewan’s voice is powerful and rich, and Sandy’s playing is captivating as might be expected from a virtuoso veteran of the Scottish music scene who has played with several great bands, including his own ceilidh band, The Sensational Jimi Shandrix Experience. I took a photo of them playing, but as you’ll see, I just had to focus in on their fashion choices as well!
You might enjoy Sandy’s weekly performance full of great music and hilarious costuming on his Facebook page!
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