Waternish – Place of the Healing Waters

…I will wait for the birch wood until it comes up by the cairn….”(1) Sorley MacLean.

From the Druids, to the Vikings, to Johnson and Boswell – travellers continue to be drawn to Waternish for its ‘specialness’: not only that it offers the oldest Inn on Skye, gifted artists and artisans, a ‘celebrity’ chef to dazzle our palette, or the splendour of the Auroras’ luminescent spectacle and stunning sunsets like no other – but especially that Waternish is a haven from the stress of city or town working life, away from the frenzy, away from the politics: but, more importantly, Waternish is a place to celebrate our lives and our special milestones.

In these times, as other times before us, Waternish is a place to restore one’s spirit, a place where one takes time to ‘be’ alone or with people dear, pausing the clock when time is rushing by…..

Waternish, on its own peninsula, juts out into the Little Minch, with two lochs between Dunvegan Head and Ardmore on its west; and Loch Snizort on its east – all three deep sea lochs for fishing and boating for holiday makers and year round folks, too.

During mating season, we listened to the cuckoo cuckooing for a mate from deep inside our 2m thick Escalonia hedge bursting with purple flowers – a giant bouquet to help the Cukoo’s wooing.

Sea Eagles and Golden Eagles soar overhead. Cormorants create a black band silhouette on Mingay, the largest of the three islands in the loch below. And while we feasted on these sights and sounds from our garden, a wee hedgehog strolled past us without a care in the world!

Since ancient times, many ‘sacred springs’ (or ‘holy wells’) were found on Skye (2), their waters used by families and shamans to heal many maladies. There are still several sacred springs visible; but alas, many more are covered over by bracken and heather lost to history except in folklore books (3). Yet, for sometime, we’ve even suspected that there is a sacred spring in our own garden, and have invited a local historian and story teller (4) over for tea and to have a look!

On Waternish, one actually welcomes the Winters and Springs, as we have one of the darkest, unobstructed stargazing skies in all of Europe. Fierce, beautiful, peaceful – all at once! ….and where else can you hear the ‘sound of silence?’

Where else can your walks take you to an Iron Age Dun, a medieval church, a walk on a shore in the footsteps of crofters, hundreds of years past, watch ferries ply the waters to the Outer Isles, blankets of winter and spring heather on the hills: and the orange grasses of winter – yes, naturally orange grasses: no chemicals!

For us and for visitors from near and far, we all seek an escape, a ‘healing of our spirit’ from the trappings of every day, and welcome our senses coming alive again on this intimate landscape….

….and at the end of our day, curl up by a cosy fire to read poetry by the late Skye poet Sorley MacLean stirring all of us to ‘haste ye back again’ to Waternish, the place of the ‘healing waters’, in myth and on our very real Waternish moorlands, hilltops and by the shimmering waters of our lochs and lochans.

Essay by Diane Hoff-Rome, an ‘adopted’ Sgitheanach whose Waternish cottage, Tir Nan Og is a short amble to the iron age Dun of Hallin. Time will tell about our own ‘sacred spring.’

  1. Excerpted from the beautiful poem “Hallaig”by the late Sorley MacLean, one of Scotland’s greatest poets, born on Raasay, who lived in his ancestral home on Skye for much of his adult life.www.somhairlemacgilleain.org
  2. Megalithix.wordpress.com/2010/1127 temple-of-anaitis/’Stone Circle”: Grid ref – NG 271 527 (abstract with a lovely map of Anaitis from 1880)
  3. Otta F. Swire, ‘Skye, the Island and its Legends” Blackie & Son, Ltd, 1961, pp 94 -99 ISBN 0 216 89350 X
  4. www.australianstorytelling.org.au/interviews/george-macpherson-scotland-storyteller