Spellbound by Scotland

Spellbound by Scotland

Dwell into the world of mythical creatures and fairies' charms in the highlands of Scotland. Look out for the fairytale ending among its alluring scenery.

I arrived in Scotland with a limp. It was not the best way to start a trip. Prior to my trip to Scotland, I had travelled to Iceland and hurt my foot there. I did not have the faintest idea how I was going to continue my journey with a limp but the stubborn streak in me refused to give up on my Scotland plans.

So there I was, alone in Scotland, with my left foot wrapped in the most unglamorous-looking ankle support and a 23-kg luggage in tow, all set to conquer the Scottish Highlands.

I went on a three-day tour with Highland Explorer Tours, a Scottish tour operator. The tour set off from Edinburgh, Scotland’s capital. Our guide was a young 20-ish Scotsman who greeted the group dressed in a kilt. His name was, coincidentally and aptly, Scot.

The Highlands sits on the far north of Scotland. It is made up of six smaller regions, namely the North Highlands; Fort William and Lochaber; Moray Speyside; Inverness, Loch Ness and Nairn; Skye and Lochlash; and the Cairngorms National Park.

I’ve never been to Scotland before this. Mention Scotland and my mind would conjure images of sweeping landscapes, ethereal lakes and haunting castles. I was a tad worried my foot would not be able to take the long walks, should there be any. My worries turned out to be unfounded.

I had the time of my life.

Oh Nessie, where are you?

On the first day, we made a stop at a quaint little town called Fort Augustus. Having been on the road and seen few people along the way, I was a bit surprised to see the more-than-usual human activity buzzing in the small town.

Scot pointed to a canal and said, “Follow the water and you will reach Loch Ness.”

That woke me up. OK, I admit, I was secretly hoping for a glimpse of the Loch Ness Monster, affectionately known as Nessie. I have a fascination for all things mythical and unexplained since young, and Nessie was one of them. Seeing the purported home of the elusive creature was one of the things I had long wished to do.

Over 37 km long and 180 metres at its deepest, Loch Ness stretches from Fort William in the west of the Highlands to Inverness in the north. While it’s not the longest or deepest loch in the country, it contains the largest volume of freshwater in the British Isles – more water than all the rivers, lakes and reservoirs in England and Wales combined. More than enough water to hold a colossal sea creature, I suppose.

Brimming with excitement, I walked down a pebbled path lined by an avenue of trees on one side and the canal on the other. The sun was shining bright, mirroring my mood. As I glanced wistfully at the docked boats and yachts on the canal, a couple of swans glided gracefully on the water. I eventually came to the end of the canal, which opened up to a sprawling deep blue lake that stretched as far as the eye can see.

Loch Ness was not what I had expected it to be. In my mind, I have always pictured it to be a still lake. Strong winds swept the surface of the loch, creating endless waves that rushed in to engulf the rocks and sand on the bank. I stood at the edge of the loch, delighting in the cool caress of the wind and the symphony of the waves.

I love nature, but I feel most at one with nature whenever I am near water. I could stand there for hours, but it was soon time for me to leave. In the end, Nessie did not turn up for our date. However, I found peace and tranquillity instead.

A dip with the fairies

“Scot, will we be going to the Fairy Pools?” I queried our guide on the second day of the trip.

“Possible,” Scot replied, without promising anything. “We might.”

I figured from his answer that it would depend on the weather. I’ve heard of the Fairy Pools and longed to see them. However, given the notoriety of the Isle of Skye’s ever-changing weather, I did not want to hold too much hope. Subsequently towards the late afternoon, Scot informed that we were done for the day. I resigned myself to the fact that we wouldn’t be seeing the Fairy Pools.

Another 10 to 15 minutes passed, our coach turned into a road leading to a carpark. Scot announced to the group, “You know what, since it’s so rare to have such beautiful weather, let’s make one last stop.”

As we pulled into the carpark, I looked at a sign at the entrance.

“We are going to the Fairy Pools!” I squealed in delight.

We got off at the foot of the Black Cuillin. For a moment, I forgot about my excitement about the Fairy Pools as I stood there agape with wonder. From afar, the Black Cuillin had looked like giants of rocks, deep in slumber. However, standing at the foot of the mountains and seeing them fill the horizon around me, the magnificence of Mother Nature’s creations got amplified. I half expected the elven army from Lord of the Rings to appear at the top of the mountains with their horses and come charging down from the slopes.

We trekked on a meandering path of gravel and stepping-stones. A surge of renewed energy welled up in me. Nobody was rushing me; yet, I quickened my pace as if I was being pulled by a magnetic force. The nagging pain in my knee and ankle were strangely gone.

After walking for about 15 to 20 minutes, a group of people dipping into a vivid green pool came into view. Surrounded by lush greenery of ferns and wild heather, tiny waterfalls streamed into the pool, creating dancing ripples. The water was like liquid emerald, so crystal clear the rocks beneath shone through. I have finally arrived at the Fairy Pools.

I watched with a tinge of envy the few brave souls who were jumping off the rocks and diving into the cold water. I decided to do something that required less courage on my part. I took out a penny, made a wish and threw it into the Fairy Pools – in the hope that Tinkerbelle and her friends would hear my wish and one day make it come true.

A peek into the past

Scotland is well-known for its castles. It is said that at one point, there were as many as 3,000 castles in the country. While some have turned to ruins, others remain in use today. It goes without saying a trip to Scotland is incomplete without a visit to a castle or two.

Dunvegan Castle, on the eastern coast of the Isle, is the ancestral seat of the Clan MacLeod. Supposedly the oldest inhabited castle in Scotland, it has remained in the hands of the Clan for more than eight centuries. Despite being private property, the castle and its five acres of gardens are open to the public.

The castle is home to numerous fine art pieces and treasures, such as cannonballs fired by a British warship during the Jacobite rebellions, but amidst the collection, one object stood out in particular – the Fairy Flag.

What’s a castle without its fair share of legends and stories? Varying versions of stories surround the Fairy Flag. In one version, the story goes that a fairy married a former Chief of the Clan, but she subsequently had to leave behind the mortal life. The Fairy Flag, said to be a scrap of cloth from the fairy’s dress, was bestowed with magical powers; if the Clan is ever in trouble, the flag may be waved and help will arrive. However, the flag can only be used in such a way for three times.

To date, the Fairy Flag has been used twice in two separate battles in 1490 and 1580, and the Clan won both battles. Will there be a time for the Fairy Flag to be called upon for the last time? That’s anyone’s guess.


A fairytale ending

During the three days, Scotland shared with me Nature’s sublime poetry, immersing me in her magic. By the end of the trip, my foot was no longer hurting and I could walk fairly normal again. Perhaps the nature did me good. Or, perhaps the fairies sprinkled some fairy dust on my injury.

Whatever the reason may be, Scotland and its people have been kind to me – a much-needed salve to my soul, and maybe my foot too.

The three-day Isle of Skye & The Highlands tour was made possible by Highland Explorer Tours. 

Experience the magical wonders of Scotland with TripZilla.

Contributed by Kat Goh.

About Author

Kat Goh

Wordsmith by trade. Photographer at heart. Kat Goh travels around the world to feed her soul and tells stories as seen through her eyes and heart. Follow her blog and instagram


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