Monday, October 13, 2008

Manner-Stone & Galtrigal

Galtrigal Beach is a small piece of haven hidden to most tourists by the sight of dreary dark moors, sloping hills and dangerous paths on treacherous cliffs, inquisitive black-face sheep, fence posts and sheds. From the top of a hill is a somewhat ordinary view that meets the eye - ocean, pebble beach and some partially hidden stark cliffs which one can’t reach unless the tide is out.

A lost tourist may very well just stomp back to a hired car, bending double against a blasting Western Isle Gale, cursing under his breathe and consult a torn map written in Gaelic, and blindly get the hell of there.

Galtrigal is part of a spectacular coastline on the Isle of Skye, and for those who don’t know, situated on the west coast of bonnie Scotland.

One or two things about this beach: It involves a little bit of exercise of steep and treacherous excursions up- and downhill, being greeted by ravens or lead by sheep and preferably executed with well-equipped socked-up-hole-less wellies on one's feet.

Halfway down, one suddenly becomes aware of the gurgling sound of water trickling nearby. On closer inspection one sees it running towards the sea and realizes it is a typical Scottish burn. It has the color of sepia, turning the stones underneath into an old-gold-stone-bed too - a result of plant roots and fragrant peat. This material called "peat" is still traditionally sampled for fireplaces and also used in making Talisker Whisky which can be so exceptional in many (offensive or charming) ways.

To the right, after clambering over a few molten rocks one reaches a small cave. At least 20 people will fit into it, but it suits better when there is only one or two. What a place to listen, watch and also drag on a fag - unhurriedly and contemplating to stay there forever.

To the left of the burn, which cuts right through the middle of the pebble beach, a ruin of an Old Smoke House comes into the serene picture. At this sacred spot the old Skye inhabitants used to do whatever was done with fish in a smoke house. If one enters through a narrow doorway, a red robin may very well come and sit on a broom-bush branch at arm’s length, chirping away in the most unusually undisturbed way.

Numerous fossilized stones are buried on the beach – one needs time to walk here, stop, stoop, sit down and gaze into the far distant horizon.

On a stone-cold day one may see water droplets being scooped up by the ferocious angry westerly, turning them into frosted-ice drops hovering in a semi-circle above purple-dark waves... A shivering but amazing sight and one that finally opened my eyes to the Irish legend of horses crashing purposefully to their death in the break of waves...

Turning back and practically scrambling uphill on all fours, I started looking for the famous Manner-Stone. I came face-to-face with this flat square grey coloured entity, but only after an extended and defragmented (nearly derailed) search of consulting numerous other stones with a slight resemblance to the real one.

The legend for it rings as follows: One may wish for eternal fertility when one sits on the Manner-Stone. On one condition, to bear in mind – it has to be done with a bare backside. In the bitter end however, following putting this strange ritual into practice, one may very well have to wish for full restoration of certain fragile and frozen parts of the human anatomy.

I am pretty certain that if the Manner-stone and Galtrigal could speak, it would tell many a story apart from Scottish Highlanders lifting their skirts (e-rm, kilts) and blinding the enemy...

1 comment:

Brother Tobias said...

Otta Swire recorded that the stone had once been known as the Bowing Stone, and that it stood in 'The Field of Bowing'. At the proper season everyone came and walked thrice round the stone and bowed. It was the stone of the old gods, and would bring fortune to the harvest.
One minister said it was pagan and had it thrown out. It was eventually thrown into the ravine and broken. Sheriff Nicholson from Husabost insisted that it be retrieved. The smaller pieces were laid together in the original position, then the largest piece laid across, and that is what we see now.