A literal and a literary trip to Skye

I was prepared. I had read some novels set on Skye, and compiled a list of things and places I wanted to see. But an untimely intervention by C19 meant that I never actually got to go. The list was, therefore, forwarded to my girlfriends with a request for them to perform scouting duties. The four of them, henceforth known as My Fab Four, managed to capture most things on the list. Considering they were only visiting for four days, this was quite an achievement!

First the bad news. They never met the local celebrities – well, not in the flesh anyway.

That dog Blaze (the one on the right) is quite a talent. He has his own accounts on twitter (@blazespage) and instagram (@blazedogdetective). His younger brother, Laoch, is always getting in bother, and Blaze, a bit of a clipe, is always telling tales. He loves him really … you can tell from the way he worries about him as the two career around the Isle of Skye tracking down the criminals, who are pilfering the island’s precious artifacts, namely the fairy flag of Clan McLeod from Dunvegan Castle (Mystery 1) and dinosaur footprints from An Corran beach (Mystery 2). The dogs are ably assisted by a team of human assistants: Rory, Rosa, Rosa’s Granny Beaton. While Sergeant Munro plays an important supporting role, the crows and seagulls of Skye are the actual game changers.

There’s a fair amount of whizzing around the island. The following locations are all from The Magic Flag Mystery.

Top row: The dogs are spotted … in the window of Inga’s sweet treats … where, according to Blaze, the best tablet on Skye is sold

Bottom row: Dunvegan Castle, the Fairy Flag, view from Portree (Is this the Lump?)

My Fab Four didn’t have time to visit locations from The Dinosaur Mystery; An Corran Beach and the Fairy Glen in the North. Nor did they get to Loch Coruisk in the South, where Laoch (who else?) unearths something that looks like a dinosaur’s egg. It’s a discovery that gets the wrong kind of people very excited …

The Blaze Dog Detective mysteries are co-written by Lin Anderson (an award-winning Scottish crime author and co-founder of Bloody Scotland) and Donald McKay (the dogs’s dad, who appears in the novels mainly to to feed and water them.) In addition to being great adventures for kiddies (of all ages), they are an interesting introduction to island folklore, and … an entertaining way of drawing up a prospective travel itinerary!

Back now to the adventures of My Fab Four. They did travel to the Fairy Pools, when they snapped the spectacular Black Cuillin, a mountain range that is the most rugged landscape in Great Britain.

Glorious!

These mountains feature most prominently in Mary Stewart’s Wildfire at Midnight, a novel she described as “an attempt at something different, the classic closed-room detective story with restricted action, a biggish cast, and a closely circular plot”. A closed-room detective story in which a serial killer goes on the rampage on a Scottish mountain range? What a concept! And what a terrific read!

Fashion model Gianetta, wishing to escape a London overcrowded with tourists who have come to witness the coronation (the novel is set in 1953), seeks rest and respite on the Isle of Skye. Her tranquillity is replaced by disquiet when her ex-husband walks through the door; her disquiet replaced by fear when two female hill walkers do not return to the hotel when expected. Have they had an accident or have they fallen victim to whoever killed Heather Macrae in a pagan ritual a few weeks before?

Gianetta is actually the only person, besides the police, not under suspicion. Every one else, hotel guests, hotel staff, mountain guides were in situ at the time. Which means even her ex-husband, Nicholas, is also a suspect. And his dubious behaviour, seen through Gianetta’s tainted lens, makes him prime suspect.

As people go missing, search and rescue teams comprising of locals and hotel guests scale up and down the Cuillin like mountain goats. Their prowess is amazing. Even Gianetta, a London fashion model remember, is amazingly fit. But let’s not quibble, because this allows Mary Stewart to put the magnificent landscape front and centre. Alternate chapters are named after the glens, the lochs, and the peaks. With the internet to hand, I was able, from my sick bed, to go mountain climbing with nae a worry about twisting my ankle or getting caught in a storm.

Neither it seems did My Fab Four. Not a raindrop fell during their stay. What were the chances of that? At any time, never mind in September? Mind, the weather was proper minging the day they left. Fortunately they were on the mainland before landslides closed the A87 and the way home.

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