Tales of Kintail and the Five Sisters


Follow me north and west in Scotland, through the Cairngorms and past Ben Nevis, and we will pass through Glen Shiel and onwards into the Land of the Three Sea Lochs. This is a boarder land which has been deeply contested for atleast the last 1,600 years. Watched over by the magestic Five Sisters of Kintail, the very earth here is steeped in myths, legends and history which swirl mist like with their echoes and whispers. The tales of this land have been woven from the clash and merge of atleast four cultures, each one rich and ancient in its own right. Within Glen Sheil the last battle fought on British mainland soil was settled, and the merger of the Scottish and English crowns was sealed for good. The mountains and rocks rang to guns, cannons and the cries of wounded and dying men, and their blood seeped into the heather clad soil. Spanish, Gaelic, lowland Scots and Angles and English soldiers clashed in the final climax of Bonnie Prince Charlie’s fight to claim his throne. The world shifted forever as a result of what happened in this seemingly remote Highland Glen in 1719.

 Away in the distance at the head of the salty waters of Loch Duich you can see the blue-black silhouettes of the beautiful five sisters of Kintail. There are a few different legends swirling around their slopes, and my favourite involves the deep spells of the Grey Magician of Coire Dhunnid, who promised their aging father the King of Kintail, to preserve the beauty of the 5 sisters forever. These mountainous maidens have been waiting for thousands of years for their princely lovers to return and sweep them away into marital bliss. Being cast of stone their beauty is now eternal, they are immortal and blessed with marvelous gifts for all humanity. Like the Tibetan 5 sisters of Longevity, these mountain goddesses each bear gifts for humanity. Running from Loch Duich back inland towards Clunie, the first sister Sgurr na Moraich is the smallest at just 876 meters, and her name means the Peak of the Sea Plain. A grain and milk goddess she watches over the grazing animals and crops in the fields at her feet. Sgurr nan Saighead (929), the Peak of Arrows, is more of an Amazon warrior, sitting fiercely behind her sister and guarding the pass as it flows through to the sea loch of Loch Duich, and onwards towards Loch Long, Loch Alsh and the Isle of Skye. The central tallest sister is the sacred peak of wells and springs, Sgurr Fhuaron (1067), often veiled in clouds and familiar to the Culdee St Oran, she promises healing and divination. Sgurr na Carnach (1002), the Peak of Cairns or stones, holds ancestral memories, and finally Sgurr na Ciste Duibhe (1027) lying deep into Glen Shiel, the Peak of the Black Chest is the most dangerous, holding the secrets of life and death. Tread carefully if you climb their sides. 

These images are taken from in Iron Age hill fort which lies beside the old high road out of Kintail.  Looking eastwards along Loch Duish towards the 5 sisters and the pass of Glen Shiel, this has at times been the edge of the sea kingdom of Kintail, of Lochalsh, part of the kingship of the Lord of the Isles and the old clan lands of the MacKenzies.  A wild place full of fierce warriors and strong maidens.

(Sgurr is pronounced Skoor, and is applied to jagged steep peaks. It’s Gaelic roots are though to lie in the Norse word sguvr, which means cliff)

(Shiel is thought to be a Pictish word for flowing fresh water)

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About greenmackenzie

Hi, I'm Seonaid, and I share my home with my husband, my son and a collection of cats and dogs. I am forever snapping shots of things which catch my eye. I love art which is here now and gone tomorrow...like food and nature...but also have a passion for vintage and the ancient past! Nature is my favourite muse, with her wild ever shifting seasons. I have been using and teaching mindfulness and relaxation for over 12 years, and have yet to become any sort of expert :-) I'm a Psychotherapist, and run the Maggies Highlands Cancer Centre, in Inverness, Scotland.
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61 Responses to Tales of Kintail and the Five Sisters

  1. Paul Carlos says:

    Love your posts so much. I’m back after a long break from w/press.

  2. Steendahl says:

    What a fantastic landscape! great pictures!

  3. Entrancing tales of an enchanted place. It is that ageless sense of a hidden fury that is so inspirational about Scotland’s north-west. In winter, of course, the fury is more evident…

  4. Sounds like a fairy tale, the five slumbering sisters, dreaming granite dreams.

  5. Amy says:

    Wow, what a story behind this breathtaking mountains! Great post, Seonaid! 🙂

  6. restlessjo says:

    I tumbled down the mountainside into your lovely prose, Seonaid. What a treat! It’s set out so beautifully. 🙂

  7. ladyfi says:

    What gorgeous scenery! (My mum is Scottish – from Glasgow…)

  8. macjam47 says:

    So much history and beauty! Thank you for sharing this.

  9. So much history here – I shudder to think of the many people who were forced to march into this remote area to fight some king’s or lord’s greedy vision, not to mention the ones who lost their lives. And what beautiful mountain landscapes!

    • It’s always amazing and sad to think about what drove men towards their deaths in the name of one King or another…..one religion or another….but at least this battle settled something forever😊 An ending which had meaning….and I always feel so much more for the truly in these battles, like the Spanish….but some were just wounded and then healed and then went on to marry local girls💕😆

  10. Love the names … I wish I could hear you pronounce each and every one. Beautiful scenery. D

  11. Pingback: Tales of Kintail and the Five Sisters by Seonaid Green | Daily Echo

  12. Rachael says:

    Such evocative writing which although some distance away, takes me back to my beloved Summer Isles. xx

  13. Mary says:

    Beautiful images of a very special place, Seonaid

  14. Robin says:

    Beautiful post, Seonaid, both in words and images. I sometimes wish I could step into your images so I could visit these magical places. 🙂

  15. Lucid Gypsy says:

    Fascinating writing Seonaid and that road in the last photo must be quite a drive!

    • The road below which you can see is stunning, but the old road up on the hill, from where I took these shots, is incredible, and wild boar and feral goats are a common road hazard! Just a little further west where the old road dips down and joins the new coastal road you find Eilean Donnan castle….it’s a very majestic part of the world Gilly, and I think you would feel quite at home😊

  16. gwynnrogers says:

    Both my grandmothers had Scottish blood in them and I’m part Welsh… along with German and Irish. Some how your story and history feels like what I am experiencing in my own life. Scotland survived all the skirmishes and is even more beautiful for what it experienced. I suspect, the people are stronger too. I so LOVE the beauty of the land that you and your camera have captured, but I think you have shown the strength of character that exists in Scotland too. It is a much needed story for me right now. Thank you! My ancestors Thank You too! 😉 I do need to open up my map to determine where all of this is compared to where my family live in Wales. You have a beautiful mindset… your clients are lucky! Hugs!!

    • Gwynn, I just knew you must have Scottish or at least a drop or two of Celtic blood 😊Strength of character and an ability to make the best of what life throws our way…..and of course the solid and enduring strength and presence of the mountains. It all helps to anchor and steady us in our ever shifting lives💕 hang on in there lovely….you’re doing an amazing job of healing yourself😊💞

  17. marob23 says:

    Great pictures as always and interesting background to a lovely area . I did some walking in that area many years ago , but did not know about the mystical qualities , or legend. 🙂

  18. Beautiful photography, Seonaid. What interesting folklore is woven around these towering rocks and peaceful lochs. 🙂

  19. These are some absolutely GORGEOUS shots, Seonaid. Why the Scottish Tourist Board aren’t hiring you is one of life’s great mysteries. xxx

  20. Dina says:

    Magnificent work, Seonaid! ❤

  21. I have been to Scotland 4 times now touring various places and its magical beauty is always breathtaking.. You have captured that magic within your pictures and words.. Thank you

  22. John says:

    Tough landscapes holding memory and myth as it should be. Very nice piece.

  23. Maverick ~ says:

    Such a rich heritage combined with a beautiful landscape you’ve captured.

  24. This is such beautiful writing and you bring the history and legends to life. Combined with your stunning photos it makes me want to pack in work, sell the house and move to Scotland. Wonderful stuff 🙂

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