I’m back from my little Highlands adventure, mostly intact save for a tick bite and somewhat sore leg muscles, probably not helped by running in the inaugural City of Literature egg and spoon race. The things I do after a few free glasses of wine. A few people at the salon asked why this month’s namebadge said ‘Ask me how fairies ruined my car’, so I thought I’d explain it in a bit more detail. Be warned, though- it’s really actually honestly true. And creepy.
One day, I discovered that nearby Shieldaig had a fairy mound, Sìthean Mòr, and some small Fairy Lochs around it. There’s a war memorial here, where a Liberator Bomber crashed at the end of WWII, and the wreckage is still strewn across the waters. It’s considered bad luck to take any of it away- apparently some catastrophe befell a woman who pinched some parachute silk for her wedding dress.
Anyway. I hop into the Funbus, a car more suited to sensible MPG and hefting shopping than navigating Highlands hairpin bends, and I park up at Shieldaig’s hotel. The views are tremendous.
I wander inside to escape the drizzle. The hotel was a hunting lodge and is a riot of overblown chandeliers, furniture made of antlers and suits of armour. It’s also… quiet. I decide it’s maybe closed, when a portly gentleman appears out of nowhere. ‘I was just passing through, do you do coff-‘ I begin, before he cuts me off with ‘Oh yes, I’ll make you a coffee!’ and scurrying away. Sitting in the deserted bar, staring at the hundreds of whiskies, everything is still quiet save for some gentle Visit Scotland-style music. The coffee appears on a silver platter, with a hunk of homemade shortbread big enough to kill a man. Eventually, I hear a conversation in the hallway:
Hotel guy 1: Oh, isn’t it nice that we have a STRANGER visiting!
Hotel guy 2: I wonder if they’ll actually STAY.
Odd. But hey, it’s remote, right? A slender girl wafts in to clear away crockery. If I’m honest, her eye colour didn’t actually exist in nature. As I head to the facilities, some people I assume are guests go by, make a knowing gesture at one of the staff, and said ‘Room 12’, to which they nod gravely and say ‘It’s always THAT room, isn’t it?’ At the point where a young man goes past the window and flashes me a creepy smile, I decide to pay up and leave, because things have gotten a wee bit League of Gentlemen.
I’ve been told the fairy lochs aren’t far up a hill, so I don sensible boots and start walking. Half an hour later, scrabbling through bushes and deep mud, I start to think this may not be true. The weather closes in with alarming speed, swirling mist and all, so I sensibly decide to turn back before my muddy corpse is picked clean by vultures. That’s when I heard the voices. There was nobody else in sight. I speed up a bit, and then there’s what sounds like a hunting horn and a series of explosions. At this point I don’t care if there’s some rational explanation like ‘ship equipped with foghorn and cannons’. I leap into the Funbus and speed home, via the nice tiny museum in Gairloch where a nice old lady looks at my soggy clothes and pained expression and declares it must be raining outside. Well, indeed. I get back, stick on some Pink Floyd and start writing, at which point the fairy I’ve accidentally taken home with me spontaneously turns up the stereo volume. What.
And yes, next day I try to back the car out the driveway the gearbox doesn’t want to, er, do gears, resulting in a trip home on Saturday that consisted of creative ‘stalling to get out of reverse’ starts, rolling onto roundabouts in 5th and setting off from lights in 2nd and 3rd, which offers a bonus massage from the juddering engine. The Funbus is currently in surgery, probably to the tune of £400 for a new clutch. And it’s all the fairies’ fault. Not Highland roads, or the fact it was the car I learned in. Definitely the Shieldaig residents.
The moral of the story is- don’t go poking around fairy mounds. There’s some messed-up shit there.