October 13, 2010

Day Four: the Amazement doesn't stop - all day!

As captivating as Skye is, sadly, we had to leave and continue on our trip.  But we weren't sad for long because from Skye we went to that most recognizable castle - Eilan Donan.  It is recognizable because it has become iconic but it is also incredibly beautiful.  Of course, it has incredible history.  And the fantastic views help build the atmosphere.  And the castle has featured in so many movies - you could love it as a movie star too. But the best bit is that it has a space especially for harpers in the great hall.  Clearly they were expecting us!  And THAT is what made me fall in love with ths castle.    Unfortunately, no photography inside.  So if you want to see this little harp spot, you'll have to come with us!

The beautiful harpers at Eilan Donan

However, no photos inside doesn't mean no photos outside!  We had a great time taking this photo.  And apparently a lot of other people did too.  Don't be surprised if you see this photo in other places - people from all over the world stopped and took this photo too - tourists from Japan, Korea, Germany and Canada all seemed to be captivated by the harpers - who were clearly having a great time!  And we weren't even playing!

From Eilan Donan we traveled on past some delightful sites on to Strathpeffer, the old Victorian Spa town where we had a lovely lunch.  And what did we find above the bar?  A reel written for the restaurant.  We will have to go back, just to learn that tune! 

Zan shares the harps, the lore, and more with us
in the "showroom" at Ardival Harps
But we couldn't linger over lunch - we were on our way to our next stop - at Ardival Harps!  Ardival makes a number of different kinds of harps and we were privileged to see, hear, feel and play all the different types!  We started out with Zan telling us all about the intriguing back story on the harps - Wire, Gothic, Bray, and Lever.  She shared history and stories, and we played all the different instruments.  We played new tunes on old style harps and old tunes on the types of harps for which they might have been written.  We were all clearly smitten!

Graham shows us the steps to making a wire harp. 
He made it look so easy we might have,
for a moment, thought we could do it as well as he -
but we'd be wrong!
And then, while we were all still in the fantasy land of "... maybe I should have one of these too, just to improve my harp playing and to be more fully involved in the history of majesty of the harp - and owning just one more harp wouldn't be bad...but they're all so wonderful, why stop at one..." (the stupor one finds oneself in when there are so many harps at hand!) we moved on to the workshop to meet Graham and see how a master craftsman brings a harp out of a chunk of wood.   We learned about the process (and the pitfalls) of making harps from natural materials as well as the secret of the bray pin!  I'll never look at a harp the same way again.  Nor will I ever forget the aroma of the workshop - the tantalizing smell of wood - can you smell the wood of your harp when you sit to play?

We were sad to leave Zan and Graham and all those captivating harps, but we eventually did go on to our accommodation for the rest of the trip, the Dowan's Hotel in Aberlour.  Who knew what adventures would await us in the Spey Valley...

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