Dunvegan Castle on the Isle of Skye


Dunvegan Castle is the ancestral home of the MacLeod of MacLeod, Chieftain of the MacLeod Clan. They have an ancient flag displayed there, which is said to be the magic "Land-Waster" once borne by King Harald Hardrada of Norway when he invaded England in 1066. It is said that it took a thousand Viking longboats to transport his troops. The gigantic Norseman intended to stay for he brought his wife (a Russian princess), his children, concubines and all his treasure, including a huge nugget of gold that needed 16 men to carry it. At the battle of Stamford Bridge, the vikings formed the traditional shied wall which made a full circle. Little could be seen of the men except their winged helmets and fierce eyes above the shields and the dread "Land-Waster" flying above them.


Harold, King of England, was a much smaller man than his Norwegian rival for the throne, nevertheless he led the charge against the shield wall. Men fight hardest when they defend their native land. If the Norsemen won, they would ravage England from coast to coast. Nobody would be safe. Harald Hardrada, standing beneath Land-Waster, fought on long after the shield wall had been broken, but in the end he died his throat pierced by an arrow. A blood stained cloth was flung over his face so he could not witness the defeat of his army.


The English were not victorious a few weeks later, when they had to meet the Normans at Hastings. But the Land-Waster, the terror inspiring black flag of the Vikings, vanished in this turmoil. Some say the MacLeod flag is that flag. Others say it was given to some ancient chieftain by his fairy wife. Two legends survive about it: whenever there is great danger to the MacLeods, they will overcome all difficulties if they fly the flag - but this protection will only work three times, and it has already been used successfully twice - at the Battles of Glendale (1490) and Trumpan (1580). The other legen is that every ten years at midnight on Midsummer, the king of the fairies and all his court come to view the flag, and woe-betide any mortal who spies on them during this visit.


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