When it comes to bridges on Skye, the Fairy Bridge won’t be the first that springs to mind. Overshadowed by its more popular brother at Sligachan, the Fairy Bridge near Dunvegan sees comparatively few visitors, despite its beauty.
Although the bridge is wonderful in its own right, it is the legend behind it that makes this spot so enchanting. The Fairy Bridge is merely the physical representation of a fantastical tale of princesses, faeries, and magical realms unseen.
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A Guide to the Fairy Bridge, Isle of Skye
The Fairy Bridge Legend
Historians believe that the Fairy Bridge on Skye dates back to the late 18th or early 19th century, although the legend behind it is much older. The bridge is characterised by a single arch and would have once been a part of the original road to Waternish. This spot has the Gaelic name ‘Beul-Ath nan Tri Allt’ which translates to ‘The Ford of the Three Burns’.
Legend has it that one of the old chiefs of Clan Macleod fell head over heels in love with a beautiful faerie princess. Her father, King of the Faeries, forbid her from marrying a mortal man and refused to allow a wedding to take place.
After relentless begging from his daughter, he eventually agreed to a handfasting ceremony, once used to symbolise a kind of ‘trial marriage’. It was agreed that the marriage was to last no longer than a year and a day, during which time the faerie princess could live alongside her husband in peace.
But, the King of the Faeries had set another condition on this arrangement. At the end of the year and a day, the princess would be required to return to the faerie realm once more, bringing nothing with her from the human world.
As she and her husband built a life together, she fell pregnant and gave birth to a son. Stricken by the grief of having to leave her family behind, she wrapped her son in a special silk shawl before handing him over to her husband for the final time. The Fairy Bridge is believed to mark the spot at which she returned to the Faerie realm.
While this is a tragic love story as it is, the most enchanting part of the tale centres around the silken shawl that the faerie princess wrapped her son in. It had been infused with magic and could be used up to three times to summon help when Clan Macleod was under threat.
Although this legend does sound rather fantastical, the silk shawl is absolutely real and sits in Dunvegan Castle, the official seat of Clan Macleod. Now known as the Fairy Flag, it is believed that its powers have been exercised twice to date, once during the battle that followed the torching of Trumpan Church in 1578 and again when the clan’s cattle were dying off from plague, causing deadly food shortages.
While the legend predates the bridge by many years, it is believed that it was later built in the exact spot where the princess parted from her family. As for the Fairy Flag, historians estimate that Clan Macleod acquired it sometime before 1580. The flag itself is believed to have originated in Persia and dates back between the 4th and 7th centuries! If you are interested, you can head to Dunvegan Castle to view it.
And if that is not enough fairy magic for you, there was another version of the story published in ‘Skye – The Island and its Legends’ by Otta Swire. In this retelling, the parting of husband and wife had already happened and the princess had returned to the faerie realm. After hearing the baby crying one night, she returned to the mortal world to comfort her son, wrapping him in a blanket, now believed to be the Fairy Flag.
Also read: Castles on the Isle of Skye
Facilities at the Fairy Bridge
The area around the Fairy Bridge is wonderfully scenic, however, if you are expecting tourist infrastructure nearby, you’ll be disappointed. Owing to its wild location, the Fairy Bridge sits in a relatively untouched area of Skye and there are no facilities close by.
Despite this, the area close to the bridge is a beautiful spot to enjoy a picnic or wild camp. There are also a few walks nearby.
How to Get to the Fairy Bridge, Isle of Skye
Close to the junction of the B886 and the A850, the Fairy Bridge sits around three miles from Dunvegan. To get there, head to the northern part of the Waternish peninsula. There is a small lay-by for parking next to the Fairy Bridge. (Note that if you visit during the summer months, you may share this spot with camper vans.)
The Fairy Bridge is also marked on Google Maps. There is no public transport to the Fairy Bridge on Skye so you can only travel there independently or as part of an organised tour.
As the Fairy Bridge is a bit out of the way, I recommend pairing a visit here with some of the other local attractions such as Dunvegan Castle, Trumpan Church or Waternish Point.
Have you visited Skye’s Fairy Bridge yet?