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MacDonald of Sleat

Sgurr nan Gillean in the Cuillin, Isle of Skye, Scotland.

Battle of Coire na Creiche

May 21

Other Scottish Country Dances for this Day

Today's Musings, History & Folklore

"🎶 People gather round there's a story to tell
And I know how you like it when they don't end well
It has a one-eyed donkey and a one-eyed horse
Rode by one-eyed woman riding backwards of course
And the horse is led by a one-eyed servant

And we call it, The War of the One-Eyed Woman."

~ Couthy Fernenst, Gerry Callahan and Davey Stewart

Clan vs Clan! Also known as "The Battle of the One-Eyed Woman", the Battle of Coire na Creiche ("the hollow of the spoil") fought in the summer of 1601 was the culmination of a long-standing feud between the MacLeod and MacDonald Clans on the Isle of Skye. To broker peace, Rory Mòr MacLeod offered his sister, Margaret, in a handfast marriage to Donald Gorm Mòr MacDonald. A handfast allowed a couple to live together for up to a year and a day, becoming a permanent marriage if a male heir was born. However, Margaret did not bear a child and lost sight in one eye during this period. Donald humiliatingly sent her back to her brother tied backward on a one-eyed horse, led by a one-eyed servant and followed by a one-eyed dog. This insult sparked the "Wars of the One-Eyed Woman," with Rory MacLeod devastating the Trotternish peninsula and Donald MacDonald retaliating by attacking Harris. The final clash at Coire na Creiche saw the MacDonalds, with superior numbers, decisively defeat the MacLeods. The battle marked the end of clan warfare on Skye as the Scottish Crown intervened to restore peace. This lively jig has Highland Steps for the ladies and men to stir the blood! ⚔️

MacDonald of Sleat

The Battle

The MacLeod and MacDonald Clans had been long at feud, their animosity fueled by territorial disputes, power struggles, and economic competition on the Isle of Skye. In an effort to bring peace, Rory Mòr MacLeod (Ruaraidh MacLeòid), the chief of Clan MacLeod, proposed a marriage alliance. He offered the hand of his sister, Margaret MacLeod, to Donald Gorm Mòr MacDonald (Dòmhnall Gorm Mòr MacDhòmhnall), the chief of Clan MacDonald.

The marriage was arranged as a handfast, a traditional Scottish trial marriage where the couple lived together for up to a year and a day. If a male heir was born during this period, the marriage would become permanent. If not, both parties would return to their respective families.

The Insult

After a year and a day, Margaret MacLeod had not borne a child, male or female. Moreover, during this period, she had lost the sight in one eye. Donald MacDonald, deeming her of no further use, decided to return her to her brother in a humiliating manner. He tied her, facing backwards, onto a one-eyed horse, led by a one-eyed servant and followed by a one-eyed mongrel dog, and sent them back to Dunvegan Castle. This act was a grave insult to Margaret, her brother Rory, and the entire Clan MacLeod.

The War of the One-Eyed Woman

Rory MacLeod, incensed by the insult, declared war on Clan MacDonald. He led his men in a devastating raid on the Trotternish peninsula in the north of Skye, a stronghold of the MacDonalds. In retaliation, Donald MacDonald launched an attack on MacLeod land in Harris. These conflicts became known as the Wars of the One-Eyed Woman, a series of brutal skirmishes that further deepened the animosity between the two clans.

The Battle of Coire na Creiche

The feud culminated in the Battle of Coire na Creiche in 1601. The MacLeods and MacDonalds clashed in the rugged terrain of the Cuillin Hills on Skye. The MacDonalds, led by Donald Gorm Mòr MacDonald, had superior numbers and a strategic advantage. The MacLeods, led by Rory MacLeod, were outmatched but fiercely determined to avenge the insult to their clan.

The battle was fierce and bloody, with both sides suffering significant casualties. The MacDonalds, however, managed to overwhelm the MacLeods through their superior numbers and better positioning. The defeat was a severe blow to Clan MacLeod, diminishing their power and influence on Skye.


Following the battle, the Scottish Crown intervened to pacify the region and prevent further bloodshed. Fines were imposed, and peace agreements were signed, bringing an end to the violent feud between the MacLeods and MacDonalds. The Battle of Coire na Creiche marked the end of an era of clan warfare on the Isle of Skye and highlighted the increasing influence of central governance in the Highlands.

To hear about this story in song form, click below!

MacDonald of Sleat

Click the dance cribs or description below to link to a printable version of the dance!

MacDonald of Sleat

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