Skye and Kyle of Lochalsh, Scotland

Aug 20, 2017 - Lord of the Glens

After a windy afternoon at sea yesterday and a convivial musical night at the remote village of Inverie, this morning dawned calm and sweet in the sheltered waters of Loch Nevis. Soon we were making our way out over the tranquil Sound of Sleat to Armadale. At this spot at the south-western tip of Skye, Clan MacDonald built a fine mansion in 1790 and over the years expanded it and surrounded it with beautiful gardens. Today it is a picturesque ruin, a spectacular focal point for the extensive grounds which, because of the influence of the Gulf Stream, contains many exotic trees and plants (such as monkey puzzle trees, gunnera and hydrangea) thriving in the mild conditions. A walk amongst its paths and terraces led us to the Museum of the Isles, which presents the story of the clans from their first emergence more than 1500 years ago, to the Jacobite rebellions, the Clearances and the diaspora of Gaelic-speaking peoples around the world.

Back aboard Lord of the Glens, we departed Armadale, sailing onwards through the Sound of Sleat with fleeting glimpses of dolphins, to our final destination of Kyle of Lochalsh. Most of us accompanied Konia, Jim and Emily on a visit to Eilean Donan Castle, a historic edifice with an interesting history. It started life as a prehistoric fortress on a tidal island at the confluence of three lochs, then it became the base for an early Christian saint, Donan, in the sixth century A.D. It was then developed as a defensive Royal Castle in the 13th century, and held successively by the Mathieson’s, the Mackenzie’s and the MacRae’s. It was blown up in 1719 after one of the Jacobite rebellions, but was restored in the 20th century by a descendant of the MacRaes. Afterwards we called in at the delightful village of Kyleakin, across the bridge on the Isle of Skye. Kyleakin Castle is a picturesque and highly photogenic ruin which was once held by a Norse princess.

Others chose to go for a hike in the Cuillin Mountains with Carol. They crossed over the bridge from Kyle of Lochalsh to Skye and continued along the island’s north-east coast to Sligachan for the start of a beautiful trail through dramatic, open scenery surrounded by mist-covered peaks. Wildflowers were in bloom: heather, tormentil, and devilsbit scabious, but there was also plenty of wildlife present in the form of the infamous Scottish midge, which drove some of us back early to the pub where we enjoyed a taste of their dazzling array of whiskies.

The sun shone on our last evening together, many of us splendidly arrayed in kilts or tartan shawls. Our hotel manager Brian gave a rousing rendition of Robert Burn’s “Ode to a Haggis” as he took his cleaver to a great steaming haggis, a memorable sight indeed. The evening was concluded with some fine traditional Scottish music from Ronan and Frances, and wonderful shared memories of our journey through Scotland’s Highlands and Islands. 

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About the Author

Carol Knott

Expedition Leader

Carol studied archaeology, history and philosophy at the University of Glasgow, her native city. She spent many years as an archaeologist in the southeast of England, specializing in medieval ceramics and the conservation of historic houses and gardens. Since 1988 she has worked as an archaeologist in the Outer Hebrides of Scotland, living in a crofting village on the Isle of Lewis, and was formerly archaeologist for the National Trust for Scotland for their World Heritage site of St Kilda. Her great pleasure is to explore the cultures of Scotland, Europe and the North Atlantic, and to bring them to life for a modern audience. 

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