Eilean Donan, Armadale, Inverie

Jun 19, 2018 - Lord of the Glens


Our first full day on the Lord of the Glens started with a bright, breezy morning at Kyle of Lochalsh. We had the difficult choice of either heading off for a hike in the Cuillins of Skye, or visiting Eilean Donan castle. Either outing promised an interesting, beautiful introduction to the nature and culture of the Highlands. 

The hiking group traveled across the Skye Bridge through the increasingly rugged terrain of the Isle of Skye to reach Sligachan Glen. There we walked up a glacially carved valley between the Black Cuillins and the Red Cuillins, named for their igneous rock types, the black composed of dark gabbro, the red of reddish granite. Both are remnants of an underground magma chamber exposed through the grinding action of Ice Age glaciers and erosion. The dramatic peaks provided a wonderful setting for our walk through the moorland, with its peat bogs and heather. The summer flowers are just beginning to bloom: bog asphodel, lousewort, tormentil, orchids, and bell heather. The insectivorous plants, sundew and butterwort, also grow along the trail. 

The other group visited the Eilean Donan Castle, a picturesque castle that has appeared in many movies and is possibly the most photographed castle in all of Scotland. The building was rebuilt by Lieutenant Colonel John MacRae-Gilstrip in the 20th century for Clan MacRae. The group enjoyed a walk through the beautifully restored rooms, with a view out over the sea. 

Over lunch, Lord of the Glens sailed from Kyle of Lochalsh to Armadale, with Skye on one side, the mainland on the other, and mountains all around.  We disembarked for a visit to the Clan Donald Centre, with its museum, gardens, and castle ruins. The Centre’s Museum tells the history of the Lord of the Isles, a line of nobility from a mixed Viking-Gaelic ancestry that ruled over the west coast and islands of Scotland until the 15th century. The surrounding lush gardens have diverse flora, brought in from across the globe, everything from the South American monkey-puzzle tree to the North American red cedar. The afternoon included a hike up to a scenic overlook across the sea to the mainland, and a photo walk with Jim Richardson. 

From Armadale, we set sail for the small village of Inverie on the Knoydart Peninsula, our berth for the night. Although on mainland Scotland, Inverie is only accessible by boat or by walking, thus having the feel of an island. Knoydart is community owned, bought and now governed by the local people. As dinner was served, one of the local Inverie residents gave us a sample of traditional fiddle playing. Our evening ended with a whisky tasting and photos from Jim Richardson, a nice closing to another wonderful day in the Highlands of Scotland.

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About the Author

Robin Patten

Naturalist

The natural world has always been central to Robin’s life. At an early age, she was out exploring the Montana backcountry, learning natural history through experience. She went on to earn a Ph.D. in landscape ecology from Colorado State University, followed by an M.S. in Environmental Writing from the University of Montana and a Post-Graduate Diploma from Scotland’s Centre for Mountain Studies. Her studies included environmental history and cultural geography, and her work often focuses on the interactions between cultures and landscapes. Robin still lives in Montana, writing and working from a small cabin near Yellowstone National Park.

About the Photographer

Stewart Aitchison

Naturalist/Certified Photo Instructor

Trained as zoologist and geologist, Stewart 's passion is the natural world. He has been exploring, photographing, teaching, and writing about biodiversity, geology, and the American Southwest for forty years and has worked with Lindblad Expeditions-National Geographic since 1981.  Stewart also spent ten years as a field biologist for the Museum of Northern Arizona, a nonprofit institution dedicated to preserving the Colorado Plateau's natural and cultural heritage.

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