Inverie to Kyle of Lochalsh, Scotland

Jul 29, 2018 - Lord of the Glens


Sometime in the small hours of the night, sea waves came knocking on our windows, blown in by rising winds. By morning, it was “blowing a hoolie,” and the boat rocked its way out of Inverie, headed toward Armadale. As we crossed the choppy sea, gannets were fishing, plunging into the sea, their splash on entry hidden in the whitecaps.

Unfortunately, the sea was far too rough to put in at Armadale, so we ventured north toward our final berth at Kyle of Lochalsh. As we sailed toward the Kyle, we heard a presentation, The Moors: Bonnie Heather to Soggy Bog, covering several aspects of moorlands, from cultural perspectives to moorland flora and fauna.

After lunch, we had three options for activities: a tough choice between traveling to the Clan Donald Centre by bus since we’d missed it during the morning, visiting the Eilean Donan castle, or heading to the heart of Skye to walk in the Sligachan Valley.

Those who went to the Clan Donald Centre heard about the Lord of the Isles at the Centre Museum. This line of nobility developed from a mixed Viking-Gaelic ancestry and ruled over the west coast and islands of Scotland until the 15th century. Also, the center is home to lush gardens featuring diverse flora brought in from across the globe. On the edge of the gardens sit the ruins of Clan Donald Castle. Parts of the castle were constructed in the late 18th century. As part of the castle, a large building was constructed in 1815 only to burn down in 1855.

The hiking group left the mainland by traveling across the Skye Bridge, then drove through the increasingly rugged terrain to reach Glen Sligachan. The walk ventured up a glacially carved valley between the Black Cuillins and the Red Cuillins. These two parts of the Cuillins derive their names from igneous rock types—the black composed of dark gabbro and the red of reddish granite, both formed during the turbulent volcanic period around 60-50 million years ago. The grinding of Ice Age glaciers and erosion further carved this landscape, creating the dramatic scenery.  

The third group went to the picturesque Eilean Donan Castle, alleged to be the most photographed castle in Scotland. Constructed in the mid-13th century, the structure was partially destroyed during a Jacobite uprising in early 1719. The castle lay in ruins until Lieutenant Colonel John MacRae-Gilstrap bought the island and castle in 1911 and restored the structure to its current state. We toured the magnificent building and admired its view over the nearby sea loch.

Everyone had a pleasant and enjoyable afternoon, and upon our return from the activities, we all gathered one last time for the Captain’s Cocktail Party for a slideshow and a toast to the wonderful week. After a special dinner, complete with a rousing rendition of Robert Burns’ “Address to a Haggis.” A lovely way to end our week in the Scottish Highlands and islands. Haste ye back!

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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

Eric Kruszewski

Naturalist/Certified Photo Instructor

An editorial photographer and videographer based in Washington, D.C., Eric Kruszewski's multimedia work focuses on reportage and travel. His work is represented by National Geographic Creative, and he is a regular contributor to National Geographic's Image Collection.

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