Isle of Skye and Kyle of Lochalsh

Aug 26, 2018 - Lord of the Glens


Rain, rain, rain. It is the generous annual rainfall that gives Scotland its lush, green landscape, and today we experienced it for ourselves. Slipping away from our berth at Inverie in the early morning, Lord of the Glens sailed north through soft mist to our final berth at Kyle of Lochalsh, under the shadow of the Skye Bridge. Soon our bus was carrying us over the bridge, completed in 1995, and across the Sleat Peninsula to Armadale Castle, the spiritual home of the MacDonalds.

At Armadale, we strolled through the gardens, admiring the exotic plantings, collected from all over the world, thriving alongside native trees. At the center sits the remains of a grand house used by MacDonald chiefs from 1750 until they abandoned it for more modest accommodation in 1975. The modern museum within the grounds tells the story of the Gaelic-speaking people of the west of Scotland: their arrival from Ireland in the early centuries AD; the creation of a flourishing culture culminating under the Lords of the Isles and the clan MacDonald; the Jacobite rebellions and the Highland Clearances.

After another superlative lunch, there were a number of options for exploring and enjoying this corner of the kingdom. Some chose to relax on board the ship in view of Castle Maol, a 15th-century ruined castle famous as the seat of the MacKinnons and a Norse princess who was reputed to exact tolls from passing traffic. Another option was an exhilarating—if damp—hike in the grandeur of the Cuilin Mountains in the heart of the Isle of Skye, plus whiskey in the Sligachan Inn at the end of the trail. There was also a tour of the Kyle of Lochalsh area, and the delightful village of Plockton, founded in 1794 by the Earl of Seaforth as a fishing and smallholding community. Plockton features beautiful and atmospheric views of Loch Carron and Duncraig Castle beyond.

We rounded off the last day of our voyage with a fine dinner—featuring haggis and other traditional fare—to the accompaniment of classic Scottish music.

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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. 

About the Photographer

Brenda Tharp

Naturalist/Certified Photo Instructor

For over 20 years, Brenda has used her photographs of the world to celebrate its beauty, and inspire others to protect what we have. Brenda grew up exploring the woods, lakes, and coastlines of New Jersey and New England and her family traveled regularly throughout the eastern U.S., camping, hiking, backpacking, and canoeing. She spent most of her childhood engaging with nature in some form or another and learning about animal behavior. When her father taught her some photography at 13, Brenda soon combined her love for nature with her newfound passion, and several years later her adventure began as a freelance photographer, teacher, and writer.

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