Kyle of Lochalsh and Skye, Scotland

Aug 28, 2018 - Lord of the Glens


What would our first day of exploration in the Highlands and Islands of Scotland bring? Our ship, Lord of the Glens, was berthed at Kyle of Lochalsh, once the ferry port for the Isle of Skye and the Western Isles. It is now the home of the Skye bridge, which formed an elegant sweep across the view on our port side. Here, Skye and the mainland are separated by 250 yards of foaming sea loch.

The Duirinish peninsula lies to the north, with the village of Plockton looking out over Loch Carron. It was delightful to wander the main street with tiny cottages on one side and even tinier gardens on the other, all bursting with flowers, vegetables, and quirky surprises. The thriving cabbage palm shows the mildness of the climate, bathed as it is in the temperate waters of the Gulf Stream. A photographer’s paradise. Then on to Eilean Donan Castle, an iconic Scottish stronghold on a tidal island at the confluence of three lochs. It stood undaunted on its rock for many turbulent centuries, but was finally destroyed, blown up with gunpowder in 1617 after a failed Jacobite rebellion. However, one man’s vision in the early years of the 20th century turned the ruins back into a magnificent expression of its former medieval glory. Meanwhile, a hardy group of hikers set off for a trek in the Cuillin mountains on Skye, discovering for themselves how well the “misty isle” deserves its name.

The wind picked up as we sailed out through the Sound of Sleat, hoping for another landfall on the Isle of Skye. En route we passed Orinsay lighthouse, a Stevenson brothers’ construction of 1857; Sabhal Mòr Ostaig, Scotland’s Gaelic college; and an excited tangle of feeding seabirds: Manx shearwaters, kittiwakes, terns, and common guillemots.

So close and yet so far. Unable to hold our berth at Armadale, we turned away across the sound, heading for the sheltered waters of Loch Nevis, a sea loch penetrating deeply into the west coast of the mainland. Inverie is a fascinating community, and here, in the gentle rain, we disembarked—some to visit the famously remote pub; others to walk with great pleasure amongst the mosses, lichens, flowers, and ripe wild blackberries of the shoreline woodland.

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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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