Kyle of Lochalsh & Isle of Skye

Jul 29, 2019 - Lord of the Glens

Our first morning on board Lord of the Glens was a sparkling, Scottish summer morning. The Skye Bridge arched across our view, linking the mainland with the Isle of Skye and framing the mountains in the distance. The bridge was completed in 1995, and at 106 feet tall it is just high enough to allow the queen’s royal yacht, Britannia, to pass beneath.

Some of us boarded a bus to cross that bridge and travel to the heart of the Cuillin Mountains for a hike through rugged moorland amid magnificent natural surroundings. Others headed over to Skye, to the village of Kyleakin and the stark, jagged ruins of Maol Castle, where a Viking princess once held sway more than 1,000 years ago. The present stonework probably dates from about 1,500 A.D. Then it was off to another castle, the famous Eilean Donan, built on the mainland at the confluence of three sea lochs. The castle walls are at least 700 years old, but it was eventually destroyed in 1719 as a consequence of one of the Jacobite rebellions, and lay in ruins until it was lovingly restored in the early 20th century by Lieutenant Colonel John MacRae-Gilstrap.

At midday we cast off from Kyle of Lochalsh, and Lord of the Glens sailed southward through Loch Alsh, the Kylerhea narrows, and into the Sound of Sleat to our afternoon destination at Armadale in southwest Skye. Along the way, we spotted foraging seabirds—northern gannets and common guillemots—as well as harbor seals and harbor porpoises. At the Clan Donald Centre, we strolled through the gardens which once graced Armadale Castle, a 19th-century mansion occupied until the 1930s by the MacDonalds of Sleat. Exotics such as gunnera from the South American rainforest, Chilean pine, and giant western red cedar jostled with native trees and wildflowers. The beautiful walled garden contained lovely lacecap hydrangeas, feathery astilbes, and sea hollies. A fine modern museum told the story of the MacDonald clan, from the first arrival of Gaels from Ireland early in the first millennium AD, to their glory days as Lords of the Isles, the Jacobite rebellions, the Highland Clearances, and the diaspora of Gaelic-speaking people throughout the New World.

Bidding farewell to Skye, we crossed over to Loch Nevis to the remote and picturesque village of Inverie, which is only accessible by sea or on foot over the hills. We enjoyed a tranquil night in the still silence of the lochs and hills of Knoydart.

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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

Steve Morello

Naturalist/Certified Photo Instructor

Steve Morello has had a long and colorful career in the natural history world. Born in New Jersey he was lucky to be able to summer on the shores of Cape Cod. Whether it was exploring the tidal pools, snorkeling along the beach, or hiking in the dunes, it all came together to instill in him a deep connection to the natural world. It was no surprise that he would return to the Cape as a whale researcher in his adult years. It was on the Cape that Steve first became involved in guiding, and for 15 years acted as naturalist on whale watching boats in the Gulf of Maine. Steve worked with groups creating environmental education material for school programs and soon found another one of his passions, photography.

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