Yesterday evening, our week started on a beautiful sunny note in the Kyle of Lochalsh, a mainland village near the bridge to the Isle of Skye. Local musicians, Frances and Ronan, provided traditional Scottish music after dinner—a wonderful welcome to the country.
Sunshine continued for our first day on Lord of the Glens; we had lovely weather and views for our morning activities. Just after breakfast, some guests set off by coach to Eileen Donan Castle, one of the most photographed castles in Scotland. This picturesque building has been featured in several movies and shows, including the popular Highlander. Lieutenant Colonel John MacRae-Gilstrip restored the castle to its current state for Clan MacRae in the 20th century. In its refurbished condition, Eileen Donan is now used as a summer residence by four generations of MacRaes.
Other guests spent the morning walking in the hills outside of town, passing through moors and woodlands to reach a loch nestled in a small glen. The walkers had views out to the Cuillin mountains of Skye and the chance to meander through native birch and oak woodland. Next to the trail were peat blocks, cut and drying for fuel. The ling heather is just coming into bloom and soon many of Scotland’s slopes will take on the lavender hue of heather season.
From Kyle of Lochalsh, we sailed through the narrows between Skye and the mainland, with currents mixing and swelling as the tide raced through. Then it was back on shore to visit the Clan Donald Centre on the Sleat peninsula of Skye. The center has an excellent museum that details the history of the clans, beginning with the establishment of the ancient kingdom of Dalriada that lasted from about 500 to 1000 A.D., with lands in Ireland and Scotland. It is considered by many to be the birthplace of modern Scotland. The museum then picks up 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 fifteenth century.
The center’s gardens were bright and lush despite the clouds that rolled in, and we strolled through the verdant grounds where the ruins of the Clan Donald Castle stand. The building was constructed in the 18th century, added onto in 1815, then burnt down in 1850, leaving the ruins that currently stand.
Then we headed to the Knoydart peninsula’s Inverie, a village accessible only by foot or boat. As dinner was served, a local fiddler played a few traditional tunes. After dinner, many set off to visit the Old Forge Inn, considered the “most remote pub on mainland Scotland,” to cap off our first day with a pint or a wee dram.