It was the first full day of our journey and, boy, was it packed! After breakfast we had a choice of excursions, both very near the ship. One was to the much-photographed Eilean Donan Castle, home of the Macraes; the other, to the Balmacara Estate, a crofting community owned by the National Trust for Scotland (NTS).
Most people chose the castle option, but before heading over, the bus took us across the recently constructed Skye Road Bridge, a controversial construction which many locals did not support. On the other side of the bridge we stopped at Kyleakin, a quiet little town that had once served as the ferry terminal from Skye before the bridge came into being. From there we traveled back across the bridge and out to Eilean Donan Castle, where local guides took us around this impressive and dominating stone structure, explaining its history and the function and purpose for each of the many rooms we saw. It was a very interesting and photographic visit.
The remainder of our group of travelers headed north to the Balmacara Estate where the NTS guide gave us an explanation as to the nature of crofting, its history, its function, and its place in modern Scotland. We had a lovely hike through some of the runrig fields, along the shoreline and back to the remote train station where our journey had begun. Crofting is a complicated but culturally significant form of subsistence farming, and it is only practiced in Scotland.
During lunch, the ship repositioned to Armadale on the Isle of Skye. There, we visited the Clan Donald Centre with its extensive, highly productive gardens and excellent little museum. We will see several more places in the week to come that connect back to the MacDonalds, Bonnie Prince Charlie, and the powerful Lords of the Isles. Intriguing!
Next, some of us enjoyed a gentle walk through the gardens surrounding the museum; others took a photographic-based walk in the same area. Overall, it was a delightful visit with something for everyone.
We left Skye and headed east to the remote community at Inverie. During the crossing, we heard an illustrated lecture on how to make the most of your camera, no matter how basic, complicated, or phone-based it might be. Some good tips there!
Finally, around dinnertime, we pulled into tiny Inverie, famous for being the most remote village in the United Kingdom. It was gorgeous. The Old Forge Inn is the focal point for the few visitors that find a way to get here, and after dinner many of our group followed in their footsteps and set out to have a pint at the most remote pub in the British Isles.