As I have a few trips to Skye planned over the coming season, I have spent the past weekend on Skye and the West Coast of Scotland with my wife, Susan, preparing myself for the season to come. The season in Skye has not yet fully started, so some of the main attractions, such as Dunvegan castle and the Museum of Island Life, are not yet open. Nevertheless, the scenery remains magnificent, so visit still worthwhile!
We set off from Perth on Saturday after a night of snow.
The weather remained. overcast and wet all the way through Glencoe, reminding me how it must have been for the MacDonalds seeking shelter in the hills in the winter of 1692.
A quick visit to Inverlochy Castle, an old Comyn stronghold until his murder by Robert the Bruce, and then onto Eilean Donan, one of Scotland’s most photographed castles, before heading into the beautiful village of Plockton for supper. Plockton was laid out as a planned fishing village in the 19th century, part of the herring fleet which was so important to Scotland’s economy. More recently, Plockton was the home of Sorley MacLean, one of Scotland’s major poets, who was responsible for reviving the ancient tradition of Gaelic poetry, and was headmaster at the local school. It was also the setting for the tv series Hamish Macbeth, starring Robert Carlyle as an unorthodox rural policeman. We ate in Plockton Shores, a treat of a restaurant serving beautifully fresh seafood.
The next day, we headed onto Skye itself.Stopping at Sligachan, at the head of Glenbrittle for a view of the misty Cuillin.
As we continued on, and the weather improved, we passed Dun Beag Broch, an Iron Age stone tower dominating the surrounding landscape and dating to more than 2000 years ago.. As recently as 200 years ago, this broch was 4 metres tall, but excavation at the start of the last century saw huge amounts of stone and soil removed.
From Dun Beag, we continued onto a more modern building – Talisker distillery. A tour and a dram followed, reminding me how much I enjoy this particular whisky!
Although Dunvegan Castle was closed, this allowed us the time for a quick visit to Kilmuir Church, burial place of the chiefs of the Clan MacLeod, but also of their hereditary pipers, the MacCrimmons – part of the long heritage of clan chiefs and their personal pipers, as the bagpipes gradually replaced the harp as the clan chiefs’ instrument of choice from the 17th century onwards.
We continued north and round the Trotternish peninsula. Unfortunately we were unable to visit the museum Island Life, which was closed for the season, but it is definitely on the list for next time around!
Behind the museum is another Kilmuir cemetery, this one the site of the grave of a very famous person. After defeat at Culloden, Bonnie Prince Charlie spent two months on the run from the redcoats, After 2 months on the run, with a price of £30,000 on his head, he met Flora MacDonald, a young woman whose family were Hanovarians – supporters of King George. Flora helped the prince to escape, disguised as her maid, Betty Burke, subsequently being imprisoned for her part. She later emigrated to America, before returning to her native Scotland, and being buried at Kilmuir.
Continuing round the coast, we saw the spectacular geological formations of the Quiraing – the legacy of a massive earth slip which has left a dramatic vista of cliffs, pinnacle and hidden plateaus. Amongst the most famous elements are Kilt Rock, with its vertical basalt columns resembling the pleats of a kilt, whilst dolerite intrusions create the kilt pattern; and The Old Man of Storr – a giant stone pinnacle on the Trotternish Ridge.
Day 3 saw us return over the Bealach Na Ba – the Pass of the Cattle – probably Scotland’s most dramatic road, winding its way carefully up over the hills onto the Applecross peninsula. Very narrow, very steep, and shrouded in mist.
Now part of the Northern Coast 500, a 500 mile drive around Scotland’s north and western coasts, unfortunately my camera simply isn’t good enough to capture its drama (birthday hint!). From Applecross we passed out through Torridon, framed by its majestic mountains, offering amazing walking and climbing opportunities. Comprising ancient rock, named for the area (Torridonian sandstone), much of this area is held in trust for the nation by the National Trust, a conservation charity.
Back onto the A9, and a drive down via Dalwhinnie – another distillery! Scotland’s highest distillery situated in Highland Region, it produces a wonderfully rounded, smooth malt which is very easy to drink – particularly when served with their complimentary chocolates!
Fab weekend with magnificent scenery (even when the cloud came in). Cant wait to do it again over the summer!