Isle of Skye - Inner Hebrides
Skye is the largest, best known and most magnificent of the inner isles; the romantic island of legend, the 'Misty Isle' of dramatic sea lochs, rocky peaks and breathtaking views. Most visitors arrive at the island via the Skye Bridge, which spans the Kyleakin Narrows between Kyle of Lochalsh and Kyleakin. Overlooking Kyleakin harbour are the scant ruins of Castle Moil, once a MacKinnon stronghold and buttress against Norse raiders.
Towards the southern tip of Skye lies a more imposing ruin, that of Armadale Castle, formerly home to the MacDonalds, once one of Scotland's most powerful clans and Lords of the Isles. The Clan MacDonald Trust, enjoying world-wide membership especially in the United States, has funded the renowned Clan Donald Centre, the Armadale Castle Gardens and the fascinating Museum of the Isles. The centre is a place of pilgrimage for MacDonalds who wish to trace their ancestry.
Dominating the central-south region of Skye are the forbidding Black Cuillin, jagged mountain peaks rising over 3000 ft, presenting the visitor with one of the most spectacular views in all of Britain. This mountainous scene was a favourite amongst the romantic movement of artistes, most especially Turner, while Sir Walter Scott used the Cuillin as a backdrop for some of his florid historical novels. Located on the northern extremes of the mountain range is the village of Luib, where displays in its Croft Museum reveal Skye to have been the scene of intense conflict during the early 19th cent, when local crofters resisted eviction during the notorious Highland Clearances; the Battle of the Braen fought in 1882 was particularly bloody. It's estimated that nearly 30,000 people were forcibly removed from the island, a staggering displacement.
Portree is the capital of Skye and also its administrative and tourist centre; its population of 2500 doubles every summer with the influx of visitors. The name Portree is derived from Port an Righ, meaning Port of the King, a name the town assumed after James V came to Skye in 1540 to settle a feud between the MacLeod and MacDonald clans. The town's oldest and most interesting buildings surround the port mostly along the waterfront quay, of especial note are the ancient gaol and courthouse. Overlooking the river mouth on the south side of Portree is the superb heritage centre, the Aros Experience. This award-winning, multi-functional exhibition, celebrates the people who shaped and influenced Skye's cultural heritage, recounting its turbulent history from 1700 to the present day. The Royal Hotel on Bank Street is notable for some of its past guests when, in an earlier incarnation the hotel was known as MacNab's. Here, in 1746, a melancholic Bonnie Prince Charlie bade farewell to his courageous helper , Flora MacDonald, and gave her the half-crown he owed her; Flora it was who had taken the fugitive prince 'over the sea to Skye' disguised as her handmaiden only 2 months before. A quarter of a century later Dr Johnson, accompanied by James Boswell, dined at the same hostelry
North from Portree is the Trotternish Peninsula offering magnificent rock scenery and breathtaking views. Particularly impressive are the extraordinary Old Man of Storr, an isolated 160 ft pinnacle of rock, and the spectacular and eccentric rock formations of the Quiraing, an outlandish forest of ragged pinnacles and tortured crags. In amongst these natural oddities human history has left its print. Flodigarry is famous for its association with Flora MacDonald; here she made her first home after her marriage in 1750 to Captain Allan MacDonald, and where she had five of her seven children. Her cottage has now been restored and is a part of Flodigarry Country House. Kilmuir is also situated on the peninsula and also associated with Flora MacDonald, albeit in a more sombre way. It is famous as the burial place of Flora, who died in 1790, and was wrapped in a sheet in which Bonnie Prince Charlie had slept while a fugitive. In the burial ground a tall Celtic cross stands above her grave. Also in Kilmuir is the Skye Museum of Rural Life a cluster of seven thatched cottages displaying how local crofters lived a hundred years ago. Brooding at the north-west tip of the peninsula are the drear ruins of Duntulm Castle, an ancient MacDonald stronghold commanding the sea route to the Outer Hebrides.
Lying between Skye and the Scottish mainland is the small, lush island of Raasay. In the 18th century the English burned every house and boat on the island in retribution for the local laird sheltering Bonnie Prince Charlie after Culloden. The distinctive, flat-topped summit of Dun Caan, an extinct volcano, dominates the centre of the island, while on the western coast is a striking landmark of a different kind. These are the towering ruins of 15th century Brochel Castle, one-time stronghold of the MacLeods of Skye, which overshadow the waters below.