Sunday, July 8, 2012

Day 6 – Friday, June 8th, 2012

After arriving at the Hillside B&B in Plockton we decided to book three nights and take day trips to the Isle of Skye and Applecross.

We departed after breakfast for the Isle of Skye.

The Isle of Skye is the largest and most northerly island in the Inner Hebrides of Scotland.  The island's peninsulas radiate out from a mountainous centre dominated by the Cuillin hills.  Although it has been suggested that the first of these Gaelic names describes a "winged" shape there is no definitive agreement as to the name's origins.

The island has been occupied since the Mesolithic period and has a colourful history including a time of Norse rule and a long period of domination by Clan MacLeod and Clan Donald.  The events of the 19th century had a devastating impact on the human population, which declined from over 20,000 to around 9,200 in the early 21st century.  Nonetheless, in contrast to many other Scottish islands, this represents a 4 per cent increase from the census of 1991.  The main industries are tourism, agriculture, fishing and whisky-distilling.  The largest settlement is Portree, known for its picturesque harbour.

Skye is part of the Highland Council local government area and is now linked to the mainland by a road bridge.  The island is renowned for its spectacular scenery, vibrant culture and heritage, and its abundant wildlife including the Golden Eagle, Red Deer and Atlantic Salmon.

Our first stop was at Dunvegan Castle, home of the MacLeods.

Dunvegan Castle is a mile and a half to the North of Dunvegan on the Isle of Skye, situated off the West coast of Scotland. It is the seat of the MacLeod of MacLeod, chief of the Clan MacLeod.  Dunvegan Castle is the oldest continuously inhabited castle in Scotland and has been the stronghold of the chiefs of the clan for 800 years.  Originally designed to keep people out, it was first opened to visitors in 1933.  Since then, the castle is consistently ranked as one of Scotland's premier visitor attractions.  The MacLeods continue to live in the castle and accommodate tourists on the lower levels.

A look down the dungeon

A note in the Castle museum of interest to Albertans.

A view from the Castle wall.

A view that reminded us of Monet's garden at Giverny with the Japanese bridge.

Dunvegan in the rear view mirror.

After Dunvegan we headed north on the Isle of Skye to the Skye Museum of Island life and learned what a Crofter was.

A croft is a fenced or enclosed area of land, usually small and arable with a crofter's dwelling thereon.  A crofter is one who has tenure and use of the land, typically as a tenant farmer.

We stopped at the Skye Museum of Island Life at Kilmuir, Isle of Skye was opened in 1965.  The aim was to preserve a township of thatched cottages, each one depicting, as closely as possible, the conditions prevailing on the island at the close of the nineteenth century.

Off in the distance are the ruins of Duntulm castle.  Duntulm Castle stands ruined on the north coast of Trotternish, on the Isle of Skye, near the hamlet of Duntulm.  During the 17th century it was the seat of the chiefs of Clan MacDonald of Sleat.

We also saw the grave of Flora MacDonald. (not the Canadian Politician but the women who assisted Bonnie Prince Charlie in his escape from Scotland).  Flora MacDonald (1722 – 4 March 1790), Jacobite heroine, was the daughter of Ranald MacDonald of Miltonon the island of South Uist in the Outer Hebrides of Scotland, and his wife Marion, the daughter of Angus MacDonald.

Her father died when she was a child, and her mother was abducted and married by Hugh MacDonald of Armadale, Skye.  She was brought up under the care of the chief of her clan, the MacDonalds of Clanranald, and was partly educated in Edinburgh.  Throughout her life she was a practicing Presbyterian.

During the Jacobite Risings, in June 1746, at the age of 24, she was living on the island of Benbecula in the Outer Hebrides when Bonnie Prince Charlie took refuge there after the Battle of Culloden.  The prince's companion, a Captain O'Neill, sought her assistance to help the prince escape capture.  The island was controlled by the Hanoverian government using a local militia, but the MacDonalds were secretly sympathetic with the Jacobite cause.

After some hesitation, Flora promised to help the prince escape the island.  At a later period she told the Duke of Cumberland, son of George II and commander-in-chief in Scotland, that she acted from charity and would have helped him also if he had been defeated and in distress.

The commander of the local militia was her stepfather, Hugh MacDonald.  The commander gave her a pass to the mainland for herself, a manservant, an Irish spinning maid, Betty Burke, and a boat's crew of six men.  The prince was disguised as Betty Burke. He left Benbecula on 27 June.

After a first repulse at Waternish, Skye, the party landed at Kilbride, Skye, within easy access of Monkstadt, the seat of Sir Alexander MacDonald.  The prince was hidden in rocks while Flora MacDonald found help for him in the neighbourhood.  It was arranged that he be taken to Portree, Skye and from there taken to Glam on the island of Raasay.  To distract the knights she performed a highland dance which is now called the Flora McDonald's Fancy.

The talk of the boatmen brought suspicion on Flora MacDonald, and she was arrested and brought to London for aiding the prince's escape.  After a short imprisonment in the Tower of London, she was allowed to live outside of it, under the guard of a "messenger" or gaoler.  When the Act of Indemnity was passed in 1747 she was released.

Her bravery and loyalty had gained her general sympathy, increased by her good manners and gentle character. Dr Johnson, who met her in 1773, describes her as "a woman of soft features, gentle manners, kind soul and elegant presence.”  He also paid the tribute that is engraved on her memorial at Kilmuir: "...a name that will be mentioned in history, and if courage and fidelity be virtues, mentioned with honour."

Then we drove along the top of Skye and over to the west side of the Island to the capital city of Portree for a wee wee.  Portree is the largest town on Skye in the Inner Hebrides of Scotland.  Portree has a harbour, fringed by cliffs.

The Royal Hotel is the site of MacNab's Inn, the last meeting place of Flora MacDonald and Bonnie Prince Charlie in 1746.

Another hour and we are back in Plockton.

We went to dinner at the Plockton Inn, our pub of choice in Plockton.

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