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Monday, 23 March 2009

The Isle of Skye: a Microcosm of the Scottish Highlands - Page 2

Written by Clint Cameron
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Aye lad, for sure hameldame ole Eilean a’Cheo” was the thickly accented and somewhat incomprehensible drawl of a reply uttered from a rather uncordial elderly local to what I assumed to be a fairly non-pugnacious question “So…, do you enjoy living all the way out here on Skye?”.

 

The Cuillins offer superb, if somewhat arduous, hiking opportunities during the milder spring and summer months, with routes accessed from the villages of Glenbrittle and Sligachan found towards the mid point of the Isle. As per any trekking in Scotland’s Highland belt, be well prepared for any and all conditions. Even on the clearest and warmest summer days the weather can turn treacherous in an instant. We partook in a slightly less formidable ramble, skirting the flanks of tranquil Loch Coruisk, with the intimidating and broodingly dark flanks of the omnipresent Munro (a title attributed to Scottish peaks over 3000 feet or 914m) Sgurr Alisdair looming over us. Antiquated artefacts of Nordic heritage can be found around the grassy knolls of Loch Coruisk, including the earthen, buttressed remnants of a great Viking longhouse.

 

 

Between the 8th and 12th centuries A.D., Skye was a domain of the warmongering Vikings who used the Isle as an over-wintering base during periodic breaks, in-between raiding and pillaging townships down the British coast. Skye's proud Celtic heritage, however, outlived the domineering influence of the Norsemen as well as all the ensuing turmoil resultant from a history personified by belligerence and animosity. It remains strong to this day with around half the population still speaking in (vowel-deprived) Gaelic tongues.

The Isle is the historical seat of the MacDonald and McLeod clans, the later of which fortified their claim to the land through the impressive bastion of Dunvegan Castle located in the far north near the township of Duntulm. Indeed, the epic history of Skye as physically embodied through its myriad of castlesThe Isle of Skye: a Microcosm of the Scottish Highlands, The Isle of Skye, northwestern Scotland, Inner Hebrides Islands, Cuillin Mountains, Scottish Highlands, Glenbrittle, Sligachan, Loch Coruisk, Kyleakin, Portree, travel scotland, Clint Cameron, ruins, and standing stones as well as evident in its folklore, place names and customs, pervades the senses and captures the imagination. We were passing through a land of ancient pedigree where people have lived, fought, farmed and died for millennia. It’s a facet of the land that is incomparable and really does evoke an element of historical awe.

Access to Loch Coruisk and hiking in the far western reaches of the Cuillin’s can be ascertained via a trip onboard the Bella Jane which departs daily from the township of Elgol on the south-west coast. There are two options available, a shorter and more unperturbed 1.5 hour one way trip that deposits passengers at the base of the quick trek up to Lock Coruisk, or a longer 3 hour round trip onboard a faster vessel where the chances of seeing a greater array of the Isle’s wildlife is greater. The Isle of Skye: a Microcosm of the Scottish Highlands, The Isle of Skye, northwestern Scotland, Inner Hebrides Islands, Cuillin Mountains, Scottish Highlands, Glenbrittle, Sligachan, Loch Coruisk, Kyleakin, Portree, travel scotland, Clint Cameron

Otters, dolphins, basking sharks - with gargantuan mouths that can filter the equivalent of an Olympic swimming pool each hour - and Minke whales are all routinely sighted in the waters around Skye. The shores on the Atlantic coast are also home to a resident colony of the common grey seal, which, when not beached and lapping up the sun, could often be seen surfacing in the trail of the Bella Jane’s wake, embellished with bemused and slightly indignant expressions. Skye is also a notorious hot bed of activity for ‘Twichers’ (a term used for birdwatchers in the UK) who roam the island for species such as the enormous White-tailed sea and Golden eagles to tick off, complete with a full regalia of khaki dress, wide brimmed sun hats, obligatory binoculars and bird lists in hand.

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Last modified on Sunday, 16 December 2012

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