The Incredible Isle of Skye

If you’re from the Scottish Highlands, or if any of your ancestors hailed from there as did the MacDonalds Clanranald on my dad’s side, you may have grown up hearing or singing an old folk song known as Over the Sea (Skye Boat Song). If you’ve no Scottish heritage but watch the Outlander series, its opening song is an adaptation of Over the Sea.

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The Skye Bridge – March 2018

My paternal grandmother’s family came from the remote island of Skye and so we heard not only the song, but also stories of the heroism displayed in 1745 by clan member Flora MacDonald. Like many Highlanders, our MacDonald and Chisholm ancestors emigrated to North America.

Our family settled in Antigonish, Nova Scotia – where my grandmother, who was born a hundred or so years later, didn’t learn English until she began school. Even as an adult, she and her sisters would speak Gaelic to one another. My dad remembered more than one occasion when his mother and aunts would slip in to the Gaelic when they wanted to discuss matters not meant to be heard by young ears.

18_9323 Struan_Isle_Of_Skye Copyright Shelagh Donnelly

Flash forward roughly 240 years from that branch of the family’s arrival in Nova Scotia, and this Canadian had the good fortune to visit the achingly beautiful Isle of Skye this Spring.

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You like to hike? Soak up incredible colours and views from windy Cuith-raing, aka Quiraing, on the Isle of Skye.

Invited to give a presentation to the Scottish PA Network in Edinburgh (thank you again, Rosemary), I began planning what I think of as my 2019 Scottish Road Trip … one that involved happily memorable stays (fittingly, at Macdonald Hotels & Resort brand properties!) in Edinburgh and St. Andrews before driving across Scotland and over the bridge to Skye.

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Book early if you want to snag a room at the Uig Hotel, directly overlooking Uig Bay and just a short (winding!) drive from the Fairy Glen, Cuith-raing/Quiraing and other beautifully lit settings.

Call me crazy (my husband did), but I set off from St. Andrews on the east coast of Fife and drove across the Highlands and over to Uig in a single day. Bear in mind that this trip also marked my first time driving in the UK, which meant adjusting to changes in both steering wheel placement and the lanes in which I drove. Thank goodness for the patience of Scottish drivers during my first couple of days at the wheel!

I made it to the Isle of Skye shortly after 7:00 but, given a misadventure with my GPS (story to follow), I tumbled in to the hospitable property known as the Uig Hotel some time after 9:00 p.m.

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Sheep and other silhouettes: Dusk at Struan, just minutes away from the Uig Hotel, Isle of Sky

When you visit Skye, you’re in what’s known as the Inner Hebrides. You’re up north – far north! If you’d like some perspective on its location, Skye is a mere 1,134 kilometers or 705 miles from Reykjavik, Iceland. You’re closer to Iceland and to all the other Nordic countries than Vancouverites are to Toronto!

I’d prepared myself for a soggy visit, but lucked out this March. It didn’t rain until my departure day. Only then, as I stopped by Armadale to visit the ruins of one of the MacDonald clan’s castles, did it rain … and it poured buckets!

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Picturesque buildings along the harbour in the town of Portree, Isle of Skye – the largest town on the isle, and home to Skye’s only secondary school

In addition to amazing scenery and great hospitality at and around the Uig Hotel, I got to see Highland Cattle and more than a few sheep.

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Curious sheep on the approach to Armadale Castle at the southern tip of the Isle of Skye

I also navigated any number of one-lane roads, with pullouts appearing at regular intervals.

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If you decide to visit Skye, plan early and don’t go without accommodations confirmed in advance. This remote and rugged island is ridiculously popular, thanks in no small part to the Outlander series, James Bond movies, Harry Styles’ Sign of the Times video and even a Volvo commercial.

I have plenty of pics and stories to follow, from the Isle of Skye and from St. Andrews and Edinburgh – which I visited again after Skye. For now, I’ll leave you with this look at Carbost, Skye.

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By the bridge: Carbost, Isle of Skye, Scotland

Over the Sea (Skye Boat Song)

Interested in that lovely old song? You’ll find a rendition and the lyrics below.

Chorus: Speed, bonnie boat like a bird on the wing,
Onward! the sailors cry.
Carry the lad that’s born to be king
over the sea to Skye.

Loud the winds howl, loud the waves roar,
Thunderclaps rend the air,
Baffled our foes stand by the shore,
Follow they will not dare.
Though the waves leap, soft shall ye sleep,
Ocean’s a royal bed.
Rock’d in the deep, Flora will keep
watch o’er your weary head.
Burned are our homes, exile and death,
Scattered the loyal man.
Yet ere the sword, cool in the sheath,
Charlie will come again. 

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