Address: Inner Hebrides, Scotland

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Isle of Skye History

Early settlers on Skye are believed to have been the Picts, but following the arrival of the Vikings in 794 and the Norwegians in 875, a Celtic/Norwegian community developed, and today a vast number of descendants can be seen living on Skye. Their historic roots are celebrated by the annual Winter Fire Festival in which a Viking longboat is set alight. The Gaelic language is widely spoken in Skye and also in the Hebrides in general.

Centuries later, in the Battle of Largs in 1266, the Scots kings finally ousted the Norwegians and the Treaty of Perth was signed.

The island was then run by the clans and the main two were the McDonalds and the McLeods. This ended in 1462 when John McDonald handed the territory over to James IV.

A lot of hostility then developed as the Highlanders and Islanders rebelled. This came to a head at the Battle of Culloden in 1746 which followed the Jacobite uprising in 1745. This followed a rivalry for the British monarchy.

Queen Anne, who was from the House of Stuart, was the British monarch who died in 1711. With no children, she was succeeded by a relative, George I, who was from the House of Hanover. The Jacobite rebellion was an attempt by Charles Edward Stuart (Bonnie Prince Charlie) to put the House of Stuart back on the throne. Following his defeat at Culloden, he went into hiding from the Hanoverian troops, being rowed in a boat to the Isle of Skye by Flora McDonald. Flora’s grave can be seen today at Kilmuir in Trotternish.

Skye was now at the mercy of large landowners who wished to get rid of the crofters who worked the land in payment of rent. These landowners wanted to run large sheep farms that were a lot more lucrative. With this in mind, they embarked on what is now known as the ‘Clearances’. This involved removing the crofters from their land and, in many cases, putting them on a large boat and emigrating them. They then burned their houses. In total 30,000 were evicted between 1840 and 1880. Today, ruins can be seen as reminders at Lorgill, Boreraig, Suisnish and Tusdale.

The main industries on the island today are tourism, fishing, agriculture and forestry, with trade being made easier in 1995 when the bridge was built over to the mainland. It was originally a toll bridge under private ownership, but in 2004 tolls were removed when the Scottish Executive bought the bridge.

 

Isle of Skye Visit

It’s one of those places that didn’t need to try too hard to get things right, they just did. And they didn’t need to try to impress, but you were impressed. OK, there are the commercial tourist-minded museums etc, but they’re understated and quaint and seem to be a welcome stopping point as you travel the island.

It’s a surprisingly big place, an amazing place to explore and stunningly picturesque in places. On a large proportion of the island you have the simple views of sky, greenery and water…it’s a great place to get away from it all and wind down. The roads between the main towns are two lane, one lane in your direction and one coming the other way, but the minor roads are single lane with passing places, which tends to slow your speed down, often to 20mph. You’re forever waving to other motorists as you wait for them or are invited to pass them , and the overall effect after a few days is that life’s just slowed down, 50mph seems fast and you become content with just ambling along and enjoying the pace and beauty of Isle of Skye life.

Accommodation would never be a problem. If someone told me that there were 1,000 B&B’s and hotels on the island, I’d believe them. There’s accommodation all over. You can travel for miles and miles down windy country lanes, feel you’re in the middle of nowhere, and come across a B&B. In fact, at one point I saw a sign for a luxury hotel that was a few miles remoter than a remote spot that I’d eventually found. It’s that sort of place. If you want neon lights, underground trains and the hustle and bustle of city life, it’s not here.

The main town, Portree is the biggest by far – the others seem to comprise of a few shops, maybe a harbour and the usual hotels and B&B’s. Portree has banks, cash points, a quaint harbour with a two or three shops and a couple of restaurants, and the usual array of shops that you’d find in any small town. The harbour view from the hill has been a contender for ‘best view in Britain’. Compared to the rest of the island it provides a shopping bonanza with most goods on offer. Portree’s fairly central location makes it the ideal returning point when venturing to other parts of the island.

Uig has a few shops, but it’s daily life tends to revolve around the harbour with fairly sizeable boats coming and going. It’s a main port for travellers going over to the Western Isles, so a busy ferry port.  This is true of most of the coastal towns, as the commercial island life makes the most of sea trips.  At these harbour towns you’ll find a thriving wildlife watching business as the boats take tourists out to see whales, seals, dolphins, porpoises, sea otters, seabirds galore and probably much more.