Wednesday, 17 July 2013

The Isle of Skye: Armchair Travelling

A wise man once said: 'Skye is not a place but an intoxication.'

With others writing about their summer journeys and some doing that via armchair travelling, I thought a special destination (reluctantly only) via books would be in order now.
Let us now journey to The Isle of Skye. I've felt drawn to the Isle of Skye for many years, but haven't actually been there...yet; for I feel it in my bones that I will get there.  I also was interested in it as Ian Anderson of Jethro Tull owned part of it and the Strathaird estate from the late 1970s to the mid-late 90s.

It takes very little to transport me to that Scottish island feeling, that sense of timelessness and the carefree state of mind that one has in that kind of wild surroundings.  It could be the sound of the sea, a fiddle tune, the natural, delicate and varied colours of a woollen scarf, and the intense lure from distant ancestry.  It has inspired my own music and painting, I've painted several landscapes, for sometimes one just needs to paint a mountain!  Here is one of mine from years ago, using it as an idea for a logo for my Thistle Cottage Recordings musical cottage industry:

I've gathered a few books together from my shelves specifically about, or set in, the Isle of Skye. Shall we browse through the selection?   There is 'Portrait of Skye And The Outer Hebrides' by W. Douglas Simpson,  'Skye & the Western Isles' by James & Deborah Penrith, 'Skye:  The Island And It's Legends' by Otta Swire, and 'Old Skye Tales' by William Mackenzie.  Then two mysteries with a Skye setting:  "Wildfire At Midnight' by Mary Stewart (which I read last year), and 'Master of Morgana' by Allan Campbell McLean, which I began reading last night.

From the lone shieling on the misty island, 
Mountains divide us, and a waste of seas;
Yet still the blood is strong, the heart is Highland,
And we, in dreams, behold the Hebrides.
" The Island of Skye-the 'Misty Isle' as it has long been the largest but one of the Hebrides.  Its main mass lies north-west and south-east, running out at its broad upper end into three long promontories of Trotternish, Vaternish, and Duirinish, divided from each other by Loch Snizort and Loch Dunvegan.  Midway from the long western coast projects the squat mass of Minginish, flanked by Loch Bracadale and Loch Scavaig.   Beyond the latter the bold headland of Strathaird is isolated by Loch Slapin and Loch Eishort from the long transverse butt of the island, known as Sleat and Strath, which in shape is uncommonly like a gigantic fish's tale.  The island is 49 miles in length.  It's breadth varies from 7 to 25 miles.  But owing to the irregularity of the coastline, and the great number of fjord-like lochs, no part of the interior is as much as 5 miles from the sea.  The total length of coastline is over 900 miles.  Skye contains 690 square miles, most of which is moorland and mountain.  Of the mountains, three main systems may be distinguished. The principal one is the grand group of the Cuillins, in the south-west, forming the base of Minginish.  Without question these are the most magnificent of British mountains."  (Portrait of Skye and the Outer Hebrides, W. Douglas Simpson, 1967)

There is much folklore, history, many books on Skye, and fiddle tunes, folksongs, folk bands from there or about there. 
  "Thanks to its stunning scenery, romantic associations and accessibility, Skye is the most visited of all the western islands and has been for more than a century, since the railroads and steamships of the Victorians brought the islands of the Inner Hebrides that much closer to the bursting cities of the mainland.  There are some purists who insist that Skye is no longer an island, and that somehow it's not the same singing the Skye Boat Song while speeding over the bridge that has kinked it firmly to the mainland at Kyle of Lochalsh since 1995.   (Skye & the Western Isles, Penrith, 2007).
From traditional Scottish Folk band Ossian, the tune 'The Sound of Sleat:
  The 'Dun Ringill' video by Jethro Tull:
and Fish n' Sheep n' Rock n' Roll from 1987, about Ian Anderson's music and the salmon farm in Skye as well, which you can find easily.
The Corries with 'Skye Boat Song':
So we must gather our bags, not forgetting the Ordnance Survey map, sturdy walking boots, rain-proof jackets, some non-effective midge repellent, etc...and wend our way to the train station. 


  1. I lived on the Isle of Skye for 6 years and it has featured in several of my novels, most notably STAR GAZING. Let me know if you'd like a review copy.

    If you can get hold of them, there are two lovely old books about Skye:
    A FAMILY IN SKYE 1908-1916 by Isobel Macdonald
    SKYE - THE ISLAND & ITS LEGENDS by Otta F Swire.

    I've shared your post on my Facebook author page as I think some of my followers wil enjoy it.

    1. Hello Linda, that's very kind of you. Yes I would like a review copy of Star Gazing (I will contact you). Thank you very much for sharing the blog on your site! Ah, I wouldn't mind living on Skye for 6 years!

  2. Lovely post. I love reading about Scotland too & was lucky enough to visit on a trip to the UK in 1999. I recommend Linda's books too. She writes beautifully about the landscape of the islands.

    1. I'm glad you liked it Lyn. Yes I have a whole bookcase of just Scottish books. The most wonderful place I've been yet is Shetland, for the folk festival a few years ago, a beautiful place with good people.