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  • Day19

    Isle of Skye

    August 23, 2017 in the United Kingdom ⋅ ☀️ 12 °C

    The largest of the Inner Hebrides, Skye is easily reached via a bridge linking Kyle of Lochailsh and Kyleakin. Rugged coastlines and soaring mountain ranges provide for varied and dramatic scenery. While mostly a driving tour, we squeezed in several thought-provoking experiences that provided insight into the harsh realities that folk faced in the 18th century.

    First up however was a brief coastal walk and coffee stop (nice cafe view bit terrible scones) in the "metropolis" of Portree. Prettilly coloured shops and residences lined the small wharf, matched by equally colourful fishing boats.

    Heading north the ruins of abandoned crofts (farm houses) dotted the landscape, vestiges of the "Clearances" of the 18th century. From at least the 12th Century, Highland society was divided into tribal groups led by autocratic chiefs, with clan membership signified by the wearing of chequered cloth (tartan). All clan members bore the name of their chief but were not necessarily related by blood. The chiefs role was to protect the land for all clan members i.e. he didn't actually own it. After the Battle of Culloden (1746), all clan lands were forfeited to the Crown and the wearing of tartan was banned for almost a century (and punishable by death). During the hey-day of the Clan system, tenants paid their land-holding chieftains rent in the form of military service. With the destruction of the Clan system, landowners demanded a financial rent, which their tenants couldn't afford. Many became destitute. The land was gradually bought up by Sottish lowland and English farmers. In what became known as "the year of the sheep" (1792), thousands of tenants were evicted to make way for sheep. Many emigrated to Australia, Canada and America (and no doubt New Zealand). We would also see the results of these Clearances on the Orkney and Shetland Islands.

    An excellent record of crofting life on the Isle of Skye can be found in the Skye Museum of Island Life. A group of enthusiastic islanders created this impressive collection of 19th buildings and other artefacts to ensure that the stories and experiences that have contributed to modern society are not lost. Every facet of island life at the time is captured and presented in an informative and creative way.

    Our circuit continued along stunning coastlines, almost bereft of human occupation. Heading inland was equally awe-inspiring, with the Old Man of Storr rising above us to a height of 49m. A brief photo stop at Kilt Rock and the beautiful nearby waterfall (along with a multitude of others) and it was time to head home.
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