Kyle of Lochalsh to Inverie, Scotland

Aug 14, 2018 - Lord of the Glens

Perfect Scottish weather greeted us this morning: mist and clouds draped over the mountains, a breeze, some drizzle, a magical feel to the landscape. We were in the Highlands! It was an apt start to a day near the Isle of Skye, where the Gaelic name means “Isle of Mist.”

The morning had options of either visiting Eilean Donan Castle or walking in the Cuillins of Skye—a tough choice. Those who chose the castle excursion were treated to a historical experience, touring a castle originally constructed in the mid-13th century. Eilean Donan was partially destroyed during an early 1719 Jacobite uprising. It lay in ruins until Lieutenant Colonel John MacRae-Gilstrap bought the island and castle in 1911, restoring it to its current state.

Those who walked in the Cuillins had the luck of fairly dry weather, with low clouds giving the surrounding peaks an atmospheric feel. The group walked up the Sligachan Glen, a glacially carved valley between the Red and Black Cuillins, named for their igneous rock types. The Black Cuillins are composed of dark gabbro; the Red, of reddish granite. Both formed during the turbulent volcanic period around 60-50 million years ago. The grinding of Ice Age glaciers and erosion further carved this landscape, creating the dramatic scenery.

Over lunch, we sailed to Armadale on the Sleat Peninsula of Skye. There we disembarked for the Clan Donald Centre with its gardens, museum, and castle ruin. The museum tells the history of the Lords of the Isles, the line of nobility that developed from a mixed Viking-Gaelic ancestry and ruled over the west coast and islands of Scotland until the 15th century. The gardens feature a lush mix of plants from across the globe, from monkey puzzle trees to red cedar. At the edge of the gardens stands the ruins of the Armadale Castle, a remnant of the stately Clan Donald home. Parts of the castle were constructed in the late 18th century. The large building was constructed in 1815, only to burn down in 1855. After restoration, the castle was used as a home until the 1920s.

Then we headed from Armadale to the mainland Knoydart peninsula. The sail was a bit rough until the ship turned into the shelter of Loch Nevis, putting in at Inverie. This tiny village is only accessible by boat or on foot, so it has the feel of an island—and gives credibility to the claim that Old Forge pub is the most remote pub on mainland Scotland. After dinner, many went to sample the pub’s fare and get the T-shirt proving they were there.

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About the Author

Robin Patten


The natural world has always been central to Robin’s life. At an early age, she was out exploring the Montana backcountry, learning natural history through experience. She went on to earn a Ph.D. in landscape ecology from Colorado State University, followed by an M.S. in Environmental Writing from the University of Montana and a Post-Graduate Diploma from Scotland’s Centre for Mountain Studies. Her studies included environmental history and cultural geography, and her work often focuses on the interactions between cultures and landscapes. Robin still lives in Montana, writing and working from a small cabin near Yellowstone National Park.

About the Photographer

Brenda Tharp

Brenda Tharp

Naturalist/Certified Photo Instructor

For over 20 years, Brenda has used her photographs of the world to celebrate its beauty, and inspire others to protect what we have. Brenda grew up exploring the woods, lakes, and coastlines of New Jersey and New England and her family traveled regularly throughout the eastern U.S., camping, hiking, backpacking, and canoeing. She spent most of her childhood engaging with nature in some form or another and learning about animal behavior. When her father taught her some photography at 13, Brenda soon combined her love for nature with her newfound passion, and several years later her adventure began as a freelance photographer, teacher, and writer.

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