Kyle of Lochalsh

Sep 07, 2019 - Lord of the Glens


We awoke to clear skies and light air with the sure prospect of a fine day ahead. As we sailed “over the sea to Skye” during breakfast, out of Loch Nevis, with the town of Mallaig on the mainland and the Isle of Eigg on our port quarter, we experienced exceptional visibility. An hour’s sailing brought us to the pierhead at Armadale on the Isle of Skye, the largest of the Hebridean islands, rich in history and with a varied landscape that has made it a mecca for hillwalkers. From our mooring, we could walk to the Clan Donald Centre, an excellent museum that offered a revision course in some of the major themes in Scottish history covered on our voyage: the arrival of the Gaels from northern Ireland in the middle of the first millennium; the coming of Christianity, also from Ireland; the establishment of the medieval thassalocracy, known as the Lordship of the Isles. There was time to enjoy the gardens, containing many specimens brought back to Scotland by the Scottish plant hunters of the early nineteenth century.

Over lunch we sailed between Skye and the mainland, navigating the treacherous tidal race of the Kyle of Lochalsh, the narrowest point between Skye and the mainland where, before the Skye bridge was opened in 1992, a short ferry ride connected Skye with the mainland. In 1897 a railway was constructed from Inverness to Lochalsh—quite an engineering feat, particularly in its latter stages, when the railway had to be chiseled through hard rock to enter the town. At Kyle, we had two afternoon options for activities. One group visited the much-photographed Eilean Donan Castle, the ancestral home of the McCrae clan, that was attacked from the sea during the short-lived Jacobite rebellion of 1719. A second group hiked on the trail in the direction of Plockton for spectacular views of the Cuillin Mountains.

We gathered in the evening sunshine for a group photograph followed by our Farewell Dinner, enlivened by the piping in of the haggis and the traditional “Address to the Haggis” composed by the Scots poet, Robert Burns. After dinner, we were entertained by two traditional musicians playing the fiddle and the concertina. An entrancing end to a wonderful voyage.

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About the Author

David Barnes

Expedition Leader

David studied history at the University of York in England and theology at the University of Wales. Research in the field of religious history (at Cardiff) followed on naturally. He has spent most of his professional life teaching history, most recently in adult education departments within the University of Wales where he has taught a wide variety of courses pertinent to the wider Atlantic world. In 1988, he made his first lecture-tour of the U.S. for the English Speaking Union. He has published extensively on Welsh history and topography–his most recent book being the Companion Guide to Wales (2005)–and is a frequent contributor of articles and reviews to Welsh cultural and literary journals. In the1990s, David was active in the field of international education, traveling worldwide and spending a year in the U.S. (in Atlanta and New York City). He speaks English and French in addition to his native Welsh.

About the Photographer

Erika Skogg

National Geographic Photographer

Erika Skogg is a photographer, educator, and National Geographic Explorer with experience documenting cultural stories from the United States to Morocco, Greenland, Iceland, Colombia, and beyond. Born and raised in Wisconsin, Erika’s photographic research and storytelling ideas are driven by the desire to immerse, understand, and visually preserve the region’s local Nordic culture, and in 2018, Erika received a National Geographic Early Career Grant for her project “Scandinavian American.” Erika travels to Scandinavia regularly in search of the cultural connections to our emigrant history and promote an interest in one’s own genealogy to foster a respect for the continued immigration of today.

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