Returning to the Isle of Skye after 17 years has proved that memories of sublime scenery and a sense of connection are sometimes just feeble recollections.
Everything on Skye is in constant change; weather, light, temperature, hills, cliffs, burns, lochs and lochans, tides … Except for the continuity of the white houses. Everywhere in their crofts, villages and isolation, they remain constant and beautiful.
The Sleat Peninsula
A view of the Cuillans, Skye’s main mountain range, from the Sleat Peninsula.
According to legend, warrior queen Sgathaich lived in Dun Scaith Castle, now ruined, and taught Chu Chulainn, an Irish folk hero from the 9th Century, the martial arts of war when he first arrived in Skye from Ireland.
Portree, Skye’s main village
My great-great grandparents and their children, including their 4 year old daughter, my great-grandmother, left Skye in 1837 as part of the exodus of Scottish Highlanders displaced from their lands by the Clearances, when sheep took priority over people.
In a world history of bad landlords, many Scottish landowners from the 19th Century deserve a major prize for being near the bottom of the cesspool of the worst.
In and around the village of Breakish (Breacais Àrd – Upper Breakish, Breacais Ìosal – Lower Breakish) are Neolithic finds from 3000BC, and a Holy Well from the 7th Century attributed to MaolRubha, who brought Christianity from Ireland to the Druid Picts of the Western Highlands and Islands. That era was followed by 400 years of rule by the Vikings, whose relics and shipbuilding sites have been found nearby.
One of my favourite Scottish bands – Capercaillie – sings about Scotland, its history and hope.
Karen Mathieson’s gorgeous vocals soar in Gaelic here: