My Thoughts · Scotland

A Scottish Isle and a Tragic Valley

Portree on the Isle of Skye
Portree on the Isle of Skye

Isle of Skye and Glencoe: an isle and valley filled our two days, heading towards Glasgow and the end of our tour. We jam-packed so much in these days, moving from a mystical isle to a lush valley with a sad battle tale.

May 19 – Over the Sea to Isle of Skye

We were so excited that we would be in the front seat on this specific day. Because of the seat rotation on the tour bus, we were in the front seats, so traditionally, we had to give the weather report. After the rainy day the day before, the sun shone brightly with no clouds in the sky, so I wanted to make the report different and light-hearted. At breakfast, I started researching to find a poem linked to the Isle of Skye. What a treasure I found:

Sing me a Song of a Lad that is Gone


Sing me a song of a lad that is gone, 

Say, could that lad be I? 

Merry of soul he sailed on a day 

Over the sea to Skye. 

Mull was astern, Rum on the port, 

Eigg on the starboard bow; 

Glory of youth glowed in his soul; 

Where is that glory now? 

Sing me a song of a lad that is gone, 

Say, could that lad be I? 

Merry of soul he sailed on a day 

Over the sea to Skye. 

Give me again all that was there, 

Give me the sun that shone! 

Give me the eyes, give me the soul, 

Give me the lad that's gone! 

Sing me a song of a lad that is gone, 

Say, could that lad be I? 

Merry of soul he sailed on a day 

Over the sea to Skye. 

Billow and breeze, islands and seas, 

Mountains of rain and sun, 

All that was good, all that was fair, 

All that was me is gone.

After I read a couple of stanzas and stopped, Jerry Gilbreath sang it because it is the lyrics to the theme of the TV show, “The Outlander.” Wow! And the day continued that magical. Off to the Isle of Skye we went. On the way, we stopped for a photo opt of “hairy coos,” really up close and personal.

Hairy Coo - isle

The Isle of Skye has an amazing history. The Norse wiped out the Pictish language and the culture in 800 A.D. and remained there for four hundred years.

“The island was considered to be under Norwegian suzerainty until the 1266 Treaty of Perth, which transferred control over to Scotland.”

I had fun with a story associated with the Isle of Skye and Bonnie Prince Charlie because of Flora MacDonald, who might be a relative of mine:

“Flora MacDonald’s adventure with ‘Bonnie Prince Charlie’ began in 1764 on the Outer Hebridean island of South Uist. Flora’s benefactor, Lady Clanranald, was a Jacobite sympathiser, so Flora was kept closely informed of the Prince’s whereabouts after the defeat of his troops at Culloden. Although not an ardent Jacobite supporter herself, Flora was touched by the unfortunate plight of the Prince, who now had a price of £30,000 on his head, was being hunted all over the Highlands and Islands by government soldiers. So when a plan was hatched to smuggle the Prince to the relative safety of Skye, Flora agreed to play a part in it.

In June 1746, Bonnie Prince Charlie finally landed on South Uist with a couple of loyal supporters. There they met Flora, and arrangements were made to disguise the Prince as ‘Betty Burke’, an Irish maidservant, and conduct him to Skye. After a few days’ preparation, they sailed in a small boat ‘over the sea to Skye’, just as the militia landed nearby. The Prince was dressed in a calico gown, quilted petticoat and headdress to disguise his face.

After landing safely on Skye, the Prince’s perilous wanderings continued for a few more weeks, until finally he managed to escape mainland Scotland on a ship bound for France. He and Flora were destined never to meet again.”

The Story of Bonnie Prince Charlie & Flora MacDonald

Legend has it that Bonnie Prince Charlie gave a personal recipe to MacKenna who helped him escape to France. Then eventually someone in the family released it and we know it today as Drambuie whiskey liquer.

Driving to Portree, John, our tour guide, told us about the shocking movement of the Clearances in the 1840s.

“The Highland Clearances were the forced evictions of a significant number of tenants in the Scottish Highlands and Islands, mostly in two phases from 1750 to 1860.”

Because of these horrible evictions, many Scots immigrated to the USA in the 1840s. In the 1870s, they immigrated to Australia.

I enjoyed our visit to the city of Portree, where we enjoyed bakery goods to start with. Then we roamed the beautiful city and took lots of pictures.

Commando Memorial - Isle
Commando Memorial

From there, we visited the Commando Memorial honoring Winston Churchill’s elite force. What a spectacular sight!

Ballachulish Hotel

Then we spent the night at the Ballachulish Hotel in Glencoe, an old Victorian style hotel, and noticed as we drove the shoreline that all the BnBs had one similar sign up, “No Vacancy.” A very popular area!

May 20—Glenroe

Surrounded by Munros, mountains over 3,000 feet high, we drove through an amazing valley where a famous massacre happened.

“The Massacre of Glencoe took place in Glen Coe in the Highlands of Scotland on 13 February 1692. An estimated 30 members and associates of Clan MacDonald of Glencoe were killed by Scottish government forces, allegedly for failing to pledge allegiance to the new monarchs, William III and Mary II.”

Notice that one of my clan names has come up again—MacDonald.

From there we went to the Glencoe National Nature Reserve and enjoyed a presentation about the area, its geology and animals. I also visited a replica of a Turf House, a 17th century dwelling. The plaster used inside reminded me of adobe used here in the southwest.

Replica of Turf House at Glencoe - isle
Replica of Turf House at Glencoe

An isle and a valley—our trip nears its end. But the history and the sights captivated me as we traveled through this fascinating part of Scotland.

Have you ever heard of these places and this battle? Do you have any Scottish heritage at all? Let me know.

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