Hallin Cottage, Waternish, Isle of Skye, Scotland
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family holiday let waternish
www.hallin-cottage-waternish.co.uk

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The haunting Skye Boat Song tells of Bonnie Prince Charlie’s escape after his defeat at Culloden in 1746, serving as a reminder that the Highlands are steeped in history, much of it bloody. It is still possible to take a boat from Mallaig or Galltair to Skye, but, since 1995, most people use the short but controversial road bridge over Lochalsh (an expensive toll was resisted by locals, who succeeded in getting it abolished).

The largest and most northerly of the Inner Hebrides – unlike many other Scottish islands – is thriving, with an increasing population and strong tourist industry based on superb landscapes, abundant wildlife, fascinating heritage and vibrant local culture (with Gaelic widely spoken). Whilst enjoying the sheer pressure of driving through some of Scotland’s finest scenery, that bloody heritage cannot be escaped – numerous castles, often ruined, testify to bitter clan battles that once raged. None of these magnificent strongholds is more impressive than Dunvegan Castle, seat for nearly 800 years of the MacLeod of MacLeod, chief of Clan MacLeod. This romantic waterside castle with formal gardens should not be missed.

There’s another tradition that has definite appeal – the creation of fine Scotch whisky at the traditional waterside Talisker Distillery in the village of Carbost. Notable for its peaty taste, Talisker specializes in single malt whiskies matured for long periods (up to thirty years). The result isn’t cheap, but standard and connoisseurs’ distillery tours are quite reasonable. If neither of these highlights is to your taste, Skye offers plenty of alternatives. Indeed, many visitors happily spend a week or more on this delightful island, so anyone coming for but a single day has far too many choices to make!

Where The Skye Boat Song describes Bonnie Prince Charlie’s flee from pursuit and discovery after Culloden, it is worth taking a trip to explore Glenfinnan, in the Highlands, which is rich in history; here Prince Charles began the Jacobite Rebellion destined to end in disaster at the Battle of Culloden. Then, as he fled vengeful Hannoverian troops, the Prince boarded a French frigate and left his beloved Scotland forever from Loch nan Uamh, the Bonnie One’s ignominious departure point. But Glenfinnan has more than Jacobite memories to offer. This beautiful little village lies within a stunning valley that has Loch Shiel at its centre. Its isolation was first broken with the arrival of Thomas Telford’s For William to Arisaig road in 1812, compounded in the early 1900s by construction of the West Highland Railway. Construction of the latter included the amazing 21 arch Glenfinnan Viaduct, which famously features in the much-loved ‘flying car’ sequence in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. There is also a charming restored station complete with museum and a wonderful church in a spectacular location. After seeing the sights and strolling around the village and its environs, a cruise on Loch Shiel can provide a perfect end to a day.

Also built by Thomas Telford in the mid 1800s is the Caledonian Canal, but it was a heroic failure! It connects the West and East Costs, following the 100 kilometre Great Glen. The Canal was not required to cover the full distance, as two-third of the length is made up of Lochs Lochy, Oich, Ness and Douchfour. Even so, it took twenty years to complete and soon had to be deepened, and the arrival of the railway ensured that it was never a commercial success.

It was, still, however, a masterpiece of canal engineering with four aqueducts, ten bridges and twenty nine locks. The journey from Fort William leads you also past Fort Augustus and Fort George near Inverness.
Mary Branson, 23 Langside Avenue, London SW15 5QT
Tel/Fax: 020 8876 3054     Mobile: 07836 521103     mf.branson@virgin.net
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