Day 5: …. Over the sea to Skye


JAX the official stamp licker, the Portree post office mascot.

Skye Boat Song

“The Skye Boat Song” is a Scottish folk song recalling the escape of Prince Charles Edward Stuart (Bonnie Prince Charlie) from Uist to the Isle of Skye after his defeat at the Battle of Culloden in 1745. The story goes that the Prince, disguised as Flora MacDonald’s Irish spinning maid Betty Burke, escaped to the island of Skye after the disastrous battle.  Flora MacDonald, a secret supporter of the Jacobite cause, was later arrested and held in the Tower of London for her part in the escape.  She was quite a character and seemed to be in the right (or wrong) place in history a few times, including the American Revolution, before her death in 1790 at 68.  The Prince ultimately escaped to Italy where he spent the rest of his life.

There are various versions of the Sky Boat Song. Robert Louis Stevenson composed this version.

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.

We have another full day off the ship, today is the island of Skye, the town is Portree. We must tender into this port and, of course, it goes very smoothly (thank you Azamara). We have a full day tour scheduled with Skye Tours.
As we’re leaving the ship Captain Carl comes to the gangway with a couple of other officers. He explains (in his lovely Irish/Scottish accent) that once everyone is ashore he’ll be going hiking, that what started out as a small group has grown to 25 officers and crew, and that he must wear shorts (its quite cool out). The reason, he says, is that one of the other officers doesn’t have “track” pants with him and has to wear shorts. Not to be outdone in the manly Scot department, the Captain says he must wear them too. One of the other officers points out that to outdo the person in shorts the Captain should wear a thong.  It was a funny exchange and indicative of this very capable Captain not taking himself too seriously and having some fun with passengers, officers and his crew.

The port is small and charming, the town square, where we’ll meet our small group tour, is a short walk from the harbor and we have a few minutes to walk around.  It’s early and shops are just opening up.  The town is tiny and very friendly. We zip into the post office to buy more stamps and learn from a friendly postmaster that the stamps we’ve been using to send postcards to the US are domestic only and, alas, the postcards will end up in a trash bin.

Kathleen will be our driver and guide for the day. She’s been a tour guide for over 25 years and is in her early 70’s.   She has a bad knee and will have surgery in Glasgow this summer, but otherwise she’s as sharp as a tack.  We have a bit of a drive before our first stop and she tells us a little about herself.  She explains that she grew up on Skye and has both English and the Gallic. When she was a girl she and a friend were riding on a train to Glasgow. As she wasn’t on Skye she was comfortable speaking to her girlfriend in Gallic when she didn’t want others to understand.   A good looking young man entered their car and they talked about how good looking he was and wondered if he was going to the dance they were attending in Glasgow. As they reached the Glasgow stop the young man turned to them in perfect Gallic and thanked them for their kind words and said alas he wouldn’t be going to the dance but wished them a good time. I’m sure he was chuckling to himself, and the girls were mortified.

Our first stop is the Old Man of Storr   its not a great day for pictures but the mist adds the right amount of drama to the scene. You can’t get the full effect of the rock formation, but I imagine it’s a rare day when there isn’t mist. Skye is known for its rocky mountainous landscape, lochs, fields of grass, wild flowers, and sheep, but its the mist that gives the landscape a surreal feeling. Its rough and the roads are winding, narrow, and can be steep.  Kathleen drives them with ease.

Next s

Next we stop at Kilt Rock with its lovely water fall. Its called Kilt rock because the rock formation looks like the pleats of a kilt.

Kathleen makes a stop at the Skye Museum of Island Life.  We don’t have a lot of time,  but its very interesting. Crofts like this were still lived in only 70 years ago in some parts of Skye.  It was an island of farmers and sheep herders living very simple lives. Peat fires, fish liver oil lamps, not exactly all the comforts.

Very close to this museum is the burial place of Flora MacDonald, just a few miles from where she landed with the Prince 200+ years ago.

Kathleen tells us the island is experiencing a surge in population these days – mostly retirees coming from all over Europe. They come for the better real estate prices, the beautiful views, and quiet life. Sounds good to me. Kathleen talks about a couple of “German Ladies” who recently built a house with a grass roof, which has the whole island talking.

Next is lunch at an Inn Kathleen has set up. Its a lovely old house which has been converted into a small hotel off the beaten path – lots of fireplaces, wood paneling and comfy furniture.  We’re tucked up in a private dining room with a bowl of steaming fish soup and its delicious.  I’m not usually a fish soup person but this is tasty.

After lunch we’re off again to Dunvegan Castle. It too has a Flora MacDonald story. Her daughter married a Macleod and lived at Dunvegan, her mother stayed with her for a time and Flora MacDonald’s Jacobite relics are displayed at the castle.  Dunvegan Castle is said to be the oldest continuously inhabited castle in Scotland.  Its been the stronghold of the chiefs of clan MacLoed for more than 800 years.

Our last stop is at a local bar for some Scotch tasting. The young man has a 12 year old GlenFiddich, my mother’s favorite Scotch, and a 10 year old Talisker (made on Skye) set up with glasses. A good “nosing” glass is tulip-shaped, with a decent bowl (for swirling) and a narrow lip (to catch the aromas). Ideally it is made from crystal, but not cut crystal, which distorts the hue in its facets. David, who studying the art and refining his “nose”, first talks about the color and has us swirl the liquid. Next he explains that adding a touch of water opens the aromas. We try it first without water then add just a few drops and swirl again, you can see the oily lines as they swirl around and you can smell the enhanced aroma. Or maybe its all in my head but it was interesting anyway.

Kathleen takes us back to the harbor to board our tender to the ship. Its been a great day on the Isle of Skye.

Returning to the ship

Gail and I have a reservation at one of the ship’s small restaurants and after cleaning up a bit and a cocktail in the “Living Room”its time for another great Azamara dinner.

Yup that’s me on stage after the show – no shame.

After the show its off to bed but not before a stop on the deck where the sky is still light at 11pm!

One Reply to “Day 5: …. Over the sea to Skye”

  1. What a treat! And what an amazing memory you have! It’s so much fun to read about the trip we shared, but it’s doubly fun for me because I always learn something new, and I always remember wonderful details that have slipped my mind. From Jax to that lovely soup to the song I now know because of your blog, a b-i-g thank you!

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