Over the sea to Skye


The Isle of Skye, Scotland 

Flora MacDonald and Bonnie Prince Charlie 

“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

Full Day on the Isle of Skye

It’s early morning, cold, and cloudy but not raining!  We’re on the island for the full day starting in 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.

Captain Carl and his Hiking Crew

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.

Apparently what started out as a small group of hikers has grown to 25 officers and crew. Captain Carl then insists that he must wear shorts (it’s quite cold 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 surpass the person in shorts the Captain should wear a thong.  

It was a funny exchange and indicative of this competent Captain not taking himself too seriously and having some fun with passengers, officers, and his crew.

Portee, The Isle of Skye

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.  Its 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 the Tour Bus Driver

Our small group tour bus arrives at the town square, and we get settled in the van.  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 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 Gaelic.

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 Gaelic when she didn’t want others to understand.

The story goes that a good-looking young man entered their car, and they talked (in Gaelic) 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 Gaelic 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 … well mortified.

The Old Man of Storr

Our first stop is the Old Man of Storr it’s 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, wildflowers, and sheep, but its the fog that gives the scene a surreal feeling. Its rough and the roads are winding, narrow, and can be steep. Kathleen drives them with ease.

Next s

Kilt Rock

Next, we stop at Kilt Rock with its lovely waterfall. It’s called Kilt rock because the ancient rock formation looks like the pleats of a kilt.  The fog makes is hard to see but sure enough, the entire length of the cliffs is folded like pleats. 

Kathleen makes a stop at the Skye Museum of Island Life.  We don’t have a lot of time, but it’s fascinating. Crofts like this were still lived in only 70 years ago in some parts of Skye.  The Isle of Skye has been an island of farmers and sheepherders living straightforward lives for millennia.  Peat fires, fish liver oil lamps, not exactly all the comforts. 

Flora MacDonald Burial Place 

Very close to this museum is the burial place of Flora MacDonald, just a few miles from where she landed with the Prince over 270 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. All this 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. It’s a lovely old house 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 it’s delicious.  I’m not usually a fish soup person, but this is tasty.

Dunvegan Castle

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.

Aye, let’s have a dram! 

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!

LYRICS Skye Boat Song

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.


I'm in my sixties with the world at my feet and thoughts mostly of "where to next?". I retired in 2017, sold my house in Massachusetts and most of my furniture and "stuff." When not traveling you can find me in Florida in the winter and Rhode Island in the summer. Travel has been a passion from a young age, over the years I've discovered I'm a traveler, not a tourist. I prefer traveling solo, with a travel friend, or small groups. Whenever possible I would rather spend time in one place rather than moving around. I'll never turn down an opportunity to go to France, but my travels have taken me all over the world. I've met some incredible people and had some fantastic experiences.

1 Comment

  • Gail Duffy August 2, 2016 at 2:33 pm Reply

    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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