A VISIT to the Isle of Skye may be conveniently made from Fort William.· The tourist proceeds first to Corpach at the west end of the Caledonian canal. Here at the church of Kilmalie is an obelisk to the memory of Colonel Cameron who fell at Waterloo, at the head of the 79th regiment, or Cameron highlanders; and in the neighbourhood, on the summit of a hill 1200 feet high, are the remains of a vitrified fort, the of the most entire of the singular structures that has yet been examined. Passing Fassifern house, the seat of Sir Ewan Cameron, we reach the head of Loch Eil, from which there is a fine view of Ben Nevis; and the road now enters a narrow pass from which we emerge into Glenfinnan at the head of Loch Shiel. Several miles of this long and narrow lake can be seen from this point. It is a silent, solitary spot; yet it was here that the first movement was roads towards a rebellion which threatened to convulse the empire. Prince Charles Stuart landed at Borrodale in Moidart, on the 25th of July, 1745. On the 18th of August he sailed up Loch Shiel as far as Glenalladale; and next day he proceeded to the head of the loch, and landing entered Glenfinnian about mid-day. Here he was met by Lochiel at the head of between seven and eight hundred of the clan Cameron; and Macdonald of Keppoch with about 200 men. The marquess of Tullibardine unfurled the prince's standard, and held it till the commission of regency was read in the audience of the little army. A monument in commemoration of the event has been erected here by Macdonald of Glenalladale.
The road from hence passes through scenery finely diversified with broken and rugged rocks, copse wood, bare tracts of heather, and little farms. It then winds through a woody defile, and skirts the bays and promontories of Loch Ayloch, under bare and towering heights. About 16 miles from Glenfinnan, on the left, is Borrodale, where Prince Charles found his first and last asylum. Four miles farther on is Arisaig, on Loch-na-Gaul, whence there is ferry to Skye. If the weather be favourable, the tourist should here hire a boat to convey him directly round the point of Sleat to Loch Slapin, the locality of the Spar cave, a distance from Arisaig of 25 miles. Or, he may take the regular ferry to Ardavaser in Skye, a distance of 12 miles, and go from thence by land, either by the eastern side of Loch Stapin and Loch Eyshort, or by Armadale, Sleat, and Knock castle. The latter route is generally preferred.
Armadale, the residence of Lord Macdonald, is 2 miles distant from Adavaser. It is a fine Gothic building of recent erection surrounded with young plantations which contrast beautifully with the bold and rugged coasts on the opposite shore of the sound. Lord Macdonald is proprietor of two-thirds of the island. One mile further on is the church of Sleat. The cemetery which surrounds the parish-church of Sleat contains some old monuments of the Macdonalds; chiefly flat stones, on which are represented various emblems of mortality. Within the church is a monument, bearing a well-merited inscription, from the pen of Lord Lyttleton, to the memory of Sir James Macdonald. The eastern coast of Skye is agreeably diversified by wood, other parts of the coasts of the island having been stripped of it. The little bay and castle of Knock, 8 miles farther on, form a picturesque scene. Six miles beyond this we pass the village of Cambuscron, on the bay of Oronsay. Whilst opposite to Oronsay, Loch Nevis opens to the view, in all its expanse, enclosed by rugged mountains. From Cambascron, the road passes by Loch-in-Daal, through a tract of red and blue sandstone. Beyond a dreary moor of some miles towers a lofty peak, shaped like Vesuvius, called Ben-na-Caillich. At its base stretches the bay of Broadford and on its shore the villages the same name, consisting of a few houses, and the mansion of Mackinnon of Corrychatachan, the ancient hospitality of which has been celebrated by Pennant and Johnson. Striking off from Broadford, across a heathy moss towards Loch Slapin, the tourist pursues a dreary road of 10 miles to Kilmore whence he has yet 4 miles to travel ere he reach the Spar cave, upon the farm of Glassnakill. Instead, however, of doubling the head of the loch, he may procure a boat at the farm-house upon the north shore, and proceed in it directly to the cave, which is upon the west side, "Crossing Loch Slapin," says the anonymous tourist to whom we have been indebted for much of this chapter, "I proceeded along the rugged coast of Strath, to its point called the Aird,--a promontory which penetrated by caverns or severed into buttresses, in some places projecting far into tabulated ledges over the sea, tinted richly with yellow, green, and other colours, presents a strikingly beautiful and majestic front to the stormy ocean; to the ravages of which its shattered and perforated precipices bear ample testimony. Reflecting the rays of an unclouded sun, it offered a brilliant contrast to the dark forms of Rum and the neighbouring islands which rose to the southward. One of the caves is pointed out as that in which the Pretender found a retreat. We rowed slowly under the Aird, every cove or buttress deserving attention, till the opposite headland beyond Loch Scavig discovered itself, and as we entered the bay, we perceived the precipitous and serrated ridges of the Coolin mountains, towering in all their grandeur above the shores, and terminating a perspective formed by the steep sides of the two prominent buttresses of the range, and enclosing the gloomy valley and deep dark waters of Loch Coruisk, from which the principal peaks rise abruptly. The fabled Upas-tree could not produce desolation more complete than that which characterizes this savage but sublime scene. The sea-fowl retain undisturbed possession of a solitary islet in the lake. On the shore of Loch Slapin is the celebrated spar-cave of Strathaird. The entrance to it is formed by a natural passage between high perpendicular walls of rock, smooth as if wrought by the chisel. The cave is low and winding, exhibiting for some distance little spar ; when, becoming incrusted with this brilliant substance, it suddenly passes over a high mound, on which its roof rests, supported by massy columns crowned by capitals of pendent icicles. From this majestic portal, a steep descent conducts to a pool of the clearest water. It is only within a few years, that this cave was brought to light. Its beauty and magnificence when first discovered,--before it had been despoiled of its stalactitic decorations by the contemptible pilfering of inconsiderate travellers,--is spoken of with rapture by those who enjoyed the singular good fortune of witnessing it. What a proof does the unobserved toil of Nature, constructing, during ages, a monument of its workmanship so splendid in the dark recesses of a rock, afford of the might and skill of the guiding hand of Him who directs her operations where no eye but His surveys them, as well as on those vast fields of space on which worlds may gaze with wonder and delight!" 1 The entrance to the cave is by a huge gap in the rocky coast 30 feet in breadth, 500 in length, and 100 in height. Through this avenue the visiter ascends to the arched mouth of the cave.
The road from Broadford northwards to Sconsor passes under bare, precipitous, and lofty hills, deeply channelled by streams, forming part of the range of the Coolin, or Cuchallin. The sound separating the little island of Scarpa from Skye, is the principal rendezvous of the herring vessels. The isle of Raasay is opposite Scousor, the laird's mansion appearing embosomed in trees. The ancestors of the present proprietor, Macleod, possessed Skye, and an extensive tract of the mainland of Scotland, but were driven into the narrow precincts which he at present occupies by the Mackenzies, after a severe contest and successive battles. Struan, on the south side of the island, to which the road proceeds across a dreary moor, is on the shore of Loch Bracadale. The coast is bold and romantic : the entrance of the bay is guarded by an island crested by singular rocks, called Macleod's table, and off an adjoining promontory shoot aloft three needle-shaped rocks, known by the name of Macleod's maidens. Some steep hills separate the bay from Talisker, which is seen from a considerable height--a large farm-house, surrounded by forest-trees, in a richly-green valley opening to the sea, and enclosed by steep ridges, one of which, the Brishmeal hill, is basaltic,--a spot, as Johnson observes, destined by nature for a hermitage. The beach abounds with beautiful zeolite. The elevation of the Brishmeal hill is 800 feet; in form and material it resembles the Scuir of Egg. The immediate approach to its summit on one side, is a narrow passage guarded by two basaltic columns standing like sentinels, formed by two perpendicular and lofty walls, reticulated by the transverse section of the strata of which they are composed, and opening at length on a magnificent panoramic view embracing the towering peak of the Storr,--the rugged ridges of the Coolin, Egg, Rum,--and Canna bounding the southern, and the continuous chain of the Long Island the western, horizon. The bay of Loch Bracadale affords an excellent harbour; it was once celebrated as a favourite resort of herrings, but has been long and unacountably deserted by these capricious fish. A dreary moor intervenes between this bay and that of Dunvegan. The castle of Dunvegan is the ancient residence of Macleod, chief of the clan of that name, or, as he is more properly designated Macleod of Macleod. Its dimensions are not imposing : but its situation, over-hanging the water, and in an unfrequented extremity of a remote island, and the traditionary history and the relies which attest the truth of the legends, invest Dunvegan with romantic interest. Sir Walter Scott concludes his 'Letters on Demonology and Witchcraft,' with an account of a night passed by him in the haunted apartment of this castle; and well might such awful themes be associated, in the imagination of Sir Walter Scott, with the isle of Skye. For this island was once celebrated for the second sight; and Bracadale, of all its wild districts, was the most favoured with this supernatural gift :
The northern vessels, in their passage through the Minsh, often seek shelter here. 2 The road to Portree skirts several arms of the sea, the shores of which are cultivated, exhibiting corn and plantations, interspersed with cottages and some good houses. The little town of Portree, on the edge of its bay and excellent harbour, consisting of neat and well-constructed houses, contrasts strikingly .with the generally dreary aspect of the island; it contains a church, an inn, and a gaol, the sheriff's court of the island being held here. Portree is supposed to derive its name from the circumstance of James V. of Scotland having put into its harbour during his tour through the Hebrides. The island of Raasay lies parallel to the coast for some miles; and at its northern extremity is the small isle of Rona. To westward of this place is a scene of uncommon grandeur: a small pass enclosed between the high and precipitous summit of Storrhead, and a cluster of enormous piles of black rock, round and massy, or tapering and columnar, the base of which is strewed with fragments of the same material. The north-west promontory of Skye is celebrated for its scenery; the basaltic formation prevailing in many places. The point of Duin has been well-delineated by Dr. Macculloch. and Quirang of more recent notoriety, by Major Murray.