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Gaelic Ring: Barra | Skye

The Isle of Skye is the largest and most northerly island of the Inner Hebrides. The island is made up of a series of peninsulas, namely Trotternish in the north, Waternish, Duirinis and Minginish in the west and Sleat in the south. Nearby islands associated with Skye are Raasay with Rona, Scalpay and Soay. Today, Skye holds a prosperous confident community and a growing population and Gaelic language and culture are very much alive.

Music - Ceol
The Gaelic music tradition in Skye is varied, long established and continues unabated from the powerful songs of Mairi Mhòr nan Oran to Gaelic rock band Runrig. The Skye Fèis scene is covered by three Fèisean – Fèis Throdairnis (North Skye), Fèis an Earraich (Sleat), and Fèis Ratharsair (Raasay),

Trotternish - Trodairnis
This most northerly peninsula is characterised by a spectacular rocky ridge of strange rock forms and landslips running up its eastern side. Leaving Uig you have the option of turning right on the direct road to the south or northwards round the coast. The northern course is worthwhile as it passes crafting townships and the Museum of Island life, which exhibits thatched houses and traditional life, to the ruins of Duntulm Castle on a cliff right on northern coast of Skye. Duntulm Castle (Dùn Tuilm) was, during the seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries, the principal seat of the Chiefs of Clan Donald North, otherwise known as Clan Uisdean. They also became known as the MacDonalds of the Isles (MacDhomnaill nan Eilean).

Rounding the northern extremity of Trotternish the road heads south through the Crofting Township of Staffin (Stafainn), where Gaelic is very much a community language. Staffin exhibits a number of geological curiosities including the kilt rock (a columnar basalt formation) and the Quirang, a contorted collapsed lava flow. The road south to the island capital Portree passes Lealt Falls, the Storr, the high point of the Trotternish ridge, with its rock pinnacle – the Old Man of Storr (Bodach Storr) and the Storr Lochs.

Portree - Port Righ
Portree, the King's port, is said to take its name from a visit by James V King of Scots in 1540. An alternative derivation is Port Ruigh. Portree is the largest settlement and main service centre on the island, with a population of 2,491 (2001 census). Attractions in Portree include the Aros Centre and An Tuireann Arts Centre, both of which celebrate the island's Gaelic heritage.
Snizort - Snìosort
The road northwest from Portree takes us to Skeabost (Sgiabost) at the head of Loch Snizort that divides Trotternish from Vaternish. According to tradition, the great Gaelic saint Calum Chille or Columba promoted a Snizort Religious community preaching from a rock known as St. Columba's rock, to the right of the road near the Skeabost Hall. Later, the Bishops of The Isles established their cathedral at Snizort under the authority of the Archbishop of Nideros (Trondheim) in Norway. With the end of Norse rule in 1265, the Lords of the Isles filled the vacuum and they too had influence over the choice of bishop at Snizort. The cathedral of the Isles was later moved to Iona but the remains of the old site are still visible.

The Land of MacLeod - Duthaich MhicLeoid
At Skeabost, the territory of the Clan MacLeod (MacLeoid) is entered and heading westward through the township of Edinbane (An t-Aodann Bà,n meaning the fair face). The name is said to be taken from the white bog cotton plants that can be found on the hillsides. One famous Edinbain son was Kenneth McLeod, who at the age of 15, went to India and made a fortune planting indigo. He returned to Skye and bought extensive land holdings including Edinbane and much of Portree. Further west is the village of Dunvegan (Dùn Bheagain) with its famous Dunvegan Castle, seat of the chief of Clan MacLeod since the thirteenth century. There is much to explore in this northwest corner of Skye including the Fairy Bridge, Neist Point with its cliff and lighthouse, Loch Bracadale and, the Talisker Distillery. The district to the south of Loch Bracadale is Minginish (Minginis) dominated by the Cuillin Hills (An Cuiltheann).

Raasay - Ratharsair
The slipway at the settlement of Sconser, (Sgonnsair) is the departure point for the vehicle ferry to the island of Raasay. The highest point at 1456 feet (443 m) is Dun Caan a distinctive, flat-topped peak. The main settlement is Inverarish. The island of South Rona lies just off the north coast. Raasay was ruled by the MacLeods of Raasay from 1518. The two miles of road between Brochel Castle and Arnish were built using hand-tools by local crofter Calum MacLeod BEM over ten years. Only when Calum's Road was complete was the road surfaced by the local council; by then Calum and his wife were the last inhabitants of Arnish. The celebrated Gaelic poet Sorley MacLean was born in Osgaig, a small crofting community on the west of the island.

Strath - An Srath
Broadford (An t-Ath Leathann) is the second largest settlement in Skye and the key service centre for southern Skye and the Strath district. The east coast of Skye from Portree to Kylerea was the territory of Clan MacKinnon whose chiefs held Castle Maol or Dùn Acainn. Originally built on the site of a broch and now a picturesque ruin, the castle dates to the 10th century when it served as a lookout post and fortress commanding the narrow sound of Kyleakin (Caol Acainn, meaning Haakons narrows) between Skye and the mainland. Findanus, the 4th MacKinnon chief secured Dùn Acainn around the year 900 and levied a toll on all passing shipping. 

Sleat - Slèite
Known as Lìos an Eilean (the Garden of Skye), Sleat is favoured by a mild climate and lush vegetation. Nowadays the east coast of Sleat is a hotbed of Gaelic culture for three main reasons. In the 1970s one of the local landowners, Sir Iain Noble, campaigned for use of Gaelic in business, including his own hotel at Eilean Iarmainn Isle Oronsay. He also facilitated the creation of a Gaelic business college, Sabhal Mòr Ostaig, which, from modest beginnings, now has a state of the art campus in Arainn Chaluim Chille, a world centre for Gaelic. Around the same time, Clan Donald Lands’ Trust acquired a large tract of Clan Donald lands and established an interpretive centre at Armadale Castle, the former seat of the MacDonalds of Sleat.

The original seat of the MacDonalds of Sleat was the now ruinous Castle of Dunscaith (Dun Sgathaich), the Dun of the Shadow, although not originally built by them. Dunscaith is located on a rocky promontory on the west coast of Sleat. The present Chief is Sir lan Godfrey Macdonald of Sleat, who lives at Kinloch House a few miles north of Isle Oronsay.