Is the Isle of Skye an island anymore? After all, it is now joined to the mainland by the graceful bridge arching between Kyleakin and the Kyle of Lochalsh. Within just a minute or two, you glide across the waters of the Inner Sound, and you are on the island. Long gone are the days when you had to queue for ages at the slipway as you waited your turn to board the ferry. That said, despite the bridge, Skye certainly retains the distinct feel of an island.
Over the sea to Skye
Of course, you can still travel the romantic way to Skye by taking the ferry crossing between Mallaig and Armadale. It is a short crossing, just over thirty minutes, that is surrounded by incredible maritime mountain scenery. Whenever I head to Skye on the ferry, there always seems to be plenty of others doing the same. Yet, it seems few linger as they head up the ramp on to the island. Many zoom through the scattering of houses at Armadale heading northwards away from the Sleat Peninsula.
They are missing a hidden gem! You can not see the ruins of Armadale Castle, the clan seat of the MacDonalds, from the road. However, you can't fail to notice the Gothic-style skeleton from the top deck of the ferry. The castle, long abandoned by the MacDonald family, slowly fell into disrepair and then collapse, leaving a melancholic reminder of an era now disappeared. The castle gardens are extensive, with many beautiful specimen trees towering above the network of paths.
A hidden gem – The Museum of the Isles
The real highlight of a visit here is the Museum of the Isles; within a somewhat unassuming building hidden away within the garden grounds. Yet, it is a museum as good as any of the national museums in our cities. There's a focus on the MacDonald Clan and the Lordship of the Isles, which shaped both the Highlands and Scotland as a whole in the Medieval period. Then the exhibition turns its attention on to the time following the collapse of the Lordship. You could easily spend several hours here, exploring the full displays.
If you find yourself heading to Skye, slow down and take a diversion through the Sleat Peninsula so you can spend time at Armadale Castle.