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Scotland's Hebrides Islands, off its west coast, offer a wonderful range of different sights and experiences.

Our Scotland's Islands and Highlands Tour takes you 8 islands (via 11 ferry crossings and a steam train ride), giving you a great time seeing much of the Inner and Outer Hebrides as well as time in the Highlands.

Here is one person's account of her experiences on our 2010 tour.

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Scotland's Islands & Highlands Tour Diary

Day 8 :  A Train, Bridge and Ferry to Portree on Skye

The 'Harry Potter' steam train - The Jacobite - travels between Fort William and Mallaig

Our day opened with one of the world's great rail journeys, and then we traveled to the Isle of Skye before driving back over the new bridge to see a famous castle, then on to Portree on Skye for the night.

Part of an 11 day/page trip diary - click the links on the right hand side for the other days in this diary.



Jeanette and her husband Ken were on our 2010 Scotland's Islands and Highlands Tour, and Jeanette kept a detailed day by day diary of the tour.

She has very graciously allowed it to be re-published here, so as to allow you an unvarnished view into what the tour was all about.

The text is hers, which I've respected and not changed apart from a few subheadings and extra paragraph breaks and some Americanizations of her English spelling (they are from New Zealand).

I've sourced the pictures and their captions are also from me, not Jeanette.

You can follow along with her narration by tracking the tour on this tour itinerary page and the linked Google maps.

I hope this will encourage you to come on our 2011 Scotland's Islands and Highlands Tour.

Day 8 – Monday June 21st 2010 – Fort William to Portree, Skye

Google Touring Map for the Day

I had a very restless night as I am struggling with a sinus infection now but managed to get up at 7am for breakfast. I have decided to get back onto my low card diet again as the high Carbohydrates are aggravating my sinuses and headaches.

After reading emails, we were on the bus with all our luggage and ready to go at 9am. Ten minutes later our bus had to stop at the Aberchalder Swing Bridge across the canal to let boats pass, which was an interesting sight. We were on our way to Fort William to catch the Jacobite Steam Train to Mallaig. The train journey was 42 miles and was due to take 2 hours. The forecast was for showers today in Northern Scotland but it was sunny this morning with only a few clouds.

We passed through the village of Letterfinlay on the lake and I remembered that was where my salmon came from for my dinner last night, a very tasty local fish. As we drove past the Commandos Memorial, we could not see the top of Ben Nevis as it was in the clouds, a fairly normal weather pattern for this area. We had been very fortunate to see the top yesterday.

We saw Highland Cattle which can be recognized by the long hair which hangs down over their face. They create lean beef as the hair keeps them warm instead of fat. A group of these animals is called a “Fold of Heeland Coos”.

We arrived at the train station about 10am and were allocated a carriage (E for Ken and I) and told to take a seat as soon as possible as the seats are not allocated in the carriage. We got moved twice because we did not realize seats were allocated for us as “Stewart Travel” and we were sitting in other people's seats. Eventually David sorted it out and we sat with Oren and Janice.

We had a 20 minute stop at Glenfinnan where we got out and stretched our legs, then we were all aboard again and on to Mallaig. A lot of soot came into the carriage whenever we passed through a tunnel. These were often and short so it was a nuisance trying to close the window for the tunnel and open it again later to take photos.

The train arrived on time at 12:25pm in Mallaig and we were able to get photos of the steam engine before spending time in a nearby second hand book shop. I suggested we should get some highly recommended fish so we found David's favorite take-away shop and ordered Haddock & chips and Scampi & chips (9.75).

After enjoying our fish, we had time to visit the Visitor Centre to buy a pamphlet on the Jacobite Steam Train (2.50) before walking to the ferry terminal. We got our ticket from Jay at 1:30pm and walked onto the ferry for it's departure at 1:45pm. The sea was very calm so I stretched out and had a nap during the 30 minute crossing to the Isle of Skye. We were driving off the ferry in the coach at 2:20pm in the small village of Armadale.

Ted gave us a very interesting talk while we were on the coach about the Solstice which was due today at midday. We were at about 58 degrees North so he expected we would see Noctilucent clouds (Ice particles at the extreme of our earth's atmosphere) but the sky was so bright even at midnight that he said we would not be able to see anything. Ted studies the possibilities of asteroids hitting the earth so his knowledge was extensive and his talk most interesting. The most recent asteroid of substantial size to hit the earth was in 1908 in Central Siberia where 200 sq km of forest was destroyed in a radius of 10 miles (16 km).

Skye is the second largest island off the coast of Scotland. It has very high hills called 'The Cuillins', with 12 Munros (hills higher than 3000 ft/ 914m). The island has been fought over by the MacLeods and MacDonalds for centuries. At 2:50pm we crossed over the Skye bridge (which was a toll bridge until 2004), back to the mainland, to visit the Eilean Donan castle.

Eilean Donan Castle.

The first castle on the small island was built in the mid 13th century as a defence against the Vikings. As the home of the MacRae clan since 1362, four different castles have been built and re-built since then as the feudal history of Scotland impacted on the area. In 1719 the castle was occupied by Spanish troops supporting the MacRaes in the Jacobite uprising. The English captured the castle and then destroyed it using gunpowder stored there by the Spanish.

It stood in ruins until it was bought by Lt. Col. John MacRae-Gilstrap and his wife Isabella in 1912. They have now restored the castle to its former glory, opening it to the public in 1932. The staircase in the castle is one of only two left-handed spiral staircases in a castle in Great Britain, built that way because the King of the time, Alexander II, held a sword in his left hand.

A trust was formed in 1983 to care for the castle and island. The filming of the Hollywood movie “The Highlander” in the castle and grounds created such a tourism boom that the family moved out so it could be opened permanently to the public. Mrs Marigold MacRae held her 80th birthday in the Grand Hall upstairs. She is the current President of the Clan MacRae as her late husband was a grandson of John MacRae-Gilstrap. She has 5 children and 3 great grandchildren, most of whom are still very interested in their family's history and the castle.

I was very disappointed that I did not get to explore the castle as I had to go back to the visitor centre to the toilet then back to the bus. I felt terrible all day with a very heavy headache and a slowly increasing weakness as the day progressed.

The Royal Hotel, Portree

At 4:15pm we were on our way again back to Skye over the SkyBridge then North to Portree for our overnight stay. I did not take very much notice of our journey this time as I was starting to feel quite feverish.

We arrived at our hotel - The Royal Hotel, after dropping half the people of at the Bosville Hotel further up the road. Our room (21) was the nicest room so far. A large bedroom and a large entrance hall containing wardrobes. The bathroom was adequate with a shower over the bath and a heated towel rail. We had some nuts and a glass of cider over ice cubes as our dinner.

Anne called by and left me with some Tylenol and Vicks NyQuil. I used the NyQuil to help reduce my fever and it worked. I sweated a lot but the fever broke by midnight. Ken went downstairs to use the internet while I slept. I woke every couple of hours for a drink of water and started to feel a bit better by early morning.

Read more in the rest of Jeanette's Diary

See the links to each day of the eleven day tour/trip diary at the top right of this page.


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Originally published 7 Jan 2011, last update 30 May 2021

You may freely reproduce or distribute this article for noncommercial purposes as long as you give credit to me as original writer.

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