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.
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
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
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.
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
See the links to each day
of the eleven day tour/trip diary at the top
right of this page.
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7 Jan 2011, last update
21 Jul 2020
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