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Issue 91 - Island hopping

Whisky Magazine Issue 91
October 2010


This article is 7 years old and some information provided may be time sensitive. Please check all details of events, tours, opening times and other information before travelling or making arrangements.

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Island hopping

Charles Douglas visits the wild and beautiful edge of Scotland and provides an alternative history guide to the whisky islands

Fifteen years ago, a bridge was opened to span the half kilometre of water between Kyle of Lochalsh on the Scottish mainland and Kyleakin on the Isle of Skye. It revolutionised vehicle travel to the Western Isles, hitherto largely dependent upon ferries or shorthaul flights. It now meant that instead of catching the CalMac from Mallaig to Armadale, those seeking to explore this most romantically associated Hebridean island could now, as an alternative, make their own way (now toll-free) to the small island towns of Broadford, Armadale, Portree and Uig. For the islanders, who were initially resistant to change, the commercial opportunities eventually escalated.

Of all of Scotland's islands, Skye resounds to the memory of that summer night in 1746 when the fugitive Prince Charles Edward Stuart landed at Portree disguised as a woman and escaped to France right under the noses of Government troops.

Commemorated in perhaps the most lyrical and famous of Scottish songs, that story is now etched into the psyche of every expatriate Scot, regardless of the political allegiances followed by their ancestors.

Twenty first century Skye, however, flourishes with a mixed economy of tourism, agriculture, fishing and Scotch whisky blending and distillation. A relative newcomer is the Gaelic language college Sabhal Mõr Ostaig, opened in 1973, but undeniably appropriate for an island where in the last century more than 75 per cent of the native population spoke the language.

Its decline pr...

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