(Isle of Skye)

A historical perspective, drawn from the Ordnance Gazetteer of Scotland: A Survey of Scottish Topography, Statistical, Biographical and Historical, edited by Francis H. Groome and originally published in parts by Thomas C. Jack, Grange Publishing Works, Edinburgh between 1882 and 1885.

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Skye, an island in the W of the county of Inverness, of the whole area of which it forms a little more than one-seventh. It is the largest island of the Inner Hebrides, and the second largest of the whole group, as well as of all the islands lying off the coast of Scotland. It extends from N latitude 57 42 30' at Rudha Hunish in the extreme N-though the outlying islets of Trodday and Fladdachuain are respectively 2½ and 4 miles NE and NW of that point-to N latitude 57 1 12' at Point of Sleat on the extreme S, and from W longitude 5 38 50' at Rudha na Caillich at the S end of Kyle Rhea to W longitude 6 47 8' at Eist on the extreme W of Duirinish. The shape of the island may be compared to that of the tail part of the body of a huge whale, the tail lying to the SE next the mainland, and the body stretching away to the NW; but it is a whale that has suffered from the onslaughts of the ocean, for the outline of the sides, instead of being smooth and regular as it would be in the animal, is everywhere cut into by sea lochs which deeply indent the island on every side. To the N and NE the island is bounded by the Minch, the distance across which, from Point of Aird near Rudha Hunish to the coast of Ross-shire at the mouth of Gairloch, is 19 miles; from the E side of Staffin Bay to Red Point at the N side of Loch Torridon it is 14 miles; and from the point at the S side of the entrance to Loch Torridon westward through the extremity of South Rona the distance is 12 miles. To the S of this the boundary is the Sound of Raasay, the narrows of Raasay, and Loch na Cairidh, ½ mile wide, between Skye and Scalpay. At the SE end the last widens out into the open sea-space where the Inner Sound and Loch Carron meet, the distance across from Broadford Bay to the SW corner of Applecross being 8 miles. From this point the coast curves east-north-eastward to form the right hand lobe of the tail, the point to the eastward being divided from the Lochalsh district of the mainland of Inverness-shire first by the narrow Kyle Akin (3 furlongs) and then by Loch Alsh (1 mile). From Loch Alsh along the bottom of the tail-that is, the SE side of Skye-the boundary is for 2 miles Kyle Rhea (barely ½ mile), and for the remaining 19 miles the Sound of Sleat, averaging fully 1 mile in width, to the N side of Loch Hourn, 3 to 4 miles from Loch Hourn to Loch Nevis, and from 4½ to 7 beyond Loch Nevis as it widens out into the sea of the Hebrides. To the W of the Point of Sleat, between Skye on the one hand and Rum and Canna on the other, is Cuillin Sound, which opens out at both ends into the sea of the Hebrides. Its width is noticed under Rum. On the W and NW of the island is the Little Minch, the distance across which from Eist Point on the extreme W of Duirinish westward to Benbecula is 16 miles; from Vaternish Point at the extreme NW of Skye westward to Loch Maddy in North Uist it is 18 miles; and from Rudha Hunish north-westward to the mouth of East Loch Tarbert in Harris it is 16 miles. Along the narrow kyles and sounds on the E and SE the tides rush with great speed and force, so much so indeed that sailing vessels cannot pass northwards through Kyle Rhea and Kyle Akin against an adverse tide. These straits are also of considerable depth. One basin, occupying Raasay Sound, the Inner Sound, and part of the Minch, has been already noticed under Raasay; there is another at the point where the Inner Sound and Loch Carron meet which reaches a depth of 68 fathoms below the surrounding sea bottom, which has a depth of about 50 fathoms; and a long narrow one begins at the mouth of Loch Hourn, and extends down and beyond the Sound of Sleat, till it dies out about 3 miles NE of Eigg. Its depth at the entrance to Loch Hourn is 50 fathoms below the surrounding sea-bottom, which has a depth of about 60 fathoms, but the depression gradually diminishes to about 20 fathoms as the hollow extends south-westward. In Cuillin Sound to the N of Rum there is another basin which reaches a depth of 74 fathoms beneath the surface of the surrounding sea-bottom, which has a depth of about 65 fathoms. Still another-and that a large one -extends from the N end of South Uist northwards through the Little Minch as far as Loch Seaforth in Lewis, but keeps mostly to the side next the Outer Hebrides, except along the W coast of Skye, where it occupies the greater part of the width of the strait, the depth of the portion opposite Dunvegan Loch being 36 fathoms below the surface of the neighbouring seabottom, which is about 60 fathoms deep. There are also smaller hollows at the mouths of Loch Sligachan and Loch Ainort, in Loch Alsh and the narrow part of the Sound of Sleat, and in Lochs Slapin, Scavaig, Brittle, Eynort, and Bracadale; in Loch Bay off Dunvegan, and near the mouth of Loch Diubaig on the S side of Loch Snizort. In several of these depressions groups of shells of Arctic habitat still linger, seeming to be survivals of those that lived in the British seas during the glacial epoch.

Coast, etc.-The coast-line is very irregular and broken. Beginning at the N end at Point of Aird 21/8 miles E of Rudha Hunish, the first opening is Kilmaluag Bay (4 x 4 furl.), and 4 miles SSE is Staffin Bay, 1½ mile across the mouth and ¾ mile deep. From Staffin Bay southward the line is very little broken for almost 15 miles till Portree Bay is reached. The next large opening, opposite Kyle More, between Raasay and Scalpay, is Loch Sligachan, averaging 1/8 mile wide and 3 miles deep from entrance to head; and 3 miles SE of this at the N end of Loch na Cairidh is Loch Ainort, ½ mile wide and 1¼ mile from entrance to head. At the S end of the open sea-space where Loch Carron opens out to the Inner Sound is Broadford Bay, 1½ mile wide and ¾ mile- from entrance to head; and to the E of it is Breakish Loch, 1 mile long by about 100 yards wide; while immediately to the E of Kyle Akin is Loch na Beiste, 5 furlongs wide at the entrance and 1 mile from that to the head of the loch. In the SE side the only opening of any size is Loch na Dal (1 mile wide at entrance and 1¼ deep) near the centre, corresponding to the gap between the lobes of the tail. Close to the mouth of this loch is the small but well sheltered harbour of Isle Ornsay. The peninsula to the SW of this is Sleat, and to the W of the northern part of it is a nameless inlet, which branches off on the E into Loch Eishort, and on the N into loch Slapin. The former is 1¼ mile wide across the mouth from Rudha Suisnish between the two lochs and Dunscaith Castle, and is 6 miles from entrance to head; but along the upper 3½ miles it narrows considerably, the average width being from 2½ to 3 furlongs, but in some places less. Loch Slapin, 2 miles wide at the entrance and 3¾ miles deep, also narrows considerably in the upper reaches. The nameless inlet lying outside these lochs may be taken as 3 miles wide and 4 in depth from the entrance, between Tarskavaig Point in Sleat and Strathaird Point, to Rudha Suisnish. The promontory to the W of this and Loch Slapin is Strathaird, immediately to the W of which is Loch Scavaig, 2¾ miles wide at the entrance and 4 ½i deep from this to the head of the loch. The outer part of the western side is formed by the island of Soay, which is separated from the mainland of Skye on the N and NW by Soay Sound, from 5 furlongs to 1 mile wide. The point at the extreme W corner of this is Rudh'an Dunain, immediately to the N W of which is Loch Brittle, 1¾i mile wide and 1 ½iii from entrance to head, and 3 miles NW of it is Loch Eynort, averaging 3 furlongs wide and 3¼ miles from entrance to head. Six miles farther to the NW is the large Loch Bracadale, 4 miles wide across the mouth from Rudha nan Clach (SE) to Idrigill Point (NW), and with- an area of over 16 square miles. From the E side the long curved Loch Harport branches off with an average width of ½ mile and over 6 miles long. At the top of Loch Bracadale are the smaller Loch Caroy (N.), Loch Valten (N), an d Loch Varkasaig (NW). The district between a line drawn from Loch Scavaig to the top of Loch Sligachan on the E and Lochs Bracadale and Harport on the NW is called Minginish. Beyond Loch Bracadale along the SW coast the only other inlet of any size is the shallow Moonen Bay close to Eist at the extreme western point of the island, but along the NW there are in all 4 openings that need be mentioned, and of these 2 are of very large size. The first of these onward from Eist is Loch Pooltiel, a triangular opening about 2 miles deep, and then in order are Loch Dunvegan, Loch Snizort, and Score Bay, the northern part of the latter being known as Duntulm Bay, beyond which is the small Loch Hunish, with Rudha Hunish, the most northerly point of the island on its N side. Loch Dunvegan is fully 3 miles wide across the entrance from Dunvegan Point (SW) to Ardmore Point (NE), and is wider inside. Two and a half miles from the entrance it branches off into two forks, of which the one to the S retaining the name of Dunvegan extends south-eastwards for 6 miles, while the other runs eastward for 2½ miles, and bears the name of Loch Bay. To the N E of Ardmore Point is the small Ardmore Bay. The peninsula almost cut off from the rest by the island between Dunvegan Bay-in all its length-and the north-western division of Loch Bracadale, is Duirinish. Two and a half miles NE of Dunvegan is Loch Snizort, the largest inlet in the whole island, which may, in its widest extent, be taken as 8 miles wide across the mouth along a line from Vaternish Point east-north-eastward, and from this it extends south-eastward for over 8 miles. B ear the centre of the SW side is the semicircular Aros Bay., and on the extreme S the small Loch Diubaig, while from the SE pass off Loch Greshornish (S), averaging 3 furlongs wide and 3 miles long; and Loch Snizort Beag (SE) from 2 to 4 furlongs wide and fully 6 miles long, but very shallow in its upper reaches. Near the centre of the E side of the main loch is Uig Bay. Loch Snizort is sometimes confined to the portion of the Loch to the S of Uig Bay. The district between Loch Snizort and Loch Dunvegan is Vaternish, which terminates in Vaternish Point at the extreme NW of the island; and that E of Loch Snizort and between it and the E coast is Trotternish. These inlets give the island an enormous extent of coast, the total length being probably over 900 miles. Most of the lochs afford sheltered anchorage, except from particular winds, but great care has to be taken in them, and indeed anywhere along the Skye coast, where mountains overhang the shore, in consequence of the violent and dangerous squalls that suddenly come whirling down from the high land, and for which Lochs Scavaig and Sligachan are particularly noted.' There's aye wind among the gullies yonder,' says Robert Buchanan speaking about Loch Scavaig, through Hamish Shaw, in The Hebrid Isles,' and the squalls at Sligachan are naething to what ye hae here. I wouldna sail aboot Scavaig in a lugsail skiff-no, if I had the sheet in my hand and the sail nae bigger than a clout-in the finest day in summer. It strikes down on ye like the blows o' a hammer -right, left, ahint, before, straight down on your head, right up under your nose-coming from Lord kens where, though the sea be smooth as my cheek. I've seen the punt heeling o'er to the gunnel with neither mast nor sail. I mind o' seeing a brig carry away her topmast, and tear her foresail like a rag, on a day when we would hae been carrying just a reef in the mainsail of the Tern; and I've seen the day when the fishingboats running out o' the wee harbour there would be taking their sails on and off, as the puffs came, twenty times in as many minutes. Many's the life's been lost off Skye, wi' the wind frae these hills'

From the N side of Score Bay all round the N end of the island down to Loch Staffin, and beyond it, the coast is formed by precipitous cliffs of basalt, which are remarkable in many places for the great regularity of their columnar formation. The cliffs extend also down along the Sound of Raasay to Portree, and though they change their character somewhat, the cliff scenery along this whole stretch is excellent, and among the best things of its kind in Britain (see Portree). The coast views here,' says Robert Buchanan in The Hebrid Isles, referring to this tract from Duntulm to Portree, ` were beyond expression magnificent. Tinted red with dawn, the fantastic cliffs formed themselves into shapes of the wildest beauty, rain-stained and purpled with shadow, and relieved at intervals by slopes of emerald where the sheep crawled. The sea through which we ran was a vivid green, broken into thin lines of foam, and full of innumerable Medusæ drifting southward with the tide. Leaving the green sheep-covered island of Trodday on our left, we slipt past Aird Point, and sped swift as a fish along the coast, until we reached the two small islands off the northern point of Loch Staffin-so named like the island of Staffa, on account of its columnar ridges of coast. Here we beheld a sight which seemed the glorious fabric of a vision: a range of small heights sloping from the deep green sea, every height crowned with a columnar cliff of basalt, and each rising over each, higher and higher, till they ended in a cluster of towering columns, minarets, and spires, over which hovered wreaths of delicate mist, suffused with the pink light from the east. We were looking on the spiral pillars of the Quirang. In a few minutes the vision had faded; for the yacht was flying faster and faster, assisted a little too much by a savage puff from off the Quirang s great cliffs; but other forms of beauty rose before us as we went. The whole coast from Aird Point to Portree forms a panorama of cliff scenery quite unmatched in Scotland. Layers of limestone dip into the sea which washes them into horizontal forms, resembling gigantic slabs of white and grey masonry, rising sometimes stair above stair, water-stained and hung with many coloured weed; and on these slabs stand the dark cliffs and spiral columns: towering into the air like the fretwork of some Gothic temple, roofless to the sky; clustered sometimes together in black masses of eternal shadow; torn open here and there to show glimpses of shining lawns sown in the heart of the stone, or flashes of torrents rushing in silver veins through the darkness; crowned in some places by a green patch, on which the goats feed small as mice; and twisting frequently into towers of most fantastical device, that lie dark and spectral against the grey background of the air. To our left we could now behold the island of Rona and the northern end of Raasay. All our faculties, however, were soon engaged in contemplating the Storr, the highest part of the northern ridge of Skye, terminating in a mighty insulated rock or monolith which points solitary to heaven, two thousand three hundred feet above the sea, while at its base rock and crag have been torn into the wildest forms by the teeth of earthquake, and a great torrent leaps foaming into the Sound. As we shot past, a dense white vapour enveloped the lower part of the Storr, and towers, pyramids, turrets, monoliths were shooting out above it like a supernatural city in the clouds. At every hundred yards the coast presented some new form of perfect loveliness.'

From Portree southward to Loch Alsh the coast is low, and possesses but few marked features; and the same remark may be made of the shore along the Sound of Sleat, although from it may be obtained magnificent views of the fine mountain scenery around Lochs Hourn and Nevis on the mainland side of the Sound. To the W of Sleat round Lochs Eishort and Slapin the scenery improves, and the cliffs and mountain slopes overhanging the latter are, especially under certain conditions of light and shade, very grand and impressive (see Strathaird). To the W of Strathaird round Loch Scavaig the outlying ridges of the Cuillin Hills slope steeply down upon the sea without any intervening cliffs, and produce a coast remarkable for its difference of character from that of any other coast in the kingdom, and for a curious weirdness that is indicated, though with a suggestive want of accuracy in Thomson of Duddingstone's picture of the entrance to the loch (see Scavaig); and the lonely clift-girt gorge of Coruisk at the NW corner is the eeriest and most solemn place in Britain-` perpetual twilight, perfect silence, terribly brooding desolation' Along Soay Sound and round Loch Brittle such cliffs as exist are low, and about the loch they are disposed in terraces, but from this to Talisker Bay, 1½ mile S of the entrance to Loch Bracadale, there is a line of lofty and picturesque cliffs. Round Talisker Bay, and all round Loch Bracadale, the shores are generally low, flat, and cultivated, as they are likewise about the E and S of Loch Snizort, and on northwards by Score Bay; but along the tract between Loch Bracadale and Loch Snizort there is a considerable amount of good rock scenery (see bracadale, Duirinish, dunvegan, Snizort, and Uig).

All round the coast are a number of islands and islets, of which the two principal on the N have been already mentioned. To the N of Staffin Bay are Sgeir Eirin and Eilean Altavaig (½ x ¼ mile), and at the E side the triangular Staffin Island (½ x ¼ mile). Extending down the E coast is the chain formed by South Rona, Eilean Tigh, Fladday, and Raasay, and to the SE of the last is Scalpay, opposite Loch Ainort. One mile E of the centre of Scalpay is Longay (5 x 3 furl.), and 2 miles SE is Pabay (¾ x ¾ mile), and these with the small Eilean Ban at the NW end of Kyle Akin complete the list of important islands on the E coast. Along the Sound of Sleat the only island is Isle-Ornsay, and the next of importance is Soay, to the W of Loch Scavaig. In Loch Bracadale are Wiay and the smaller Harlosh (½ x ¼ mile), Tarner (3 x 2 furl.), and Ornsay (4 x 1 furl.). Near the centre of the outer part of Dunvegan Loch is Isay or Issay Island, and close to it on the NE are Mingay Island (5 x furl.) and the small Clett, while far up the southern branch are Eilean Gairbh, Eilean Dubh, Eilean Mor, with a number of small islets. Near the NW of Loch Iosal, Eilean Creagach, Eilean Garave, and South Ascrib, with some smaller islets. The only one of any size is South Ascrib (½ x ¼ mile). Near the entrance. to Loch Greshornish is the small Eilean Mor. Of these only Isle-Ornsay, Pabay, Raasay, South Rona, Scalpay, Soay, and Wiay are inhabited.

Surface, etc.-The length of Skye in a straight line from Rudha Hunish south-south-eastward to Point of Sleat is 48¾ miles, and from Vaternish Point south-eastward to lsle-Ornsay, 44¾; while the average breadth of the island is about 12 miles; and the area, inclusive of foreshore, 411, 703.652 acres. The breadth of the land is in some places very much more than the average, and in others much less, e.g., from the E coast of Moonen Bay eastward to Portree Harbour the distance is 20 miles, while from the top of Loch Harport to the top of Loch Sligachan is only 5¼ miles, and from the head of Loch Eishort to the head of Loch na Dal is barely 1½ mile; but so much is the island indented by the extensive sea-lochs already described, that but few places are more than 3½ miles distant from the sea, and none more than 4½ The surface, with the exception of Kilmuir-the plain of which is the largest continuous tract of arable land in the island-and a small tract near Loch Bracadale, consists almost entirely of three distinct groups of hills, with intervening stretches of undulating moorland of considerable altitude. From the N end of the island the ground slopes downward from the heights overlooking the sea, and then rises again to another series of hills westward from Staffin Bay, the highest summits being Sgurr Mor (1460 feet) and Meall na Suiramach (1779), NW of the Quiraing. The rocks are basaltic, and the cliffs in many places show fine examples of columnar structure. From this point a long ridge extends in a southerly direction towards Portree, with an average elevation at the N end of from 1000 to 1500 feet; in the centre, of from 1700 to 2300 feet; while at the S end it slopes down to about 1000, till nearly at the extremity it rises again at Beinn a. Chearcaill to 1817. The highest points from the N end southwards are Bioda Buidhe (1523 feet), Beinn Edra (2003), Creag à Lain (1995), Bac a Ruadh (2091), The Storr (2360), and Beinn a' Chearcaill (1817). The whole extent of the ridge, with its picturesque basaltic cliffs, commands wide and extensive views.' On the north-east, facing the sea, it dips down suddenly, with no end of picturesque craggy spurs and green knolls, very peculiar and fairy-like. Then there is a wide expanse of solitary moor, with here and there a small lake glistening in the sun, then green inhabited spots away to the coast-line, which is for many miles a lofty terrace of basalt, resting on limestone, with columns in some places as regular as those of Staffa, but on a larger scale. This whole district is called the " East Side," and there is no part of Skye more picturesque, though, with the exception of Curing, which is the culminating point of interest, it is generally quite unexplored.' Apart from the cliffs the green terraced hills almost call to mind in bright weather the soft pastoral heights of the southern uplands. The second group of hills lies along the SE from the Point of Sleat to Loch Alsh, and has in the peninsula of Sleat an average altitude of from 800 to over 900 feet, the highest point being Sgòrach Breac (977) between Isle-Ornsay and the head of outer Loch Eishort. At the head of Loch na Dal the ridge is cut by the low ground between the head of that loch and upper Loch Eishort, but, immediately beyond, it reaches a height of 1427 feet at Beinn Bhreac, and passes along the coast by Beinn na Seamraig (1839) and Ben Alask (1984) to the highest summits, Sgurr na Coinnich (2401) and Beinn na Caillich (2396) overlooking Kyle Rhea. To the W of these is Beinn na Créine (2000 feet). The hills along this part of the group descend rapidly to the sea on the SE, but slope more gently to the NW where there is a tract of low ground extending from Kyle Akin to Broadford Bay, and thence across the island to Loch Slapin, the latter portion being bounded on the E by undulating ground, the highest point of which at Beinn a Chàirn near Boreraig is 983 feet above sea-level. Occupying the space bounded on the E by a line drawn from Broadford to the middle of the E side of Loch Slapin, and on the W by a line drawn from the head of Loch Sligachan to the head of Loch Brittle, is the wildest and most mountainous part of the island, occupied by the hills that may be spoken of collectively as the Cuillin group, of the principal summits of which the lower have a range of over 2300 feet and the higher of over 3000. The group consists of two distinct portions totally different in both rock formation and external appearance. To the NE between Broadford and Loch Sligachan are the Red Hills, which are syenitic in structure and pyramidal in shape. Formed of rock which weathers and decomposes with great readiness, their slopes are formed by masses of bright red detritus -whence the name-only relieved here and there by strips of bright green sod. View hunters often vote them tame, but seen in proper light-as all West Highland scenery must be-especially when the sun is well down m the west, and the evening clear, they present as fine a' bit' of colour as could be wished. The principal summits are Beinn Dearg Mhòr (2323 feet) and Beinn na Caillich (2403) between the head of Loch Slapin and Broadford; Glas Bheinn Mhor (1851), S of Loch Ainort; Beinn Dearg Mheadhonach (2094), Beinn Glamaig (2537), S of Loch Sligachan; and Marsco (2414), farther S still, E of the upper l art of Glen Sligachan, opposite Scuir nan Gillean. The red colour does not prevail universally, but it occupies by far the larger space, and is the more prominent from its superior brightness. The other portion consists of hypersthene rocks of Laurentian age, and noted for their dark colour.' The darkness of that mass is indeed extraordinary, and adds much to the wildness of aspect and grandeur of effect produced by the rugged and bold outlines of the mountains of which it is formed. No light seems to harmonise their colour to its place in the general landscape; perpetual shadow seems to cover them in every state of the atmosphere, and when the clouds involve their summits a deep and dark abyss seems opened beneath into which the eye vainly endeavours to penetrate. Their exterior outline is equally remarkable, as well for the contrast it presents to the tame and smooth boundary of the Red Hills as for-its peculiarly rugged and serrated form. Pinnacles and projecting crags darkly indenting the sky rise along the whole line, marking by their acuteness and permanence the durability of the rock of which they are composed.' It is this dark colour and weird outline that gives them their deep, mysterious, awe-inspiring look. The enormous bulks, their gradual receding to invisible crests, their utter movelessness, their austere silence daunt you. You are conscious of their presence, and you hardly care to speak lest you be overheard. You can't laugh; you would not crack a joke for the world. Glen Sligachan would be the place to do a little self examination in. There you would have a sense of your own meannesses, selfishnesses, paltry evasions of truth and duty, and find out what a shabby fellow you at heart are; and, looking up to your silent father-confessors, you would find no mercy in their grim faces.' The Cuillin Hills proper may be said to be enclosed by lines drawn from the head of Loch Sligachan to the N- E corner of the head of Loch Scavaig on the E and to the head of Loch Brittle on the W, the summits forming a long sinuous ridge from N to S, and the highest being in that order Sgurr nan Gillean (3167 feet), Bruach na Frithe (3143) to the W, Sgurr Thuilm (2885) to the WNW, Sgurr na Banachdich, near the centre of the ridge, with a NW summit (3167), a SE one, the highest point in Skye (3231), and outlying shoulders to the W and SW, Sgurr nan Gobhar (2047) and Sgurr Dearg (2012); to the SE of this is Sgurr Sgumain (3104)with a southern shoulder 2507-Sgurr nan Eag (3037) and Gars-bheinne (2934), from which the ground slopes to Loch Scavaig. To the ESE of Sgurr na Banachdich is Loch Coruisk, to the N of which is the ridge of Drumhain, with an extreme height of 1622 feet; and N of this again the deep, mysterious looking Harta Corrie. The eastern side of the ridge of the Cuillins proper is marked to the N by Glen Sligachan, and to the S by Strath na Creitheach opening on to the NE of Loch Scavaig at Camasunary, the two glens forming a continuous hollow across the island. To the E of Strath na Creitheach is the long black pinnacled ridge and huge precipices of' the wonderful mountain of Blaven,' of which Alexander Smith has sung so well:

` O Blaven. rocky Blaven!
How I long to be with you again,
To see lashed gulf and gully
Smoke white in the windy rain-
To see in the scarlet sunrise
The mist-wreaths perish with heat;
The wet rock slide with a trickling gleam
Right down to the cataract's feet;
while toward the crimson islands.
where the sea birds flutter and skirl.
A cormorant flaps o'er a sleek ocean floor
Of tremulous mother-of-pearl.'

The top of Blaven is 3042 feet above sea-level, and there is a northern shoulder, Garbh-bheinn (2649). Between this grand mountain district and a line drawn from Loch Snizort to Portree are the little valley of Talisker, the green pastures about Lochs Brittle and Eynort, and the low open cultivated ground about Loch Bracadale; but with these exceptions the whole country is an undulating upland, averaging from 600 to 1000 feet and upwards in height, almost entirely covered with brown heath, and somewhat bleak and hare in appearance, though at the proper season even this is relieved by the great masses of purple blooming heather. The basaltic pillars at Brish-meall or Preshal More, near Talisker Bay, are worthy of notice. A number of summits to the W of the Cuillins reach a height of from 1200 to 1350 feet, but the highest points are the flat-topped Healaval More (1538) and Healaval Beg (1601), generally known as Macleod's Tables in the S of Duirinish. In Vaternish the highest point is Ben Geary (929 feet), E of Ardmore Point at the entrance to Loch Dunvegan.

Lochs and Rivers.-There are a considerable number of fresh water lochs and lochans, but none of them are of any great size, the principal being Lochs Coruisk (1½ x ¼ mile) at the top of Loch Scavaig, Leathan (¾ x ½ mile), Fada (¾ x ¼ mile), both in the parish of Portree; Duagrich, in the parish of Bracadale; Cill Chriosd (¾ x nearly ¼ mile), na Creubhaig (7 x 2 furl.), both in the parish of Strath; nan Uamh (½ x ¼ mile), Dhùghaill (3 x 2 furl.), and a' Ghlinne (4 x 1 furl.), all in the parish of Sleat. Many of them abound in trout, and though all the best are preserved it is not very difficult to obtain permission to fish, while some are quite free. Loch Columkill, 2 miles N by W of Uig Bay, in Kilmuir, once the largest stretch of fresh water in Skye and covering over 300 acres, was drained many years ago. The streams are very numerous, but none of them are large except during, and after, heavy rains, when they sometimes do a considerable amount of injury. For instance, on the night of the' Big Flood,' in October 1877, the stream from Glen Uig and the river Rha, whose mouths are generally nearly 200 yards apart, came down in such high flood that Uig Lodge, which stood on the ground between, was swept away by their united waters; while the same rainfall so flooded the streams between Uig and Portree that all the bridges along the road were carried away. The principal streams are the Kilmaluag flowing to the bay of the same name, the Kilmartin entering the S side of Staffin Bay, the Bearreraig from Loch Leathan, the Chracaig and the Leasgeary, both entering the N side of Portree Harbour, the Varragill flowing northward to the head of Portree Loch, the Sligachan flowing from Harta Corrie northward to the head of Loch Sligachan, the Broadford from Loch Cill Chriosd to the W corner of Broadford Bay, the Abhuinn Lusa entering the sea 2 miles E of Broadford Bay, the Brittle and Eynort entering the sea at the heads of the lochs of the same names, the Ord at the S side of Loch Eishort, the Talisker at Talisker Bay, the Drynoch at the head of Loch Harport, the Ose at the E side of Loch Bracadale, the Glendale entering Loch Pooltiel, the Treaslane on the S side of Loch Snizort Beag, the Snizort at the head and the Haultin, Romesdal, and Hinnisdal on the NE side of the same loch; and the Uig and Rha at Uig Bay. The Snizort and the Varragill are the largest streams, but all those mentioned contain salmon and sea- and burn -trout.

Scenery, etc.-The grand and beautiful scenery for which Skye is noted is not to be found all over the island. As has been already indicated, much depends on the coast, and lies in the ever changing disposition and aspects of the rocks and mountain masses to be seen in sailing round the island, while in the interior the portions worth seeing are confined to certain districts-particularly about the Quiraing, Storr, and the Cuillin group of hills-and lie along certain well-known routes, and the large remaining portions are, as often as not, mere' weary wastes expanding to the skies,' bleak, bare, and dismal.' We passed,' says Alexander Smith in describing a drive through one of these, ` through a very dismal district of country. It was precisely to the eye what the croak of the raven is to the ear. It was an utter desolation, in which Nature seemed deteriorated and at her worst. Winter could not possibly sadden the region; no spring could quicken it into flowers. The hills wore for ornament but the white streak of the torrent; the rocky soil clothed itself with no heather. . . . Labour was resultless; it went no further than itself-it was like a song without an echo.' Yet, this notwithstanding, the constantly changing atmospheric effects on the hills, whether distant or close at hand, are always magnificent, and what is grand is grand, standing in all respects by itself in British scenery. As Sheriff Nicholson-one of the truest of the sons of the Isle of Mist-has it

' Let them sing of the sunny South,
where the blue Ægean smiles,
But gig e to me the Scottish sea.
That breaks round the western Isles!
Jerusalem, Athens, and Rome.
i would see them before i die!
But I'd rather not see any one of the three.
Than be exiled for ever from Skye.
Lovest thou mountains great,
Peaks to the clouds that soar.
Corrie and fell where eagles dwell,
And cataracts dash evermore ?
Lovest thou green glassy glades.
By the sunshine sweetly kist. -
Murmuring waves and echoing caves?
Then go to the Isle of Mist!'

Besides all this for those who are weary from excess of toil and wish for rest and change, the island has the charm of its seclusion- not now, however, quite so great as formerly, thanks to the tourist rush-and its utter unlikeness to anything on the mainland except the western districts of Ross and Sutherland, and over these it has the advantage of much greater accessibility.' Jaded and nervous with eleven months' labour or disappointment, there will a man find the medicine of silence and repose. Pleasant after poring over books to watch the cormorant at early morning flying with outstretched neck over the bright firth; pleasant lying in some sunny hollow at noon to hear the sheep bleating above; pleasant at evening to listen to wild stories of the isles told by the peat-fire; and pleasantest of all, lying awake at midnight, to catch, muffled by distance, the thunder of the northern sea, and to think of all the ears the sound has filled. In Skye one is free of one's century; the present wheels away into silence and remoteness.. In Skye the Londoner is visited with a stranger sense of foreignness than in Holland or in Italy. To visit Skye is to make a progress into" the dark backward and abysm of time." You turn your back on the present and walk into antiquity. You see everything in the light of Ossian as in the light of a mournful sunset. With a Norse murmur the blue lochs come running in. The Canongate of Edinburgh is Scottish history in stone and lime; but in Skye you stumble on matters older still. Everything about the traveller is remote and strange. You h ear a foreign language; you are surrounded by Macleods, Macdonalds, and Nicholsons; you come on grey stones standing upright on the moor-marking the site of a battle or the burial-place of a chief. You listen to traditions of ancient skirmishes; you sit on ruins of ancient date in which Ossian might have sung. The loch yonder was darkened by the banner of King Haco. Prince Charles wandered over this heath or slept in that cave. The country is thinly peopled, and its solitude is felt as a burden. The precipices of the Storr lower grandly over the sea; the eagle has yet its eyrie on the ledges of the Cuchullins. The sound of the sea is continually in your ears; the silent armies of mists and vapours perpetually deploy; the wind is gusty on the moor; and ever and anon the jags of the hills are obscured by swirls of fiercely-blown rain. And more than all the island is pervaded by a subtle spiritual atmosphere. It is as strange to the mind as it is to the eye. Old songs and traditions are the spiritual analogues of old castles and burying-placesand old songs and traditions you have in abundance. There is a smell of the sea in the material air; and there is a ghostly something in the air of the imagination. There are prophesying voices amongst the hills of an evening. The raven that flits across your path is a wierd thing-mayhap by the spell of some strong enchanter a human soul is balefully imprisoned in the hearse-like carcase. You hear the stream and the voice of the kelpie in it. You breathe again the air of old story-books; but they are northern, not eastern ones. To what better place, then, can the tired man go ? There he will find refreshment and repose. There the wind blows out on him from another century. The Sahara itself is not a greater contrast from the London street than is the Skye wilderness.'

The origin of the name is uncertain. Some say the Scandinavian Ski,' cloud,' or' vapour,' and hence Eilean Skianach,' the island of mist;' others take it from the Gaelic Skianach,' winged,' from the resemblance of the half-detached peninsulas to wings. The island seems to be the Scetis of Ptolemy, and the oldest form is probably Sgithidh, and there the matter must be left. During the period when the Hebrides belonged to Norway, the Norsemen, though they held the people in subjection, seem never to have made large settlements on the island, for almost all the place names except in the N and NW, and along the E coast, are Celtic, not Scandinavian. For such history as the island then had, reference may be made to the article on the Hebrides. Traditionary history associates many of the localities with Ossian, and during the Middle Ages the only events of local importance are connected with clan feuds which cannot be here detailed. The northern branch of the Macdonalds possessed the whole of Trotternish down as far as Portree, a strip extending along the SW coast from the W side of Loch Scavaig, along by the head of Loch Slapin to the head of Loch Eishort, all the promontory of Sleat, and the whole of the coast beyond as far as the N end of Kyle-Rhea. All the E coast from Portree to Loch Alsh, including Scalpay, belonged to the Mackinnons; Vaternish and Dunvegan to the Macleods of Lewis; and Duirinish and the SW coast down to Loch Scavaig inclusive of Soay, to the Macleods of Harris. The support the clans afforded to the various rebellious Lords of the Isles led to many royal expeditions against them, one of the most noteworthy being that commanded by James V. in person in 1542. The incidents connected with the adventures of Prince Charles Edward Stewart after the battle of Culloden will be found noticed under the places with which they are more immediately connected, as will also those connected with the visit of Dr Johnson in 1773. Of more recent history the island had none till 1881, when the bad seasons that have prevailed, and the partial failure of the fishing industry with which so many of the people are connected, began to cause distress among the crofter population, and this, having led them to lend a willing ear to land-law agitators, produced such a state of matters, that large bodies of the' law-abiding and generally contented' people of the Report of the Agricultural Commissioners in 1881 were, in 1883-85, openly banded together to offer resistance to all constituted authority. So lawless had proceedings become in 1883-84 in regard to seizure of grazings belonging to adjacent sheep farms of large size, defiance of consequent interdicts of the Court of Session, and resistance to the police, that a special police expedition had to be despatched by steamer from Glasgow, and ultimately a gun-boat sent to make arrests, and the police force of the county of lnverness was temporarily increased by fifty men. After a lull, fresh disturbances of the same nature, and culminating in a determined assault on a number of policemen, took place, and in the end of 1884 it became necessary to send to the island an armed expedition, consisting of a troop-ship, two gun-boats, and a steamer with a special police force. A large body of marines was landed and marched through several of the disturbed districts, and small bodies of them left at one or two points to protect police forces there stationed. The partial withdrawal of the soldiery has again in 1885 proved the signal for fresh outrages, in connection with which a number of men from two of the most disturbed districts, at Valtos near Loch Staffin and Glendale, have recently been committed for trial. There the matter at present rests, but it is to be hoped that ere long wiser counsels may lead to the restoration of the old peaceful habits. The present popular methods of showing the existence of poverty are scarcely such as will produce a remedy.

Geology.-None of the Western Isles presents more remarkable geological phenomena than Skye. The greater part of the island is occupied by contemporaneous and intrusive volcanic rocks of Tertiary age, the former being arranged in great horizontal sheets piled on each other to a considerable depth. At intervals, round the coast, fragments of Secondary strata, ranging from the Poikilitic beds underneath the Lias to the horizon of the Oxford Clay, are met with. Originally buried underneath a vast pile of basaltic lavas, these fossiliferous Secondary rocks have been exposed by denudation, and though their development is but limited, they are of the highest importance in enabling the geologist to interpret the history of the Mesozoic formations in the N of Scotland. Skye has always been a favourite resort for students of geology. The researches of Macculloch, Professor Edward Forbes, Dr A. Geikie, Dr Wright, Dr Bryce, Professor Judd, and others have thrown much light on the geological history of this interesting island so far as the Secondary formations and Tertiary volcanic rocks are concerned. The geological structure of the SE peninsula extending from Kyle-Akin to the Point of Sleat is, however, rather complicated. This area is occupied by Cambrian strata and crystalline schists, lying in the line of strike of the great terrestrial displacements extending from Strome Ferry to Loch Eriboll. Hence the sections in Sleat must be read in the light of recent investigations in the counties of Sutherland and Ross.

According to the description given by Macculloch, it would appear that the metamorphic rocks along the shore of the Sound of Sleat S of Isle-Ornsay consist of gneiss, chlorite schist, mica schist, and hornblende schist, with a general inclination to the SE. The characteristic feature of the gneiss is the presence of pink felspar associated with black mica and quartz, the lamination being very apparent. Near Loch Oransay a bed occurs containing white felspar, with needleshaped prisms of hornblende, and another with actinolite. The strata just described when followed towards the NW seem to be underlaid by mica schist and greywacke schist, their general inclination being to the SE. Within a short distance, however, they fold over towards the NW, and on advancing to the head of Loch in Daal, quartz-rock and hard brown and grey sandstone are associated with the greywacke schist. Beyond the latter locality the strata bend again towards the SE, and from this point to the head of Loch Eishort there is an alternation of schistose beds, with varieties of quartz-rock and red sandstone. In the geological map published by Macculloch, the whole of the N portion of the Sleat peninsula and a large part of the S portion are represented as being occupied by red sandstone, quartz-rock, and schist. According to the researches of Murchison and Geikie, this peninsula originally formed an anticlinal arch of Cambrian sandstone overlain by quartz-rock, limestone, and schists, since truncated by great faults running parallel with the strike of the beds. The red sandstones crop out on the coast between Kyle-Akin and the base of the Secondary formations, and they also occur along the shore from the head of Loch Eishort to Sleat Point. At Ord, on the shore of Loch Eishort, the red sandstones are overlain by white quartzites, with a high inclination to the NW, followed by limestone, which, according to the same authorities, are the equivalents of the quartzites and limestones of Assynt and Eriboll. The limestone is again followed by quartzite, but the strata seem to be traversed by a series of powerful faults.

On the shore opposite Balmacarra the series of red and grey quartzose flagstones are exposed with a general SE dip, which continues towards Kyle-Rhea, and at Isle-Ornsay they appear to graduate upwards into schist and gneiss.

The lowest members of the Secondary formations rest on the Cambrian sandstones with a marked uncomformability. The relation between the two may be seen at several points in Strath, and particularly on the shore at Lussay, where the Poikilitic strata, marking the base of the Lias, consist of a thin layer of conglomerate, followed by variegated marls and clays, with sandy clays and calcareous concretions. These beds are overlain by the representatives of the Infra Lias graduating upwards into a fine development of the Lower Lias exposed on the shore of Broadford Bay from Obe Breakish to the village of Broadford. The latter consist of black micaceous shales, with occasional limestone bands replete with fossils, such as Ammonites Bucklandi, Gryphœa arcuata, Lima gigantea, Cardinia Listeri, etc. The beds just described are overlain by similar black shales with occasional limestone bands, but presenting certain differences in their fossil contents. According to Professor Judd the most prominent feature is the absence of the typical Ammonites Bucklandi, and the abundance of other species, such as A. semicostatus. It is obvious that in this area the lithological characters of the Lower Lias do not quite correspond with those met with in England, but in districts of the West Highlands S of Skye this divergence is not so apparent. The representatives of the Middle Lias consist of dark sandy shales, with limestone nodules charged with Ammonites armatus, A. Jamesoni, Belemnites elongatus, graduating upwards into calcareous sandstones, the characteristic forms being Ammonites spinatus, Belemnites elongatus, etc. These beds occur at Strathaird between Loch Slapin and Loch Scavaig, on the S side of Portree Harbour, and also on the shore at Prince Charlie's cave on the E coast. Next in order comes a thin series of beds representing the Upper Lias, consisting of finely laminated blue clays, with argillaceous nodules, iron pyrites, and some jet, averaging about 80 feet in thickness, yielding the following typical fossils: Ammonites serpentinus, A. radians, A. communis, Posidonomya Bronni, etc. This horizon, which was first detected by Dr Bryce and Professor Tate, occurs in Strath, at Strathaird, and also at Prince Charlie's Cave N of Portree.

To these beds succeed an important group of strata of the age of the Lower Oolite, which attains a remarkable development in Skye. From the descriptions of Murchison, Bryce, Tate, and Judd, it would appear that the order of succession of the beds is obscured by numerous intrusive sheets of dolerite; but notwithstanding this fact they are divisible into the following zones: (a) at the base, sandy micaceous shales and sandstones, with bands of shelly limestone containing Ammonites Murchisonœ, A. corrugatus, Belemnites giganteus, etc.; (b) shales and sandstones with large concretions, with occasional marine fossils; (c) probably an estuarine series consisting of white sandstones, with some shales containing much carbonaceous matter; (d) limestones made up of comminuted shells, resembling the horizon of the English Cornbrash or Forest Marble. Perhaps the best section of these strata is to be found in the cliff above Prince Charlie's Cave, but they may also be examined on the shore both N and S of Portree Bay. According to the researches of Professor Judd the Lower Oolite beds in Skye are succeeded by a great estuarine series consisting of massive white and grey sandstones, occasionally calcareous and conglomeratic, with wood and plant remains. These graduate upwards into shales and shelly limestones, with oysters and fibrous carbonate of lime, which are exposed on the shore at Loch Staffin on the E side of Trotternish, at Aird, Duntulm, at Stein in Loch Bay on the W coast, and also at Copnahow Head. Owing to the injection of igneous masses of Tertiary age the members of this series have undergone considerable alteration, the sandstones being converted into quartzite, the clays into Lydian stone, and the limestones into marble. Finally we have a considerable development of dark blue clays, with septarian nodules, which, from the nature of the fossils, undoubtedly belong to the horizon of the Oxford Clay, and form the highest beds of the Secondary formations in Skye. These strata, which occur at Loch Staffin, Duntulm, and in Uig Bay, have yielded the following characteristic forms: Ammonites cordatus, A. Williamsoni, Belemnites sulcatus, B. gracilis, Ostrea Roemeri, etc. Professor Judd has shown that the remarkable features presented by the Storr Rocks and the Quirang are due to the slipping of huge superincumbent masses of basalt over these plastic clays, and similar phenomena in the neighbourhood of Uig have been figured and described by Mr A. Ross, Inverness.

The great development of volcanic rocks in Skye forms one of the most striking geological features in the island. The serrated peaks of the Coolins, the smooth cone-shaped masses of the Red Mountains, the great basaltic plateaux in the N part of Skye, are due to the peculiar characters of the igneous rocks and their mode of weathering. The evidence in favour of the Tertiary age of these volcanic masses and the theories which have been advanced to explain their physical relations will be stated in the general article on the Geology of Scotland. At present it will be sufficient to indicate the character and distribution of the igneous rocks. They include (1.) two distinct types of intrusive rocks, consisting of an acidic series and a basic series; (2.) a remarkable development of contemporaneous volcanic rocks. Beginning first with the intrusive rocks, we find that the acidic series is represented by pink granite, syenite, and hornblendic felsite, which form picturesque cone-shaped mountains between Loch Sligachan and Broadford. These masses are coarsely crystalline as a rule, save towards the outer limits, where they come in contact with the sedimentary strata through which they have been erupted. On the slopes of Ben Glamaig, E of Loch Sligachan, the mode of weathering of the Red Mountains may be studied with advantage. The crystalline constituents of the granite crumble away under the influence of atmospheric agencies, giving rise to a comparatively smooth or dome-shaped eminence. Far otherwise is it with the basic intrusive rocks so grandly developed in the Coolin Mountains round Loch Coruisk. Consisting of coarsely crystalline dolerite and gabbro of a dark grey tint, the masses weather with serrated peaks, owing to the presence of crystals of diallage and augite. Sometimes these crystals reach an unusual size, possessing a marked bronzy lustre, and where the felspars have been decomposed, they cause the rock to assume a peculiar jagged surface. The geologist who rambles round the shores of Loch Coruisk cannot fail to observe the striking contrast between the glaciated contour presented by the lower slopes of the mountains and the valleys on the one hand and the jagged peaks of Blabheinn and the Coolins on the other. From an examination of the relations between the granites and the gabbros, Professor Judd has inferred that the former were erupted before the latter, and that the gabbros and dolerites belong to the same epoch of volcanic activity as the basaltic plateaux which now fall to be described. From the shores of Loch Sligachan and the Coolin Hills, N to the headlands of Trotternish, Vaternish, and Dunvegan, there is one continuous succession of basaltic lavas preserving throughout this wide area a striking horizontality. The presence of thin seams of coal between the sheets of basalt and the absence of sedimentary deposits point to the conclusion that these volcanic ejectamenta were subærial and not submarine. The terraced slopes of the hills, and the horizontal lines traceable along the cliffs, coupled with the slaggy characters of the upper and under surfaces of the flows, indicate the successive discharges of the igneous materials. But in addition to these great contemporaneous sheets of lava there is sufficient evidence to show that at a later date they were pierced by veins, dykes, and sheets of dolerite and basalt. The occurrence of numerous basalt dykes forms one of the characteristic features of the history of this period of volcanic activity. They are to be found in great numbers in the metamorphic rocks of Sleat, and they pierce all the Secondary formations as well as the volcanic plateaux. Usually they display a marked columnar arrangement at right angles to the walls of the dykes, and in the centre they are more coarsely crystalline than at the edges.

Soil and Agriculture, etc.-The climate of Skye is very moist, but not more so than that of many places, such as Greenock and Fort William, on the mainland. The air is, however, almost constantly laden with vapour; and rain falls, though not always in large quantities, on about 250 days throughout the year. The average rainfall is about 65 inches, but in exceptionally wet seasons it is sometimes over 100 inches. The prevailing winds are westerly or south-westerly, and being intercepted by the hills as they come from the Atlantic laden with vapour, clouds are formed, which sometimes break in useful and refreshing showers, but at other times burst like water spouts, deluging the lower grounds and injuring the crops. The mean annual temperature for the winter months is 40, and for the rest of the year about 50. In Kilmuir and Vaternish and round Loch Bracadale there is some fine clayey land, with a subsoil of rotten rock of different kinds, much of it limestone and volcanic deposits; and some haughs along the streams at several points are almost equally good. The rest of the arable land-the whole amount of which is but small-lies along the seaboard, and the soil is either light or peaty. The soil on the grazing lands is sometimes clayey, but it is mostly peaty; and, indeed, peat and stones ruin a considerable extent of land that might otherwise produce good returns, and thus a very large portion of the surface is, for economic purposes, practically almost valueless, and will, it is to be feared, always remain in that state, so great is the expense of draining and improving, and so uncertain the prospect of any return. The want of sunshine and the damp climate render harvest late, and the exposure to rain and to the stormy winds that set in about the end of August and the beginning of September do a great deal of damage to the ripe standing crops, the wind, in some seasons, as in 1882, completely threshing and destroying the grain just as it is ready to be cut. Much, even, of the pasture land is covered with heath and very coarse grass, with tracts of better herbage occurring here and there. Good land is estimated to be worth 10s. an acre, medium 6s., and poor about 2s. 6d. There is almost no land under wood except about Armidale Castle, Dunvegan Castle, and Skeabost. On Lord Macdonald's estate, a tract to the S of Loch Sligachan, extending to 10,350 acres, is set apart as a deer forest the only one in the island. The arable land is most extensive in Snizort, Bracadale, and Sleat, and the greater part of it is in the hands of crofters, the total number of holdings in the island in 1883, with a rental of under £30 a year, being 1922. About 700 of these tenants pay under £4 a year, about 1000 from £4 to £10, about 200 from £10 to £20, and only about 50 over £20. The average number of persons belonging to each crofter family was slightly under 6, the average arable acreage 4.8 acres, the number of horses kept about 1 to every 2 crofts, of cattle nearly 3 for each croft, and of sheep about 10. These holdings are much too small to support the owners and their families, and m consequence the crofter has always to add some other employment to his farming. A number of them eke out their livelihood by temporary removal to the mainland where they work as labourers, and a still larger number have to trust largely to their wages as ` hired men ' while engaged at the east coast herring fishing in June, July, and August. During the winter fishing is also carried on at home, but in this the men are greatly hindered by the want of adequate appliances and the lack of harbours; and it has also the bad effect of keeping the crofter by the sea-shore. He cannot afford to go inland and improve ground, as it would take him away from the source of a considerable portion of his winter means of living. This necessarily causes limitation in the number of the population that the island can maintain, and should this limit be exceeded, there must be, as there now is (1885), a large amount of poverty and misery among the people. The only remedies seem to be enlarging the holdings so that each will maintain a family-though here a difficulty arises as to stock-and constructing harbours so that a race of fishermen pure and simple may subsist along the coast. Here, however, the difficulty of getting the fish to market arises. so that this would need improved communication. Whatever surplus population, if any, remained after this would have to move elsewhere. The crops grown on the larger holdings are oats, potatoes, and turnips, but on the smaller ones only oats and potatoes. The grain crop yields a return of only about 3 to 3½ times the seed, and in this respect things must be very much worse than in 1549, when Dean Monro describes the island as ` fertill land, namelie for aitis, excelling aney uther ground for grassing and pastoures; ' and Martin, writing in 1703, says, ` The soil is very grateful to the husbandman. I have been shown several places that had not been tilled for seven years before, which yielded a good product of oats by digging, though the ground was not dunged, particularly near the village Kilmartin, which the natives told me had not been dunged these forty years last. Several pieces of ground yield twenty, and some thirty fold when dunged with sea-ware. I had an account that a small tract of ground in the village Skerrybreck yielded an hundred fold of barley.' What he says about the fallow and the manuring is, however, suggestive, and it is hardly to be wondered that the power of the soil should have become exhausted under the constant cropping that it has undergone, oats and potatoes alternating year after year, or one crop of potatoes being taken to two of grain, while little or no manure was applied, except some poor compost or exhausting sea-weed. Lime is worked both at Broadford and in Vaternish, but it is not of a quality very suitable for agricultural use, and most of what is so employed is brought from the N of Ireland. The soil seems to suit turnips, and where they are grown the return in an average season is from 16 to 20 tons, and potatoes yield about 5 tons, but they generally suffer much from disease. The cattle are of the black west-highland breed, and the sheep are Cheviots and blackfaces, mostly the former. The cattle are generally disposed of at the markets held at Broadford in May, August, and September, at Portree in May and August, and at Sligachan in August and September. A graphic picture of market day at Broadford is given in Alexander Smith's Summer in Skye. The sheep are sold at Inverness, -Muir of Ord, and Falkirk markets, and the wool mostly on commission in Glasgow and Leith, though a considerable quantity goes also to the woollen manufactory at Portree, - the making of winceys, etc., there carried on, being the only manufacture in the island.

The making of kelp, once so extensively prosecuted, is now practically extinct. The magnitude of this industry and the causes of its decline have been already noticed in the article on the Hebrides, and its importance in Skye may be gathered from the estimate formed, that in some years prior to 1830 Lord Macdonald's annual gross income from this source was over £20, 000, of which at least £9000 would be payed in wages to the people employed in the manufacture. Skye is combined with Loch Carron to form one of the fishery districts of Scotland, and the number of first-class boats belonging to this in 1883 was 29; of second-class boats, 172; of third-class boats, 542; but of these, probably, not one-third belonged to Skye itself. The number of fishermen and boys employed in 1883 was 2575; and of other persons, 1487; and the value of the boats was £6344, of the nets £21,132, and of the lines £2879. Fifty-nine vessels were also fitted out for the same purpose, and the total number of barrels of herring salted or cured in the district was 5282 (77, 783 in 1882); and the number of cod, ling, and hake taken was 32, 240. The crofter communities have their houses in each district close together on their patches of arable land, the group so formed constituting a township. The houses are very miserable structures, generally consisting of two rooms of which the outer is the byre. The walls, formed of rough masses of unhewn stone, are some 5 or 6 feet thick, and about the same height, the middle portion being sometimes filled up with heather or turf; and the corners are rounded off. The thatch roof is secured against wind by a network of straw or heather ropes, held down at the ends by large blocks of stone. There is often no window, or if there be one it is merely a single pane of glass inserted in the thatch or in a turf-packed hole in the wall prepared for its reception. The island being practically destitute of wood, the rafters are valuable possessions, and many were the complaints before the recent Crofters' Commission as to non-compensation for these precious pieces of timber. The peat fire is on a stone or stones in the middle of the clay floor, and as there is either - no chimney or merely a hole in the roof to serve for that purpose, the smoke either lingers all over the place, sinking into the thatch overhead and forming with it a sooty compound that will by and by become valuable as dressing- for the cultivated land, or finds its way out at the half open door, as best it can. The people are in no way different from those of the Hebrides generally, and the remarks made in the article on the whole group as to their present condition, and the changes that have taken place during the past century, are equally applicable here. -.

Skye and the adjacent smaller islands form a judicial division of Inverness-shire, with a resident sheriff-substitute, and Portree as the seat of the sheriff-court. It is divided into the 7 quoad civilia parishes of Kilmuir, Snizort, Duirinish, Bracadale, Portree, Strath, and Sleat, which include also the quoad sacra parishes of Halin-in-Vaternish and Stenscholl, in the articles dealing with which, or in separate notices, all the chief points of interest will be found more particularly described. The seven civil parishes form a poor-law combination with a poorhouse near Portree containing accommodation for 75 inmates. Portree, with a population of 893 in 1881, is the only place that can be called a town; the villages are Broadford, Kyle-Akin, Isle-Ornsay, and Uig; and there are a considerable number of townships scattered round the coast. There is communication with the mainland by means of ferries at Kyle-Akin and at the S end of Kyle-Rhea; and by steamers from Glasgow and from Strome Ferry, as is noticed under Portree. Good main lines of road traverse the coasts of the island on both sides except between Staffin Bay and Portree, at the W side of Sleat, at Minginish, and at Duirinish, but the district roads are few and mostly poor; Of the whole area of the island it has been estimate that Macleod of Macleod possesses 141 000 acres, Lord Macdonald 129, 000, Major Fraser of Kilmuir 45,000, the trustees of M'Leod of Glendale 35,000, Mr Wood of Raasay 17, 000, Mr Robertson of Greshornish 15,000, Mr Macalister of Strathaird 13,000, Captain Macdonald of Vaternish and Loch Bay 8000, Mr Macdonald of Skeabost 6289, Mr M'Donald of Lynedale 5000, Dr Martin of Glendale 5000, and Mr Macdonald of Treaslane 3000, but from the quality of the land held, the rental is not at all in proportion to the area, that of Lord Macdonald being £2000 more than that of Macleod of Macleod, while for his 8000 acres Captain Macdonald draws more than M`Leod of Glendale for his 35, 000. Pop. (1821) 20.627, (1841) 23,082, (1861) 18, 908, (1871) 17,330, (1881) 16,889, of whom 8903 were females and 16, 099 Gaelic-speaking. Houses (1881) 3483 inhabited, 47 vacant, 6 building.

The Established Church has a Presbytery of Skye in the synod of Glenelg. It embraces all the Skye parishes already mentioned, as well as the parish of Small Isles, and mission stations at Braes and Kyle-Akin. The Free Church has also a Presbytery of Skye embracing the charges at Bracadale, Duirinish, Kilmuir, Portree, Raasay, Sleat, Snizort, and Strath in Skye, and those of Carinish, Harris, North Uist, South Uist, and Tarbert in the Outer Hebrides. The only other places of worship in the island are a U.P. church at Portree, a Baptist church at Broadford, and an Episcopal church at Caroy.

See also Martin's Description of the Western Islands of Scotland (1703; reprint, Glasg. 1884); Dr Johnson's Journey to the Western Islands of Scotland (1775); Boswell's Tour to the Hebrides (1785); Gregory's History of the Western Highlands and Isles of Scotland (Edinb. 1836; 2d ed., Glasg. 1881); Macculloch's Description of the Western Islands of Scotland (1819), and his Highlands and Western Isles of Scotland (1824); Alexander Smith's Summer in Skye (Edinb, 1865); Buchanan's The Hebrid Isles (1883); the appendix to the Report of the Royal Commission on Agriculture (1881); and the Report of the Crofters' Commission (1884).

An accompanying 19th C. Ordnance Survey map is available, or use the map tab to the right of this page.

Note: This text has been made available using a process of scanning and optical character recognition. Despite manual checking, some typographical errors may remain. Please remember this description dates from the 1880s; names may have changed, administrative divisions will certainly be different and there are known to be occasional errors of fact in the original text, which we have not corrected because we wish to maintain its integrity. This information is provided subject to our standard disclaimer

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