Day 7 |
May 21, 2011

Skye, Portree

By Imogen Corrigan, Medieval Historian

Co-ordinates: 57, 24, 10 N, 6, 09, 48 W
Weather: rain, occasionally heavy
Air Temperature: 11C, 53F
Pressure: 997
Wind: 28.5, 14.0 degrees

The rather boisterous weather we had last night faded away as we arrived at Portree, Isle of Skye. Sadly, the heavy rain didn’t really let up all day but never let that stop the intrepid guests on board the Silver Explorer! Everyone got wet on the Zodiac rides to the shore but spirits remained high and about 70 guests joined the excursion to Dunvegan Castle, some 45 minutes drive from Portree. We had an excellent local guide, Andy Kaye, on our coach and he was probably the best guide so far on this cruise; he certainly had the gift of clarity and humour without overloading us with trivial information.

The castle is the home of the MacLeod clan and has numerous portraits of MacLeod Chiefs, which were surprisingly homely – you got quite a sense of the family living in the castle as opposed to it just being a stately home open to the public. The tiny waists of successive MacLeod brides certainly caused some comment amongst the guests. The castle is also home to the Fairie Flag, which is an ancient banner, steeped in myth; you can decide for yourself if you think its history is linked to the Crusades or to long-distant sprites.

There are some fabulous gardens at the castle too, of the informal, rambling sort much beloved of British c19th garden designers. Sadly the weather was so bad by this time that very few guests spent time in the garden. On the plus side, there were two very good gift shops and a café, which did brisk business.

The drive to and from Dunvegan is stunning with (we were told) truly wonderful views of the Cuillin Mountains. Although we couldn’t see much beyond the rain and low cloud, nonetheless we did get an impression of the stark beauty of this island, not least because our guide had such a knack with description. It was definitely worth doing the drive and many said that they were certainly tempted to come back at some time to see it in all its glory, assuming it ever stops raining in the Hebrides which the locals were quick to tell us is rare (untrue – I’ve almost always had fantastic weather on other trips here and there are few places in the world more attractive than the Scottish islands in the sunshine).

We got back to Portree at lunch time and quite a few guests decided they might as well get even wetter and take a walk around the town. It may not be a great shopping centre, but there are good pubs with cosy atmospheres and home-cooked food. Some of the guests liked it so much that they returned to the shore after lunch for another look.

Everyone having returned to the ship, Conrad gave us an unscheduled lecture in the late afternoon. It was fascinating to hear the history of this ship with its 8 different names and many adventures and everyone was intrigued to hear how the itineraries are planned.

The day ended with the Venetian Dinner for guests who have travelled with Silversea more than once so, as you can imagine, it was a pretty full house with everyone in a high good humour, which led to a very happy evening (the fantastic food always helps, of course!)