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Top Suggestions For Combining History With Hiking On Skye

The Isle of Skye is a favourite destination for both hikers and history lovers alike, with the legendary Cuillin ridge traverse offering the ultimate challenge for mountaineers, and a rich cultural and historical heritage. Here are some suggestions for combining your walks with some historical exploration.

Visit Dunvegan Castle

The turbulent history of the Scottish Highlands is dominated by the clans, who exerted control over the local tenant farmers and labourers in an area in return for protection and security. The clan chiefs were usually loyal to the Scottish monarch, and it seems to have been a way of cultivating stability in the country.

The oldest Scottish clan families can trace their lineage back to the 12th century. Dunvegan Castle is the oldest continuously inhabited castle in Scotland, having been the ancestral home of the MacLeod family for over 800 years. The castle lies near the shores of Loch Dunvegan and visitors can tour the opulent interior and beautiful formal gardens. 

Walk the Quiraing

For those who want an enjoyable and challenging walk without the more strenuous demands of mountain climbing, then the Quiraing Circuit, a part of the Trotternish Ridge, is the ideal opportunity. The loop covers a distance of about four miles and will take around two to three hours to complete. 

On a clear day you will be treated to spectacular views from the high cliffs that were formed millennia ago by a massive landslip. If the weather is very wet, windy or misty, it’s not recommended to attempt the route because of the risk of cliff falls. The route is known for its awe-inspiring rock formations such as the Needle, the Prison, and the Table.

Visit brochs and cleared villages

Brochs are Pictish round towers that are estimated to be at least 2,000 years old, and you will find several examples littered throughout the island. Some are very well preserved while others are sketchy ruins. The original purpose of these structures is not fully understood by historians; they may have been defence lookouts or grand houses. 

Another feature you will notice as you explore Skye on foot is the abandoned villages. Some settlements were left voluntarily as populations scattered as they were too remote from the rest of civilization, while others were forcibly deserted during the Highland Clearances. 

These occurred in the mid-eighteenth century as crofters and tenant farmers were turned out by landowners to make way for more profitable sheep grazing. Some of the evicted people emigrated to North America or Australia, while some found work in the fishing industry or the factories of Glasgow or other towns and cities. 

However, sadly many people were simply left without food or shelter, and perished from starvation or cold exposure. It is possible to walk to the remains of the village of Boreraig by the shore of Loch Eishort to learn more about this troubling episode of Scottish history.

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