PORTREE, Scotland — Bonny Prince Charlie saw Scotland’s isle of Skye on the run. He was fleeing government troops after his Highland rebellion ended disastrously at the 18th century Battle of Culloden.
My visit was hurried, too, although due to nothing more exciting than a tight schedule — no redcoats on my tail.
Luckily, even a short stay is long enough to glimpse why the Misty Isle of Skye is one of Scotland’s most popular tourist attractions.
Here are a few reasons.
Rain or shine, most likely both in the same day, Skye is a stunner, from the stark grandeur of the Black Cuillin, the jagged mountain range looming over the island, to the cheerfully pastel houses of Portree harbor. You can take in the views by driving Skye’s winding roads, get out for a shoreline amble or, if you’ve got the skills, go mountaineering. Guides can be hired for more challenging itineraries; a good option is http://www.skyeguides.co.uk .
Recommended spots include the Trotternish ridge, known for rock formations like the Old Man of Storr and the Quiraing pinnacles. Also a must-see, the Fairy Pools, a series of crystal clear and flowing pools on the River Brittle. http://www.walkhighlands.co.uk/skye/fairypools.shtml .
Are you a fan of the Starz TV series “Outlander”? You should already be familiar with the beauty of the Highlands, the setting for that time-traveling drama.
The series hasn’t gotten into Prince Charles’ flight yet; Season 2 ended just as the Battle of Culloden started. The show’s been renewed for two more seasons, but we don’t know a lot of details on what’s coming. In real life, the prince, Charles Edward Stuart, who was the grandson of the deposed James II and was trying to win back the British throne for the Stuarts, escaped government troops aided by several Highlanders including the brave Flora MacDonald who got him to Skye dressed as her maid.
If you are headed into the Highlands by way of Inverness, you’re close to the Culloden Battlefield and Visitor Center, which does a good job of explaining the rise and fall of the doomed campaign.
You can’t go far in Scotland without finding a castle, and Skye’s Dunvegan Castle is billed as the oldest continuously inhabited castle in Scotland, home to the chiefs of Clan MacLeod for eight centuries. Open daily 10 a.m.-5:30 p.m. March 25-October 15, admission to castle and gardens about $16.
For more island history visit the Skye Museum of Island Life in Kilmuir, which features a recreation of a Highland village. Open daily Easter-late September. 9:30 a.m.-5 p.m. Admission about $3.25.
DINING & DRAMS
Think Scottish cuisine begins and ends with broth and haggis? You’re in for a surprise (not that there’s anything wrong with broth and haggis). Skye boasts a variety of dining choices including the Michelin-starred Kinloch Lodge and The Three Chimneys, which lost its Michelin star after a change in chefs in 2015 but continues to put out excellent food. If you’re there for lunch, look for the Crispy Croft Egg starter, a perfect mix of rich, dense egg and crisp crust.
On the drinks side, Skye has one whisky distillery, Talisker in Carbost. And it’s the home of another Scots libation, Drambuie, now made in Glasgow but first developed and served at Skye’s Broadford Hotel in the 1870s. The liqueur, a blend of aged scotch, spices, heather honey and herbs, is said to be based on a recipe of the bonny prince himself, who gave islanders the secret to his private elixir in gratitude for their help.
If You Go…
GETTING THERE AND GETTING AROUND: A bridge connects Skye to the mainland, so the easiest way to get to, and around, Skye is by car, either your own or on booked tours. Some island roads are single-track with places where you can pull over to let others pass.
LODGING: B&B’s, hotels and self-catering cottages. Rooms fill up quickly at high season (spring and summer) so book ahead.
PORTREE AND BOAT TRIPS: Skye’s largest town, Portree, has a supermarket and other shops. It also has a visitor center (Bayfield House, Bayfield Road) with information on walks, attractions and boat trips. You can even arrange a boat tour to the coastline of Elgol, on the southern end of the island, home to a cave where the prince is said to have hidden. No telling whether you’ll feel the presence of Highlanders gone. But keep an eye out for men in red coats.
Michelle Locke tweets at https://twitter.com/Locke_Michelle