Tuesday, 11 September 2012


Such is the complexity of Scotland's island-studded west coast that even the offshore islands have offshore islands. Raasay is one of several small islands located between the east coast of Skye and the Scottish mainland, along with the privately owned Scalpay, the Island of Rona with one permanent resident, and several other tiny islands. Samuel Johnson visited the island in 1773 during his tour of the Hebrides with his good friend James Boswell. Boswell described the approach to the island as "very pleasing"..."We saw before us a beautiful bay, well defended by a rocky coast"..."a fine verdure about it, with a considerable number of trees". However, after 3 days on the island, Raasay's charms were starting to wear a bit thin for Dr. Johnson, who was evidently missing his beloved London: "There was not enough of intellectual entertainment for him, after he had satisfied his curiosity, which he did, by asking questions, till he had exhausted the island". * The attempts by Boswell and Johnson to explore their surroundings on the island were no doubt hampered by its challenging terrain, which includes a lot of rocky, high ground.

Raasay, which is just 13 miles long and 3 miles wide at its widest point, is reached by ferry from Skye. The island's origins were Norse, the name meaning "island of the roe deer". During the Jacobite Rebellion in 1745 the islanders came out on the side of the Jacobite cause, which resulted in a furious backlash from the government, which ordered their homes to be razed. The island once had an iron industry, and remains of it can be seen at East Suisinish and near Inverarish. Raasay House used to be the seat of the MacLeods of Raasay, but is now an outdoor pursuits centre. There is a 13th century chapel behind the house dedicated to the island's patron saint, Moluag. Towards the north of the island is the ruined Brochel Castle, from where a road known as Calum's Road extends for two miles beyond the castle. This was the work of Calum MacLeod, who built it almost single-handed for much of the 1960s and 1970s, in an effort to establish a link to Arnish, where he and his wife lived. The road was given a tarmac surface 1982, six years before its creator died.

* From "Journal Of A Tour To The Hebrides" by James Boswell.

of the island.

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