Raasay

Raasay is a very beautiful island and it is very quiet indeed. There is no police station, no garage (so don't go across with your fuel gauge on empty) and the only hotel is, believe it or not, the Raasay Hotel.

The island is only 14 miles long and about three miles wide.

The history of the island is one of decline and recovery. In his guide to Skye, Derek Cooper described it as "a dying island."

It has a stately home, Raasay house which was built in the 1740s and which played host to Boswell and Johnson. The house suffered in later years from absentee landlords and by the early 1970s was boarded up and perilously close to ruin.

Since then, it has become an outdoor centre and even has its own website.

   

The near ruin of the 1970s 

 Now an outdoor centre

When one alights at Raasay, the first thing which the visitor sees is an unsightly industrial ruin, but don't let it put you off visiting. The rest of the island is beautiful.

The ruin is the remains of mining operations. Iron ore was discovered in the nineteenth century and mining continued until between the two world wars. During world war 1, German prisoners were held on the island and worked in the mines, many never returning home because they died in the 1919 influenza epidemic.

Although Raasay is beautiful in itself, a bonus is that, in good weather, it gives the visitor superb views of both Skye and the mainland. At the extreme south is Eyre point, which has a little lighthouse and a beach with lots of collectable pebbles.

 

 Eyre Point Beach and lighthouse with the mountains of Skye in the background.

The main attraction for us is Dun Caan, the extinct volcano which dominates Raasay and on the top of which Johnson danced a jig. It is a wonderful place to picnic on a summers day with views of the mainland, Skye, Raasay itself and Rona, the island to the North. Rona does not have a native population any more, but the island is inhabited by the military, who make a point of not advertising what they do there.

 

 

 Near the top of Dun Caan

Very obviously a retired volcano 
   

 Another view of the top

 Descending from the summit, Skye in the background

At the Northern end of the Island is Brochel Castle, another ruined antiquity fast crumbling to nothing. Little is known of the castle's early history. Experts are of the opinion that its style of building suggests some time in the 1400s and it is first mentioned in records in the year 1549.

Unless someone does something to preserve it, the castle will not be around to be mentioned for much longer. The last time I visited it, I found that offcialdom's response to the impending loss of this piece of history was to put a barbed wire fence around it, complete with "keep out" signs.

   

 Brochel Castle

 Fishermen tend their nets below the castle

From Brochel the road runs north to Arnish. This road is now maintained by the local authority. It was originally built, singlehandedly, in the 1960s by a local man, Calum Macleod, who subsequently received the British Empire Medal for his efforts.

 

Calum's road before the local authority adopted it 

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Copyright © Gareth Boote 2000-2007