Raasay, the Red Cuillin and the Five Sisters of Kintail


After our overnight stop in Kyle we rejoined Waverley at the Railway pier to continue north to the Capital of Skye. HMS Walney pulled out from the pier ahead of Waverley and preceded her through the channel beneath the Skye bridge, Waverley’s first passage under the completed bridge with passengers.


Looking back at Kyle we thought of that grand old MacBrayne paddle steamer Glencoe. For more than half of Glencoe’s long life the Skye railway terminated at Strome Ferry in Loch Carron, fifty three and a quarter miles from Inverness, It was built between 1865 and 1869

The extension of the line a further ten and a half miles to Kyle took all of the ingenuity of the Victorian Railway engineer and it was not begun until 1893. It took as long to build as had the first 53 miles. At last in November 1897, the 33 year dream of the original progenitor of the Dingwall & Skye Railway was realized

Paddle steamer Carham

At Strome Ferry



Leaving Kyle


Waverley passing under Skye Bridge


On clearing the bridge Waverley’s course digressed from that of the minehunter; as the latter headed for exercises in the Inner Sound between the Isle of Raasay and the mainland, the paddle steamer moved towards the channel between the southern shore of Raasay and the isle of Scalpay. On passing through that channel Waverley entered the Sound of Raasay, the seaway between Raasay and Skye, for the first time since 1995. This is a marvelous sailing area – the Skye shore has one of the most magnificent landscapes imaginable, the Red Cuillin mountain range in all its glory. Greatest wonder of all is the massive testing ridge of Sgurr nan Gillean, a mountain with a reputation that spans the world of mountaineering, standing proud above Sligachan.


Two views of the Red Cuillin from Waverley in the Sound of Raasay



The ridge of Sgurr nan Gillean


The Isle of Raasay is comparatively low and flat and might have been totally eclipsed by its incredible near neighbour. However, Raasay has its own characteristic feature in the flat topped carbuncle of Dun Caan which distorts the otherwise flat ridge of the north – south running island. Dun Caan  is an extinct volcano and the most obvious of Raasay’s surprises.


Dun Caan, the pinnacle of Raasay



On reaching the huge natural harbour on the east coast of Skye around which the island’s capital town grew Waverley swung to port to sail under the massive headlands of Ben Tianavaig into Portree, the Port of the King, a name that derives from a visit of King James V. Portree is one of the most scenic harbours that Waverley has ever visited, a fine accolade from this most ubiquitous Clyde steamer. It has been too long since her last visit and it was great to hear the paddle beat across the ancient haven once more. There was no time to go ashore then, however, for Waverley turned round almost immediately and headed back south with her Skye passengers for an afternoon cruise to Kyle and onward into Loch Duich. This was Waverley’s first ever visit to that most scenic sea-loch which is dominated by that huge multi-peaked mountain ridge known as the ’Five Sisters of Kintail’. Waverley gave a ‘total experience’ of the loch sailing nearly to its full length and returning along its southern side, passing close by the picturesque castle of Eilean Donan, the subject of countless tens of thousands of postcards, calendars, tourist pictures and promotional films.  This cruise was already ‘value for money’ but Captain Colledge had another notable feature of this beautiful area to show to his passengers before taking them home to Kyle and Portree. Waverley passed from Loch Duich into Kylerhea, sailing right through the narrows before coming about off Glenelg and heading back past the ferry to Kyle. At Kyle we recalled another ferry that was still in operation when Waverley came to the Kyle of Lochalsh for the first time 21 years ago


Heading back to Portree we passed by Raasay again, close to the pier. In 1988 on her first sailing from Portree Waverley called at Raasay pier, allowing her passengers to go ashore for some unique photographs – an LNER Clyde paddle steamer at a little Hebridean port with the incomparable Cuillin mountains as the ‘backcloth’



Waverley on her first ever visit to Raasay in May 1988


Sadly, Raasay pier has deteriorated since then and it is not possible for Waverley to call now, those of us who remember the 1980s sailings are privileged, indeed.


That night, Waverley rested in the safe haven of the Port of the King while her passengers and crew enjoyed some of the renowned Skye hospitality.

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