SKY, or SKYE, the largest of the Hebridean islands, excepting Lewis. It belongs politically to Inverness-shire, and lies opposite the continental parts of that county and Ross-shire. It is washed on the north and north-east by the south end of the Minch, looking away to the North sea; on the east by the sounds of Rona, Raasa, and Scalpa, separating it from the cognominal islands, – by intervening or adjacent openings of sea from 6 to 14 miles broad, separating it from Applecross and Lochcarron, – and by Loch-Alsh, from ¾ of a mile to 2½ miles broad, separating it from the district of Loch-Alsh; on the south-east by Kyle-Rhea and Glenelg-bay, from a gun-shot to 1½ mile broad, separating it from Glenelg, – and by the sound of Sleat, from 2¾ to 6½ miles broad, separating it from Knoydart and Morrer; on the south and south-west by the Deucaledonian sea, studded at the distances respectively of ¾ of a mile, and of 5½, 6¾, and 9½ miles with the islands of Soa, Eig, Rum, and Canna; and on the west by the Little Minch, separating it from Benbecula, North Uist, and Harris. Its extreme length, in a line due south-east from Vaternish point to the headland at the entrance of Loch-Cambuscross in Sleat, is 46½ miles. Its breadth, for 3½ miles at the north-west end, embraces only the narrow promontory of Vanternish; over the next 13 miles, it attains a maximum of 25 miles, and averages about 20, but includes broad inlets of the sea which deeply indent the land; over the next 26 miles, it makes various contractions and expansions, but on the whole, tapers down from 15 miles to 4¼; and, at the south-east extremity, which forms the district and peninsula of Sleat, it abruptly shoots out to 21 miles. The area is said to be nearly 350,000 acres.
Sea-lochs and bays are so numerous, that only the principal can be stated. Loch-Snizort, on the north-west, sends off the subordinate inlets of Lochs Uig, Snizort-Beg, Greeshernish, and Dubec, and separates the peninsula of Trotternish on the east from that of Vaternish on the west. Loch-Follart or Dunvegan, also on the north-west, sends off from its east side the large ramification of Loch-Bay, and separates Vaternish from Duirinish. Loch-Pooltiel cleaves the centre of the north-west end of Duirinish. Loch-Bracadale, on the south-west, forks into the subordinate waters of Lochs Roag, Caroy, Struan, and Harport, and separates Duirinish from Minginish. Lochs Brittle and Eynort penetrate the south-west side of Minginish. Lochs Scavaig, Slapin, and Eishart have a common and very broad, but nameless entrance, immediately north-west of the peninsula of Sleat; and they jointly effect the great contraction in the breadth of the island which occurs in its south-east division. Loch-na-Daal penetrates the south-east side of Sleat. Loch-na-Beste enters from the waters of Loch-Alsh, and looks out upon the cognominal district on the continent. Broadford-bay, and Lochs Ainort, Sligachan, Portree, and Staflin indent, at wide intervals, the north-east side of the island. – The principal headlands are Aird or Trotternish-point, in the extreme north; Vaternish-point, in the extreme north-west between Lochs Snizort and Follart; Airdmore-point, at the entrance of Loch-Bay; Dunvegan or Galtride head, between Lochs Follart and Pooltiel; Idrigil-point, on the north side of the entrance of Loch-Bracadale; Dunan-point, on the south side of the entrance of Loch-Brittle; Strathaird, or the Aird of Strath, between Lochs Scavaig and Slapin; Swishnish-point, between Lochs Slapin and Eishart; Sleat-point, at the south-west extremity of the island; Ardivazar-point, in the sound of Sleat, and forming the landing-place from Arisaig; and Ru-na-Braddan, on the north-east coast of Trotternish.
The coasts of the island abound in interesting and exquisite scenery. Over several miles south-west of Trotternish-point, a breast-work is presented to the sea, perpendicular, occasionally columnar, and exhibiting fine specimens of basaltic formation. In this range, a little south of the picturesque ruins of Duntulm-castle, a small promontory presents, on a scale of comparative grandeur, a resemblance to some parts of Staffa; three caves of from 15 to 30 feet in height occupying the front, and colonnades about 60 feet high filling the intervals, and extending away along the sides. From this point to the head of Loch-Snizort the shore is low and cultivated; and where it wends round Loch-Uig, it displays a beauteous softness of foreground and a grandeur of immediate back-ground which combine to make a singularly interesting picture: see SNIZORT. Round the peninsula of Vaternish, the coast is a constant alternation of vertical cliffs and low shores, which, when first seen, rivets attention, and would be permanently interesting were it less profuse, but tires by its repetition, and becomes monotonous from its uniformity. The shores and islets of Loch-Follart, borrowing some effect from the picturesque aspect of Dunvegan-castle, and woven into continuity by the intervening waters, form a richly variegated sheet of beauty. From Dunvegan-head to Loch-Bracadale, the coast consists, for the most part, of cliffs various in altitude and abruptness, but generally lofty, and often falling precipitously, sometimes sheer down, from their summits to the water-edge: these cliffs are composed of horizontal and somewhat equal beds of substances much diversified in colour, and amounting in some places to upwards of twelve in number, and they, in consequence, present a singularly striped appearance; but they are far too uniform in character and rectilineal in outline to offer good subjects for the pencil. On this part of the coast and southward, occur some detached pyramidal masses of rock similar to the ‘stacks’ which figure so curiously on the coasts of Shetland and Wick; three, called Macleod’s Maidens, and attaining an extreme altitude of about 200 feet, occur near Idrigil point; and two, which are perforated, occur respectively in Loch-Bracadale and not far from Loch-Eynort. The shores of Loch-Bracadale are, in general, low, flat, and cultivated; but on the south they become perfectly vertical cliffs, bored with caverns, and plunging their bases into the sea. Round Talisker-bay, 2 miles south of Loch-Bracadale, a low beach looks up a retired and verdant valley. From this point to Loch-Brittle, the cliffs suddenly recommencing, rise speedily up to a sub-lime elevation; they are very varied in outline, numerous and intricate in their parts, and agreeable in their tones of colour; they appear, when seen in front, to be quite or nearly perpendicular; they have fore-grounds of high and conspicuous detached rocks, which are often perforated with exceedingly complicated arches; and they, in consequence exhibit some of the most magnificent compositions of rock-scenery which are anywhere to be seen in Scotland. These cliffs appear to have a mean altitude of not much below 800 feet; and the cascades which fall over them are so dispersed in spray before reaching the ground or the sea, that they descend in showers of drizzling rain. At one part a considerable portion of the cliff has been brought from the summit down to the shore, exhibiting a very remarkable mountain-slide, and forming at its base an altogether untraversable promontory. Round Loch-Brittle, the coast has but small elevation, and is disposed in terraces, yet runs frequently out into low projecting points; and hence to Loch-Scavaig, the cliffs, though again becoming prevalent, attain but a comparatively small elevation. At the north-west side of the entrance of Loch-Scavaig, the declivities of the hills begin to come down, at a considerable angle, upon the sea, without any intervening cliffs; and they produce a coast remarkable at once for its difference of character from that of nearly every other coast in the kingdom, and for its surpassing degree of wild and savage grandeur. See SCAVAIG (LOCH). Along the north-west side of Loch-Slapin, extends a range of cliffs, rarely loftier than 60 or 70 feet, but perforated and intersected with such an extraordinary number of caves and fissures that they sometimes in a given distance occupy nearly as much space as the parts of the cliffs which remain solid. The chief of the caves is the celebrated spar one noticed in the article STRATHAIRD: which see. A gloomy and sublime solitude of mountain-scenery reigns around the head of Loch-Slapin; and from several points in the vicinity, as well as in Loch-Eishart, the distant views toward the north-west, including an expanse of sea, bounded on the opposite sides by the contrasted forms of the Skye mountains and the Rum hills, are grand and striking. Though the greater part of the coast of Sleat possesses little interest in itself [see SLEAT], yet the prospect of the opposite shore, formed by the wild and lofty mountains of Lochs Nevis and Hourn, is deeply impressive; and, in the narrower part of the sound between Skye and the continent, “the land rises high, and with a rapid acclivity, displaying broken rocks, interspersed with coppices and brushwood, and enlivened by innumerable torrents, which, together with the proximity of the sides, the rapidity of the tide, and the quick succession of objects, all conspire to excite an interest which is preserved till we arrive at Loch-Alsh. Here, the variety of the coast-line, the wide but intricate expanse of water, the scattered rocks, the picturesque and various outlines of Sky itself and of the mainland, with the ruins of Kylehaken-castle, its rising town, and the bustle of the shipping that frequents this sea, combine to produce scenery scarcely exceeded on the western coast.” [Macculloch.] – From Loch-Alsh to Portree, the shore, though possessing some distinctive features, has little character or beauty. See STRATH and PORTREE. From Portree to Ru-na-Braddan, extends a line of cliffs, 700 feet in height; offering not a cove nor an intervening patch of low ground on which a boat can be drawn up. Seen from a little distance, it seems to be an uninterrupted wall of successive stages, surmounted by a green terrace, and occasionally skirted by huge fragments interspersed with verdure; but, when more closely examined, it shows now a gentle declivity from the summit to the sea, now a succession of mural faces and esplanades coming down like a huge staircase to the strand, and now a lofty precipice overhanging the sea, and sending off an unequal and bold ascent toward the pinnacled, turretted, and cloud-cleaving peaks of the Storr mountains in the interior. A cascade at Holme, over a part of the mural cliffs which is 300 feet high, flings a rivulet in a single spout, right over the precipice to such a distance from the base of the rocks, that a tourist may sail beneath it in a boat, and mark in security how it forms a watery circle in the air, and a foaming and tumultuous boiling in the sea. From Ru-na-Braddan to Trotternish-point, but especially around and near Loch-Staffin, extends a series of by far the grandest basaltic formations in the three kingdoms, very little excelled by Staffa in even minute beauty of detail, and reducing that celebrated island almost to insignificance by their contrasted magnitude and sublimity. See STAFFA (LOCH). At one part of this vast columnar range occurs a cascade about equal to that of Holme in height, and, though inferior to it in volume, possessing n high interest in the simple and unbroken manner in which it leaps over the face of the vertical and lofty colonnade. “When the squalls which blow from the high lands in this stormy region descend so that the sea rises in smoke beneath them like the vapour from a caldron, but little of this stream reaches the waves below.”
The surface of Skye, with the exception of the plain of Kilmuir and a small tract near Loch-Bracadale, almost wholly consists of three distinct assemblages of mountains, and intermediate expanses high and undulating land. A connected view of its parts will be best obtained by commencing the survey of it at its south-east end, or rather at its south-western extremity in the point of Sleat. From this point a continuous ridge, 1,200 feet or upwards in altitude, and irregularly torn on each side into sinuous ravines and glens which conduct its waters to the sea, extends to Loch-na-Daal, and there suddenly subsides into a low tract of inconsiderable breadth. A second ridge, unique with the former both in direction and in geognostic structure, and sending up five principal summits to an elevation of about 2,000 feet, starts up on the north-east side of the low tract, and stretches away to Loch-Alsh. These ridges, which form a connected though interrupted range, descend rapidly to the sea on the south-east, and, in bulk, altitude, and character, figure conspicuously among the hills of the island. An irregular tract of comparatively low land extends parallel to this range from Loch-Eishart to the east side of Broadford-bay; and forms a kind of junction toward Kylehaken, with a continuation north-north-eastward to that place of the belt of low ground which occupies the cleft or discontinuous part of the two ridges. A second irregular hilly ridge extends quite across the island, from Swishnish-point to the head of Broadford-bay; and beyond this stretches the narrow valley of Strath, with a comparatively small mean elevation. From this valley to a line drawn between Lochs Brittle and Sligachan, occurs the most conspicuous part of the island, a confused assemblage of mountains from 2,000 to 3,000 feet high, and distinguishable, by striking differences in outline, feature, and colouring, into two great portions. The southern and greatly larger portion is a segregation of tame, smooth, conoidal hills, all separate from one another, nearly all streaked with broad sheets of red rubbish, coming down from their summit to their base, and many of them arising abruptly, and without a single feature of relief, from the labyrinth of intervening low ground. The northern portion contrasts strongly, and in almost every particular, with this dismal sea of red, rounded, characterless hills; it has a leaden and murky darkness of colour which no light appears capable of harmonizing, and which seems, even amid the blaze of a summer’s sun, to cover all the region with night, so that when clouds wreathe the summits, a deep and horrible abyss appears opened beneath into which the eye vainly endeavours to penetrate; and it consists of peculiarly rugged and serrated ranges and masses of mountain, whose pinnacles and projecting crags darkly indent the sky along the whole line of both summit and profile. The Cuchullin hills, which form the chief part of this dark group, rise with a rapid and rocky ascent from the shores of Soa-sound and Loch-Brittle; and, consisting of six obscurely divided summits, extend curvingly toward the north-east, and present an almost continued precipitous face deeply furrowed by torrents. Some lower but equally rocky heights, of similar composition and character, unite with them to enclose the wildly romantic lake of CORRISKIN [which see]; and Mount Blaven runs off in a more easterly direction, in the form of a long acute ridge, – lifts its bare rocky summit above the dark and far-extending mass of the whole mountain-assemblage, – and constitutes the highest ground in the island. Between this great conjoint group of red and black heights, and a line drawn from Loch-Snizort to Portree, occur the little valley of Talisker, the green pastures of Lochs Brittle and Eynort, and the low, open, cultivated grounds of Bracadale; but with these exceptions, the whole country is an undulating upland of from 600 to 1,000 feet or upwards in elevation, nearly all covered with brown heath, and barren, naked, and haggard in aspect. The chief heights in this large division are those of the promontory of Dunvegan, and the two flat-topped eminences called Macleod’s Tables; and almost the only object of scenic interest is the basaltic colonnade of Great Brishmeal above Talisker. Along Trotternish, from Portree to Trotternish point, extends a long ridge which abounds in varied combinations of grand and picturesque beauty. The Storr, its loftiest height, is itself an assemblage of pyramidal, tower-like, and grandly elevated summits, and exhibits, in combination with the clouds which alternately sweep and embrace it, a wondrous aerial gallery of romantic pictures: See SNIZORT. The rest of the ridge presents to the west a gradual declivity, and often displays on the east long stretches of precipitous and vertical descent, or successive tiers of mural face, which occasionally become columnar, and blend, as around Loch-Staffin, with the wondrous basaltic formations of the coast, to produce surpassing magnificence of landscape. On the west side of this ridge lie the rich and interesting ground around Loch-Uig, and the plain of Kilmuir, – the latter, the largest continuous tract of arable land in the island, and emphatically known as the granary of Skye.
The rocks of the heights which range from Sleatpoint to Kyle-Rhea are quartz rock, argillaceous schist, and red sandstone, accompanied by a body of gneiss, chlorite schist, and some other substances. Those of the district immediately north-westward are white sandstone, steatite, serpentine, and gryphite limestone, – the last greatly the most abundant, occasionally passing into the second and the third, acquiring, toward the north-west, a highly crystalline texture, and finally disappearing beneath mountains of syenite. Those of the great central assemblage of heights are, in the red-streaked portion, chiefly syenite, and, in the dark portion, chiefly hypersthene rock. Those of nearly all the extensive region west and north of the Cuchullins are the most common varieties and forms of trap, overlying secondary formations, and composing unconformable hills and terraces. But on portions of the splendid cliffy coast from Portree to Holme, and on an elevated plateau extending thence to Loch-Staffin, occurs a perfect exhibition of the several series and members of the secondary rocks from the cornbrash down to the lias. – The most noticeable found on the island are analcime, chabasite, stilbite, nadelstein, garnet, laumonite, ichthyophalmite, olivine, prehnite, chalcedony, steatite, epidote, hypersthene, and actinolite. The limestone of Strath is, to a considerable extent, unornamental coloured marble, which owes its green and yellow tints to presence of serpentine, and scarcely yields in beauty to kindred specimens of ancient marbles. Oxidulous iron occurs in thin veins in the Cuchullin and other hypersthenic hills. Beds of shell-marl are somewhat numerous in the limestone districts. A stratum of coal, little more than an inch thick, lying between common shale and siliceous schist, is enclosed in trap between Loch-Sligachan and Conurdan; other thin and short beds of it are found, in a high position entangled among trap, at Talisker and Scorribreck; irregular nests and large amorphous masses of it have been found in five or six separate localities, – the largest, in Loch-Portree, having yielded to mining 500 or 600 tons; and beds, rarely more than a few inches thick, occasionally and dispersedly alternate with shale and sandstone, in various parts of Trotternish, but, in most cases, are either overwhelmed or cut off by trap. Yet the whole coal of the island, though an object of much anxiety to proprietors and the inhabitants, seems to be comparatively insignificant in either topographical distribution or economical application.
The rivulets of the island are numerous, and freely drain its surface; and, though of little note as perennial streams, they very often swell to great bulk of volume, and are, for the most part, well-stored with trout and salmon. In two of them, Kilmartin and Ord, is found the great horse-mussel in which pearls are formed. The chief fresh-water lakes are those of Corriskin, Creich, Colmkill, Leathan, Mhoinneach-Mhor, Duarrish, Waak, Na-Caplich, and Daalvil; and most of them, together with many lochlets, or permanent ponds, abound in trout and eel. Corriskin is celebrated for its sublime scenery and classical associations; Colmkill, situated in the north-east of Trotternish, is the largest in size, and has its name from a chapel on an islet which was dedicated to Columba; and Na-Caplich is remarkable for containing the rare plant, eriocaulon. – The climate of Skye is singularly moist and variable. “When the reader is told,” says Dr. Macculloch, “that l made seven [unsuccessful] attempts, and in five successive summers, to ascend the Cuchullin hills, he will form some notion of the nature of the climate. Sky is, however, exempt from the durable snows which, during the winter, cover the adjoining mainland.” The air is generally laden with vapours; and rain falls, on the average, three days in every four throughout the year. The clouds, attracted by the hills, sometimes break in useful and refreshing showers; at other times, suddenly bursting like a water-spout, they pour down their contents with tremendous noise, deluging the plains below, and often destroying the hopes of the husbandman. But nearly all the farmers, admonished by frequent losses, have wattled-barns with lateral openings closed only by twigs and boughs of trees; and in these they succeed in drying whole or part of the scanty crops, even in the most rainy seasons. Stormy winds set in about the end of August or beginning of September, and give their powerful aid to endanger the uncut crops. Agues, fevers, rheumatism, and dysenteries, as might be expected, are prevailing distempers; yet the climate is far from being aggregately unhealthy, and nurses as large a proportion of the inhabitants to a good old age as many a climate of sensible balminess and amenity.
Over about nine-tenths of the island extends a trap subsoil equal to probably the best in Scotland, but, for the most part, entirely suffocated by peat or stones, and so exposed to storm and rain as to have its intrinsic excellencies all practically neutralized. Over most of the remaining district extends a calcareous soil, with every variety of elevation, exposure, and drainage; yet, totally unlike nearly all soil elsewhere of its class, it is exceedingly waste and infertile; and, with small exceptions, in the bottom of the valleys, it presents a surface boggy, brown, and barren, scarcely exceeded in poverty of vegetation by the scanty and stinted soils which lie on quartz, and not even producing, in most places, the well-known plants which are the usual inhabitants of calcareous land. A large proportion of the area of the island is, for economical purposes, all but utterly valueless; most of even the pastures consist of moorland covered with heath and very coarse grass; yet many tracts of green herbage occur, the most conspicuous of which are in Trotternish and around Loch-Eynort. By far the larger proportion of the pastures are occupied in the rearing of a race of black cattle which are noted for their good qualities. The arable lands are, in general, confined to the shores of the sea and some of the sea-lochs and are most extensive – though even there but a very small part of the area – in Snizort, Bracadale, and Sleat. Though the ancient system of joint-tenure has wholly disappeared, and a considerable extent of land has been reclaimed, and some improvements in husbandry have been introduced; yet the condition of agriculture continues, on the whole, to be comparatively primitive; and, in indication of this, the caschrome, or ancient crooked spade, is very generally in use, as the only succedaneum for a plough, and even the quern, or hand-mill, maintains, in some of the remote districts, its highly antiquated reputation. Excepting in part of SLEAT [which see], wood, though anciently covering a great proportion of the island, is now very nearly unknown. “The almost absolute want of trees,” says Macculloch, “immediately attracts attention; since the form of the land, often affording sheltered situations, is favourable to their growth; while its small value for other purposes removes one of the obstacles to planting; a branch of rural economy that would also be much aided by the facility so often here afforded for enclosing large tracts at a small expense.”
The chief articles of export are black cattle, fish, and kelp. But the proceeds of these, together with the scanty agricultural produce, are not competent to the support of the population. About nine or ten years ago, when such large sums were contributed to the relief of famishing multitudes in Ireland, many of the Skye-men were in almost as much need of charitable aid as the Irish, and might be seen flocking in hundreds to the shore at ebb-tide to gather shell-fish as the chief article of their food. ln 1836 and I537 the distress was so great that the whole of the small tenants, or about one-half of the whole population, were in want, and even those who had money or other means at their disposal, could not find provision to purchase. From about 1821 destitution has, to a less or greater extent, prevailed during two or three months of every summer; and, at an earlier period, it made a sufficient number of visits to be familiar in the island. Government has at various periods sent corn to allay the local famines; and the islanders have been known, at a time when they acquired ability, to reimburse the cost of it, and remit the money to the Treasury. Lord Macdonald and Macleod of Macleod, the two principal proprietors, have not only, during popular distress, been kind and lenient as to rents, but made important contributions; and, in 1837 alone, the former gave upwards of £2,000 worth of provisions, and at the same time drew, from some districts, a rental less than enough to pay teinds and other public burdens. So greatly is the island over-peopled in proportion to its resources, that, in spite of very extensive and annually repeated emigrations which have taken place, no amount of public works, such as roads and quays, will operate very visibly for the reduction of distress, till a large proportion of the population be withdrawn. A great and increasing number of the islanders earn a livelihood by temporary removal to the Lowlands of Scotland, either to labour in public-works or to act as harvest-reapers. So very considerable, for a long series of years, has been the permanent emigration to America, that, even eleven or twelve years ago, the assertion became a current on dit, that there were as many Skye-men in America as in Skye. Even in Australia a settlement on Hunter’s river was so colonized by Skye-men as to have obtained the name of Skye district. But, owing chiefly to friends having preceded them, and to the mode of living by husbandry and fishing being the same as at home, the fields of emigration usually preferred by recent emigrants are Cape Breton and Prince Edward’s island,
The inhabitants, in consequence of the arable lands lying along the coasts, and fishing being a joint occupation with husbandry, have almost all their dwellings within ¼ of a mile of either the sea or some one of its inlets. Yet their avocational employment on the fisheries is nearly all confined to the herring-season; and only or chiefly the younger members of families catch rock-cod, cuddies, lythes, and other fish which are used in domestic consumpt. They possess, as to dress, none of the distinctive marks of the curious tribes who act as fishermen on the east coast; and rarely, in so much as the article of a short jacket, have they a costume adapted to a sea-faring life. Nor do they hang out any emblem of participation in the blood and usages of the Gael. The kilt is nowhere to be met with, and seems never to have been worn; and the prevailing, almost the universal fashion, is short coats, trowsers of coarse cloth, and the common felt-hat. The Skye-men, in common with some other Hebrideans and western Highlanders, “when they make their appearance in any of the towns of the east coast, may almost be detected by their hats; from the picturesque shapelessness and amphibious consistency which their head-gear speedily acquires from steeping in the Atlantic mists. Such a thing as a straw-bonnet is not to be found among all the female peasantry of Skye, or of the highlands and islands in general. The lasses go bare-headed, trusting to the attraction of the emblematic snood; matrons bedizen themselves with the varieties of the venerable mutch, curtch, and toy; and the clothing of the female population of Skye is hence generally coarse and mean in the extreme. No comfortable cloak of ‘guid blue cloth,’ which many of the east coast Highland wives have added to their wardrobe, is to be seen. The old women throw a dirty blanket over their shoulders, the others have seldom anything to vary their simple gowns of dark blue or brown stuff, An air of squalid penury, too, soon settles about them; and, in middle-age, their prematurely-pinched, care, and penury-worn features are far from engaging. Kindly feelings and affections, however, live under this unpromising exterior. The people of Skye and the adjacent islands, and west coast of the adjoining counties, are of short stature, firmly knit, active, and more mercurial than the central Highlanders. Such generalizing observations must, of course, not be strictly interpreted.” [Anderson’s Guide to the Highlands.]
The principal towns or villages are Portree, Stein, Kyle-Haken, Broadford, lsle-Oronsay, Armadale, and Uig. The old ferry between Skye and the continent is at the narrowest part of the strait of Kyle-Rhea, near the parish-church of Glenelg. An excellent ferry at Kyle-Haken, 5 or 6 miles farther north, connects Skye with the Inverness-road by Loch-Alsh, and, in a great measure, supersedes the old ferry. A third ferry, in the sound of Sleat, 14 miles south-west of the old ferry, connects Armadale or Ardivazar-point with Arisaig. One road commences nearly at Sleat-point, and runs north-eastward by Armadale to Loch-na-Daal, and thence northward to Broadford; – another runs north-westward from Kyle-Rhea to Astak; – another runs from Kyle-Haken, along the east coast, by Astak and Broadford, and, at these places, connects itself with the two former; it thence makes a serpentine movement from side to side of the narrow part of the island to the head of Loch-Sligachan; and it there forks into two branches, the one of which extends northward to Portree, while the other extends north-westward to Dunvegan and near the extremity of Vaternish; – and another, the continuation of the northerly branch of the former, starts from Portree; makes a tour of the whole coasts of the peninsula of Trotternish; and, at a point 2½ miles east of the head of Loch-Snizort, sends one line right onward in a return to Portree, and another off at a sharp angle to proceed westward to a junction with one of the former lines in Vaternish.
Numerous ruins occur on different parts of the coast, of those circular structures which, whether fort, watch-tower, beacon, or temple, are usually called Danish; such of them as were forts are all designated duns. – such as Dun-Skudborg, Dun-Derig, Dun-Skeriness, and Dun-David; but they are, in every instance, so far destroyed as to convey but a very slender notion of their original condition. Of various monumental, or possibly Druidical stones, the most conspicuous are those near Loch-Uig. A cairn on the summit of Ben-na-Caillich is seen at a great distance, possesses very unusual magnitude, and is the subject of some local legendary traditions. Dunvegan-castle is the only very remarkable ruin of a modern-antique structure. Knock-castle survives in only a small part, and seems to have been merely a castellated mansion. Duntulm-castle, though small, is somewhat entire, and displays, what is rare in Highland structures of its class, some remains of architectural ornament. Dunscaich, the traditional residence of ‘the King of the Isle of Mist,’ and an object of interest to persons versant in Gaelic poetry, is the scanty ruin of a comparatively modern building, which could not have been the Dunscaich of song.
Some particulars as to the political administration of Skye, are stated in the article on PORTREE. The island is ecclesiastically divided into the 7 quoad civilia parishes of Bracadale, Duirinish, Kilmuir, Portree, Sleat, Snizort, and Strath, and the 2 quoad sacra parishes of Hallen and Stenschall. These parishes, together with that of Small Isles, constitute the presbytery of Skye, in the synod of Glenelg. The patronage of Bracadale and Duirinish belongs to Macleod of Macleod; and that of all the other parishes to the Crown. – Lord Macdonald is proprietor of about three-fourths of the island, and, excepting Strathaird and another estate, which belong respectively to Macalister and to Macleod of Raasay, Macleod of Macleod is the proprietor of the remainder. The resident gentry are noted for their hospitality, and surprise a Southron by surrounding him with all the comforts and elegancies of life. Population, in 1821 20,627; in 1831, 22,796. Houses, 3,985.