A brief history of Skye

The Isle of Skye is situated off the north-west coast of the Scottish Highlands. It is the most northerly and biggest of the Inner Hebrides. It is thought that the origins of the name go back to the Viking words Ski (cloud) and Ey (island). In Gaelic it is called An t-Eilean Sgitheanach, which translates as The Winged Isle, thought to be named after the shape of the top of Skye where the peninsula’s of Trotternish and Waternish look like wings. It is also referred to as The Misty Isle (in Gaelic - Eilean a’ Cheo).  For further details see   http://www.theskyeguide.com/-about-skye-mainmenu-40

The original Stone Age inhabitants of Skye were farmers. In the Iron Age round fortifications were built called Brochs also known as Duns. These can be seen in various locations around Skye with Dun Flashadder being a few minutes’ walk from Strathearn. Further afield you can visit the remains of Struan Broch. http://www.megalithic.co.uk/article.php . On the mainland accessed via the small ferry from Kylerhea to Glenelg www.skyeferry.co.uk there are the magnificent remains of the Glenelg Brochs. www.canmore.rcahms.gov.uk/en/site/11798/details/dun+telve/

These early inhabitants were known as Picts. Around AD 500 settlers arrived from Ireland and brought Christianity to Skye. One of these, St Donnan the Great, an Irish Pict from the ancient community of St Ninian arrived in AD 580 and founded a church Kill-Donnan. Although it cannot be confirmed as a church, there is an ancient grave site marked on the Ordnance Survey map in our field near the sea.  www.canmore.rcahms.gov.uk/en/site/11139/details/skye+kildonan+graveyard/ 
St Columba better known for establishing the church on Iona arrived in 585 AD. It is thought he established the Cathedral of the Isles on St Columba’s Isle at Skeabost Bridge well worth the short walk to view the ruins and gravestones.

The next episode in history was the Viking invasion. They stayed for around 400 years and many villages and names of hills have Viking origins. An example is the town of Kyleakin which was the place of arrival on Skye by ferry before the Skye Bridge was built. Kyleakin or ‘Strait of Haakon was named after the Viking King Haakon IV of Norway whose fleet moored there prior to the Battle of Largs in 1263. The defeat of the Vikings in this battle ended the Norwegian rule and Skye became part of the Hebrides and Scotland.

The Clans: The main clans on Skye are the MacLeod and the MacDonald’s. There was a time of fighting between the clans. This continued until James V1 King of Scotland from 1567 persuaded the clans to live in peace. 

Bonnie Prince Charlie and his Jacobite supporters tried unsuccessfully to take power in 1745. After his defeat at Culloden in 1746 he retreated to the Hebrides pursued by government troops. He was helped to reach Skye from Benbecula by Flora MacDonald who took him across the sea after disguising him as a maid. This is remembered in the Skye Boat Song.

In 1830 potato blight caused the crops to fail so tenant farmers (crofters) could not pay their rent. In turn the landowners who often also owned properties in London, could not maintain their standard of living . Sheep farming at that time was more profitable than tenants who couldn't pay rent so tenants were evicted. This was known as the Highland Clearances. Many crofters emigrated to America, Canada and Australia. Documents on view in Dunvegan Castle show that the landowners actually thought they were doing their tenants a favour in helping them emigrate to what was perceived as a better life.

In 1886 the Crofting Act gave remaining crofters some tenancy rights and the Crofting Federation is still active today. The Skye museum of Island Life situated north of Uig shows the old way of life.  www.skyemuseum.co.uk
Sheep farming and crofting remain on Skye but tourism is now important. More details  www.aboutaberdeen.com/isle-of-skye.php