Raasay: The Island and Its People

By Norma Macleod | Go to book overview

Introduction

The island of Raasay is one of a group of islands lying off the east coast of Skye. Running roughly north to south, it stretches for about thirteen miles and, over much of its length, is three miles wide. A part of the parish of Portree, it is separated from the main part of the parish by the Sound of Raasay. The distinctive flat top of Dun Caan was formed from a basalt plug. Rising to 1456 feet, it is Raasay's highest hill and can be seen for miles around. The volcanic ridge, north from Dun Caan, is above 800 feet over most of its length. Along the east coast of the island, a series of cliffs and precipices fall steeply to the sea. The rugged coastline is one of the many areas on the island that affords spectacular views. Most of the population, now about 180, live in the south west of the island where the land is fertile and lower.

Access to the island is by car ferry from Sconser, Skye, at the mouth of Loch Sligachan. The modern roll-on roll-off ferry can carry up to twelve cars on each fifteen-minute crossing. During the height of the summer there are ten such crossings each day, with six in winter, allowing easy access for locals and visitors alike.

The variety of geological formations found on the island creates a diversity of landscapes and habitats for plant and animal life. Raasay is thus a favourite destination for geologists, botanists and bird-watchers as well as those looking for the tranquillity and the scenery.

The ferry lands beside Suisnish Pier, built by William Baird & Co. early last century to exploit the deposits of iron-ore. The remains of some of these works can be seen around the pier. To the right, the road leads to Eyre, a crofting township at the south of the island. To the left, it first reaches the village of Inverarish, where the shop and post office are found. Two terraces of miners' houses were built here by Bairds during their short spell on the island. The older houses of Mill Place sit closer to the shore.

Further north is Clachan. Archaeological evidence indicates that this area was occupied even before it became a significant site for the early Church in the Isles about the end of the twelfth century. The area around Clachan has the largest concentration of historical and archaeological sites on the island. In the churchyard is St Moluag's Chapel. The Battery, close to the Old Pier, was built about 1809, when there was fear of a French invasion. Raasay House was the main home of the MacLeods of Raasay from the late seventeenth to the mid-nineteenth century. Part of the present building dates from about 1750. Part of the farm steading dates from the early nineteenth century.

The road continues north, past the townships of Oscaig, Balachuirn and Balmeanach, Brae and Glam. To the north west of the present-day Glam Steading is the site of the old township of Glam, where Bonnie Prince Charlie hid for two

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