Hootlander - Part 6

  Over the Sea to Skye.

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In the morning after a hearty porridge and fried Scottish breakfast the Outlanders depart Inverness. MacMeanie puts the Outlander theme music CD into the player and the “Over the Sea to Skye” boat song fills the bus and the Outlanders join in singing off-key harmony. Onwards it is, to the Isle of Skye or Eilean Na Cheo - the Misty Isle via Loch Ness, Urquhart Castle and Eilean Donan Castle visitor centres. Although these are not locations used in Outlander, they are deeply associated with the Jacobite Rebellion and are spectacular in natural beauty and history.

There is even the chance to spot Nessie from the ramparts of Urquhart Castle and at the Loch Ness Visitor Centre in Drumnadrochit. The Outlander group dutifully pay their entrance fees to the castles and the visitor centres, but as there are no associations with Claire or Jamie, the tours seem dull and uninteresting.

Mr Finkelstein thought that Loch Ness, “Was nothing special, just a regular lake, like so many others, but with incredibly expensive tours around old buildings to hear boring stories.”

Gladys said that Eilean Donan Castle, “Was very pokey and not much to see either inside or outside.”

Arriving at Skye, the Cuillins dominate the landscape but after what he had seen already Angus said they were “Nothing special.”. The Kyleakin Narrows are now bridged by the elegant arched road bridge but are still overlooked by the ruins of Castle Moil – a MacKinnon stronghold.

The Outlanders head through Broadford to Portree where they will stay in the Royal Hotel for the next two days, where they will learn more about Bonnie Prince Charlie and tour the island. At Portree in 1773 Boswell and Dr. Johnson dined at McNab’s hostelry, the only inn on the island.

In 1746 Prince Charlie bade farewell to Flora MacDonald at McNab’s (Now The Royal Hotel). Flora helped the Bonnie Prince sail from the Island of Lewis disguised as a maid to Skye and then helped him escape to France.

Skye is much more impressed by the menu at the Royal Hotel than with the scenery, and orders the homemade Steak and Ale pie served with chef's selection of vegetables and chips. The pie is delicious as are the chips, but Skye leaves the broccoli. Angus has the Aberdeen Angus Beef Burger with chips. Two pints of dark beer to wash this down, and on to the sweet course. Skye goes for the Chocolate Fudge cake and Angus takes the Cheesecake of the Day. A couple of glasses of Glenlivet, and the boys are fed and watered.

An hour later Skye starts to feel hungry and he’s heard about the famous fish suppers at the Harbour Fish and Chips. Just a short walk down the road to the harbour and Skye can smell the delicious aroma of fried food coming from the chipper. He looks at the menu scrawled on the chalkboard and orders 'Haddock and Chips.” It comes wrapped in newspaper and cost £3. As he leaves the chipper he unwraps the fish supper, but without warning a huge herring gull swoops down and drags its webbed feet across Skye's head, causing him to tip the fish supper onto the road. Before he can think about what has happened, twenty other gulls have devoured the fish supper and left only the paper wrapping. Skye retreats to the chip shop .

“Did you see what happened. I got mugged and robbed by a gang of gulls.”

“Aye, ah should of warned ye aboot that. They gulls are mean and work as a team. Dae ye want anither fish supper?”

“Ok, but this time can I eat in?”

'Sure, that'll be anither three pounds.” the owner said with a wry smile.

Next day after an excellent cooked breakfast the group of Outlanders set off for a tour of Skye to visit places connected to the Jacobite Rebellion. At Elgol where the view is one of the most splendid in all of UK. It was here on 4th July 1746 the Bonnie Prince was given a banquet by the Mackinnons in a cave now called 'Prince Charlies Cave' before he finally bade farewell to the Hebrides.

The Fraser-Knoblocks are disappointed. “The Bonnie Prince was here but there is no connection with Claire or Jamie, so I wonder why MacMeanie brought us out here?”

From the bus the group see Old Man of Storr and the Quiraing which are impressive geological oddities. At Trotternish Peninsula the Outlanders visit the annexe to Flodigarry Hotel which was Flora MacDonalds first home after her marriage in 1750 to Captain Allan MacDonald. Adjacent to the cottage is Kilmuir Churchyard where Flora is buried wrapped in a sheet from the bed in which the fugitive Prince had slept. There are fine views at Trotternish of the Outer Hebrides...from where Flora and the Prince fled to Skye.

At Dunvegan Castle the group are shown a lock of Bonnie Prince Charlies Hair. The Castle is also home of the Fairy Flag that has three magic properties – if raised in battle it ensures a MacLeod victory, if spread on a marriage bed it ensures a child, and unfurled at Dunvegan it ensures herring in the Loch.

At Trumpan churchyard there is a pierced standing stone that was used as a trial stone – if an accused could put his finger while blindfold through the hole he was deemed innocent.

“Is that another of those magical portal stones that can take you back and forward in time?” asked Ethel.

“I think it only works on special days when the planets are in alignment.” answers Hamish.

Finally a visit to Skye would not be complete without a tour of the famous Talisker Distillery with its distinctive peaty flavour. On the way back to Portree MacMeanie points out the island of Raasay where in 1746 the Hanovarian soldiers burned all the houses on Raasay because the laird had sheltered Prince Charlie after Culloden.

While driving around Skye, MacMeanie has had the “Outlander Theme” playing over the sound system. He tells the group that every time he thinks about Skye he is always reminded of the lovely "Skye Boat Song"..a famous song about Flora MacDonald, a courageous member of the ancient MacDonald Clan who rescued Bonnie Prince Charlie after the Jacobean uprising in the 1700's. He tells the Outlanders that in Portree, the Royal Hotel stands on the site of McNab's Inn, the last known meeting place between Flora and Bonnie Prince Charlie in 1746.

Flora MacDonald met The Prince known as Bonnie Prince Charlie, the Pretender to the throne of Scotland, in 1746 when she was 24 years old and living on the Island of Benbecula in the Outer Hebrides where the Prince was hiding after the Battle of Culloden. The MacDonalds were sympathetic with the Jacobite cause, and Flora's father, who was in charge of the local militia, assisted her passage to the mainland by boat with Bonnie Prince Charlie on board, disguised as an Irish maidservant.

They landed safely at Waternish on Skye, and from there the prince was taken into hiding. However, the boatman gossiped, and Flora's plot was uncovered, and she was imprisoned in the Tower of London until her eventual release and emigration to North Carolina. Bonnie Prince Charlie spent the rest of his life in exile, and he died in Rome on 31st January 1788. Flora's life did not end in America and she returned to Skye, eventually ending her days peacefully at Kingsburgh, Skye in 1790 at age 68.

MacMeanie tells the Outlanders that the text of the song gives an account of how Bonnie Prince Charlie, disguised as a serving maid, escaped in a small boat after the defeat of his Jacobite rising of 1745, with the aid of Flora MacDonald. The song draws on the motifs of Jacobitism although it was composed nearly a century and a half after the episode it describes. The lyrics were written by Sir Harold Boulton to an air collected in the 1870s by Anne Campbell MacLeod (1855–1921).

MacLeod was on a trip to the isle of Skye and was being rowed over Loch Coruisk (Coire Uisg, the "Cauldron of Waters") when the rowers broke into a Gaelic rowing song Cuachag nan Craobh ("The Cuckoo in the Grove"). MacLeod set down what she remembered of the air, with the intention of using it later in a book she was to co-author with Boulton, who later added the section with the Jacobite associations. "As a piece of modern romantic literature with traditional links it succeeded perhaps too well, for soon people began "remembering" they had learned the song in their childhood, and that the words were 'old Gaelic lines'.

Hamish tries to get the group to sing along but it results in a cacophony as Hamish knows the old words while the others know the 'Outlander” version.

The Skye Boat Song

1. Loud the winds howl, loud the waves roar,
Thunderclaps rend the air;
Baffled, our foes stand by the shore,
Follow they will not dare.
[Chorus:]
Speed, bonnie boat, like a bird on the wing,
Onward! the sailors cry;
Carry the lad that's born to be King
Over the sea to
Skye.
[Chorus]
2. Though the waves leap, soft shall ye sleep,
Ocean's a royal bed.
Rocked in the deep, Flora will keep
Watch by your weary head.
[Chorus]
3. Burned are their homes, exile and death
Scatter the loyal men;
Yet ere the sword cool in the sheath
Charlie will come again.

“Can we sign the Outlander version of the words?” asks Ethel.

“Och Aye,” replies Hamish, “Whatever ye want.”

Robert Louis Stevenson's 1892 poem, sung to the tune, has the following text:
1. Mull was astern, Rhum on the port, Eigg on the starboard bow;
Glory of youth glowed in his soul; Where is that glory now?

Chorus:]

Sing me a song of a lad that is gone,
Say, could that lad be I?
Merry of soul he sailed on a day
Over the sea to Skye.


2.Give me again all that was there, Give me the sun that shone!
Give me the eyes, give me the soul, Give me the lad that's gone!

[Chorus]
3. Billow and breeze, islands and seas, Mountains of rain and sun,
All that was good, all that was fair, All that was me is gone

Back at the Royal Hotel the Outlanders are not really enjoying their visit to the Island of Skye.

“There was a big build up to “The Old Man of Storr”, but firstly its not an old man and secondly it's only a tall piece of rock, and third – it doesn't feature in Outlander.” observed Gladys.

“There was too much history and I didn't recognize any of the places we visited from the Outlander series,” observed Skye.

“Most of the time you can't see anything because of the mist and rain, and when you do it's just moor, rocks and heather with some sheep here and there.” observed Angus.