There are remnants of the past almost everywhere on Skye:

  • From 6,000BC there are standing stones with pictish carving. Chambered burial cairns can also be found in many parts of the island dating from the Stone Age.
  • Iron Age on Skye was around 500BC, leaving behind hut circles, duns and brochs. Long underground storage passages called souterrains can also be found.
  • Vikings took control of the island around 700AD, and ruled until the defeat of Haakon at the Battle of Largs in 1263. After this, Skye came under the rule of the King of Scots.

Dun Ardreck - the remains of a Skye broch

During this time there were constant battles between the two most powerful clans, the MacLeod's of the north and the MacDonald's of the south. The Jacobite rebellion in 1745, and the subsequent Battle of Culloden in 1746 led to Prince Charles Edward Stuart becoming a fugitive. He was helped to escape from Benbecula to Skye in a boat disguised as Flora MacDonald's female servant. This piece of history was commemorated with the famous Skye Boat Song.

The Clearances

After the Jacobite Rebellion, the way of life in the Highlands and Islands came under close scrutiny by the government. Skye became subjugated with the wearing of tartan and the native Gaelic language being outlawed. The people had survived for many years living off of a stretch of land for which they paid rent to a landlord (often the previous clan chiefs) - these landlords began to raise rents to unaffordable amounts to get rid of their tenants; they wanted to concentrate on the more profitable farming of deer and sheep.

This became known as The Clearances, with landlords becoming more and more ruthless. Tenants were ordered out of their homes and they were set alight. if anyone returned to retrieve possessions, the fire was started with them inside. The land was then cleared and leveled so that the tenants had nowhere to return to or to take shelter within.

Between the years of 1840-1880 over 40,000 people were cleared from the island of Skye. Some left to start new lives in Central Scotland, while others took emigration boats that were provided by the government to take them to Canada or America.

in 1882 the remaining crofters on the island rebelled against Lord MacDonald when they were denied access to Ben Lee to graze their stock. MacDonald called in extra police to evict them and what became known as the Battle of the Braes ensued.

The government took action after this, and in 1885 the Crofter's Act was passed, bringing the crofting community substantial benefits. Fair rents were set and with this came the security that they could now pass on their land to family members.

After 100 years of evictions, grief and finally rebellion, the last remaining crofters on Skye now had the right to live in their own country.

The Fairy Flag

Dunvegan Castle contains a remnant of the Fairy Flag - considered to be a magical artifact and family treasure of the Clan MacLeod. Legend has it that waving the Fairy Flag provided salvation for the Clan MacLeod in times of trouble by summoning a fairy army.

The flag has been waved twice in the middle ages:

  • When the MacLeod's were outnumbered in battle against the MacDonald's. At the point that the flag was waved, the battle turned in favour of the MacLeod's.
  • The clan chief waved the flag again when their cattle were dying of pestilance - their health was restored.

The flag is made of silk and thought to originate from the Middle East and dates from between the 4th and 7th centuries AD.


Fairy Flag remnant

Seo A Bhliadhna

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