"Over the sea to Skye
Have you ever smelt the tangle of the Isles
Come and visit unspoiled history"

STRATHAIRD HOUSE

[Strathaird House]

Strathaird House (near Elgol), Loch Scavcaig, Sleat, Isle of Skye, Scotland

Proprietors: J. & J. Kubale. Open from mid-March to October. B/B and Full Accomodation.
(Tel: 0011.44.47.16269 )

Bordered by the famous Cuillan Mountains. Abundant wild-life, deer, otter and golden eagles. The famous grotto spar cave as noted by Sir Walter Scott in "Lord of the Isles" is close by on Strathaird Estate. Also the secret cave used to conceal Bonnie Prince Charles Edward Stuart who was guided to Strathaird Estate by Flora Macdonald after the disaster of Culloden in 1746, and from where he was able to make good his escape to Italy.


"Lord of the Isles"


These are the savage wilds that lie
North of Strathnardill and Dunskye
(Note 21)

The extraordinary piece of scenery which I have here attempted to describe is, I think, unparalleled in any part of Scotland, atleast in any which I have happened to visit. It lies just upon the frontier of the Laird of Mac-Leod's country, which is thereabouts divided from the estate of Mr. Mac-Allister of Strath-Aird, called Strathnardill by the Dean of the Isles.

And mermaid's alabaster grot,
Who bathes her limbs in sunless well,
Deep in Strathaird's enchanted cell.
(Note 22)

Imagination can hardly concieve anything more beautiful than the extraordinary grotto discovered not many years since upon the estate of Alexander Mac-Allister, Esq., (1744-1831) of Strathaird. It has since been much and deservedly celebrated, and a full account of its beauties has been published by Dr. Mac-Leay of Oban. The general impression may perhaps be gathered from the following extract from a journal, which, written under the feelings of the moment, is likely to be more accurate than any attempt to recollect the impressions then received:-

"The first entrance to this celebrated cave is rude and unpromising; but the light of the torches, with which we were provided, was soon reflected from the roof, floor, and walls, which seem as if they were sheeted with marble, partly smooth, partly rough with frost-work and rustic ornaments, and partly seeming to be wrought in statuary.

The floor forms a steep and difficult ascent, and might be fancifully compared to a sheet of water, which, while it rushed whitening and foaming down a declivity, had been suddenly arrested and consolidated by the spell of an enchanter.

Upon attaining the summit of this ascent, the cave opens into a splendid gallery, adorned with the most dazzling crystallizations, and finally descends with rapidity to the brink of a pool of the most limpid water, about four or five yards broad. There opens beyond this pool a portal arch, formed by two columns of white spar, with beautiful chasing upon the sides, which promises a continuation of the cave. One of our sailors swam across, for there is no other mode of passing, and informed us (as indeed we partly saw by the light he carried) that the enchantment of Mac-Allister's cave terminates with this portal, a little beyond which there was only a rude cavern, speedily choked with stones and earth. But the pool, on the brink of which we stood, surrounded by the most fanciful mouldings, in a substance resembling white marble, and distinguished by the depth and purity of its waters, might have been the bathing grotto of a naiad. The groups of combined figures projecting, or embossed, by which the pool is surrounded, are exquisitely elegant and fanciful. A statuary might catch beautiful hints from the singular and romantic disposition of those stalactites. There is scarce a form or group on which active fancy may not trace figures or grotesque ornaments, which have been gradually moulded in this cavern by the dropping of the calcareous water hardening into petrifactions. Many of those fine groups have been injured by the senseless rage of appropriation of recent tourists; and the grotto had lost, (I am informed,) through the smoke of torches, something of that vivid silver tint which was originally one of its chief distinctions. But enough of beauty remains to compensate for all that may be lost."

- Mr. Mac-Allister of Strathaird has, with great propriety, built up the exterior entrance to this cave, in order that strangers may enter properly attended by a guide, to prevent any repetition of the wanton and selfish injury which this singular scene has already sustained.

From the Book "The Poetical Works of Sir Walter Scott" (1890) (pages 326 and 743)


[Strathaird]


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