Isle of Raasay
The island of Raasay is separated from the east coast of Skye by a stretch of sea known as the Sound of Raasay. As soon as you disembark from the ferry which links the two islands you realise that you are in a completely different world. There is no sign here of the hordes of tourists and climbers you see on 'mainland' Skye. Raasay is a world apart, a calm and peaceful retreat, and that is what you find at Inverarish Cottage.
Inverarish is the only sizeable village on Raasay, sheltered among woodlands, just a mile or so from the ferry landing stage. It is a place of small streets and quiet lanes with one very good general store and, to the north, a hotel beside the Outward Bound Centre.
The cottage is cosy and well-appointed, one of a small terrace of traditional dwellings which once housed the POWs who were sent there during First World War. It's doubtful if they'd recognise it now, so well has it been refurbished and modernised.
The entrance to the cottage is via small block paved patio which also acts as a seating area by the front door. The rear of the property has additional space that is primarily used for off road car parking. Whilst the outside space is compact, there is a public picnic area right opposite, which provides outside space in a delightful setting.
Relaxation is the order of the day on Raasay but that does not mean that there is a lack of things to do. The only road on the island curves around the southern tip and where it runs out you can continue on foot around the coast to visit some of the abandoned houses which date from the days when the island's population was much larger than it is today. One of these hamlets is Hallaig, immortalised in verse by Sorley MacLean, a native of Raasay. The track soars high above the sea and from it the views across to the mainland of Scotland are quite magnificent.
The flora and fauna here are extremely interesting: rare orchids, birds of prey - among them, golden eagles, otters, seals, and occasionally you may even catch sight of dolphins, whales and basking sharks. A unique inhabitant of the island is the Raasay vole.
Dominating the island is the unusually-shaped, flat-topped extinct volcano, Duncaan, where Dr Johnson and Boswell are reputed to have danced during their tour of the Highlands. It still makes a worthwhile excursion, even as it did then.
A few miles north of Inverarish the road used to end. However, in another village up there, Arnish, Calum MacLeod, one of the villagers, did not see why there was no proper access to his village. In the 1960s, when the Council refused to consider his request, Colin set to work to build a road himself. By the time he had completed it he and his wife were the only remaining inhabitants of Arnish. 'Calum's Road' is now famous as the subject of a recent book. At Inverarish Cottage you will be able to see the road for yourself, travel on it and marvel at the tenacity of the man.
The community on Raasay may be small but it is very lively and there are many concerts and ceilidhs to which visitors are warmly invited. The hotel serves lunches and evening meals (opening hours are restricted during winter months and on Sundays the bar is closed to non-residents).
The small car ferry makes several crossings (15 minutes) a day to Skye and books of tickets are available for frequent travellers.
Heating is by radiators from multi-fuel stove, open fire and electric heaters. Electricity by key meter (£10 included). One bag of coal and bed linen are included in the rental and towels may be hired. Well-behaved pets are welcome by arrangement.
Accommodation (sleeps 3):
- Sitting room with open fire and TV/DVD.
- Dining kitchen with multi-fuel stove, fridge-freezer, microwave, dish-washer, washing machine, tumble drier etc.
- Double bedroom.
- Single bedroom.
- Bathroom with bath, WC and wash basin.