Arrived at Kyle after a splendid journey by way of highlands and sea-lochs and after a short delay caught the ferry. This is a curious machine. It does not have a propeller but instead winches itself across the strait along a cable strung between the mainland and the isle. I found this fascinating. It was near dusk and watching this cable – quite black and dripping with sea – rise from the forbidding waters, pass across the winches and disappear astern, it seemed almost primal and ancient. A moment of realism reminded me it was no such thing and then I recalled MacGregor’s preface to Acts of the Servant where he speaks of the irons of the railroad burrowing our hills and leaping our valleys and understood that even here, iron had traversed (or leapt) mighty ocean and thus anchored the isle to the mainland. I only hope Skye’s magick has survived being thus connected.
John McClaggart, a minister of the Scottish Free Church and treasurer of the Skye Historical Society met me at Kyleakin on the farther shore. There, he proudly showed me the very chapel where Lord MacDonald waited before crossing the Kyle in chapter two of Acts of the Servant – it is quite as spartan today as MacGregor described it – before driving me the remaining miles to Portree, by which point it was quite dark.
The Royal Hotel is not what it once was – a devastating fire some fifty years ago has seen to that – but it is a great improvement over my dismal lodgings in Glasgow. After dinner took a walk down to the harbour but desperately chill wind and a flurry of snow soon sent me back to the Royal. The harbour is near empty, as are the streets of the town, for I am very far from the brief and busy tourist season, but this emptiness gave me a quite sudden sense of the island’s tragic past. Standing at the harbour before the black waters I easily imagined the distress of those poor souls forced upon the emigrant ships. The very stones beneath my feet had borne their last steps upon the isle and the waters had carried away their tears.
Caught the weather forecast upon returning to the hotel: it seems tomorrow will be cloudy and thereafter I will have rain. It is depressing, but to be expected. John McClaggart has offered to show me the sights and for that, I am grateful.
Ordered porridge and smoked kipper for breakfast. On which thought, it is time for bed.