After a quiet night alongside the pier at Inverie, the ship set sail for Armadale on the Isle of Skye.

Just before departure, a few brave souls took an early morning dip from the ferry’s slipway. Thankfully, the cooler weather kept the experience midge free, and the jellies, so abundant the night before, had largely disappeared. From the bathers’ accounts, the experience was invigorating.

Just after breakfast, we were safely alongside at Armadale, and in no time at all, the gangway was lowered. We took a short walk to Armadale Castle, the Botanic Gardens, and the museum alongside an open field with grazing sheep and lambs.

The botanic gardens are very pretty, and many of the plants were in bloom. Our chatter was full of amazement at so many plants thriving at such high latitudes. One of the main contributors is the effect of the Gulf Stream, which bathes these shores. The ruined castle spoke amply of bygone days, and the wonderful museum filled in many of the gaps we may have had about Clan Donald, as well as covering the region’s early history.

Before heading back to the ship, we made sure to visit a number of little shops, which housed great woolen garments, unique pottery and jewelry, and various knickknacks.

During lunch, we enjoyed sailing through the very beautiful Sound of Sleat on our way to Kyle of Lochalsh.

Midafternoon, we disembarked for our scheduled visit to Eilan Donan Castle. This castle is one of the iconic castles in Scotland and has recently figured in numerous films. The castle is strategically placed on a small rocky island connected to the mainland by a bridge. Human settlements likely date back to the arrival of monks in the 6th century. After this period, it was probably important to the Vikings present in the region. The castle dates to the 13th century and was of great importance to the Lord of the Isles as it helped control the sea route around this area.

During cocktail hour, Captain Tony bid us farewell with a short talk and toast before we headed for dinner. Dinner was a traditional affair with a toast to the haggis conducted by our barman, Ciaran, and serenaded by a piper. After dinner, we met in the forward lounge and enjoyed some traditional Scottish music played by a father and son duet on the pipes and accordion.

This trip through the Caledonian Canal and a visit to a few of the Western Isles has been a splendid experience. Certainly, we have enjoyed very unusual weather, which greatly enhanced our experience of this wonderful country with its rich history and culture. We will return home much enriched, and for that we are grateful.