If you have ever been to the Isle of Skye or driven past Applecross on the mainland of West of Scotland you have seen the sign for Raasay and if you have never been there you are missing one of Scotland hidden gems which is slowly rising out of the Sound of Raasay to becoming a hot spot on the holiday makers list of places to visit like Iona. The island sits between the mainland and the beautiful and mysterious Isle of Skye, but you may find Raasay more mysterious, its not big at 24sq miles or 14 miles as the crow flies so arrive early and you have chance to have a days walk and its a superb walk, a population at the last census of 192 (2001), its quiet and on any day come rain or shine it makes a walk around the island recharges your batteries.
It must have something as its famous son is poet Sorley MacLean, an important figure in the Scottish literary renaissance. Sorley MacLean was one of the most significant Scottish poets of the 20th century. He wrote about love, heartbreak, the Cuillin, the Spanish Civil War, Hugh MacDiarmid, communism and nationalism, often several in the same poem.
An island of prehistoric monsters whose remains can still be found among the Jurassic shale and sand stone cliffs and on the beach, if you cannot find at least one dinosaur even if its the ammonite then you never looked so if you have an interest in fossils then its a place to pop into your note book, also add on your next page if you have an interest in geology that it has a mix of grey-banded ArchaeanLewisian gneiss and granulite and ironstone with low grade Oolitic Siderite and Chamosite ores which was mined in the early year of the 20th century. There are interesting remains of the years of mining including the mines which can be accessed.
As you walk either taking the guided paths of decide to go your own way, but it is advisable to take the guided paths as they will take you to the more interesting of things to see, for example; If you thought Iron Age man was all mud huts and chasing wild cattle then you would be wrong, on the island you will find a Broch which is a feat of Iron age construction and engineering with 10ft doubled walled building of many layers which was used not only for a place to live but bring in your animals at night,giving the protection and stop the theft of your animals and of your family security. With its height between 30ft -50ft or more, the spiral stair case winds between the space in the double wall to connecting the galleries at each level. They have single ground floor entrance and a central fire on the ground floor which is thought that the heat rises between the walls and into each cell, without the smoke that will rise centrally to an outlet at the top. They were built near to a source of a river or a spring, one or two are found to have springs internally on the ground floor. Some Brochs are also often built beside the sea and found in the wilderness which could imply that Iron Age man may have migrated with deer or wild horses in the warmer month when no snow laid on the ground. The Broch is thought to be the fore runner of the fortified towers and the religious round towers which are to be found in both Ireland and in Scotland.
The Broch should not be mistaken with the Medieval stronghold of Brochel Castle it is traditionally thought to have been build by Raasay's first Macleod chief, Calum MacGilleChaluim. When it was built with the light reflecting off the water on to the building it must have looked like it came direct from 'Games of Thrones' and even the legends behind it, one such fable;
Though anciently a stronghold of the Macsweens, tradition has it that the building of Brochel Castle was financed by money given to MacGilleChaluim by a kinsman who had inadvertently killed the Laird of Craignish's son whilst trying to retrieve Raasay's favourite hunting dog which had been stolen from him. Later, Craignish offered gold to anyone who could name his son's killer. He remained true to his promise when Raasay's kinsman responded with a truthful account of the incident. Feeling unworthy of the prize himself, however, he handed it on to his chief, whereupon it was put to this good cause.More Info
If you are on Raasay for the enjoyment of walking on the hills then heading to the centre of the island where the land rises up and the highest point is the 444m or 1,457ft high summit of Dun Caan, there is a circular path around the whole circular route, (routes are well marked out for many of the walking routes) The route will give you fantastic views right over to the Isle of Skye including the Cullins. Start this walk before dawn to take in the wonderful sunrise which on a clear day is stunning. The walk depending on your personal walking speed and how many times you stop to explore the surroundings will take between 5-7 hours with a milage of 14miles (18km) of course these are summer times, winter times is a lot different and if you do attempt this route in the winter then its advisable to have crampons, ice axe and don't forget your experience, if you wish to attempt this route and you are new to winter walking get some training in first.This route will take you through the main town on Raasay which happens to be the capital Inverarish and the old iron ore railway lines, which are interesting in its self. Finally the terrain is boggy in places so maybe winter boots if you want to keep your feet dry, steep in places but you won't be scrambling up anywhere. Finally the full accent is 550m starting from NG545362.
A single Pictish standing stones with incredible carvings it is believed that they were carved between 670AD and 700AD and contains a Christian Cross and are believed to have been not funeral monuments, but the ancient boundaries of the sanctuary or consecrated ground. Situated behind Raasay House you will find, what is very often missed and that is ruins of St Maol-luag's Chapel with a surrounding grave yard, St Moluag's Chapel is a 13th century stone chapel, St Moluag is said to have brought Christianity to Raasay and founded a cell on the island in around 569AD.
Looking for wild life on Raasay look for secret Raasay vole which is darker and heavier than the mainland variety of bank vole and is found nowhere else in the world. It is possibly a survivor of a Scandinavian race Along with that is a special Pine Martin otherwise missing from the Hebrides, was found on the island in 1971 but no more reports of it as time of writing (May 2018) Another species which is only found on four of the Hebrides that are the mountain hares. Birds of Prey are found on Raasay and that is
the Golden Eagle and of White Tailed Eagle also know as the Sea Eagle as they can been seen snatching fish from both loch and on the coast. Staying with the coast It sitting quietly and with a bit of patience may get you the view of Otters at play or feeding on salmon or opening shellfish by striking it on a rock on its stomach while laying on its floating on its back. Red deer can be seen feeding in the long ferns so don't be surprised if you walking and one darts out of the ferns so if your driving please becareful More harder to spot are the Stoats and Weasels who are fast and well hidden during the day.also supports a rich variety of plants, including Red Broomrape, Dark Red Helleborine, Mountain Avens and numerous other saxifrages, orchids, alpines and ferns. There are several stands of mixed woodland So take binoculars, be ready with the camera as you never know what you will see .
On Raasay something exciting is on its return back to the island, a skill that is centuries old and is enjoyed all over the world whether in your comfy arm chair by a roaring log fire or on holiday somewhere tropical, people have tried to imitate it but its just not the same either as a single malt or a blended. Because its not Scottish Whisky!! The Island of Raasay Whisky company started in 2017, and they have worked hard to produce not only a whisky, but gone into producing and well designed building which includes stunning vacation accomodation,(see more below) As for the whisky it has a long 3 year wait for it to mature in handmade American oak casks which are sitting quietly, cool and safe in a warehouse behind the distillery.
The changes in the climate on Raasay, the air filled with the smell of trees and grass, the sound of the fiddle the aroma of the sea may just influence how the whisky will take. Many whiskies are influenced from the local environment for example the sea air which gives Isle of Skye whisky Talisker its aroma or taste the peat smoke aroma of Benromach Speyside whisky, It will be 2020 then the first of the new legal whisky will be ready for the world, that doesn't mean that whisky was made illegally just that the laws of the 18th century which banned the small stills which most but n' Bens had set up and it upset many a' Scot because the government changed the excise law and that anything distilling under 100 gallons was banned, then it was changed again in 19th century for only allowing taxed distillation. But sources say that illicit whisky was the norm in the Highlands - The illicit whisky trade was well suited to the Highland life so history tells...
The lower orders almost breed their children to it as a sort of profession;.....they must do it or starve," Sir George MacKenzie of Coul's letter, used as evidence for a Revenue Commissioner's report in 1822.
Sons would work in the Lowlands for a few months until they had earned enough for an illegal still, then return home. People made deals with local farmers to supply the barley on account; once they sold the whisky, they divided the profits with the farmer. Small-scale whisky distilling was a traditional part of Highland life, and once the law changed, even those who enforced the law saw little wrong in the practice and often turned a blind eye.There is not a justice of the peace who can say, that he does not, in his own family, consume illegally made spirits"
Sir George MacKenzie of Coul's letter**
Not only does the distillery make a fine smooth warming whisky in American oak casks as mentioned, you could share in their success with a membership to their three different whisky clubs and get an Exclusive Whisky Collection & Luxury Accommodation Club, imagine waking up to after a wonderful nights sleep in rich comfortable surroundings and whats more is that you are on the Island of Raasay where nature and superb scenery waits for you, also waiting for you is a complimentary continental breakfast which is included as part of your stay. After all that fresh air and activities book a table at Raasay House for luxury dining the Restaurant, Café and Bar offer a delightful range of dining experiences all with a fabulous view across the Sound of Raasay to the Cuillin Mountains of Skye But what makes this a unique experience is that the Raasay distillery are the only Scottish distillery that offers luxury accommodation on-site in the stunningly refurbished Victorian Borodale House. The accommodation with its five en-suite luxury and views from the distillery which is perfect holiday location and the whole house has been designed by local architect Olli Blair and renowned Scottish designer Anne Hunter. If you wish to know more then please take a look here
The islands facilities and services for visitors are few and far between but stopping off at The Raasay house hotel.
The Raasay House Hotel – Restaurant, Cafe & Bar. Whether you are on the island for a day or for a week, trying the Raasay House is a must the scenery as you sit by the window or sit outside with a drink is stunning, what else is stunning is their food, whether in the restaurant or in the cafe bar you cannot fail to enjoy both menus, sample menus can be found on their website.
The 4 Star hotel with two styles of accommodation the first being 'Hotel' style which has all the comforts of home and more within the Hotel style rooms there are 5 time to choose from from the Deluxe Family Room, Deluxe Double/Twin, Large Superking, Standard Double Room, Standard Family Room they all come with on-suite shower some with bath and shower, all with flat screen TV, tea coffee making and much more. The rooms all come with either a view out towards the sea and others have the court yard. The rooms are on either the first or the second floor up flights of stairs, there is no lift.
The second style of accommodation is the Budget/Hostel and Group style, if you are use to this type of holidaying then you would be at home with it, if you have been to hostel style or you are looking for a relaxed vacation without the frills but still comfortable then maybe this type of vacation accommodation may be for you even if you have never tried this style so life is an adventure so why not give it a try, either way the view and fresh air are the same where ever you stay.
Just because this accommodation classed as economy or backpackers, doesn't mean that the hygiene or the cleanliness of these rooms are any less than the more expensive rooms it is the same as in the rest of the hotel, just because its economy doesn't mean that they have skimp on anything.
Start with the Large Economy Family which sleep up to 5 with superking bed which can be split into two singles, with a bunk bed, the room comes with Large en suite with push button eco shower and a private room, there is no TV in this room but tea & coffee making, for families or small group who are more adventurous and just using the room to sleep, then this is for you.
The others are Economy Family sleeps 4, Economy Triple, sleeps 3, Economy Double, sleeps 2 which is fine for single but does sleep 2. Bunk Bedded Group which sleep 8 which either have en-suite or private room with push button shower, finally Bunk Bedded sleep 6 with en-suite. Before booking any of these rooms please read the website for additional information the information on this website is only a guide and the information may have changed (May 2018)
If you are looking for adventures for your family or your group then Raasay is the place to be ad Raasay Hotel has a wide range of activity packages covering land and sea. If you want to get close to what is in the sea then learn to Sea Kayak with trained instructors and all the safety equipment As well as beginners, we welcome experienced paddlers who may go on expeditions along the coast, exploring the rocky inlets and neighbouring islands.
If you are a land animal then the hotel has something for you from archery, rock climbing and abseiling, you cannot go wrong and after enjoying the fun you can then find a secluded part of the island and relax until time to enjoy your meal in the restaurant.
You can find out more information here