Blog: Kayak trip to Rory’s Island

21 feb 031

Our kayaks on the beach of Eilean Ruairidh, Cuillin Mountains in the distance

February has seen some great weather on Skye. This seems to be not unusual – it’s fair to say that winters can be ‘dreich’ (a bit wet) but come February things tend to get a lot brighter. With the days lengthening and early flowers emerging, there’s more than a hint of Spring around.

A Thursday in late February saw us dropping everything to head out to Sleat for a paddle in our kayaks. We launched from the bay at Tokavaig, where there are some wild and wind swept oak woods and the remains of a castle, Dùn Scaich, on crag looking out to Rum and the Cuillin Mountains. Our goal was an island not far from the castle that was once the site of an even more ancient fort. Named ‘Eilean Ruairidh’, or ‘Rory’s Island’; it was irresistible. We had to investigate.

21 feb 010

The remains of the fort on the island.


It turned out to be more than just a grassy knoll; there were quite a few building stones piled in a circle on a fabulous little crag. The Royal Commission for Ancient Monuments records the site as a fort; possibly vitrified, but we didn’t find any burnt stones on our visit. Behind us Dùn Scaich jutted out at the edge of the bay on its own little crag. It’s named after a pre-christian warrior queen, Scáthach , who’s own name means ‘Shadowy’. Scáthach has a mythology associated with Celtic magic and it is said that she used her castle as a training ground for elite young warriors, famously the Irish hero Cúchulainn. It is possible that the Cuillin Mountains were named after Cúchulainn.  We don’t know who the fort on Eilean Ruairidh belonged to, but the name Ruairidh can be translated as ‘red haired king’. Even so, there is a possibility that this island was actually the ancient site of Queen Scáthach’s ‘Fotress of Shadows’ rather than the castle on the mainland, who’s visible ruins only date back as far as the thirteenth century.

21 feb 019

Has anyone seen a Celtic warrior queen around here?


The island had remarkable atmosphere– we landed on a lovely shell-strewn bay and had our lunch looking out on what must be one of the most amazing views in the UK.  Later we headed back into the bay with our kayaks for some rolling practice, which resulted in some serious ‘ice cream headaches’. Sunny it may be, but it’s still February. 


If you are interested in finding out more about the castle and the island (or looking for the inspiration for a new fantasy computer game) try the following links:

Scáthach, Undiscovered Scotland

Eilean Ruairidh, RCAHMS

Dùn Scaich, RCAHMS