Monthly Archives: August 2012

The place where time means nothing: Isle of Skye

Isle of Skye roadBreathtaking landscapes, amazing experiences and feelings of freedom. Undoubtedly, all these terms refer to one of the most incredible places on the whole planet – Scotland. Isle of Skye, one of the most popular tourist destination and probably the most attractive Highlands’ locations does not differ from the general perception of the country of kilts.

There is so much to say about the Isle of Skye, its attractiveness and diversity, therefore I will focus only on one peninsula – Trotternish.

The Trotternish region starts at the foot of Portree, the island’s largest town and central arrival place. Its name derives from Gaelic language and means “King’s Harbor”, which in turn comes from James V who arrived to the Island in order to pacify nearby clans. Nowadays Portree is inhabited by approximately 2,500 people out of which 40% can speak the ancient Celtic language.

Trotternish is rounded by the two-way road – generally uncommon for this area. Getting around the whole peninsula may be difficult for those who are not used to driving on single lane roads. Passing places have probably saved many lives so far! : )

Quiraing“To visit Skye without experiencing the Quiraing seems unthinkable” says This wonderful landslip is one of the most phenomenal places in that area. You can follow Quiraing’s available paths if you like and also climb outlying rock formations with intriguing names, for example, the Prison – a rocky peak reminiscent of a medieval jail or keep – and the Table – a flat, grassy area with stunning views. Your 3-5 mile long walk will probably leave you quite tired, but trust me – it’s worth it! No matter if it’s sunny, cloudy or windy, the experience is unforgettable – and different each time. The Quiraing area is surrounded by breathtaking and exciting, single lane road steamers.

Old Man of Storr is a 50m tall rock formation, one of the Highlands’ most famous landmarks.  Even though it seems to be impossible to get to the top of stack, people really do this! However, it remained unclimbed until the 1950s. There are many legends surrounding the Isle of Skye and The Old Man of Storr itself. One of them says that The Old Man of Storr and his wife were running away from the giant beings living there, when they turn around to look at them. That was obviously a mistake because of which both of them were turned to stones.

Kilt RockThe area has by many other tempting attractions you won’t want to miss. One of them is Kilt-rock, magnificent 200 foot high cliff composed of basalt and dolerite. This rock formation, named after its appearance which really looks like kilt pleats, remains one of the most breathtaking places in the whole Trotternish peninsula. No matter if the day is sunny or the mist is around, views from the top are gorgeous. However, the sightseers are asked to take care and not to cross the guard rails. There is a danger of falling from this cliff but it is perfectly safe if the advised precautions are observed. It is also possible to have a look at this gorgeous cliff from the water level by taking a boat trip.

Not only waterfalls and beautiful landscapes were created in the Isle of Skye by Mother Nature. The fauna also, quite literally, left its footprints on the Trotternish ground. To be more specific, dinosaurs walked across the beach at An Corran, Staffin about 165 million years ago. Their fossilized footprints were discovered in 1996. Those dinosaurs were two legged Ornithopods. The footprints may be found close to the ramp which goes down to the Staffin beach. Is there anyone in front of their monitor right now who doesn’t want to search for the footprints on the ground? That’s also fine you know. You are absolutely welcomed in the Staffin Museum, next to the Kilt-rock, where you will find other dinosaur, footprints including the world’s smallest one!Dinosaur footprint on Staffin beach

The area of Isle of Skye is strongly connected with the film industry. Scenes of many films have been based on the beautiful Scottish rock formations.

A terrifying battle for the future of human race has been fought in the Isle of Skye, recently. The latest Ridley Scott’s film, Prometheus. The Old Man of Storr is not only a star of Skye but also a star of Prometheus. Making the image somber, the Isle of Skye, a magical place full of admirable green landscapes surrounded by lakes and waterfalls seems to be the perfect scenery for a journey to the darkest corners of the universe.

Prometheus wasn’t the only film in which the Isle of Skye’s Prometheus - Isle of Skyeamazing scenery was utilised. Another recent one was the fantasy film, Stardust, telling the story of a young man who makes a promise to his lady that he’ll venture to the magical world to get a fallen star back. It’s not that difficult to guess which real places had played the role of that magical land. Beside Iceland and England, there were magical landscapes of Quiraing in front of the cameras. The Isle of Skye has everything that film directors and producers expect to find in the Highlands. These amazing places, which seem to have come out of a fairy tale, make Skye very special for film directors and producers.

Undoubtedly, along with places such as Isle of Arran or St. Abbs, the Isle of Skye with its Trotternish peninsula is one of the most beautiful Scottish places, with breathtaking views and stunning landmarks. No wonder that the Isle of Skye is adored by the film directors and producers, as well as by tourists and the locals luck enough to live here – it has everything that they expect to find in the Highlands and more. So why are you waiting? Visit Trotternish and experience the place where time means nothing…

Scottish kilt outfits – which should I use?

After finally obtaining your first kilt (whether that be an 8 yard handmade wool “tank” or a more modest 5 yarder that has perhaps been machine sewn or made with poly-viscose fabric) one of the most daunting aspects of Highland dress (after getting to know how kilts are made) can be trying to learn all the different styles of the available outfits.

Jacket style is paramount in defining the smartness of your outfit, and deciding what type of jacket to wear, and working out which type of sporran, tie or hose complement your chosen style can sometimes become very stressful for the new kilt wearer! In this post we will aim to educate about traditional Highland clothing, and teach a little about the standards of dress for the modern kiltie!

First and best known of the popular kilt jackets is the Prince Charlie. This is essential for all evening events where a high level of formality is required, and is roughly equivalent to black tie. The Prince Charlie jacket, also known as a “coatee” is a formal, tailed jacket with satin lapels and Braemar style cuffs. This is traditionally worn with a three-button waistcoat, cut low to show the front of the shirt which should feature a pointed wing collar and be worn with a bow-tie. Complete your outfit with a full-dress sporran with polished cantle, and a jewelled kilt pin and sgian dubh. Proper kilt hose, smart flashes and leather brogues are also a must, of course. The key in pulling off a full-regalia Prince Charlie outfit is attention to detail; as the most formal of the kilt outfits there is much less room for improvisation, however many discerning gentlemen find that patterned hose, unusual sgian dubhs and eye-catching kilt pins are the perfect way to elevate this commonly seen outfit from the typical hire-company fare and really produce a knock-out effect.

Argyle kilt outfitThe next style we shall consider is the Argyle jacket. An Argyle is less formal than a Prince Charlie – and also a lot more versatile! The Argyle features self-faced lapels and a straight-cut back but still shows a flash of formality with polished chrome buttons and gauntlet cuffs. This can be worn without a waistcoat, and with wing-collar shirt and bow tie, as a black tie alternative should a Prince Charlie be unavailable. The Argyle however, can also be used as a suit equivalent with 5-button waistcoat and tie or cravat for less dressy events. For suit equivalent use, your sporran and other leather goods are the key. For evening wedding receptions and other parties impart a sense of gravity by wearing a full-dress fur sporran and ensure all leather items are well-polished and black. For day-time events and smart-casual evening wear consider an all-leather dress or fur semi-dress sporran and shake things up a little by introducing rich brown leather hues into your outfit.

Tweed JacketSo you’re now covered from ballroom to dinner party, what about more casual events? Those times, such as an afternoon at a Highland Games, or lunch with the in-laws, where you’d like to make a good impression and show the kilt off to its best advantage, but at the same time wish to be comfortable and not stand out too much from the crowd. In this case a tweed daywear jacket can be the ideal compromise. Tweeds are now available in a huge range of shades, allowing you to find the perfect complimentary shade for your tartan kilt, and the diversity of pocket arrangements, cuff styles, button materials (such as stag horn or wood), and other modifications can really allow you to let your personal style shine through. Walking shoes or brown brogues are perfect for this, with a semi-dress fur sporran or an all leather casual sporran. A Tattersall shirt and tie is one option for a smart-casual afternoon, although this method of dress also opens you up to wearing turtlenecks, polo shirts and many other tops where no tie is needed! Additionally, due to the lack of waistcoat, you can also now consider wearing a kilt belt and buckle, another great way to add the personal touch to your ensemble, with a mind-boggling range of designs available. Richly coloured kilt hose and an appropriate sgian dubh, perhaps with a carved blackwood handle, are again ideal for adding a touch of luxury and a sense of completion to this type of outfit.

Coming down the scale yet again we are now in a position where a jacket is no longer required, but that is no reason not to be conscious of your overall impression. Kilts look fantastic when worn with chunky boots, rolled down hose and a thick Aran jumper for a trip to the pub, or, for the preppy look, why not try a crisp polo shirt with Balmoral tam? Accessories are still the key and an attractive kilt pin, appropriate sporran (for this level most likely a simple leather pouch, perhaps with some embossing or other detail) and nice belt will ensure you really look the part no matter what the occasion!

Jacobean kilt outfitOne final major style remains to be discussed; the Jacobean outfit. This is a recently popularised style, which evokes the romance of the early kilt wearers. With flowing ghillie shirts and wool or leather waistcoats these outfits are very popular for casual weddings and among young men who wish to wear a simple and highly identifiable Scottish kilt outfit on holidays, stag nights and other fun events. As a casual style the Jacobean waistcoat can be worn with a wide range of accessories, but for an authentic feel just a few items such as sword style kilt pin and leather sporran are ideal. As this waistcoat is worn open, belts can also be worn without ruining the line of the outfit and this is another great way to elevate the outfit slightly and give a finished look.

I hope this entry has given you some food for thought, and possibly opened your eyes a little as to the true diversity of the kilt! Share in the comments below if you have a particular favourite outfit, or even just one particular piece that makes you feel like a million pounds whenever you wear it. For my part that item would have to be my Harris Tweed daywear jacket, in lovely muted beiges with a red over-check… I can wear this almost anywhere with my clan kilt and favourite brogues and always feel I look my best!