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Raasay

A historical perspective, drawn from the Ordnance Gazetteer of Scotland: A Survey of Scottish Topography, Statistical, Biographical and Historical, edited by Francis H. Groome and originally published in parts by Thomas C. Jack, Grange Publishing Works, Edinburgh between 1882 and 1885.

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Raasay (Scand. Raa, ` a roe deer, ' and ey, ` an island '), an island in Portree parish, Inverness shire, and lying between the centre of the E coast of Skye and the Applecross district of Rossshire. From the former it is separated by the Sound of Raasay, 5¼ miles wide at the N end of the island, 2½ at the centre, and 1 mile opposite Raasay House, at the Narrows of Raasay. From Applecross it is separated by the Inner Sound, 5¼ miles wide at the N end, 83/8 opposite Applecross Bay, and 63/8 at the S end. At the N end is the small Eilean Tigh, which is practically part of Raasay, and this is separated from South Rona by Kyle Rona, ½ mile wide. One and one-eighth mile SSW of Eilean Tigh is Eilean Fladday, from which Raasay is separated by Kyle Fladda, which is dry from half-tide to half-tide. On the S the island is separated from the peninsula of Skye which stands out between Loch Sligachan and Loch Ainort, by a strait 1 mile wide, and from Scalpay on the SE by Kyle More, ¾ mile wide. Raasay Sound has a depth varying from 78 to 87 fathoms, and the Inner Sound is 77 fathoms at the S end, 130 off Brochel Bay, and 138 (the greatest depth) opposite the S end of Rona. The deepest parts are in the centre, where they form depressions considerably below the bottom of the sea in the neighbourhood of Skye. These depressions unite at the N end of Rona, and form a basin running northward into the Minch to nearly a line drawn from the mouth of Loch Ewe to Stornoway, but gradually widening and becoming more shallow as it passes N. The whole basin may be taken as bounded by the 50-fathom line, and Professor James Geikie attributes its formation to the action of ice. The tidal current in the Sound, particularly in the narrow part S of Portree Bay, is very strong. At the SE end of Kyle Rona is the island of Garbh Eilean and the smaller Eilean-an-Fhraoich. Between Eilean Tigh and Eilean Fladday is Loch a Sguirr, 1¼ mile wide between the islands, and a mile deep. To the S of Eilean Fladday is the long point of Ard-an-Torrain, immediately to the S of which is Loch Arnish, 1 mile wide across the mouth, and 1 mile deep. The point to the S of this is Manish Point, and close to it is Manish Island. Five miles farther S is Holoman Island, with Holoman Bay beyond and Oskaig Point at the S side. Half-amile NNW of this point are the rocks known as Sgeir Chnapach, and 1 mile SW in the middle of the channel is M `Millan's Rock. On the NE side of the Narrows of Raasay is Churchton Bay, which is the last indentation on the W side of the island. The E side is but little indented, but near the centre is the sweep sometimes known as Brochel Bay. The total length of the island, inclusive of Eilean Tigh, is 13 miles, and the width 1¼ mile opposite the middle of Kyle Fladda, 2¼ miles in centre, and 3½ miles at the widest part at Raasay House. The total area, inclusive of the foreshore, is 15, 704.384 acres. From the N end down to opposite Loch Arnish, the rocks are Laurentian, and from that to the centre of the island, they are Cambrian. To the S of this the deposits are estuarine beds of oolitic age, overlaid uncomfortably by a thick series of volcanic rocks belonging to the Tertiary period. The oolitic beds are exposed all across the island near the centre, and also down the eastern coast from this to the extreme S end of the island. The surface is irregular, but may be described generally as one long ridge broken by transverse hollows with a long slope towards the low shores on the W, and a steep slope bounded by a long range of cliffs on the E. Speaking of the latter, Dr Macculloch says that ` On this side, scenes of considerable grandeur occur, generally marked by great breadth and simplicity of manner, and by powerful effect; at times, however, verging to an artificial character, in the architectural regularity of the flat sandstone cliffs, which are frequently split into columnar and conical forms, rising like towers above the deep, dark sea that washes their bases. The houses perched on these summits seem more like the retreats of the birds that hover round them than the habitations of human beings; the eye from below scarcely distinguishing them, far less their inhabitants. The grandeur of these long-extended walls of rocks is often varied by the enormous fractures and dislocations which have at different times taken place; masses of immense bulk having been occasionally separated so as to form a second ridge below them; while, in other places, huge piles of ruin cover their slopes with fragments advancing far into the sea, and strewing the shore with rocks. ' More than a third of the whole island is over 500 feet above sea-level, the highest points being Beinn na h-Iolaire (826) in the part N of Loch Arnish, Beinn a Chapuill (1211) S of Brochel Castle, and the flat-topped Dun Caan (1456)-on the summit of which Boswell danced merrily-the highest point of the island. From the last there is a very fine and extensive view of the Hebrides, the western coast of Ross, and the north-western portions of Inverness-shire. The greater part of the surface of Raasay is barren and heathy, but on the strip of secondary rocks on the E side along the top of the cliffs the soil can be tilled to advantage, as well as in the flat portion about the mansion-house at the extreme SW of the island. There is but little wood, a considerable amount of natural wood and coppice that once existed having been almost entirely cut down for fuel in the wet seasons of 1836 and 1837, when the peats were too wet to burn. Except the cliffs on the E, the wooded part about the mansionhouse and the shores of Loch Arnish, with their birch coppice and bold cliffs, there is but little of what may be called scenery in the island. The drainage is effected by a large number of small streams flowing mostly to the Sound of Raasay. Of these the largest from N to S are Manishmore Burn, Glam Burn, Storab Burn, and Inverarish Burn, the latter entering the sea near the mansion-house. In a hut in the glen of the Glam, Prince Charles Edward found a brief refuge after leaving Flora Macdonald. Storab Burn rises from Loch-na-Meilich high up Dun Caan, and the Inverarish from Loch-na-Mna a little to the SSE. Of the latter Boswell tells a curious legend. Raasay and the adjacent islands belonged for about 500 years to the Macleods of Raasay, cadets of the Macleods of Lewis, often known as M `Gilliecallum of Raasay, and it was by one of this family that Dr Johnson and Boswell were so hospitably entertained in 1773. Raasay was, however, among the many proprietors ruined in the destitution crisis of 1846, and the estate passed into the hands of Mr Rainy, who cleared a considerable portion of the crofter population in order to lay out sheep farms. His son, who succeeded, made an early and interesting experiment on the crofter question. He established himself as a resident proprietor, interested himself in the welfare of the people- who then included 104 crofters, with an average rent of less than £5, and 65 cottars-and provided work for them in fencing, draining, trenching, etc., and at the end of four years found he had been spending over £400 a year more than his rental, while the condition of the people was in no way improved. On his death the estate was sold in 1872 to Mr G. G. M`Kay. The mania for highland sport having sprung up, it was resold, in 1874, to a Mr Armitage for about £60,000, to be partially converted into a deer forest; and again, in 1876, to the present proprietor, Mr E. H. Wood, who keeps more than half the island in his own hands for sporting purposes, the rest being in the hands of crofters, lotters, and cottars. The present proprietor has made a large number of improvements since the property passed into his possession, and the only complaints his tenants had to make before the recent Crofters' Commission was about damage done by game, and bad land-the latter a grievance which, unfortunately, no Act of Parliament can remedy. The mansion-house is pleasantly situated near the shore of Church Bay on the SW; and here is also the Free church of the island, the clachan, and the post office, which is under Portree. The railway steamer calls here on the voyage between Strome Ferry and Portree, both going and coming. The distance from the former place is, in a straight line, 19½ miles, and by the steamer route about 25. The interesting ruin of Brochel Castle on the E coast is separately noticed. Pop. (1841) 647, (1861) 388, (1871) 389, (1881) 478, of whom 241 were males and 237 females.—Ord. Sur., shs. 81, 71, 1882-85.

An accompanying 19th C. Ordnance Survey map is available.

Note: This text has been made available using a process of scanning and optical character recognition. Despite manual checking, some typographical errors may remain. Please remember this description dates from the 1880s; names may have changed, administrative divisions will certainly be different and there are known to be occasional errors of fact in the original text, which we have not corrected because we wish to maintain its integrity. This information is provided subject to our standard disclaimer


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