Ship to Shore


French passengers waiting to return to the cruise ship ‘Club Med 2’  – Portree Harbour, Skye

One surprise this year on my visit to Skye were the cruise ship invasions in Portree.

Three ships, of various sizes, docked near to the small Skye town and delivered an army of tourists that quite literally swamped the shops and streets. One shop assistant i overheard remarked to a customer that some of the bigger ships could land over a thousand people!

The ships would arrive early morning, stay the day and then depart in the evening. The first week i was in Skye i saw three ships arrive – French. German and American. By the second week, there were none – the cruise ship season had come to an end. Just by coming to Skye a week earlier than usual, i’d manage to see yet another aspect to Portree life.

The cruise visits aren’t new though. They are a continuation of the steam ship tourists that started in the 1870’s. The steam ship revolutionised travel in the highlands and islands, opening up areas as far away as St Kilda.

For a £9 fare you got cabin-class comfort and full board for ten days on board the Dunara Castle, a 240 tonne steamship that would take you on ‘a romantic western Isles and St Kilda’ voyage. The first voyage in June 1877 took thirty passengers from Glasgow to St Kilda, via Oban, Dunvegan as well as a few other locations.

Regular steam ship cruises would continue until 1939.

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