Beaton's Croft, Kilmuir
Beaton's Croft, Kilmuir

Kilmuir is a village in the northern part of the beautiful Trotternish Peninsula on the Isle of Skye. Kilmuir is the most northerly parish on Skye and is perhaps most famous as the final resting place of the Jacobite heroine Flora MacDonald, who rests in the Kimuir Cemetery.

The name Kilmuir comes from the Gaelic words Cill, meaning a chapel, and Muire, the woman's name Mary. Taken together, Kilmuir translates as 'Mary's Chapel', or 'Mary's Church.'

In 1855 the Kilmuir Estate was purchased by Captain William Fraser, whose efforts to force crofters off the land by doubling their rents led to a rent-strike. Fraser called in the Royal Navy against his own tenants but was eventually forced to back down.

Flora MacDonald's Grave
Flora MacDonald's Grave

Flora MacDonald's Grave

Flora MacDonald is famous for her role in helping Bonnie Prince Charlie escape from his pursuers after the Battle of Culloden in 1746. The prince dressed as MacDonald's maid and took ship from the Western Isles to Skye. After he made good his escape, MacDonald was captured and charged with treason for her role, but was eventually released.

MacDonald married and settled at Flodigarry, then spent several years in America before returning to Skye. She died in 1790 and was buried in a simple grave at Kilmuir Cemetery. Tradition says that she was laid to rest in a shroud made from a bed-sheet used by Bonnie Prince Charlie.

She lies beneath a large Celtic cross designed by Alexander Ross in 1880 with a marble plaque inscribed with her epitaph, written by Dr Samuel Johnson of dictionary fame, that reads, 'Her name will be mentioned in history and if courage and fidelity be virtues, mentioned with honour'.

Angus Mor effigy, Kilmuir Cemetery
Angus Mor effigy, Kilmuir Cemetery

Also buried in Kilmuir Cemetery is Charles MacArthur, the last hereditary piper of the MacDonalds of Duntulm, and the fashion designer Lee Alexander McQueen. Look for the medieval effigy of Angus Martin, known as 'Angus of the Wind' for his determination to sail no matter what the weather.

The MacArthur pipers were said to gather at Peingown, south-east of the cemetery, where they would practice and teach their craft from a small hillock.

A stone's throw from Kilmuir Cemetery is the Skye Museum of Island Life, based around seven traditional thatched crofting cottages. The museum illustrates life on Skye in the 19th century, with traditional tools, household implements, and craft demonstrations. There is a barn, a weaver's cottage, and a ceilidh house, where villages gathered to entertain each other with music, dance, and storytelling.

Cave of Gold
Cave of Gold

Cave of Gold

At Bornesketaig you can see the roofless ruins of a church built in 1810 and once used as a landmark by mariners. If you follow a path along the shore from the end of the road you come to the Cave of Gold, a sea cave formed by basalt columns of rock similar to those that make up the Giant's Causeway across the Irish Sea.

Beaton's Croft

One of the most picturesque cottages in Kilmuir (or in all of Skye for that matter) is Beaton's Croft, also in Bornesketaig. Beaton's Croft is an A-listed traditional crofter's cottage dating to the 19th century but now fully restored to serve as a holiday cottage. The cottage was part of a cluster of four similar cottages, all occupied by the same extended family.

Kilvaxter Souterrain
Kilvaxter Souterrain

Kilvaxter Souterrain

Just south of Kilmuir, on the road to Uig, is an underground passage, or souterrain (from the French word for beneath ground'). This passage dates to the Iron Age and may have been used as a form of cold storage or, less likely, as a place of refuge during an attack.

Roughly 20 souterrains survive on Skye, but none are as easy to access as this; it is just 200m off the road.

Duntulm Castle
Duntulm Castle

Duntulm Castle

North of Kilmuir Cemetery is Duntulm Castle, a picturesque clifftop ruin built in the 14th century by the Macleods. King James V visited Duntulm in 1540 and was said to be impressed by the defences but little of those defences remain today. Duntulm Castle is said to be haunted by the ghost of Hugh MacDonald, who was starved to death in the castle dungeon by his uncle, Donald Gorm.

Blair A'bhuailte

According to the National Record of the Historic Environment, Kilmuir is the site of a battlefield named Blair A'bhuailte. The Gaelic name translates as 'the field of the stricken', a reference to a battle here that saw the last stand of the Norse on Skye.

Details on this tradition are scanty and seem to rest on a single source; a 1923 book called 'Wanderings in the Western Highlands', by MEM Donaldson. The supposed battle site is on the western slope of the Trotternish Ridge near Bioda Buidhe, south of the road between Staffin and Uig.

Loch Sneasdal Circular Walk

Walking Highlands outlines a 5-mile walk from the village hall in Kilmuir to the remote inland loch of Loch Sneasdal. The going can be rough in places and boggy at times, so good waterproof footwear is a must.

Highland cow, Kilmuir
Highland cow, Kilmuir

Getting There

Kilmuir is north of Uig on the A855. The village is strung out along the road, with no real focal point beyond the village hall, just north of Kilvaxter. The village hall began as a tweed and basket factory but is now used by the scattered community of Kilmuir for public gatherings, classes, lectures, and dances.

Beware! Some road atlases don't show Kilmuir as a distinct village. On our first visit, years ago, we wondered if we were in the right place, but trust us, it does exist and there is plenty to explore in the area!

Most photos are available for licensing, please contact Britain Express image library.

About Kilmuir, Skye
Address: A855, Kilmuir, Isle of Skye, Highlands and Islands, Scotland
Attraction Type: Village
Location: On the A855 north of Kilvaxter
Location map
OS: NG387705
Photo Credit: David Ross and Britain Express


NEARBY HISTORIC ATTRACTIONS

Heritage Rated from 1- 5 (low to exceptional) on historic interest

Kilvaxter Souterrain - 0.6 miles (Prehistoric Site) Heritage Rating

Skye Museum of Island Life - 0.9 miles (Museum) Heritage Rating

Flora MacDonald's Grave & Kilmuir Cemetery - 1.1 miles (Historic Church) Heritage Rating

Cave of Gold (Uamh Oir) - 1.3 miles (Countryside) Heritage Rating

Duntulm Castle - 2.7 miles (Castle) Heritage Rating

Rha Waterfall - 3.9 miles (Countryside) Heritage Rating

The Quiraing - 4.1 miles (Countryside) Heritage Rating

Captain Fraser's Folly - 4.5 miles (Historic Building) Heritage Rating



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