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IN THE WAKE OF BOSWELL AND JOHNSONJoin Professor Peter Martin, biographerof both Boswell and Johnson as hebrings their legendary tour through theWestern Isles in 1773 to life. Experiencesome of the islands these two epicadventurers visited almost 240 yearsago visiting Skye, Barra, Coll, Ulva, Ionaand Mull. The seven-night trip is fromTuesday 24 April to Tuesday 1 May andcosts from £3,360 per person,inclusiveof alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks,two gala dinners, excursions andgratuities. For more information or to book call 01756 704704 or visitwww.hebridean.co.ukTRAVEL/TOURS'He said he would go to theHebrides with me, when Ireturned from my travels", the23-year-old Boswell wrote of Johnson in1763. Such was the genesis of one ofthe most famous journeys in literaryhistory. When they finally took the highroad to the islands in 1773, it was toembark on a rugged trek of three months,much of it walking and on horseback, ina remote part of the world, which wasthen something of a wilderness. After they had crossed over to Skye ina skiff from Glenelg, they arrived on thedoorstep of Armadale, the home of SirAlexander MacDonald, the chieftain ofClan Donald. It was the largest clan inScotland, but they found miserly andboorish hospitality. Today, the house islong gone, replaced by the presentcastle and the award-winning Museumof the Isles. The six galleries provide anintroduction to the triumph, bloodshedand trauma that make 1,500 years ofHighlands and Islands history throughthe story of the powerful clan Donaldwho were Lord of the Isles until 1493.Boswell and Johnson rowed in anopen boat to spend several days on thenearby island of Raasay as the guests ofthe MacLeod clan. The travellers madetheir way on horses through difficultlandscape and foul weather to thenorthwest part of the island. Theirdestination was Dunvegan Castle onSkye, the seat of MacLeod of MacLeod,the chief of the Clan MacLeod. Therethey found themselves in the conviviallap of tasteful luxury, a relief from therain and howling wind that had lashedthem from Raasay. The castle is poisedpicturesquely on a rock overlookingLoch Dunvegan and has been thestronghold of the clan chiefs for nearly800 years. Rising sheer from the almostperpendicular edges of the rock, itsmassive grey towers and hoarybattlements are embraced below byenticing wooded gardens originallydesigned in the 18th century, with poolsfed by a cascading waterfall. It wasopened to the public in 1933 and makesa fascinating visit: Dunvegan is wellendowed with family portraits, antiquefurniture, books, trophies, weapons,medals, and sundry relics such as a lockof Bonnie Prince Charlie's hair. A portraitof Dr Johnson even hangs over thefireplace in the drawing room. They had to stay longer than theywished, however, because of theworsening weather. After eight days theyfinally moved on to other MacLeodhomes at Ullinish and Talisker. LikeRaasay and Dunvegan, Talisker was amodel of Highland hospitality. "You findthat all the islanders even in theserecesses of life are not barbarians",Johnson wrote. However, the hospitalitydid not include the single malt whiskyfrom the distillery at Talisker founded in1830, the only distillery on Skye. Johnson's grumpiness about theweather was well founded because afterembarking on a 12-ton vessel bound forthe island of Iona, a violent storm forcedthe seamen to make for the island ofColl, about 12 miles by three with apopulation today of about 200, aboutone-tenth of what it was in 1773. For500 years, it was the home of a branchof the Clan MacLean. It is an exhilaratingdestination for anyone wishing to spenda few hours walking in a totally unspoiled,windswept paradise but trapped thereagain for 10 days, Johnson moaned: "I want to be on the mainland and go onwith my existence." Boswell, however,was keen to persevere.So off they sailed for Tobermory, Mull,in a sloop carrying kelp. From there theycontinued on little Mull horses for arugged ride "over rocks naked andvalleys untracked" to a desolate spot onthe west coast. They planned to reachIona by sailing south along the coast,but first were compelled to ferrythemselves, exhausted, to the smallisland of Ulva for the night. Ulva is hometoday to 600 residents who make theirliving largely from kelp, and BeatrixPotter was a regular visitor. Worth a visitis Sheila's Cottage Museum, a restoredthatched two-room croft house thatserves as Ulva's museum and heritagecentre. Formerly the home of dairy maidSheila MacFadyen, it features arecreation of the living area, including abox bed and dresser, and shows Sheilasitting by a hearth which she used tofeed by pushing a whole tree branchslowly into the fire as it was consumed.The other end of the branch served asan airer for drying her washing.After another night of hospitality onthe even smaller island of Inch Kennethcourtesy of the Clan MacLean, theyonce again attempted to reach Iona, inwww.nadfas.org.ukNADFAS REVIEW / AUTUMN 2011 59We are not endorsing any product in this section. Adverts are published for members'convenience. Normal terms and conditions apply (see page 3). Any travel ad carrying theTour NADFAS logo means a commission payment is made to NADFAS on the product ortrip advertised. Those that continue to support us through advertising only will not use theTour NADFAS name and logo.some sense the religious climax of theirHebridean adventure. Iona Abbey was founded in AD 563by the monk St Columba and was thesite of an important Benedictinemonastery during the early Middle Ages- it became the base for the conversionto Christianity of much of Britain. Itsimportance declined owing to Vikingraids and the establishment of othermonasteries, but rose to prominenceagain in the ninth century. TheReformation finally ended its influentialhistory. One Augustine nunnery can beseen today among 13th-century ruins.There are also many intact buildings,including numerous chapels and theInfirmary Museum. The Abbey graveyardcontains the graves of many earlyScottish Kings, as well as kings fromIreland, Norway, and France. Thesescenes have a special, indefinablefeeling about them, "the venerable seatof ancient piety". The island itself affordsbeautiful walks along its hilly shores. Thus ended our travellers' famousexpedition. Both wrote best-seller booksabout it -Boswell: The Journal of a Tourto the Hebrides(1785) and Johnsonmore promptly his Journey to theWestern Islands of Scotland(1775). Left: Discover a beautifulwilderness on the Isle of Skye

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