For the past few winters our family has spent several weeks on the Isle of Skye. During our stay we always take several trips across to the beautiful Isle of Rassay. Raasay is a very special place and well worth a visit if you have the opportunity.
Raasay is a small island situated between the north west of Scotland and the Isle of Skye. It is only accessible by ferry, which, for me, adds to its appeal. If you live in the south and dont fancy a long drive then it is possible to fly to Inverness, hire a car and drive the 3 hours to the ferry terminal at Sconser on Skye.
Alternatively there are trains from Glasgow to the Kyle of Lochalsh, where a bus continues on to the Isle of Skye.
The ferry terminal for the Isle of Raasay is in the tiny hamlet of Sconser. There is a public toilet at the terminal but no other facilities. An electronic board gives the full timetable. There is no need to book, simply turn up and wait!
Caledonian MacBrayne who have the monopoly in this part of the world operates the ferry. During the summer season (25th march-22nd October) there are ferries every hour. Summer fares are £18.30 return for a car and £4.60 per adult passenger.
During the winter season there are slightly fewer sailings and fares are a few pounds cheaper. If you have a disability and take proof, then you can get a concession for your car. This is not advertised so remember to ask! During the busy summer months I advise you to turn up early, as there is limited space on the small ferry. Make sure you take note of the time of the last return ferry back to Skye, as there is very limited accommodation on Raasay! The ferry takes 15 minutes from Sconser to Raasay; during the trip you can either stay in your car or go on deck.
Raasay is tiny, just 60 sq miles in total, 14 miles long and 4 miles wide. Most of its 200 or so inhabitants live in the village of Inverarish close to the ferry port. Inverarish has a shop and post office but little else. The shop is fairly well stocked but as everything has to be bought over from Skye, its expensive. I would advise you to bring a picnic if you are coming for the day. It is important to note that there is no petrol on Raasay, so fill up before you come!
Raasay is very different to Skye. Where Skye is mountainous, Raasay is flat. Apart from the tiny settlement of Inverarish, there are few houses. The island consists of heather covered moors and rich woodland.
There are few roads on Raasay and when we have visited during the winter we have virtually had the place to ourselves. If you come for the day I would advise you initially take the road to the north of the island. This is a very scenic trip and will give you stunning views of the Cuillin Mountains back on Skye.
It is worth a stop to look at the ruined Brochel castle just before you get to Arnish. The castle was once the home of a 16th century pirate. It is a very atmospheric place and my children are fascinated! Unfortunately the castle is in a very dangerous state and it is not advisable to climb down to get a closer look. I really hope it will not be allowed to decay any further.
From Brochel the road narrows down to a single track. The monument you will see at the side of the road is to Calum McLeod who built the last 10 miles of road to Arnish himself. He got tired of waiting for the local council!
From Arnish you will have to retrace your steps, as there is no circular road.
In the south of the island there is a deserted Iron ore mine, which was once worked by German prisoners of war during World War 1.It is possible to park here and walk in the adjoining woodland. There is also a walk to Dun Caan an extinct volcano and the highest point on Raasay.
Other attractions and highlights.
Raasay has an abundance of wildlife including numerous species of birds, roe and red deer, otters and a unique type of vole. It is possible to see basking sharks, whales and dolphins too. We have seen several pairs of golden eagles and an otter during our visits to the island in addition to herds of deer.
There are many beautiful and interesting walks on Raasay. I would suggest you visit the tourist information office in Broadford on Skye before you arrive to get a detailed map.
My favourite walk is to the deserted clearance village of Hallaig in the south east of the island. There is room to leave a car at the start of this walk. It is a 6-miles to the ruined village .The walk is initially along a well-defined grass track. There are stunning views across to the mainland. We once spotted several dolphins from here. The walk passes a monument to the poet Sorley MacLean and a moving tribute to the people who were forcibly evicted from their homes to make the ground available for sheep. This is a great spot for a picnic. There is a waterfall that cascades into the sea.
The path becomes a lot more difficult from the monument so you will need to ensure you keep your children under close supervision. We have only ever encountered sheep on this walk.
There are several pebble beaches where access is possible on the island. I think one of the best is at the southern end of the island at Eyre point.
Raasay has a good outdoor centre a few minutes walk from the ferry port at Raasay house. The centre runs course on outdoor pursuits .If you would like more information of whats available and prices then give them a ring on 01478-660266.
The Raasay island hotel, again situated close to the ferry port has rooms to let from £33 per night or £63 for a double with reductions for children. There is a non-residents bar where you can get an evening meal or a bar snack. I have never stayed there but can say it is situated in a beautiful position. The phone number is 01478-660-222.
There are a few self-catering options on the island again situated in Inveraish. Information from the tourist information office in Broadford, Skye.
If you are looking for somewhere less costly then there is hostel situated to the north of Inveraish. The hostel is in a beautiful spot and can be contacted on 0870-004-146.
A bed here will cost you around £11 for an adult and £8.75 for a child.
Raasay is a great place to cycle too and bikes can be taken across on the ferry.
If the weather is awful then you may be limited to seeing the island from your car unless you dont mind getting wet! There are no indoor attractions on Raasay, although the outdoor centre has ceilidhs (gathering of locals and visitors to perform a piece of entertainment) and concerts. Information about these is usually displayed on the notice board at the local shop.
I love Raasay and am looking forward to visiting again very son!