“ Captain Fraser's Folly was built in 1890 „
Uig is a small picturesque village on the north west coast of the Isle of Skye, lying on the west coast of the island's largest peninsula called the Trottenish Peninsula. It is probably best known as the place from where you catch the ferry to the Outer Hebrides. I stayed here for a couple of days towards the end of May 2009 prior to heading off to the Hebrides and quickly discovered that there is plenty to see and do in the area.
As you approach the final bend in the road on the descent down to Uig you cannot fail to miss Captain Fraser's Folly on your left hand side. It is located directly opposite the Uig Hotel and a church, both of which are painted bright white and difficult to miss. The first time I passed this building I was intrigued and unsure exactly what it was. I knew that I needed to check it out, so on my second day in the area I took a stroll up the long steep hill from Uig Bay to have a closer look. For those not approaching on foot there is a small car parking area located close to the folly.
I had found this building marked on a map at the harbour so I knew that it was called Captain Fraser's Folly before I visited it but beyond that I knew nothing else. Where I live in South Yorkshire there are a number of different follies so I knew what a folly was but for those of you that don't I suppose that this word is applied to any building that had no real purpose. Follies were generally erected by wealthy landowners as lookouts but more importantly they were a measure of ones wealth and some follies are very extravagant. There are some magnificent examples of follies throughout Britain but this particular one is rather modest by some standards.
Captain Fraser's Folly is round in shape and designed in the style of a Norman tower. It occupies a prominent location on the hillside overlooking Uig harbour with the Ru Idrigill headland beyond that, it's the sort of view that picture postcards were designed for. I guess many people see this building and assume that it is the remnant of a defensive structure, maybe all that was left of a former castle. They could easily be forgiven, after all the Isle of Skye is full of castles, but the truth is that this is a relatively modern piece of architecture and it has never served a defensive purpose.
Captain Fraser lived in a large house nearby called Uig Lodge, which was destroyed in a storm in 1877. He was a notorious landlord who owned the Kilmuir Estate on the edge of which Uig is built. He was a man that the locals today still despise. They blame him for the Highland clearances in this area that drove their ancestors from his land to the New World. Locally these mass clearances saw the forced emigration of 95% of the population, men, women and children that were packed onto ships and sent to North America, New Zealand and Australia, it was a journey on which so many of them died.
With little else to spend his money on Captain Fraser commissioned the building of the folly on a spot of land which held one of his favourite views. It was erected around 1890 and the only purpose that it served was to be the place where the few remaining local crofters paid their rent. At some point in the early 20th century a local family connected to the Kilmuir Estate moved into the folly and it was modified into a house. This family lived there until the 1950's when it was abandoned.
Today the Uig Hotel owns Captain Fraser's Folly. It stands on a patch of grassland close to the main A87 road from Portree to Uig, about 2 kilometres south of Uig. Unfortunately it isn't open to the public so it isn't actually possible to go inside it but it can be easily viewed from the main road and there is a footpath that leads to a private gate from where you can get a little bit closer.
The folly has long narrow slits in place of windows reminiscent of a castle and there is a large cross that is inscribed onto its outer walls. Above some of the narrow slits there are narrow arches. I imagine that it was quite a dull and dingy place to live in as the lack of any real windows would have meant that very little daylight penetrated the interior and the wonderful view seems to have been wasted. I know if I lived here that I would want a huge window to look out of.
If you find yourself in Uig it's well worth stopping off at Captain Fraser's Folly, if only to admire the view but if you do remember also that to the local people this "tower on the hill" has come to symbolise the local land clearances in the area.