Scotland is full of magnificent scenery, but the dramatic landscapes of the Isle of Skye (the largest and most northerly island in the Inner Hebrides) are in a class by themselves. In this wonderfully photographed DVD, Cameron McNeish takes us on a 70-mile hike, from Rubha Hunish Point in the north to Broadford in the south. Along the way, we explore the Trotternish Ridge, a 22 miles long landslipped ridge, and the Cuillins, a range of rocky mountains offering views of "the most astonishing landscape in Britain." In the region of the Trotternish, we see some "wild and wonderful" rock formations, including the Needle, the Table, and the Prison, whose names give some idea of their shapes. The landscape itself is reminiscent in some places of Monument Valley in Utah (only greener) as seen in the westerns of John Ford, in other places of the New Zealand regions where "Lord of the Rings" was filmed. At one point, McNeish remarks that he "half expected to see orcs, or hobbits, or dwarves."
As usual in his videos, McNeish concerns himself not only with scenic beauty, but a with the people who populate the land, their history and lore. He notes that on walks like this, one finds "echoes of the past around every corner." Karen Hardy, an archaologist, conducts him through an underground chamber where ancient residents lived. He talks to poet Meg Bateman, who has worked to preserve the Gaelic language once spoken among the original residents of Skye. (She reads some lines--in Gaelic--from poet Sorley MacLean's 1952 poem "Hallaig," about a town in the Hebridean island of Raasay that was cleared of residents by landowners). He meets an old friend and former fellow-Glasgow copper Lorne Nicolson, who tells him about the Battle of the Braes, an ultimately successful 1882 insurrection of crofters. He enjoys a sumptuous meal at the Flodigarry Hotel, a simpler outdoor lunch at the picturesque seaside town of Portree, and he stops at the Sligachen Hotel, the "cradle of Scottish mountaineering," to examine their exhibits. McNeish arrives at the Sligachen on the day that a coalition of preservationists and local power company representatives have joined in common purpose to cut down a group of telephone poles that long obstructed views of the stunning mountain landscapes. And just before the walk ends McNeish travels through an eerie group of long-deserted villages.
In a bonus feature, McNeish presents some additional views of the island and discusses another walking route devised by him and a friend that takes in both the Trotternish range and the Cuillins.
Though the program itself is wonderful, the DVD must be downgraded a notch because of one annoying--and unaccountable--aspect: it lacks a chapter menu and chapter stops. This is also the case with McNeish's other Scottish Walks offered by Mountain Media--"The Hebridean Trail," "The West Highland Way, "Scotland Coast to Coast," and "Sutherland-The Empty Lands." ("Wild Walks," on the other hand, does have a chapter menu.) You can't get from one section of the program to another by selecting a chapter on the root menu or even by hitting the "skip" button (skip gets you to the next program); you have to scan either on fast forward or fast reverse. What were they thinking?
Larry B | Ventura, California | October 2018