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Guide to the Highlands and Islands of Scotland
Section VIII. The Western Isles and Cantyre
E. Broadford to Brochel Castle, in Rasay

Island of Rasay, 1.—Brochel Castle; Tradition respecting, 2.—Dr. Johnson's Remarks on Rasay, 3.

1. THE ruins of Brochel Castle, almost the only object in Rasay (excepting the fossil contents of its rocks) deserving of particular notice, form a scene that may serve as the object of a day's excursion from Broadford. They are situated on the north-east point of the island of Rasay ; and, as the distance is fifteen or sixteen miles, it is prudent to take a four-oared boat. On leaving Broadford, we pass a large house by the water-side, belonging to Mr. Mackinnon of Corrychatachan. Our course lies between Scalpa, which possesses no features of any interest, and a low, flat island, called Pabba. Crossing thence to Rasay, we continue to coast along its eastern side, which consists of a range of lofty and perpendicular cliffs, surmounted with patches of cultivated ground. The base of the cliffs is in some places strewed with large fragments of rock, and, looking upwards, we discover that the finger of Time has been marking out other large portions for similar destruction. The gradual advances, and final triumph of decay, lend additional interest to the high and mural precipices, and afford numerous interesting studies of rock scenery.

2. Brochel Castle stands in a little bay, where the cliffs have sunk to a moderate height ; and the site judiciously chosen for it is a conglomerate rock, the upper portion of which is isolated, and detached from the surrounding strata. This rock consists of two ledges; on the lower of which, rising from the very edge, is a small building of two low storeys, having a narrow court within it; on the top of the rock has been perched another diminutive building of two storeys, with but one apartment in each, surmounted by battlements and a warder's room. Two triangular and loop-holed recesses adjoining occupy all the remaining space. The castle is quite inaccessible, save by the single approach which has been cut on the side next the sea; and even here the ascent is so steep, as to require the aid of one's hands in climbing it: the entrance is by a steep, narrow, and roofed passage, between the lower building and the rock; and, altogether, it is difficult to imagine a situation more happily adapted for security and defence, in an age when the great engines of modern warfare were unknown.

The following tradition, regarding the building of the castle, is taken from the narrative of an old man, an inhabitant of an adjoining hut. John More M'Gillicallum (a cadet of the family of Macleod in the Lewis, commonly called Shiel Torquill) was hunting in the hills of Glamack, near Sconser, in Skye, accompanied by a henchman, who, from his great size and strength, was distinguished by the name of Gillie-More. Their two dogs, while in pursuit of a deer, had got a considerable way a-head, and out of sight. They were observed from a galley, which was lying at anchor near the shore, by her commander, young Kreshinish, who, seeing the dogs overtake their prey, went ashore, and had them and the deer conveyed on board. Gillicallum coming up, demanded restitution of his dogs:. Kreshinish refused compliance, and a scuffle ensued, which was speedily ended by the latter receiving a death-blow from the powerful arm of the Gillie-More. Some time thereafter the elder Kreshinish came to Skye to seek for the murderer of his son; and, being at Dunvegan, in company with 'Macleod of Dunvegan, M'Donald of the Isles, and John More M'Gillicallum, he, after dinner, produced a bag of silver, which he said he would give to the man who would discover the name of the murderer. The Gillie-More composedly walked into the hall, acknowledged himself author of the deed, but desired to be allowed to explain the circumstances of it. Ile then narrated the seizure of the dogs, and how young Kreshinish brought his death upon himself by the uncourteous and unjustifiable detention of them. Seeing no reason to doubt the truth of the story, Kreshinish expressed himself perfectly satisfied ; but now the stalwart islesman claimed the promised reward, which the sorrowing father unhesitatingly gave him. The Gillie-More, determined to make a good use of his treasure, offered to give it to his master, John More M`GilIicaIIum, on condition that he would expend it in building a stronghold; to which the latter cheerfully agreeing, they settled in Rasay, says the tradition, and built the Castle of Brochel.

3. Of the Island of Rasay, Dr. Johnson said with truth, "that it has little that can detain a traveller, except the Laird and his family; but their power wants no auxiliaries. Such a seat of hospitality, amidst the winds and waters, fills the imagination with a delightful contrariety of images. Without is the rough ocean and the rocky land, the beating billows and the howling storm; within is plenty and elegance, beauty and gaiety, the song and the dance. In Rasay, if I could have found an Ulysses, I had fancied a Pheeacia."

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