Kyleakin Harbour by M Holmes Pickup
Watercolour on Paper
Isle of Skye
Overall Frame Size 528 mm by 420 mm
Image Size 364 mm by 256 mm
In the early 19th century, Lord Macdonald conceived a grandiose plan for the development of Kyleakin, to be re-christened “New Liverpool”. A contemporary print, intended to illustrate his plans, shows row upon row of tenement buildings but the project never came to fruition.
The castle, an ancient seat of the Mackinnon clan, was a fortress commanding the strait of Kyle Akin between Skye and the mainland, through which all ships had to pass or else attempt the stormy passage of The Minch. The present building dates back to the 15th century, but is traditionally reputed to be of much earlier origin.
According to that tradition, Alpín mac Echdach‘s great-grandson Findanus, the 4th MacKinnon chief, brought Dunakin into the clan around the year 900 by marrying a Norse princess nicknamed ‘Saucy Mary’. Findanus and his bride ran a heavy chain across the sound and levied a toll on all shipping vessels. The Princess lies buried on Beinn na Caillich on Skye, her face reputedly turned towards Norway.
Whatever the veracity of the castle’s traditional history, there is good reason for supposing the existence of a connection of some kind with Norway. King Haakon IV is thought to have assembled his fleet of longships there before the Battle of Largs in 1263 (hence the name Kyleakin – Haakon’s kyle). Haakon’s defeat at Largs effectively ended Norse domination of the Scottish islands. Medieval and early modern documents also refer to the castle itself as Dunakin (Dun-Haakon), which is again strongly suggestive of a Norse connection.