I finally made it to Isle Maree. My wife and I stayed for a few days in Gairloch, and on one of them we made our way to the Loch Maree Hotel, where I'd made arrangements to go to the island. As I arrived the owner of the hotel, Raymond Gault, was just bringing some campers back from one of the other islands. They were a sorry-looking lot. They'd planned to spend two nights, but forgot their midge-repellent. The bugs are fierce right now, and after one miserable night on the island they'd called for rescue.
As I walked towards the centre of the island the first thing I saw was the coin tree; an oak tree (long dead) impaled with hundreds of coins, many tarnished a dark blue green. The holy well of St Maelrubha was on this spot, and the coin offerings date to when pilgims came to the island to seek a cure for insanity. There is some thought St Maelrubha had a cell here, and crowning the island is a circular enclosure containing many old grave stones. See this RCAHMS link for an extensive description of the island. St Maelrubha probably came here in the 7th century to Christianize it, as it may have been an important site of pagan worship (including the sacrificing of bulls).
Queen Victoria visited Islee Maree in 1877, and put a sovereign (gold pound-coin) in the tree. As the story goes, the boatman returned the next day to get it. My visit to the island was on a small, open fishing boat. The owner of the Loch Maree hotel is fixing up a tour-boat (The Isle Maree - second photo) to do regular trips to the islands later this summer, and hopes to set up a web-site where you can book on-line. As for now, you need to call the hotel to make arrangements.
Next stop - Handa Island.
|Future Tour Boat|