For those who don’t know, Raasay is a small island, just off the Isle of Skye, and Skye is an island off the west coast of Scotland. It offers stunning scenery, as well as a range of organised outdoor activities. Reaching Raasay perhaps sounds complicated, but getting there is relatively straightforward. Simply drive to Skye (no ferry required), then catch a 25 minute ferry to Raasay. But what does Raasay offer? Here are the highs and the lows.
The small Caledonian Macbrayne ferry departs regularly from Sconser on Skye for the main village on Raasay. A short but beautiful crossing, costing only a few quid for foot passengers (kids under 5 were free), it’s also possible to take the car. (Check the timetable and prices here.) Waiting for the ferry on a wee beach on Skye was a pleasure (although admittedly this is weather permitting).
When the ferry docked at Raasay we meandered off the ramp, carrying our few belongings and toys, following the road uphill to see where it took us. We instantly relaxed – the views are breathtaking and, thankfully, the sun was shining.
As the ferry arrives the outline of Raasay House comes into view. It’s metres from the harbour. Once the country house of the Macleod clan, this hotel offers budget group/dorm style accommodation, right up to luxurious suites and family rooms.
It has a bar, a restaurant and a bistro so it’s the main venue to eat and drink on the island. But the main attractions of Raasay House are the endless activities and sports available. Options include kayaking, coasteering, sailing, archery, climbing, abseiling, boat trips, bus tours and bike hire. We had a session of Canadian canoeing on a small loch, and it was blissful. The instructor was great with kids, took them to an island to ‘hunt for treasure’, and brought a bag of inflatable ducks to pursue across the water. Bike hire also enables guests to explore the island further. For accommodation click here, for activities find out more here.
Whilst not aimed at children (there are no family rooms) this new distillery provides stunning modern accommodation that may work if you’re travelling with one child or a baby in a travel cot. Distillery tours take an hour, and they’re an option for anyone aged eight and over. As well as talking about whisky, the guide explains the history of the island. The hotel is located in the converted Factor’s House (again, a few minutes walk from the harbour). Whilst I undertook the distillery tour Mr Husband took the kids for a short walk nearby.
Grab the Walking Boots
There are multiple walking trails and hikes available all over the island. As our tots are only wee, we undertook a tiny walk in the central village called Temptation Hill, but the more adventurous could attempt Dun Caan (the highest hill on Raasay) or hike to Inver (the favoured picnic site on Raasay of the Royal Family) or Hallaig (the largest settlement on Raasay before the Highland Clearances). The tidal island of Fladda is another challenge, reach it and return when the tide is out!
Brochel Castle & Calum’s Road
If you have a car or bike seek out the ruins of Brochel Castle, once a MacLeod stronghold. The famous road is a bit of a curiousity, built by one man, Calum MacLeod of Arnish, over a decade from 1964-74. He was single-handedly trying to prevent the depopulation of the township of Arnish by connecting it to the rest of the island. The story has inspired songs and books, and it’s a pretty unique aspect of the island’s history.
Usually I provide a list of activities in a town or region, but part of Raasay’s appeal is that you just chill out, eat, drink, talk and explore. Don’t rush taking in the views. Obviously the weather plays a huge factor in such an outdoor playground as Raasay, but if it rains then grab a coffee, read the paper, let the kids draw or play with whatever toys they have. Just be.
If you wish to see Raasay without an overnight, and fancy some excellent local seafood thrown into the mix, then set sail from Portree aboard the Seaflower. This catamaran is so smooth on the water, and sails round to Brochel Castle where the boat drops anchor and the crew dish up a platter of locally caught lobster and langoustines, bowls of cullen skink, accompanied by generous glasses of white wine. We spotted porpoises and sea eagles, took in Raasay from a different perspective, and ate exceptionally well. The kids enjoyed the food, the adventure and the ride. Click here to read about the tours available.
A general store is essential for supplies and basics (closed on Sundays so do bear this in mind for food necessities). The island also has an art gallery and a lovely silversmith and gift shop called The Silver Grasshopper.
We drove directly from Aberdeen to Skye and caught the 3pm ferry to Raasay. Scots2Travel spent one night at Raasay Distillery, then one night at Raasay House. We didn’t take the car so spent most of our time around Raasay’s main village. Next we returned to Skye, spending one night at Sligachan Hotel and exploring the island’s Fairy Pools – more info on this to come.