A dozen or so things you never knew about the Inner Hebrides

The second in our series of 'I never knew that about the beauty spots of Britain'

Britain is the most beautiful country in the world when the sun shines. And even when it doesn’t there are myriad tales and facts galore to enhance the beauty, whatever the weather. Here are some of them – they may make you want to go there….

A dozen or so things you never knew about…

The Inner Hebrides

  • Largest and most northerly island of the Inner Hebrides, Skye is considered by some (myself included) to be the most beautiful island in the world. The distinctive jagged peaks of the majestic Cuillin, the island’s highest mountains, provide the most challenging mountaineering terrain in Britain, attracting professional climbers from all over the world. The second highest peak, 3235 feet (986m) high, is known as the Inaccessible Pinnacle and is the only mountain peak in Britain that requires rock climbing to reach, making it the most difficult Munro (Scottish mountain over 3000 feet high) to ‘bag’.


  • Bonnie Prince Charlie’s Cave in the hills above Portree on Skye is one of the places where the Young Pretender was alleged to have hidden in July 1746 when on the run after the Battle of Culloden. He was spirited off the island by John MacKinnon, chief of the Clan MacKinnon, and as a thank you Bonnie Prince Charlie gave Mackinnon the secret recipe to his own liqueur, which the family guarded jealously down the years. In 1873 the secret was passed to John Ross, proprietor of the Broadford Hotel on Skye, and he began to serve it for his customers, one of whom commented that it was ‘an dram buidheach’, ‘the drink that satisfies’. This was shortened to Drambuie and the name stuck.

Dunvegan Castle

  • Dunvegan Castle, on the northwest coast of Skye and seat of the Macleod of Macleod, chief of Clan Macleod, dates back to the 13th century and is the oldest castle in Scotland to have been lived in by the same family since it was built some 800 years ago.


  • Big Brother was born on the spellbindingly beautiful island of Jura. In 1947 George Orwell came to Jura to get some peace while he worked on his new book and was loaned a lonely cottage called Barnhill on the northern tip of the island that could only be reached by a 7 mile walk. He lived there with his son and nanny until the book was finished. Barnhill today remains almost as Orwell left it 70 years ago and – upstairs in the main bedroom is the same battered typewriter on which he wrote 1984 – spine-tingling….


  • Orwell and his son were almost drowned when they tried to row across the fearsome Corryvrekan off the north tip of Jura. It is the second largest whirlpool in the world and the most dangerous stretch of water in the British Isles.


  • Calgary, a tiny fishing village fringing silver sands on the northwest tip of Mull gives its name to the home of the world’s largest rodeo, the Calgary Stampede in Alberta, Canada. James Macleod of the Macleods of Skye emigrated to Canada in 1845 and in 1876 became Commissioner of the Royal Mounted Police, or Mounties. In that same year the Mounties established a fort at the confluence of the Bow and Elbow rivers and the new Commissioner named it Fort Calgary after the tiny Hebridean village where he had enjoyed many a happy holiday as a boy.


  • Scotland’s holiest island, Iona, off the south west tip of Mull, is the location of Scotland’s oldest Christian graveyard, burial place of more than 60 Scottish kings, including Macbeth and Duncan, and one Labour Party leader, John Smith.

Fingal’s Cave

  • Fingal’s Cave, also off the coast of Mull on the island of Staffa, was the subject of a famous painting by Turner. The surging of the waves against the basalt columns inside the cave make a haunting musical sound that provided the inspiration for Mendelssohn’s Hebrides Overture.   

See part one – Outer Hebrides 

Find out more about Christopher Winn’s ‘I Never Knew That’ here

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Christopher Winn has been a freelance writer and collector of trivia for over 20 years and is the author of the million-selling I Never Knew That books which cover Great Britain and Ireland and New York. He has written for the Daily Telegraph, the Daily Express, the Guardian and the Spectator and has also worked for television with, amongst others, Terry Wogan and Joanna Lumley. He is married to artist Mai Osawa, who illustrates all his books.

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