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The Skye Festival/Fèis an Eilein: High times on the Highlands!

Published by Earle Zamborano

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Southern Skye offers the best in Celtic traditions through a variety of venues: artistic, culinary and historical. Gaelic glee is open to all the last two weeks in July.

When the gods of creativity gather Scotland’s stunning isle of Skye is consistently a preferred meeting place.

This, the northernmost and largest of the Inner Hebrides, seems to have an overabundance of writers, musicians, painters and other artisans emanating from it – either by birth or choice.

Now that the sun hangs long in a summer sky – festivals, of every kind, are as common as haggis, neeps and tatties on a Scottish menu.

One, though, cuts through the mist and ranks high as a favorite for locals and tourists alike. The Skye Festival (or Fèis an Eilein) now celebrating its 16th year.

From July 13 – 27 a gala of Gaelic traditional music, theater, dance, film, and comedy acts – also an exercise class or two – resound with the best of Highland culture. Even if your ancestral blood is devoid of Celtic corpuscles – your soul will find a nurturing spirit here. And your travel budget receives a reprieve from the brutal exchange rate. Most events, including concerts, range from 18.00 – 24.00 USD.

What is your interest? Surely the event’s volunteer organizational group SEALL has the talent already booked.

Begin the days with botany walks, tai chi or sculptural artists jaunts. Tasting of Gaelic foods are presented almost daily as are workshops for children and adults. Among the more popular – the Ceilidh Dance Steps on July 18th and the Waulking Songs (Orain Luaidh) the following afternoon. A ceilidh is a gathering where traditional music and dancing occurs, while waulking songs were sung, primarily by women, as newly woven cloth was softened through rthymic beating.

Workshops are geared for the inexperienced, and some require pre registration. Others are first come/first served. For more details see the festival’s website.

The Fèis (you will be speaking Gaelic before heading home) utilizes Sabhal Mòr Ostaig, Scotland’s Gaelic College, near Armadale in south Skye, as its base. Located less than 250 miles from either Edinburgh or Glasgow, and a mere 100 miles from Inverness – travel by car, train, ferry or bus is a snap. One word of advice – public transportation can become scarce in the evening – so renting a car will provide you with easy access to all events.

The new Aos Dana Book Festival joins the lineup this year.

In a land where storytelling is a cherished art four days, beginning on July 13th, allow some of the country’s most celebrated authors to spin their tales of cultural challenges, utter lively prose or occasionally accompany anecdotes with song. Located less than two miles from Sabhal Mòr Ostaig, Armadale Castle, ancestoral home to Clan Donald, features the daily Aos Dana events.

Renowned for the 40 acre lavish garden, a mere five pounds will gain you daytime entrance to the grounds, nature trails and a museum. Enter for a nighttime event , and admittance to the garden is included with the ticket price. Catch a glimpse of Armadale’s reputed lady ghost and the sighting is free.

Music is the mainstay here nightly, and it is not all wailing bagpipes either! Gambian born Seikou Susso offers the mastery of kora playing while the multi instrumental Harem Scarem, the quirky accordian playing of Box Club and the original sounds of the Injuns – recently voted one of Scotland’s top 5 bands – are just some of the scheduled acts.

2007 has been heralded “Scotland’s Year of Highland Culture”.

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