As they travel from Sconser to Kingsburgh, via Portree, today, Phil and Sheena will be following in the footsteps, not only of Johnson and Boswell, but also of royalty or, more specifically, King James V of Scotland, father of Mary, Queen of Scots. King James V visited Skye long before Johnson arrived but definitely left his mark on the places he visited. As Phil and Sheena pass through Portree, or Port Re, as it was called in Johnson’s time, they might not realise that the town was renamed after King James’s visit in 1540, in an attempt to assert his regal authority over the chieftains of Skye. Previously Kiltragleann (The Church at the Foot of the Glen), the town’s new name literally translates as “King’s port.”
Cycling a further 40 miles north, Phil and Sheena will then arrive at Kingsburgh, the place in which King James lodged during his visit to Skye. Whilst Johnson didn’t run into any royals in Kingsburgh, he and Boswell were entertained by Flora Macdonald, “a name that will be mentioned in history, and if courage and fidelity be virtues, mentioned with honour.” Flora, famous for assisting Bonnie Prince Charlie in his escape after the defeat of the Jacobite Uprising of 1745, was one of the most celebrated personages Johnson encountered on his Scottish tour. This picture, painted by William Stewart Watson in the 19th century depicts their meeting.
Maybe Phil and Sheena will meet someone just as interesting on their Highland trip!