Skiffs on Loch Shiel for Jacobite Muster

jacobite anstruther

In August 2015 eight St Ayles skiffs gathered at the South End of Loch Shiel, for a shared voyage commemorating the trip made by Bonnie Prince Charlie, who was rowed up the loch to raise his standard at Glenfinnan in August 1745.  The skiffs involved were drawn from North Queensferry, Boatie Blest, Anstruther (2 skiffs), North Edinburgh, Ullapool, Row Porty and Newhaven.  The were accompanied by a Drascombe Lugger crewed by North Berwick rowers, and a RIB kindly supplied and crewed by a potential Mallaig skiff build team.  The following is a personal recollection of the voyage by Figo of the Muirhouse Youth Development Group, who built and crewed North Edinburgh Rowing Club’s skiff “Troika“.  (Troika was built by young people at Muirhouse Youth Development Group in North Edinburgh, with funding from  Creative Scotland, Awards for All and Edinburgh Airport Trust). Photos are by Jon Gerrard of Boatie Blest.

On Friday 14th August, we travelled with our new skiff, Troika from Portobello to Acharacle taking in the beautiful Scottish countryside. It took about 4 hours for us to arrive to our destination . I was really excited because this was my first time rowing the boat so far and also, it was a chance to be with lots of people I hadn’t met before who had made the same boats. We had lots of problems before the trip with minibuses and things happening to people in our group. My friend was taken into hospital the day before.  I was really afraid it would be cancelled. I’d been looking forward to it for a long while.

We arrived safely to Acharacle and put our Troika into the water at Loch Shiel. I felt really tired from being on the road all day. It’s the first time I’ve travelled this far in Scotland and the windy roads had made me a bit dizzy.   Some of our main crew could not make it, so I would really like to thank Robbie from North Berwick and Martine and Louise from Boatie Blest. If they hadn’t agreed to row, we couldn’t have gone.  I liked our crew and we had a lot of fun on the loch.

We rowed about 15 kilometres from Acharacle to Glenallandale in a group with 8 more skiffs.I thought I would have been knackered, but it was really good. I was thinking in the minibus that I just needed to sleep, but when I got on the water, I felt refreshed and awake. All around us was nature and some small islands. I only saw tiny houses and you needed a boat to get there. Being from Libya, the scenery was interesting because I was seeing it for the first time.It was getting dark, so it felt a bit like we were in ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’ where they go sailing at night. We were a tiny boat in a big loch in the dark and in the quiet and it was like a horror film or something. The water was okay and the waves were going in the same direction as us, so when we stopped rowing, the boat still moved.

I coxed for a bit and coxing is good, but it gets boring so it’s good that we all get a rest and also row.I like that in a skiff there’s team work going on, like the oars all in time and checking the crew is okay.

After a while, we heard through our VHF radio that other skiffs had reached land and had set up 3 separate camps and we were to look out for a bonfire on the beach. I thought it would have felt more difficult to row this far.

jacobite campsite

jacobite camp2

We wild- camped on the beach and in a forest. I’d never camped in a place like this before and didn’t want to leave. I sat up at night round a bonfire, talking to the rowers from Row Porty and Newhaven. We talked about everything from people who sleepwalk to my life back home in Libya. I spoke with Chris (Row Porty) in Arabic. That was fantastic! He has the proper Arabic language, with the right accent and grammar.

On the second day, we packed up our tents, had breakfast and then got our costumes on, to be like Jacobites. I wore a hat with a big feather in it and a waistcoat with a belt. I wore my sunglasses as well, but I’m sure Jacobites never wore them. The weather on the second day was a bit funny and it changed every 5 minutes, but for the row to Glenfinnan, the sun came out. We asked the other boats to salute Troika and bring her luck and we used the VHF to practice lining up in different ways. When we were near to Glenfinnan, the other skiffs made 2 lines and held their oars straight up in a salute. We rowed through and they all cheered for Troika. I felt like all  this wasn’t just about a boat that we’d built, but something much bigger and I felt proud of everything we’d done.  I was never worried about the boat because I trusted how we’d built it.  I started thinking about building another skiff one day.



jacobite line2

After this trip, I feel that I want to do another one, maybe an even bigger one.  Everybody on the trip was good to me and always chatted and I’d like to see them again and spend time with them.

This was the best two days of my life and I think I made new friends.

Figo , North Edinburgh ( age 17)



  1. #1 by Elsie Johnstone on 20 August 2015 - 10:43 am

    Aw Figo that is fantastic, well done. you described the trip in great detail and with heartfelt words. We are all proud to have taken part with you, on your on your journey. See you soon I hope on the water in your beautiful Troika. Elsie, Anster Club x

  2. #2 by Max Blinkhorn on 20 August 2015 - 7:16 pm

    Blimey! That’s brilliant! What a trip it was! Regattas are not the only fruit.

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