Kilmuir Cemetery - Atlas Obscura

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Kilmuir Cemetery

An unpaid bill, a stolen stone, and a famous fashion designer rest peacefully alongside a heroine of Highlands history.  

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Most visitors to the Kilmuir Cemetery are there for Flora MacDonald, and the Celtic cross on her memorial fittingly dominates the view. Dubbed the “Heroine of the Highlands,” she was responsible for assisting Bonnie Prince Charles in his escape from Scotland after the second Jacobite uprising failed. But dig deeper and you’ll find several other surprising stories resting within this cemetery. 

Behind the ruins of a chapel in the old section of the cemetery lies a knight with a sword and helmet. The carving decorates the grave of Angus Martin, called Aonghas na Geoithe (Angus of the Wind), on account of his penchant for going to sea regardless of the weather. A tomb slab of this style is unusual for this area and more likely to be found on the islands of Iona or Islay. According to local legend, Angus stole it from the grave of an early Scottish king on Iona and brought it to Kilmuir for his own use, although historians believe that is unlikely, as a stone from that age would be worn down to nearly nothing. 

At least Angus got a completed memorial. In another part of the old section lies the grave of Charles MacArthur, whose gravestone reads “Here lie the remains of Charles MacArthur, whose reputation as an honest man and remarkable piper will outlive this generation, for his manners were light and neat as his music and his fingers will”. Below that, the remainder of the stone lies blank. 

The MacArthurs were traditionally bagpipers for the MacDonalds of Skye, and Charles was the last of the hereditary pipers. According to legend, when Charles passed away, his son commissioned a stonemason to carve his memorial, as was customary at that time. But shortly after, the son drowned in the waters off the coast of Skye. The stonemason, who assumed he’d never be paid for completing the job, stopped work and the inscription remains unfinished to this day. 

In the newer section of the cemetery sits a memorial to another life cut short. Fashion designer Alexander McQueen was born and raised in London, but he had a strong connection to his father’s home in Skye and included nods to his Scottish heritage in much of his work. Upon his tragic death at age 40, his ashes were scattered in Kilmuir and a stone was carved by sculptor Andrew Tansor. 

With its panoramic view across the waters off of Skye, a wander through Kilmuir Cemetery can feel like walking along the edge of the world. Its tranquil beauty is worth enjoying, whether it’s a short visit or an eternal rest.

Know Before You Go

Park at the Skye Museum of Island Life and walk up the gravel path to the cemetery. 

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