End of an era for Skye crofter and his swimming cows

Picture: TSPL
Picture: TSPL
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The last crofter in Scotland to swim his cattle to their winter grazings has sold his cows.

Skye crofter Iain MacDonald reached the end of an era in crofting by selling his beasts after 60-years of cattle rearing.

Mr MacDonald, 85, has moved his heifers across a short sea crossing from Staffin to winter pasture on Stenscholl Island every winter since 1959.

He decided to sell his remaining 20 cows, 13 calves and a bull after a recent knee operation “slowed him down”.

However, the crofter will continue to keep sheep on his land.

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Mr MacDonald said: “I’ve had a knee operation, and I’ve not been a very good patient.

“Old age has caught up with me now, and I’ve had to be on a quad bike most of the time. That’s the last of the cattle, after nearly 60 years. But I’ve got sheep now and will carry on crofting if I can.”

The annual cattle drive to Stenscholl Island would involve Iain and a team of helpers herd the cattle down the beach, before he rowed alongside them for the 150-metre crossing.

Always timed to coincide with low tides, the crossing took place in October and the cows would return to Staffin in January.

Mr MacDonald said he had never lost an animal on the crossing.

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Sadly,the careful crofter, who spent his early years in Glasgow and moved to Staffin in his teens, did not get a great return on market day.

“I’m afraid I didn’t get a very good price for them,” he said.

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