Massacre cave

Skye's connection to an infamous clan massacre way back in the 16th century has again come to the fore.

For more than 50 human bones found at the appropriately named Massacre Cave on Eigg have been identified as being part of the atrocities back in 1577.

It was then that a revenge attack by the MacLeod's of Dunvegan is said to have ended in the killing of virtually the entire Macdonald population on the island.

Last October tourists discovered 53 bones and informed police, who in turn contacted Historic Environment Scotland (HES). Archaeologists have now dated the bones to the time of the infamous massacre of hundreds of islanders.

According to Clanranald tradition, in 1577 a party of MacLeods staying on the island became too amorous and caused trouble with the local girls. They were subsequently rounded up, bound and cast adrift in the Minch but were rescued by some clansmen.

A party of MacLeods subsequently landed on Eigg with revenge in mind. Their approach had been spotted by the islanders who had hidden in a secret cave called the Cave of Frances located on the south coast.

The entrance to this cave was tiny and covered by moss, undergrowth and a small waterfall. After a thorough but fruitless search lasting for three to five days, the MacLeods set sail again but a MacDonald carelessly climbed onto a promontory to watch their departure and was spotted.

The MacLeods returned and were able to follow his footprints back to the cave. They then rerouted the source of the water, piled thatch and roof timbers at the cave entrance and set fire to it at the same time damping the flames so that the cave was filled with smoke thereby asphyxiating everyone inside either by smoke inhalation or heat and oxygen deprivation.

Three hundred and ninety-five people were said to have died in the cave, the whole population of the island bar one old lady who had not sought refuge there.