Season launch a great success

Posted on: 26th March 2018

On Thursday 22 March over 40 businesses from across Skye gathered in Armadale Castle to hear about plans for the 2018 season. Guests enjoyed refreshments from the new café, Gasta at Armadale Castle, while hearing about new initiatives and future plans. Below is the text of the press release issued at the event.

Press release: Armadale Castle, Gardens & Museum announces exciting new programme for 2018

  • Exhibition to explore impact of World War I in Skye
  • Work by Sleat Primary School pupils to tour Highland Museums
  • Musical programme includes Gaelic supergroup Dàimh

New exhibitions, musical events and family activities will all feature in a busy programme at Armadale Castle, Gardens & Museum this year. The programme will be enriched through collaborations with Bun-sgoil Shleite (Sleat Primary School), High Life Highland and SEALL. The programme and future development plans will be revealed today at a preview event attended by tourism businesses from across Skye.

‘Coming Home’ programme featuring work by Sleat pupils

‘Coming Home: World War I in the Highlands’ is the theme for the temporary exhibitions gallery in Armadale’s Museum of the Isles this year.  The programme is a collaboration with High Life Highland, who operate venues such as Inverness Museum & Art Gallery.

Museum staff worked with Bun-sgoil Shleite pupils and professional animator Henry Cruickshank to develop three short animated films about Skye and WWI and the effects it had on the community. After a day researching at the Museum, the children were inspired to create three stories: ‘The unlikely friends’ (focusing on Raasay iron mines and prisoners of war); ‘Donald’s After War Experience’ (focusing on a local man who left the island for work); and ‘The Dad that never came home’ (focusing on the sinking of the Iolaire). Drawn, written and narrated by the pupils in Gaelic with English subtitles, the films will be shown in the Museum of the Isles from 26 March and will also go on tour to museums across the Highlands as part of the High Life Highland travelling exhibition.

Accompanying the animations at the Museum of the Isles is an exhibition produced by Skye and Lochalsh Archive Centre, High Life Highland: ‘An Cogadh Mòr: Remembering the Great War in Skye and Lochalsh’.

Mairi Macdonald, class teacher at Bun-sgoil Shleite said: ‘This project has been a fantastic opportunity for the pupils. The trip to the Museum helped bring alive the stories from 100 years ago, while working with the animator really inspired the children’s creativity. We are immensely proud that their animations will be on show not only at the Museum of the Isles but also tours around the Highlands.’

In September, the exhibition will be further enhanced by a travelling exhibition curated by High Life Highland. ‘Coming Home: WW1 in the Highlands’ commemorates the end of the First World War in the Highlands through poignant individual experiences. These stories are explored through the documents, objects and photographs held in museums, libraries and archives across the Highlands.

Music and family programme

A vibrant programme of musical events will take place in the new café, Gasta at Armadale Castle. In partnership with SEALL (Skye Events for All), Gaelic ‘supergroup’ Dàimh will perform on Saturday 26 May. Taking their name from the Gaelic word for ‘kinship’, Daimh (pronounced Dive) have taken their contemporary take of Highland and Gaelic music to over 20 countries over the past two decades, setting audiences alight from Moscow to San Francisco. This intimate gig is bound to sell out early so people are advised to book early to avoid disappointment. Tickets are available through SEALL.

In June there is a treat for lovers of traditional music. On Friday 15 June Armadale hosts the annual Donald MacDonald Quaich Piobaireachd Competition. Five pipers from across Scotland will perform in the annual competition named in honour of the revered 19th century piping pioneer. The following day sees a recital by finalists from the Princess Margaret of the Isles Clarsach (Scottish Harp) Competition. Performances will include traditional and contemporary music, and will be judged by a panel of experts.

Indeed traditional music is on the menu throughout the season as local musicians, including students from Sabhal Mòr Ostaig, will be performing regular live sessions in the Gasta café-bar. Check the Gasta at Armadale Castle Facebook page for event updates.

Family activities also feature highly on the programme for the Castle, Gardens and Museum. These include an Easter Treasure Hunt; regular family fun sessions in the Museum; and a programme of special family activities over the Spring Bank Holiday weekend.

Gasta at Armadale Castle

The new café-bar got off to a swinging start last Friday, 16 March with a lively crowd testing out the new dance floor to the sounds of a local ceilidh band. From 26 March the café-bar will offer three distinct types of eating and drinking experience. During the daytime, 7 days a week, the team will bring the hugely popular Deli Gasta menu to Armadale, with delicious coffee, cakes and light lunches including family-friendly options. On Thursday, Friday and Saturday evenings, new chef Clément Torosani (formerly of the Waterside fish restaurant in Kyle) will be preparing delicious evening meals using local specialities, and later on in the evening the bar will get going with live traditional music.

Future plans

Ambitious plans for the venue’s future development are also revealed today. Starting mid-April, a newly appointed Garden Project Manager will help develop new initiatives in the Historic Environment Scotland Designated Landscape.  Details will be revealed on the Armadale Castle website and Facebook soon.

The team has also been working on new plans for the museum. Consultants RAA, the team behind a host of prestigious projects such as the recent revamp of the National Museum of Scotland, have been working with museum staff over the winter to review the offer and develop proposals for future development. Local residents, volunteers and partner organisations have all been involved in contributing ideas.  Building on these contributions, new plans will be drafted over the coming season to take the museum and visitor experience to the next level.

In addition, a feasibility study is currently being prepared for a joint venture with a specialist in historic property tourism. While in its early stages, the scheme has the potential to enable Clan Donald Lands Trust to significantly increase investment in the castle and gardens, and to undertake restoration of historic listed buildings on the estate. This is set to further enhance the venue’s role as one of Skye’s top visitor destinations.

Sue Geale, Museum Manager and member of the Management Committee, commented: ‘We have been working hard over the winter to put in place a number of exciting new initiatives. We’re particularly pleased to be partnering with local organisations such as SEALL and High Life Highland. It looks set to be another busy season and we’re looking forward to opening on 26 March and welcoming both local friends and visitors from around the globe.’