The Road To The Isles march

By John McLellan

Also known as The 71st’s Farewell To Dover, The Bens Of Jura, The Burning Sands Of Egypt, The Highland Brigade’s March To Heilbronn.

There are 18 recordings of this tune.
This tune has been recorded together with

The Road To The Isles appears in 1 other tune collection.

The Road To The Isles has been added to 7 tune sets.

The Road To The Isles has been added to 108 tunebooks.

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Twenty-nine comments


This is not a barndance. It is, of course, the air to a popular Scots song. If it were to be assigned a ‘tune type’, it would probably fit most comfortably into the ‘4/4 march’ category, for which this tune database does not cater. It is probably not in the repertoire of the average Irish session, but I think it deserves to be. Whilst its Caledonian snappiness is delightful, it might be rendered more (Irish) session-friendly by smoothing out the rhythm a little. In fact, taking out the Scotch snaps and playing it with a gentle swing rather than the dotted rhythm would pretty much make it a barndance.

Here it is with the ‘kinks ironed out’ and a few notes added in for good measure:

M: 4/4
L: 1/8
R: barndance
K: Gmaj

I am well aware that submitting song melodies on a site devoted to *dance* music is an offence punishable by some form of musical torture, but I think this is a good tune and I am prepared to come within an inch of death for its cause.

Re barndance

I wonder if you have the chance to check this tune out on Tom Doherty’s ‘Take the Bull by the Horns’ CD. I have a copy and he gives it his own special treatment on the single row melodeon making it sound very Irish (and very danceable) to my ear.

And it is called a barndance on his sleeve notes.


You’re OK with this one, MG, at least if what you’ve posted is anything near the barndance version which Mary Custy recorded which I’v e always liked. I think the original was a song by by the tartan Andy Stewart and the title may have been "The Tangle Of The Isles. Don’t know if whether or not he wrote either the words or melody - Rab c might know.
Hamish Imlach used to sing a parody of it, the last line of which was “You’ve never danced the tango wi’ the piles” !

S’alright Goat Mountain Lad - - -

Yes, it is danced to, and was a feature at house dances all across Eire, and even some of the big ceilis. The most common couple dances I know that was danced to it was a take on ‘The Heel and Toe’ & ‘The Schottische’. It could also be dances with couples around the hall as a “John Paul Jones” type mixer…

So - no apologies required… No worry at being strung up either, or a posse on your scent, which as a male goat would not be hard to trace even without dogs… Mind you, some self-appointed purists might grumble a bit as they can do…

Whew!, I guess I need to wake up before facing singulars and plurals…

Yes, but I didn’t know any of that. I demand to be subjected to 48 hours of Daniel O’Donnell at the wrong speed! It’s the only way I can keep a clear conscience.

No - No - No! - - - AAAAAAAAAA!!!

That will turn your brain to mush. It is akin to shortwave radiation…

Actually, I think medium wave radiation will mushify a bran…er… brain. See?! It’s happening! AHHHHHH… **gurgle**

I shouldn’t worry - my brain has always been somewhat mushy in consistency anyway. I think it was my mother’s fondness for saltpetre during pregnancy.

The Road To The Isles

Here are Leo Maguire’s words to the tune.

Leo McGuire’s Song

Ah wis headin’ wi ma cromack up frae Gretna Green tae Skye
But ma journey has an element of farce.
‘Cos the calendar has stated - it’s the middle o’ July,
Yet here ah am wi’ snaw up tae ma arse, Oh - yo!

(chorus) Wi‘ ma pipes below ma oxter an’ ma sporran neatly pressed
Ma pockets full o’ porridge for the road.
Wi‘ some Crawford’s Tartan Shortbread an’ some tattie scones as weel
An‘ ah’m jist aboot tae paint masel’ wi’ woad. Oh - yo!

I am headin’ for sweet Afton, that’s the place that ah am daft on,
Where the smell o’ tattie bogle fills the air.
If ye poke amang the heather wi’ a feather ye will see
Where the untamed hornie-golluck has his lair. Oh - yo!

Ah remember Annie Laurie, sure, ah had her in a quarry
On the road frae Tobermory tae the sea.
Ah remember Mountain Daisy, an’ that lassie wisnae lazy,
‘Cos ah remember Daisy mountin’ me. Oh - Yo!

Ah remember gettin‘ pally wi’ a peely-wally ’tally,
In a chalet doon at Butlin’s camp at Ayr.
An‘ ah gied her a bambino as she lay an’ read “The Beano”
Then she said, well how did she know ah wis there? Oh - yo!

Ah wis jist a wee bit randy as she lay an’ read “The Dandy”
Then she went an’ put a pot upon the hob.
An’ she made me tagliatelli, which she balanced on her belly
So’s ah could eat while ah wis on the job. Oh - yo!

By the time the job wis over, she wis halfway through “The Rover”
An’ had started on that week’s “People’s Friend”
An‘ she made me veal escalope an’ we had another wallop
Before ma strong desire came to an end.

Oh the Scottish Summers have a certain lack of charm,
Due mainly to the sudden rainy squalls.
But the Scottish lassies can aye keep her laddie warm
By their tender ministration to his knees. Oh - yo!

Thanks for taking out the dotted rhythm in the comments section, Goat. But can I suggest you do it the other way around?

There he is again, railing against that dreaded dumpty dumpty… Talk about brain damage from wave radiation, only in this case it is ‘swung waves’. Don’t click on the sound file Jack, don’t, it will just scramble your brain cells worse than a swung cat in the low ceiling environment of a fo‘cs’le - poor kitty… No, don’t do it…

Jack - I thought it better to post the tune as I have heard it, rather than my off-the-cuff arrangement of it, which I would not wish to be immortalised in sheet music..

Keneth Horn

Heard it on ‘Round the Horn’ . . . antique radio show . . . as: “with a sporran full of porridge and a feather up yer kilt, ye’ll never smell the tangle o’er the Isles”

Jack - There’s another good reason for leaving the dots in the submitted version and putting the undotted version in ther comments: the comments section doesn’t allow opposing dotted groupings in abcs, since everything falling between the ‘less than’ and greater than’ signs is interpreted as HTML code, whcih is automatically deleted from the text.