IT is perhaps best known for just one speeding, bonnie boat. But Skye has a long and hidden history of making and repairing many, many more: birlinns or galleys for Vikings.

And now its secret medieval boatyard – lost for centuries on one of the island’s most remote corners – is to be preserved forever.

Historic Environment Scotland (HES) has officially designated a mysterious stone-lined canal on Skye’s Rubh’ an Dùnain peninsula to be an historic monument.

Archaeologists had long pondered over this waterway, which linked an inland loch to the sea.

Only in the new millennium did they discover remnants of a wooden vessels on the trackless promontory under the shadows of the Cuillins.

Later the timbers were dated to 1100AD. This was a factory for producing or repairing the galleys of Highland and Hebridean Scotland, a time when Viking was more a job description than a reference to a Nordic race.

HES said: “The complex is particularly notable for its impressive survival of field remains, the possible relationship to an Iron Age dun, the rock-cut channel and the potential for further Norse and medieval boat remains to survive in the loch.”

It added: “The scale of the docks and the presence of the canal and loch quays demonstrates that the site was a significant anchorage for the western seaboard.

“Given its sheltered and important strategic location, it is possible that the loch was used to shelter and overwinter boats, or that the site was a staging location. It may also have been used to repair or even to construct boats.”

HES has officially listed the 380ft canal, two boat docks and former noosts, or boat shelters, and other structures. It has also preserved the bed of Loch na h-Airde, the small lochan on the peninsula used as a harbour.

The canal is already protected by its sheer remoteness. Its people were cleared in the middle of the 18th century and the only way to get to the boatyard is by an eight-mile pathless hike.

The peninsula, which overlooks the Sound of Soay, is the hereditary homeland of the MacAskills

This clan was famed as coast watchers, galley masters and bodyguards to the Macleods of Skye. Their settlement, which historians and scientists believe may have been occupied for millennia, was abandoned during The Clearances in the mid-1800s.

Back in 2015 the MacAskills of Rubh’ an Dunain Society launched a website which allows virtual visits to the peninsula.

Its editor, Gordon Mack, welcomed the HES announcement.

He said: “This is a decision which we applaud. It will afford this unique location official protection and add to our campaign to repopulate the area with a virtual online community.”

The MacAskills, legend has it, were founded by a Viking called Asgill who set up home on the peninsula after failing to take Dublin. The clan held the land for 700 years until the Clearances. No one has lived on the peninsula since 1861. There are noosts around Scotland’s coasts, including Shetland, evidence of a sophisticated maritime economy dating back centuries.

The Geos of Orkney and Shetland, collapsed sea caves, were perfect for noosts, whose telltale hull-shaped hollows can be seen at the top of some Scots beaches.

But archaeologists believe the Skye site has the most to reveal about mediaeval boatbuilding.