The Isle of Skye for me was a highlight of Scotland. It’s rugged land and coastal scenery was so epic and atmospheric, maybe it was the misty weather that added to the ambiance but the island left a distinct impression. The weather changed frequently from windy and misty to sunny and calm so if you didn’t like it as the saying goes ‘wait 5 minutes’ but we never minded the wet weather, it was part of the experience.
Our B&B owner gave us suggestions for places to see so we quickly plotted a circular/northern route that took us from Portree up the east coast, around the top of the island and along the northern coast back to Portree. We did the route in an easy day of driving with frequent stops. Had we been more ambitious we could have squeezed in a route that included the east side of the island but the main draw of Dunvegal Castle had already closed for the season. Tallisker Distillery is also a popular site on the southwest but we had already visited a few distilleries and I’m not a fan of the peat infused whiskeys of which Tallisker is famous for.
After a hearty full Scottish breakfast at our B&B (eggs, bacon, sausage, porridge, toast, fruit..and anything else you could want) we hopped in the car and drove through main street and onto the narrow roads, heading north in the pouring rain. After about 10mins of driving we arrived at the parking lot for the Storr (hike to a rock feature) and headed out in the dreary weather for what we thought would be a quick hike up a well, path’d trail. It is one of the most popular hikes on the island and started to get busy shortly after we arrived, in hindsight I’d have started much early and planned for a proper hike. The Old Man of Storr was hauntingly beautiful, shrouded by the mist that enveloped the rocks with peekaboo views. I did a quick scramble to the base just to take some photos but would have loved to spend more time hiking to the top. If you get the chance, here is a great link for more info to plan the hike.
We spent maybe an hour and a half at Storr and then headed up the road for our next stop at Kilt Rock Falls. You need to pay attention for the sign as it’s a bit unassuming but delivers great views of the coastal cliffs and of coarse the falls that flow from a pastoral stream. We (among other tourists) had to wait for a chance to take photos as a Philippino family had setup their tripods in front of the view point and took every imaginable combination of photos with their 9-person family, damn tourists! I got sick of waiting and while they were re-setting another pose I jumped in to take a quick video of the falls, Mr. Photo hog made a point of standing right next to me with his camera phone raised, waving it in front of my shot……….FFF#$%^&*!!!!!! With my eye in my cameras viewfinder I swung around as if I didn’t know he was there hoping to knock his phone over the falls! I didn’t succeed but he got the point, apologized and moved along.
After the falls the crowds disappeared and the road got quieter. Our next stop was a detour to the Quiraing which is situated north in an area called the Trotternish and is an essential walk for hikers and photographers and provides some spectacular scenery. We drove through Staffin and then up the slightly terrifying single track road that seems common place for the locals but was a Himalayan donkey trail for us. Janet couldn’t grip the ‘oh shit’ bars hard enough or pump her invisible breaks fast enough as I gunned it up the mountainside hoping no one was coming our way! The roadways here are truly an experience, you can’t imagine until you’ve given them a try. We made a quick pit-stop at the top, took our photos, tried not to get blown of a cliff and then headed back the way we came. Down the donkey, roller-coaster trail which was less terrifying going down than up.
We continued with every changing scenery along the coastal trail and stopped at the Uig Hotel for lunch. We had a hearty seafood chowder with soda bread while enjoying a view that overlooked the misty bay. A few more stops and we found ourselves back in town by about 3pm so we had some time to explore the capital city of Portree. It has several restaurants, shops and pubs that capitalize on the tourist traffic, along with tour organizers that can provide plenty of activities on the island. There are no large hotels on the island, just small independents and lots of B&B’s but we heard getting a place can be difficult in the summer so plan-ahead.
When we initially arrived in town we stopped at the ‘Aros’ Cultural Center and on a whim decided to book tickets for an event that took place this evening at 7:30. We went for a nice pizza dinner and then headed to the cultural center and were the first to arrive. We were told that on island time people would start to arrive later and they did. It was all locals, we were the only tourists to attend and it turned out to be a real privilege to attend this small venue event that was a microscope of Scottish culture and heritage. The event was a tribute to ‘Sorley Maclean’, a well known poet, Celtic teacher and activist whom the organizers had know personally. The show, inspired by Sorley included a photographer, Celtic singer, poet/author and fiddler. Maybe 30 people were in attendance, probably all related to the performers who gave us some song, poetry, historical readings and a photo slideshow- it was the cultural full meal deal and we were tickled that we got to attend.
The next morning, we had a full breakfast again and headed out to visit the south of the island, detouring just past Broadford before we left for our drive to Inverness. Our B&B owner had recommended a drive to ‘Elgol’, a view point that she promised would deliver some grand views. We arrived at the coastal, single track route that started to climb through the mountains and provided some varying degrees of terror that we had experienced earlier on the island. We could see the climb ahead of us on the mountainside and decided we didn’t have the stomach for it that day, a local had warned us that it got steep and a bit treacherous so that was enough warning for us to turn around. It was a beautiful drive though and had the weather be better maybe not so ominous.
We backtracked our way back to the main road, headed for the bridge to mainland Scotland at Kyle of Lochlash and then onto our one night in Inverness. Here is a link to the photo gallery.