Isle of Skye

“Island in the Mist”, the translation for Isle of Skye, was our final destination.  We planned 3 nights at what turned out to be a stunning, and perfectly appointed AirBnB.  Not sure how tired we would be after our adventures, we thought that a relaxing few days on Skye would be a nice end to our vacation.  However, we were so captivated by the magnificent and varied scenery, that we packed many more miles of hiking and exploring into our 2.5 days.  Knowing that I don’t do well stuck in the car for several hours, we went for a 10 mile run before leaving Inverness.  The run was beautiful, along the Caledonian Canal, alongside 5 girls training in their 1 and 2 person shells with their coach cycling alongside and barking orders.  They were actually rowing at close to my running pace, so it was fun to run alongside and catch a few “coaching tips”.  I felt great, running steadily for the first time since our arrival in Scotland.  

Along the drive, we stopped to tour the Urquhart Castle, built in the 13th century.  The castle had a very tumultuous history,  and ultimately was destroyed by the MacDonald clan in their struggle for control of the Loch. It’s a beautiful site along side Loch Ness and we enjoyed the tour, although not the crowds.  Having been on our own in very peaceful settings for a few days, the mobs of tourists seemed to be deliberately in our way.  


After 3 hours, we crossed the bridge into Skye.  It was rainy, cloudy, misty, foggy…. whatever word describes WET.  The roads are narrow, and a little intimidating.  We found our AirBnB after another half hour of driving on Skye.  I dropped the owner, Pam, a quick email and then we went out for a walk up the hill from her house to a wind farm.  

We thought it was a trail or driveway, but soon learned that “no, that is a major road on Skye… get used to single track driving”.  What an experience THAT turned out to be- cars flying in both directions on a road barely wide enough for one.  There are “passing areas” or small deposits of asphalt on every turn which could be 1/4 mile to 2 miles apart.  If you didn’t know the road, it was that much more challenging.  When two cars approach, one car (whichever is nearest a passing area) is expected to pull over and allow the other to pass.  Usually it worked well, but sometimes involved backing up for several hundred yards, or pulling right to the edge and hoping to God you don’t fall off the cliff or into a ditch.  Add to this the sheep… no fences, so sheep everywhere, taking their time, as obviously this is THEIR home and not yours.  After each trip of 20-30 (45-70 minutes), Ken would head straight to the frig and take out not one, but two beers.  

Upon returning to our cottage, which by the way was located on a working Sheep Croft, our landlady Pam came up to visit.  She is delightful, and explained much of the area to us.  She brought us Scottish treats made on the island, had a large sampling of tourist brochures, invited us to walk the land behind her home, and in general made us feel entirely welcome.  


Monday was also cloudy, misty, foggy…. and part way through our second hike it became a downright downpour.  But we managed to drive around the northern finger of the island, stopping at the “Old Man” a rock formation that we were able to hike up to…. again with way too many other camera baring tourists. 


Using our little “walks of Skye” book we located a 2nd hike that we thought would be fun.  We were WRONG–  we ended up in a very messy, ankle bending, sheep shit bog.  The description did say “slightly boggy”, but we were not expecting to sink up to our knees and sometimes hips.  We did not find the culminating path up the ridge, and fortunately one of us was smart enough to say “lets turn around”.  That in itself proved challenging as we had been following what seemed like an obvious sheep path…. now there were about 20 obvious sheep paths going in all different directions.  We picked one and soldiered on, eventually connecting with the trail and making our way back to the car.  For the 20 or 30th time I gave thanks to my new Leki poles or I would have never made it!  There were some very cool, odd little green hills.  It kind of looked like an eruption of mushrooms- and I had some fun running up and down them, powering my way up with the poles and sliding back down.  The sheep apparently enjoyed them also and it likely was not mud that I was slipping and sliding down on.

We changed into dry clothes, put on our Xero shoe sandals, and went for our 3rd walk of the day– an easy trip to the Coral Beach.  Here is where we saw seals, climbed a grassy ridge, and enjoyed some time on the North Sea/Atlantic Ocean.  


Now that we had run out of dry clothes, we returned to our BnB.  We had brought the makings of a delicious dinner.  The weather seemed to clear up, and it is daylight until 11pm so we went out for one last short walk of the evening.  5 miles from our cottage was a walk that led through another sheep pasture, and to the Island of Olmsted.  The walk along the “land bridge” was rocky but we watched a pretty sunset before returning home and going to bed.  Long day, but we only have two full ones and want to see as much as possible.


Monday we woke up to spectacular sunshine and blue sky.  This actually happens about 2am- there is literally 3 hours of semi-dark this time of year.  Our first walk today was possibly our favorite- to the 3 maidens, rock formation rising out of the ocean off a steep and sheer cliff.  The walk there was not hard to find, a little boggy, with lots of gates to go go through, but trying to go beyond the maidens which should have connected us to a looop trail proved to be impossible.  Again, the sheep did not make a clear enough trail and we got stuck in heather, bogs, and ankle bending mud.  We retraced our steps and went to the island’s main city, Portree, for lunch. 

After lunch we tried a couple more short walks.  The first (above) was on a paved circuit overlooking porter harbour and with fuschia bushes as tall as us!

That second one was a challenge to find- we got stuck on, guess what ??, sheep tracks and in ferns that were over our head.  Once we determined the right path, it was really quite beautiful and fun to run along the green sloping hillside overlooking the sea.  


Tuesday- our last real day of vacation!  We cleaned up Pam’s home, and headed for a walk along the Cullin Ridge.  The track was a bit rocky, but easy to follow.  Little did we realize how spectacular it would be once we traveled the 5 miles to the ridge line.  We knew we needed to head back as we had a train to catch, but we scrambled up the cliff as quickly as possible and got a few gorgeous views of both the mountain range to the north and the loch/sea to the south.  The trail appeared to continue endlessly, and we wished we’d planned more time, but were glad we got to see as much as we did.  


We ran/walked back to our car and made the drive back to Fort William while eating every last bit of food that we had stocked up on along our 2 week journey.  In Fort William, we returned our car, bought a couple small bottles of wine, crackers and cheese, and prepared to enjoy the journey to Glasgow. 

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