Sunday, 22 September 2013

getting older on the isle of skye

- the human spirit needs places where nature has not been rearranged by the hand of man - 

For my birthday weekend I wanted to do something special and not just stay around Edinburgh. After much deliberation Jess and I planned a trip to the Isle of Skye. We started looking into it months before and when the time finally arrived it definitely lived up to my expectations!

Jess arrived on the Thursday night and after some ridiculously bad/good luck with getting our rental car (somehow we booked with a company that went bankrupt 2 hours later...) we set off the Loch Ness for the first night. It was my first time going anywhere north of Edinburgh and driving across the Forth Road bridge was an awesome way to start. I will have to get out there to take some photos!

It was a pretty long drive to Drumnadrochit, with a bit more excitement in Inverness after I got pulled over by the police for forgetting to put my lights back on after stopping at the garage. Whoops. We arrived pretty late to the hostel and went straight to sleep, telling the hostel guy (who had the thicket kiwi accent ever) that we would get towels in the morning. Well, they so say things come in threes, and when we got up the next morning there was a sign on the reception door stating it wouldn't be open until 5.30pm...which Jess discovered AFTER she went for a run. Ahh well, drying with clothes it is!

Early morning walking in Drumnadrochit

After a stop for some breakfast we went to Nessieland to arrange for a boat tour with Loch Ness Cruises.  We were a bit early and got talking to the guy behind the counter. He was originally from Edinburgh and now lives in Greece but comes over to help his friend out, and of course had family in New Zealand! This was just the beginning of meeting some really lovely people in the Highlands. So many people wanted to have a chat with us during the whole trip and they were always interesting and quick to offer advice on places to go. It was easy to tell that they were proud to be living where they do.

Nessie and me!

The boat tour we chose by random ended up being really awesome, our luck was changing! It was only us and a Canadian couple on a really nice boat and our skipper was George Edwards, who was lived his whole life around the Loch and an especially deep part of it is even named after him. He told us he thinks he has seen the Loch Ness monster twice, although it is not called that locally and they believe it to be several different animals.

Our tour boat

Nessie aside, the Loch itself it actually really interesting (to slightly geeky people like me). It was formed by an earthquake splitting two plates so it is consistently deep and has extremely steep sides, so much so that we got within maybe 5 metres of the shore and it was still around 30 feet deep. The water is also a really dark black looking colour due to some kind of sediment in it. We also had an awesome view of the ruins of Urquhart Castle (which I still can't say).

Jess and I
Best view of the castle ruins from the water

It was still fairly early when we got back to the shore so we were able to make good time to start to drive to the Isle of Skye. On the way we wound through huge mountains and amazing scenery. I was starting to be a bit concerned because I had no idea where we were and we wanted to go to the Eilean Donan Castle on our way so we stopped at an information centre we came across in the middle of nowehere to ask. The guy behind the counter must be fairly used to answering the ridiculous question of..."So where am I..?"

This photo totally doesn't do this valley justice. 

A few more miles down the road and we came around the bend to see Eilean Donan Castle. It is probably my favourite I have been to so far, being out on it's own in the middle of no where in stunning scenery! It wasn't the most amazing day to be there and it still looked awesome. We ate some lunch at the cafe, where we were treated to some more friendly advice, and headed on our way to Skye.

The castle has been restored a bit but it's not obvious!

The wild Scottish weather blew in while we were there

The tide was out so no reflection picture but the weed makes it interesting at least!

We checked into our hostel in Portree, the Portree Independent Hostel in the old post office building. Since we still had some daylight left so we headed up the road about 10 minutes to go and see the Old Man of Storr. Luck was on as side because we managed to get close enough to have a good view before the low cloud cover came in and completely obscured it. It was so so so windy though. So much so that at one point I thought I was going to blow off the hill!

Jess braving the wind with the Old Man of Storr in the background
Leaning my weight fully into the wind
Since we had a big day planned for the next day we decided to squeeze one more thing in and headed for a drive up to Uig, a small fishing village, and decided to have dinner there. It was interesting seeing the different landscape as we drove along. When we got there it appeared there were two places to eat, and we took our chances with the Pier Restaurant one on the wharf and it turned out to be really great. Most delicious fish and chips we had both had in a long time!

The village of Uig. Not many more houses than you can see!

I saw my birthday in the next morning down at the Portree wharf watching the sunrise. We had a delicious breakfast at the hostel and I spoke to Mum and Dad at home before we headed out for the day.

The wharf at Portree

Birthday sunrise!

We made the long drive over to Neist Point, dodging sheep on our way, and walked out to the lighthouse. There were lots of signs everywhere advertising it as a place to stay, but it seems it has since been abandoned, which made it really creepy and meant we didn't hang around too long!


More sheepies...and amazing view!

Sheepies eating seaweed....who knew?

Obligatory jumping photo


Heading out to the lighthouse

Beautiful coast line

The lighthouse

Neist Point

Awesome view...crazy wind!

Next on the list was Dunvegan Castle. This was really interesting for Jess especially because her family are related to those that used to live in the castle (and technically still do I guess!). It is in an awesome position by the sea, although it looks more like a manor than a castle due to the modernising of the outside.

Outside the castle
On the coast near the castle

We had lunch at a little cafe called Jann's Cakes. Their service was excellent and the soup and cakes we got were so good! It was difficult to choose which one to get since there were so many different flavour combinations to try.

After that we headed down the south of the island to go to the Fairy Pools. Luck was sort of on our side with being able to see at least a bit of the Cuillin mountain range before it was completely obscured by cloud. We got pretty soaked after heading back from the pools but we had managed to accomplish everything we wanted for the day so that was the main thing!

On the walk to the pools

Isle of Skye countryside

In front of one of the pools

Back in Portree we had a pint at a pub and had an antisocial moment since we were finally able to get some free wifi and see what was going on in the world. Jess kindly shouted me for my birthday dinner at the Lower Deck restaurant. Normally I don't bother to get mussels here since they aren't as good as the ones at home but I took a chance and they were surprisingly good!

Birthday pint
Birthday dinner. Yum.

On the Sunday we started the long drive back to Edinburgh not feeling exactly 100%. The weather was the worst we had so we skipped trying to drive to a small village in the mountains and just headed straight out. It was a nice drive through the mountains and over moors and we stopped in Fort William for some much needed lunch. I've developed a taste for Haggis and it turns out its an awesome hangover/crappy day food so I had that on a baked potato. YUM. We also took a slight detour through Stirling and it was interesting to see how the castle there looks like a small version of Edinburgh Castle, and the huge William Wallace Memorial on a hill nearby.

Rainbow we saw on our way home. You could see both ends!

Double rainbow with both ends visible! I couldn't do it justice in a picture

Going back past Eilean Donan Castle with the tide in

The Wallace Memorial

So after the initial hiccup my birthday weekend ended up being really amazing. I fell in love with the Isle of Skye and I will definitely have to go back. I love places like there that feel just slightly removed from the rest of the world and have such beautiful scenery. n a way it reminds me of home, and it was the perfect place to get another year older!


1 comment:

  1. I love this scenery, what a great trip, so pleased you had a wonderful time away for your Birthday. Wonderful photos of special memories.