So today was an all day trip to the Isle of Skye, the largest island in the Inner Hebrides archipelago. The island is connected to Scotland by a bridge, which we would be crossing as part of our trip. And as luck would FINALLY have it, the day could not have been more perfect. Crystal blue skies and only a few puffs of cloud here and there. Yay.
I met my driver/guide “Willie” at the wonderful hour of 7:45 a.m. and immediately took up the front seat of the little passenger van. I was soon joined by a couple from Australia, a family from Alberta and a family from France. By 8:00 a.m. we had set off heading south towards Loch Ness and the ruins of Urquhart Castle, a castle built between the 13th century and 16th century.
It wasn’t more than 20 minutes before Loch Ness came into view and shortly after that Urquhart Castle. Now we were not going to visit the castle, but Willie made a pit stop by the side of the road so that we could take a few pictures before continuing south for a bit before turning west towards the Isle of Skye.
Now as we drove, Willie decided we needed a little atmosphere to go with the stunning scenery so for the remainder of the morning, Willie played an array of Scottish music. And I have to admit, it really did add something to the trip, although the scenery certainly could stand on its own. Little puffy clouds over the Scottish highlands. Lochs here and there. And of course the Scottish heather in full bloom. Add to this a perfect sunny day and you understand why people fall in love with Scotland. (Of course, there is that gloom and rain most of the year ….)
As we drove, the waters surrounding Eilean Donan Castle, the most photographed castle in Scotland, came into view. And wouldn’t you know it, we spotted seals on a little piece of land that had broken away from the mainland. Adorable.
The narrow, windy road soon gave way to a beautiful view of Eilean Donan Castle. And fortunately, we were there pretty early so when we pulled into the parking lot there were only a handful of cars and no large tour buses. Yay!
I jumped out of the mini bus and made my way to the stone bridge, quickly paid 3 pounds and walked onto the bridge and started taking pictures before anyone could jump in front of me and end up in my pictures. After a few minutes, others joined me and at this point, I crossed the stone bridge and did a 360 walkabout the castle. The views all around were simply gorgeous.
After I had taken more pictures than necessary, I crossed back over the bridge, grabbed a cup of tea and sat back to enjoy the view. By now, we were being joined by other mini-buses and several large tour groups, so I was thrilled we arrived when we did.
By 10:30 we were back in the mini-bus and headed to Isle of Skye. Now by this point, Willie had won me over. He hated slow drivers, bitched about clueless tourists and honked his horn for sport. He also had a classic Scottish brogue and half the time when he spoke to me, I just nodded. No clue what he was saying, but I am sure I agreed with him.
Anyway, Just before 11:00, the bridge connecting mainland Scotland to the Isle of Skye came into view and before you knew it we were crossing up and over the sea and onto the island.
Our route took us up the east coast, with the sea always on the right side of the mini-bus. As we motored along, the absolutely stunning Red Cuillin Mountains came into view on the left side of the mini-bus with little wispy clouds hovering over the top of the mountains. I don’t think you could have painted a better picture.
We ended up stopping in the little town of Sligachan so we could take pictures of the mountains and little river flowing down the hillside and under a stone bridge. I stood and tried to take in the incredible natural beauty. It was simply gorgeous.
We then headed north to our lunch stop in the town of Portree. I ended up having the Haddock chowder at a little restaurant in the middle of town and then spent the remainder of our time there wandering around the very picturesque waterfront. There were sailboats bopping up and down in the water in front of pastel coloured buildings and lovely little shops everywhere. I ended up hiking up a hill to get a better view of the harbor and it seemed to get better the higher I climbed. It was a lovely harbor front town.
By 1:15 we were back in the mini-bus and headed to the Trotternish Peninsula, which has some of the most famous sites on the island. First up was the Old Man of Storr. Now I am not sure why they came up with the name the “Old Man of Storr”. Maybe it’s just me, but I think they should have called it the “Old Member of Storr”. The damn rock is certainly not shaped like an old man….
Anyway, the clouds over the “Old Man of Storr” behaved and we were able to get some really good pictures of the famous rock. (Still don’t get the name after seeing it but who am I to judge.)
We did not have to travel too far for our next stop at Lealt Falls. Now the falls were not that impressive partly because the vegetation made it tough to see the falls. However, the view to the ocean and the beach below was spectacular. I ended up hiking to the end of the path on the bluff and the views were really worth the extra effort.
After our brief stop at the falls, we headed inland towards Quirang, which is on the eastern face of the northernmost summit of the Trotternish Peninsula. The entire ridge was formed as a result of a series of landslides and the whole of the Quiraing is still shifting and moving. Yikes.
Anyway, the road to the ridge looking towards Quiraing, was a series of hairpin switchbacks up to the ridge and once there, I was nearly blown over by the incredibly high winds. It actually reminded me of hiking the volcano in Iceland the wind was that strong. However, it was entirely worth it. The views were simply spectacular not only to the Quiraing, but to the valley below. Isle of Skye definitely lives up to its billing.
Once back in the mini-bus, Willie decided it was time for 70s, 80s and 90s music. As Willie drove, we heard everything from Queen to Springsteen to Del Amitri. Seriously. But the best was when a song by David Soul came on, which prompted a massive discussion about old T.V. shows and for some reason Willie pulled out Skippy the Bush Kangaroo. Now if you don’t know the show, it’s probably because you are either too young to remember or you did not live in a Commonwealth country. All I can say is that when Willie pulled out Skippy, the Aussie couple and I doubled over with laughter. You probably had to be there, but it definitely made my day.
Anyway, we continued our drive over the ridge and down the other side to little village of Uig where we took a beer break before crossing over from one side of Skye to the other, passing by the Red Cullin Mountains once more before stopping in the second largest town on the Isle of Skye, Broadford. It was a quick bathroom break before continuing on across the bridge joining the Isle of Skye to the mainland.
After passing near the turn to Eilean Donan Castle, we took a left onto a less travelled and very narrow road passing by acres of cattle farms where we could see hairy coo in the distance and the every present sheep. Little rivers split the rolling hills and at one point we passed by a handful of deer foraging in the grasses near the side of the road. One deer even posed for us as we passed by.
We stayed on the windy, very narrow road, with Willie continuing his take no prisoners driving. He did not like tourists on his road that’s for sure. By now it was 5:30 and it had already been a long day, but Willie insisted that we stop about 20 miles before Inverness to hike down to see the Rogie Falls where salmon were spawning.
Now I did not see any salmon, although others did, but I can say the stop was well worth it. The little hike down was lovely and the falls were gorgeous. About a half hour after we arrived, we were back on the road and by 7:00 we were back in Inverness. It was such a gorgeous night, I decided to walk the mile or so back to my hotel. I said goodbye to the hilarious Willie and started towards the River Ness. It had been a fabulous day!