Thursday, August 30, 2007

Logbook: Isle of Skye

Skye0We were up and moving early Tuesday morning to catch the ferry from Mallaig over to the Isle of Skye. Again, it is a 45 minute crossing that seems to take you to another world. On first impression, Skye is more rugged than Mull (or the mainland) and seems to have more exposed rock and barren moors. The weather was pretty nice and we immediately set off on a pretty good two lane road then continued on a smaller, single-lane track toward the southwest coast. By now I have become quite comfortable with the whole "driving on the left" situation, but I'm not sure one ever feels completely at ease with the single-track roads. Not only are they narrow and require some attention -- plus a lot of stopping and starting -- to synchronize passing other cars at the slightly wider "passing places" but the tracks wind sharply around blind curves and over blind summits. You just never know when another car is going to appear only a few meters ahead of you with neither of you having any place to pull over. It is fun driving, actually, but it is also a little stressful and tiring.

Skye1Upon reaching the coast, we parked the car and changed into our hiking boots to take a walk on a well defined trail up into the hills. We had no information about exactly where the trail would take us, but we were keen to walk after our lengthy drive and to take advantage of the beautiful weather. After working our way pretty steadily up hill for about an hour, Mom suggested we take a break to eat our sack lunch. About that time a hiker came from the other direction and said that a lovely view was "just up ahead." We've learned that there is no universal standard for "just up ahead" so I volunteered to walk ahead and check it out then wave to Mom if it was really pretty close and worthwhile. Sure enough, about ten minutes later I crested the hill and had a spectacular view of the Cuillin Mountains across a stunning bay with a white sandy beach along the coast. I waved to Mom who joined me for a delightful picnic in a truly astonishing setting then we headed back down and continued our drive.

Skye2_2We arrived in the town of Portree and checked into a charming little inn with enough time for me to scout out an internet connection at a local hostel. The guy at the desk said I was welcome to buy an hour of time online, but he couldn't let me sit inside due to a rule about "registered guests only" being allowed on the premises. So, I sat outside on a bench and caught up with myself for a about an hour before it started to rain and I had to head back to the inn. Drams, dinner and sleep finished another successful day of exploration! Yesterday morning was just lovely, with clear blue skies and a bright sun bathing the little harbor of Portree. We had breakfast and got in the car, heading toward the extreme northwest of the island on a series of ever diminishing roads. Sadly, the weather started closing in on our way and was sufficiently bleak by the time we reached the coast that we didn't have much of a view anywhere.

Skye3Intrepid walkers that we are, however, we did "boot up" and take a decent walk in the wind and light rain out onto a bluff point then down onto a coral beach. You may have noticed that I've now mentioned "beaches" -- both sand and coral -- a few times. Much to our surprise we have found many beaches out here on the Isles, and since I don't understand enough about beach geology to be able to explain their presence I will just say it seems strange to find them here at such high latitudes amidst such rugged surroundings. Satisfied that we had made the most we could of the day at hand, we headed back to Portree along the circuit route we had planned out. In just two days of part-time driving we have already covered practically every road on the Isle and since Mom has picked up on my practice of highlighting roads as we travel them, our map is looking quite colorful! I had another brief session online when we got back to town -- this time I was smart enough to drive and was able to sit in the car! -- then it was drams, dinner and sleep to finish the day.

Skye4We had a few hours this morning before our ferry, so we used our time to explore our last parts of Skye. Heading north out of Portree we stopped to check out the Old Man of Storr and Kilt Rock then worked our way through the Quiraing Mountains and down to the ferry port at Uig. If nothing else, the morning confirmed that Skye is indeed a stunning island with truly remarkable scenery. Although I feel like we've seen much of the island in the two days we've spent here, I think one would have to spend a long time here to really comprehend all that it is. I don't think I would ever choose to live on Skye, but it sure would be nice to have it handy for extensive exploration over time. From here we will take a ferry across to the Outer Hebrides island of North Uist. As we approach the half-way point of our Scotland exploration, we are also approaching the most distant point.

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