DISCLAIMER: Ok, I know a lot of people have really been looking forward to reading about my experiences in the Isle of Skye. This journal might be a little disappointing, because I don’t think I was able to really get a true feeling for the island. Apologies to all of you Skye fans out there!!
UPDATE: What I thought was just typical Scottish weather was actually Storm Hector– the first named summer storm of the season! I’m trying to locate a “I survived Storm Hector” t-shirt. 😜
I woke up, did a little work and blogging, and went in to breakfast at 8:15. The night before I had requested salmon and eggs. Um, I sure as hell was not expecting this culinary masterpiece!!
Seriously, I was in shock just from the presentation. I’m not used to such fancy food!! And oh my god, it tasted DIVINE!! Seriously. Everything. The eggs, the salmon, the bread the eggs were on, the cucumber garnish with the AMAZING sauce, the tomatoes… I’m going to be dreaming about that meal a lot over the next 2 months, as I eat PB & J…. HUGE shout out to Rainbow View Bed & Breakfast! But even without this wonderful food, breakfast would have still been enjoyable! I got to chat with Jana, and she is just a lot of fun. We talked about all kinds of things- tourists, travel, etc… When I was finished, she said, “You are really nice.” I chimed in, “For an American!”. She said, “I wasn’t going to say anything…but….” 😉 I live for that shit. 🙂
Got on the sheep wagon at 8:50. Now, I have to say this. There are like 40 of us on this bus. Accommodations in any village in Scotland are tough to come by because there are SO many tourists here. And it’s not like there’s some Hilton in every town with 500 rooms. So we don’t all stay at one place. We get spread out all over in 8+ different guest houses each night. Ok. The scene has been set. Now, I step on the bus and immediately proclaim to the driver, “Best. B & B. EVER!!”. Apparently, not everyone had such a wonderful experience. Guesthouses in Skye are particularly hard to come by, and the company was having to put people in all kinds of places- some that they had never previously used. And apparently not everyone was as ecstatic with their room as I was… So I got on a bus where a lot of people were complaining and the driver was trying to apologize and reassure them. This went on for several minutes, and it was enough for me. I just piped up and said, “Whatever happened last night is over. We have a beautiful day ahead of us! Let’s focus on that instead.” A few people cheered. Then everyone went back to complaining. Sigh. #americans
Now, there was one thing to complain about. The weather. Which you may have guessed from the title of this blog. Yesterday was FANTASTIC! Sunny….warm….no wind…the first time I’ve worn a short sleeve shirt in 2.5 weeks!! Woke up this morning to cold, drizzly, gray skies. I dressed appropriately in wool tights under water resistant TROUSERS (not pants! 😁), a thermal top, my rainjacket, and my waterproof walking shoes. As we drove across the island, I could pretty much only see two things- a raindrop covered window that was hard to see out of, and scenery covered in a blanket of gray mist. Scottish weather, to be certain, but not really what you want to see when you’re visiting what so many people have told you is the most beautiful part of Scotland!!
We saw a weird rock formation in the distance, called the Old Man of Storr, and were told a story….There was a married couple, who used to walk to this mountain every day. Years later, the wife passed away, and the husband would still walk their path each day, thinking about and missing his wife. One day, he sat on the mountain, and said out loud that he wished he could just be here forever. The fairy king overheard him and granted his wish….by turning him into stone. After that story, I was silently praying to the fairy king for good weather!!
Next stop was another formation, but this one was a cliff. It’s called Kilt Rock, because the folds in the rock resemble the folds in a kilt. there was a very misty waterfall coming down from it, but you couldn’t really see it well from our angle. That, plus the fact that drizzle had turned to rain, got everyone back on the bus in record time. Taking pictures in the rain is no fun.
Ok, I seriously do not feel like I am doing this place justice. Because frankly, the wet and cold was just miserable and made it hard to see and enjoy anything that was happening. It was so bad at some places, that the driver would pull the bus over, tell us about a place, give us 10 minutes to get out and take pictures, and no one would move. It was that bad out. But he did tell us a story that I feel imparts the beauty of the Isle of Skye, so i want to share it with you…
The MacLeod clan ruled over the Isle of Skye. Highlanders were looked upon as a little backwards by the rest of the Scots. Everyone, even other highlanders, looked upon the people of Skye as especially backwards. So, there was definitely a “hierarchy” there! All of the clans went to King James IV’s palace in Edinburgh for a meeting. When they walked in, all of the candles were lit in the palace. King James said to the leader of the MacLeod clan, “I bet you’ve never seen candles burn so brightly in Skye.” The other highlanders agreed with their king, ribbing poor MacLeod who ignored it. When they entered the dining room, King James said, “I bet you’ve never seen a ceiling painted so beautifully in Skye.” The same thing happened- ribbing, and MacLeod ignored it again. A feast was brought out, and James once again tried to make MacLeod ashamed that there was nothing this good in Skye. Finally, MacLeod had had enough. He invited the king to come visit him in Skye. The king agreed, and arrived a few weeks later. At midnight, MacLeod took the king on a walk. They arrived to a hill, and were immediately surrounded by 500 of MacLeod’s best men, holding lit torches. MacLeod asked James if he’d ever seen anything burn so brightly. James said he hadn’t. MacLeod then told James to look up at the starry sky- had he ever seen a ceiling so beautiful? James said he hadn’t. A feast was then brought out to them- all of the wonderful things the people could hunt or grow on the Isle of Skye. Plate after plate of amazing food. James understood the point, and declared the Isle of Skye to be his most favorite place in the world.
Next, we stopped off at a museum of sorts- which seemed literally way out in the middle of no where! This was the Skye Museum of Island Life. About $4 to get in. The weather was still a nightmare, and this was an outdoor museum where you went from building to building, learning about how the people of this island survived in the 1700s-1900s. The houses are called Crofter Cottages, and were built from the scarce local materials of rock and thatch. Each building had a theme- the Croft House, where people lived until I think it was the 1950s (maybe 1930s), the smithy, the barn, a weaver’s cottage, etc… And in each building there would be artifacts from that time period. And there were a LOT of artifacts! It was really interesting, but I couldn’t help but be worried what the weather would be like when I would have to step back out into it. It was getting worse and worse… After the museum, we drove to the nearby cemetery. Alexander McQueen of fashion fame is buried here. And there’s a monument to a lady named Flora MacDonald. I don’t have all of the history on her, so you’ll have to google it if you’re interested, but she is considered to be a hero in Scotland- mainly for helping Bonnie Prince Charlie escape the island by dressing him as her female servant. Seriously, the driver stopped the bus and ONE person braved the elements for a picture. That one person was not me!
From there, we went to the town of Portree for lunch. This is the largest town on the Island, and is the capital. It has about 2,000 people. 🙂 We didn’t get there until almost 2:30, and apparently they roll up the sidewalks at 2. Normally, I sit in some interesting area outside and make myself a picnic during our lunch stops. That was not an option today. It was raining and windy, so I asked the other 2 solo girls if they would like to have lunch with me. They agreed. We went to Cafe Arriba and there was a line literally out of the door. We waited about 40 minutes to be seated. The waiters were trying to get everyone seated as quickly as possible, and started asking if people minded sharing tables. Everyone agreed except one couple. Guess what nationality?? #americans Do you see why I am always so damn happy when someone identifies me as not acting like an American?? We seriously have a pretty craptastic reputation overseas, and I have witnessed first hand many, MANY times just why that is. Spoiler alert: We are not the most powerful people in the world, people do not worship us, and our shit does stink. #yourewelcome Finally got a seat, and I ordered the most amazing venison stew with potatoes and bread. It took over 30 minutes to get it. So totally hit the spot, though, on this nasty weather day. Comfort food at its finest! Time to get back to the bus was quickly running out, and I wanted to get pictures of the cute little Portree harbor! So I wolfed down my deer, bundled up against the elements, and walked very quickly down the street to snap a couple of shots, then even quicker to the bus pick up point for shelter. The fairy king must not be pleased with me, since he’s not answering my prayer. Of course, if the weather had cleared, it would obviously be because fairy kings exist and answer lowly human’s wishes! But since he didn’t, we’ll just chalk it up to, “Fairy kings work in mysterious ways”. 😉
The order of things gets a little messed up here, because I didn’t get out and take photos at all of the stops. But here are the things I know we did….we stopped at the Sligachan Bridge. Like many things in Skye, this place is enchanted. If you dip your face in the water for 7 seconds, you’ll have eternal beauty!! A lot of people on the bus did this. A lot of people on the bus needed this. I deemed myself cute enough as it is, and skipped it. 😜
Then, we passed a RAGING waterfall! It was gorgeous! And the funny thing is that the driver said we had passed this on the way in this morning and it was a trickle. All of the rain throughout the day turned it into a spectacular sight! So spectacular, that I got my butt out of my seat to go take a picture. The rain was pelting the camera so hard though, that it was impossible, and I retreated.
Ok- last stop of the day!! Dun Beag Broch. A broch is a tower of sorts, built in a strategic location (like on a hilltop as this one is). When was this built, you ask? Well, let me tell you. ABOUT 2000-2500 YEARS AGO!!!!!! I got all US Postal service when I heard that… “Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds” My “rounds” was to see some ancient history!! To do this, we had to hike up a hill in gale force winds with rain pounding us…and try to avoid very wet sheep landmines that were EVERYWHERE… You have no idea how long it took me to get each of these pictures. Multiple, multiple, MULTIPLE shots, constantly having to wipe the lens and snap fast before it was covered in drops again.
Got to the top, and the view was spectacular! But so was the wind. It was literally hard to walk against, and I was afraid of getting blown over. I’m not kidding. There was no protection up on top of that hill… But once up there, you could see inside of the broch. It’s thought that these were fairly tall towers, about 10 m (30ish feet), and used as lookouts, defense, and maybe even status symbols. One hypothesis, due to how where they are located, is that they may have been a type of communication system, warning of impending danger. Remember in Lord of the Rings, how the fires were lit in the beacons of Gondor, one after another, to warn of the impending attack? Yeah, like that. And the really cool thing- they are only found in Scotland!! PS: I am NOT a movie person. Literally, the only movies I like that were made in 21st century are Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings. And Scotland has given me BOTH of them in the last two days!! No more movie references, I promise. Unless I’m in Austria- you’ll be bombarded with The Sound of Music. 😉
I was super glad that I went and saw this. Such history. So many questions that will never be answered… Bus took us back to our guest houses. I was bone cold. This is what I call it when I can literally feel the cold inside of my bones, and the only way for me to get warm is a super hot shower. I peeled my clothes off, and the top of me was dry underneath my raincoat. But I was soaked through my water resistant TROUSERS, wool leggings, and even my pants (using the Scottish term, here!). I fell into bed, exhausted. And feeling like something was seriously missing from my Isle of Skye experience. Maybe it was just because I was miserable being cold and wet all day. Maybe it was because I could barely see anything. Whatever it is, I am convinced that it was a “me” issue and not an Isle of Skye issue!! I’ll have to come back some day when the weather is better, and give this place another chance!