Tuesday, August 24, 2010

July 9: Isle of Skye

After a short farewell to Sarah Tree and her charming B&B at Loch Ness, we were on the road heading toward the Isle of Skye, a last-minute addition to the trip.  Although Scotland isn't an enormous country, there seem to be endless things to see, particular land and seascapes over which to marvel, and towns to appreciate.  Upon our new friend Bernie's suggestion, we shuffled around the last few days of the trip in order to make a stop along the west coast before heading south to Edinburgh.  Enter Isle of Skye.

But before we reached this beautiful isle, we stopped to see Eilean Donan Castle, a place known for its cinematic cameos in movies such as Highlander, The World is Not Enough, Elizabeth: The Golden Age, and kind of surprisingly, Made of Honor.  None of these are why we wanted to see it, but it's interesting how popular this particular castle is in the media.  We pulled into the parking lot and feasted our eyes on the place, a simple castle at the end of a stone bridge, parked on a tiny island in Loch Duich.  The fact that the water level in the loch was so low took away from the expected beauty, as we'd seen it in pictures before setting out on this trip, and the pouring rain didn't particularly help.  With hood up and umbrella out, we walked around and tried to ignore the weather.  Rain or not, Eilean Donan was pretty cool to see in person.

On to Skye, the rain wasn't letting up, but we checked into our B&B in Portree, the capital of Skye, and set out to see what we could anyway.  The Isle of Skye boasts some amazing prehistoric landforms and great hiking, so we decided to attempt to combine those two elements by making what we thought to be a short hike to see Man of Storr, a particular rock formation near the east coast of Skye's Trotternish Peninsula.  Sticking our noses up at the rain, we trekked up the path into the heavy wood, slipping here and there on wet and muddy rocks and pine needles along the path.  We'd hike through a section of forest and then come to a small clearing, giving way to views of little more than a tiny rabbit and the heaviness of the air hanging above us, before creeping back into the trees.  Every once in a while we's swear this must it, this climb just ahead , as there were no signs to indicate how far this hike was.  Every once in while, we were disappointed to see the path stretch onward and upward as we panted and grumbled in the rain, completely unprepared for anything more than a mild walk a few meters from the road.

Eventually we came to a gate at the base of some beautiful mountains, over which our little trail climbed and disappeared.  Exhausted, thirsty, and pretty wet, we embraced our defeat and turned back.  Upon our return to the parking lot we got a look at this Man of Storr, and that would have to do for today.

Continuing our drive we decided to leave the Trotternish and cross over to the Waternish Peninsula, the stretch known less for its landforms and more for its appeal to artists.  As I'm a sucker for handmade pottery, we made a couple stops at some pottery shops to find some local flavor to bring back home.

 Ian Williams was one artist whose shop we found, a sculptor, painter, sketch artist, and writer originally from Wales, having moved to Skye after a career in London as a police officer.  Ian's taste in pottery may not have matched our own, but I had an enormous appreciation for his picture work.  Ian hand drew images from his new home, the beautiful Isle of Skye, and alongside many images were hand-scrawled notes, moments felt upon looking at the bird he sketched, thoughts or memories induced by them.  We talked for an hour about personal expression and how he came to this particular medium, and I told him about my own desire to mix mediums in a similar way.  This meeting reminded me of Kamil Vojnar in Saint-Remy, as I experienced another jolt of creative energy and need to create.  It was pretty cool.  We ended up buying a copy of Ian's book, a collection of his artwork inspired by Skye, and two small prints of my favorite images and comments.  Ian signed my book, and I admit I got a little thrill out of it.  He has, after all, managed to do something with his art and even has his own small gallery.

As we left Ian's the sun came out and it was like a different world.  We drove up the Waternish toward its farthest reaching point and saw the sea on both sides of the peninsula.  With the bright blue now stretched overhead, accented by the clouds and beauty beneath, it suddenly became quite clear how this place's name may have come about.  We pulled over often and took loads of pictures, but nothing could compare to being there in the sun's embrace on the deep green hills, looking out across the shimmering water and letting the air rush into our lungs.  I tried, anyway.

Finding the Dunvegan Castle closed for the day, we weren't too disappointed; it'd been an amazingly beautiful afternoon.  Our stomachs notified us that it was time for dinner, so we headed back to Portree to walk around town a bit and find a place to eat.

Portree's harbor

The Rosdale Hotel down at the harbor fit us in without a reservation, and it was time for yet another phenomenal meal.  Neither Chris nor I could resist the sound of local wild Skye venison with thyme mash, and it was heavenly.  Every bite was deeply savory and I could've eaten this all night.  Then came dessert.  Since Chris had yet to order some Sticky Toffee Pudding, that was his choice, while I went with what our server described as a very Scottish choice, fresh strawberries with a whiskey cream.  I'm not a whiskey fan, but it was fantastic.  Plopped over a deep dessert glass of beautiful strawberries was a thick cream swirled with sugar and oats, and I imagine whiskey.  I died a little in that dessert, in a lovely ecstasy of taste.  I realize I may be coming across slightly nuts or food crazy here, but it really was that good.  Oh, and Chris lapped up his pudding with equal vigor.

Back at the Bed&Breakfast we eagerly made use of the free internet connection and hit the hay.  The trip was already half over, but it felt like we'd only just arrived.  


  1. It's all right - it was raining here in Germany too. How do you still manage to look like a supermodel in a raincoat?!

  2. You are a super model in a raincoat! I seriously expect there to be elves running around in all your pictures. That scenery is amazing! I get very excited by meeting an author or artist... doesn't matter if I'm a fan, there is just something cool about putting the two together, seeing a person with something they've created. So cool!