Exploring Scotland road trip- Part 2

Post 6- All things Isle of Skye.

Our adventure on the Isle of Skye was magical. I had heard from many how worth while a visit to Skye would be and descriptions of its beauty were by no means exaggerated and were many times over seen.

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We boarded a ferry and watched as the mainland disappeared and after a short journey over water arrived on the Island of Skye off the north east of Scotland. Our first impressions of Skye we dark and rain filled, moody and isolated. With an atmosphere of weighted weather, ominous skies and the knowledge that this island was very much cut off and for the most part totally claimed by wild and unrestrained nature. We first, after an attempt to gage a bearing of our location decided to seek out our hostel. Admittedly for these road trips I took no responsibility over accommodation or directions and shamefully sat as a passive guest along for the ride. Turning off the main road, battling a gravel and grass small road, uphill, we turned into what appeared to be a garden. The ‘road’ wound around and did reveal through thick and blurring mist a house hidden in the weather created darkness. Our hostel, we assumed stood before us. No signs, no reception, just a home. Making a bold move we knocked to no avail and so even bolder and with great risk entered this assumed hostel but potentially family home. To our relief we were in fact in the right place, greeted by three fellow travelers lounging on couches in the main room. They advised us to call a number on the wall which should if answered ring through to the landlord who would come and see us sorted. Following the only instruction and option available to us we call the number on the wall and waited. This wait was terrifying, the only other people any where near from what we could tell were those in the room with us and what a sight it was. They sat some knitting some simply lying around surrounded by compound bows and arrows, an imposing and fear inducing sight. Finally an incredible country man arrived, complete with tweed pants and a wicked sense of humor. We showed us to our own chalet, gave me, the sensible female, his words, instructions regarding the heating and left us, in a small building, exact location unknown.

After an orange and water break, typical road trip  essentials with us, we decided not to waste a moment and begin our discovery of the island. Now the details of routes and exact locations are unclear, I am aware that there are only three roads on the island and once off them it becomes, well perilously dangerous yet scenically stunning. Once again I didn’t ask many questions, Cian had a list of destinations in mind and a German like sense of schedule so I simply sat back and enjoyed the journey. We twisted and turned, followed roads that rose and fell and stopped at road sides that overlook spectacular scenery and natural wonders.

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Our first village stop was a town called Portree Harbor. Still under a shroud of drizzle the town had an eerie abandoned feel, streets deserted as rain keep others indoors. Being your stereotypical Irish folk, undeterred by rain or what most might call bad weather, to us it is the norm, we strolled the town. Eventually after circling the limits our ravenous bellies directed us towards food. This resulted in one of the absolute best meals I have ever had. In some extreme twist of luck we managed to get the only available table in this restaurant, The Granary without a reservation of day. Rain soaked, travel attire and journey worn we sat and stood out from the rest of the clientele quite starkly but none the less once seated and reading a menu nothing else seemed to matter but the wonderful warmth of a restaurant and the pleasure of my fellow excited travelers. We indulged in the most delicious meal and followed it with an Isle of Skye whiskey coffee, just because how could you not?

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Emerging very content, full and refreshed we were pleasantly surprised to see a brighter sky. Again being so far north the hours of brightness are much much longer meaning without the coverage of the rain even at the now hour of 8pm it was clear and bright. We surveyed the town once more now in a different light.

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We  then returned to the car and took to the road to explore a little of the west coast of the island. We drove for hours, down barely passable lanes, over grass, into peoples houses, accidentally and discovered secret and ancient treasures of the island. An especially gorgeous find was just as the sun began to set we pulled off road and saw in the distance a beach. Thinking a sunset by the sea would be nice we abandoned the car and walked towards the water. Then looked to out left we saw on height the ruins of a castle, standing tall above the beast. After walking the shore we followed paths marked out by goats and sheep, scaled the reed covered hill and entered this lost to time monument that gave a powerful impression of just how omnipotent this structure must have been in its time, strong and sure above the water, protector and shelter.

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Following this mesmerizing sunset we began our return journey to the hostel traveling roads that wound around hills, caressed the bend in a river and hugged the shore of the sea. Ahead of us we watched the lights of other cars dot and weave through the darkness, glitter in the distance and create stars to shine over our night. Opening our curtains the next morning I was truly blown away to discover our hostel was right on the water, the low mist and darkness of yesterday had hidden this from us. Our surroundings now clear to survey were breathtaking, compete with white horses at our doorstep.

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We took our time this morning, arising early but in no rush. The weather was much improved and glorious to behold, giving light to the land and sparking an awed silence in us all. Today we stopped regularly, transfixed by the island. We traveled this time mostly up the eastern coast but in truth there was no rhyme or reason and had I accurately mapped out course it would more closely depict a total mess and muddle of crisscrossing and undefined orientation. We arrived at Dunvegan Castle and took to exploring its grounds.

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Naturally on the coast, strategic and practical the castle was a battlement relic of opulent fortification and exquisite design. Its gardens and surroundings were lush and well cultivated, diverse and full of variety. There were native woodland areas, clearly cultivated tropical shrubbery and planned brush paths with impressive man made waterfalls. There was also a walled garden boasting a fragrant array of flora.

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Although the castle and grounds were stunning and I am also intrigued by anything that has stood the test of time. For me the real beauty of the Isle of Skye is that which just is. The places that are what they are, have not been altered save by the touch of time or the hands of weather. The parts of the island that take work to get to, are not advertised, hold no attraction or claim to fame. They are simply beautiful in their quietness and abandonment. I loved the little lakes, the towering cliffs, the trails carved by all manner of animal and followed by curious feet.

I loved standing on a coral beach at the top of an Island off the northern coast of Scotland, touching ice cold water with my toes and breathing in the sea. I loved trekking for an hour through fields, past cattle, over walls and down stone paths to reach this beach.

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I loved sitting with my back to a rock and the rest of the island, knowing I was at the very top, the pinnacle of it all. I loved exploring the Isle of Skye and discovering a tiny few of its treasures, soaking up its culture and history and stepping foot on an island very much connected to its past and also alive and full of possibility for the future.

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