26 Aug The Spectacular Isle of Skye !
Before we left for our Scottish road trip, people who had already been there kept talking about the Isle of Skye. It is the largest in the Hebrides archipelago, and also the most spectacular, with uneven reliefs, waterfalls, cliffs… And sheep roaming free as far as the eye can see!
On the road to Portree, the Isle of Skye’s main town
The southern part of the island is not the most agreeable one, and does not fully mirror its charm. Apart from the ruins of a castle and a midge-infested waterfall, the first point of interest is in Sligachan. At this crossroads is a rocky river which flows under a small stone bridge. In the background, the island’s largest mountains decorate the horizon with their silhouette. At their highest point, these mountains reach 993 meters and are perfect for hikes. Unfortunately, we didn’t have the time to enjoy this.
Continuing along the road toward the North, we rapidly start to see some of the Isle of Skye’s most emblematic sceneries: the Quiraing and the Old Man of Storr. Once we had arrived at Portree, we enjoyed a visit of the small town and its port, surrounded by pastel houses. It’s a very touristic town. You can find several restaurants serving Scottish specialties, as well as a number of shops. We decided to spend the night in our tent, on a cliff around ten or so kilometers North of the town.
A rainy crossing
We started the day with a short walk near a waterfall called Lealt Falls, in the western part of the Isle of Skye. It’s worth stopping there, as the hike is not long, though the striking Kilt Rock is not far, and is easy to access from the parking lot. The waterfall starts at the top of the cliff and ends up in the ocean. An interesting point about this day is that despite the rain, there’s always something to see, which makes for frequent stops.
Two noteworthy things to see are the ruins of a castle and of a church in (respectively) Duntulm and Stein. We discovered Stein while choosing roads randomly. Since the rain isn’t stopping, we take our time and wander. I often mention ruined castles in my Scottish road trip, but the Isle of Skye has one at Dunvegan which is in particularly good condition. However, the crowd we found at the parking lot discouraged us from visiting it. We took a small road, which ended in a field, to admire the castle from the other side of the river.
Time is marching on, and we’re getting closer to one of the places we wanted to visit before leaving: Neste Point. This is a cliff, the furthest side of which boasts a lighthouse which looks over the ocean. The scenery is worth the detour. Though the weather isn’t ideal, the view is beautiful.
The Quiraing, the Old Man of Storr… and an aurora borealis!
Coming back to Portree, where we wanted to eat in a restaurant for Damien’s birthday, we took the road that goes past the Quiraing. We cross the Isle of Skye with no one in sight, apart from sheep who regularly cross the road in front of the car. At the end of the road is a “geological theater”, as it’s called on the information sign. It’s quite something, as you can see from the photos.
We ate a traditional dinner in a restaurant in the port of Portee, where we ate a local beef stew and plates of fish and chips. Coming back to our tent, which we had set up at Kilt Rock, we had a big surprise: our first aurora borealis! A moment like that deserves an article of its own.
When we woke up, the sunshine was illuminating the waterfall and the cliffs opposite. We were still excited about the nocturnal show we had seen, and felt very lucky! Unfortunately, this didn’t last long. We had hoped to hike up to the Old Man and Storr, but bad weather forced us to turn back, as the view was blocked by clouds. Thus, we didn’t get to enjoy the beautiful panorama.
Visiting the Talisker distillery on the Isle of Skye
Owing to the bad weather, we decided to do something typically Scottish which can’t be overlooked on such a trip: we visited a whisky distillery. There’s only one on the Isle of Skye: Talisker. Taking pictures during the tour is not allowed… What a shame! It’s good to know that visits last less than an hour, and that it can be a good idea to reserve in advance. Tours are exclusively held in English, but the guide, despite having a strong accent, spoke relatively slowly. Some of you might also enjoy the fact that the tour ends with a whiskey tasting J.