From the moment I crossed the bridge onto the Isle of Skye, I felt as if I were in a dream world. If ever there were the perfect romantic location, this is it. Don’t go to the Isle of Skye if shopping and city life are your priorities. This island is remote, and has just been connected to the mainland of Scotland by the Skye Bridge since it opened in 1995. The island is part of the Inner Hebrides of Scotland, off the west coast of Scotland. It is the perfect place for honeymooners, walkers, and those who love spectacular and rugged scenery. Unique rock formations sit atop majestic green mountains, while waterfalls cascade down sheer jagged cliffs into the turquoise water below. It feels as though an artist painted the landscape as it is almost too beautiful to be real.
To get to the Isle of Skye, I flew into Edinburgh from Dublin, Ireland on Ryan Air. Ryan Air flights are very inexpensive- I paid 20 Euros for a round trip flight! Of course, baggage fees are not included, but with the first bag at 15 Euros each way, it is still a deal at 50 Euros (69 US dollars or 43 British pounds) for a round trip flight. Just remember to pack light as it makes things a lot more simple in the long run. My biggest mistake was over stuffing my suitcase. I had no problem on the flight to Scotland; however, on the return they were a bit more strict and charge extra if your bag weighs more than 20kg (about 44 lbs). I had to remove some clothing from my bag and dress in layers, as well as leave some of my shell collection at the airport to avoid paying the fees.
There is so much to see in Scotland. If you don’t have a lot of time, I recommend spending most of it on the Isle of Skye and planning a separate trip to mainland Scotland. Although I usually don’t like touristy places, I couldn’t resist a slight detour to photograph Loch Ness. Nessie was not in sight, but I sat on the edge of the lake with my toes in the cool water, imagining what she might look like if she swam by. It was worth the extra mileage. Driving on through the Scottish Highlands, purple heather covered mountains towered on both sides of the road. Waterfalls streaming down the mountains seemed to be at every turn. I began to try and resist stopping for pictures as I would have had to stop so many times I might not ever arrive at my destination! If you drive from Edinburgh, the trip is supposed to take five hours. I’d recommend planning on taking a whole day, so that you can appreciate this amazing scenery.
Just a few miles before the Skye Bridge, you’ll see Eilean Donan Castle. More than likely, you’ve seen photos of this before as it is one of the most iconic images of Scotland and recognized all over the world. You can take a journey into every corner of this mid 13th century castle, but if you don’t have time you should at least stop for a picture. There is a small market near the castle with an ATM. If you don’t have any cash with you, stop here! The Isle of Skye has few ATMS, and by the time I arrived in Staffin, the only ATM was located inside a closed grocery store. The only open restaurant in the area did not take credit or debit cards, only cash. I was very hungry by the time we got there, and that had not occurred to me. After taking my order, I began to hear other customers rustling for change. My heart stopped. I called the waiter over and asked if credit cards were accepted. He began to laugh and shook his head. I asked if he knew where an ATM might be. He then said with a smile, “Looks like we’ll have to send your food back!” Apparently, this had happened before. He then asked where I was staying and said, “No problem, I’ll just tell Mary to add it to your stay.” That really sums up how friendly and open the people are there! The waiter sat at our table telling stories of tourists who get frustrated with all of the sheep and cows that hold up traffic on the roads, and how happy he was to have lived here all his life. Unfortunately, it seems that restaurant has closed, but it is a memory I’ll never forget.
Driving north from Portree to Staffin, the scenery continued to amaze at every turn. As the outline of the Quiraing came into view, I began to feel that I was in a computer generated fantasy, its hard to believe that this landscape is real. The Quiraing is a landslip on the northernmost summit of the Trotternish Ridge. It is a series of jagged rocky peaks, unique rock formations, needles set amidst the greenest mountains my eyes have seen. To the east lies the rugged coastline, with both rocky and white sandy beaches found below. Finally tiring from the long drive, and a bit overwhelmed at the beauty of the place, I turned down the winding driveway to reach Gairloch View Cottage. There are many cottages available for rent throughout the Isle of Skye, and of course, most have spectacular views. The cottage sat just above the sea, in a grassy meadow not far from the Quiraing. It was cozy and clean, and felt like coming home. I only wished it was home!
Although it is a remote island, there is so much to see and do- especially if you like the outdoors and history (two of my favorite things). The first on my list was the Fairy Glen. The narrow road from Uig winds through the hills through this somewhat bizarre miniature landscape of grassy hills, a loch, twisted tree stumps and an unimaginable magical beauty. If you don’t believe in fairies, you just might after seeing this. There might just be a leprechaun or two that has relocated from Ireland. I would not be surprised! A walk or a hike through the Quiraing is another must while your here. The views from the top of Quiraing is phenomenal. You can see for miles- the bright blue sea, lochs, crags, the endless expanse of green. Climb to the top of the dramatic rock formations and you’ll feel as if your on top of the world.
A visit to picturesque Dunvegan Castle on the west coast, is a must. This castle is said to be the oldest inhabited castle in Scotland, with parts of the castle dating back to the ninth century. The Fairy Flag is on display here, though very little of it remains. The flag dates back to the seventh century, and is supposed to bring success to the Chief or his Clan if unfurled in emergency. The charm will only work if used on three occasions, and its already been used twice by the MacLeods to secure a victorious battle. Here, you can also read of the fascinating stories of the battles between the MacLeods and the MacDonalds, the two major clans here. Of course, many of the stories involve a woman, and fights continued from as early as the thirteenth on up to the eighteenth century. Not far from the castle, are the Coral Beaches. Hours can be spent walking along the water, searching for shells and other treasures.
After all of that walking, a tour of the Talisker Whiskey Distillery might be in order! You can learn about the process used to make this award-winning whiskey, sample a taste and purchase a bottle at a discount. Bring your bottle back to the cottage, sit by the fire and dream about what it might be like to have a new life here. If only…!