Isle of Skye

As g and i recently started new jobs, we only had a week to spend in Scotland–making planning our Scotland trip a challenge. We had to select our Homebases carefully. 

One guide said Skye’s the highlight of any trio to Scotland. Another painted the scene as tour buses blocking the views for as far as the eye can see. We weren’t sure what to expect. So, given these competing guidebook reviews, we had to decide who to trust. Rick Steves won the toss. 

During our visit in early May, there were no tour buses to be found (though there was a small cruise ship in Portree). It was quiet and we had a wonderful stay. 

Once upon a time, the island could only be reached via a 30 minute ferry ride from the mainland. Recently, however, a modern bridge was constructed, so we opted to take the ferry up and the bridge back in order to see more of the surrounding countryside. 

The ferry dropped us just south of the dramatic Cullin mountains. These craggy juts are striking, at once they seem ominous and threatening, but also like the green hills of Virginia hills–seemingly easy to climb. We could see them in their entirety. And as their surface is marble (lending its hues), only shallow vegetation grows there. So, scrubby bushes and grass cling to the mountains…from a distance, it seems they’d be the perfect spot for the world’s longest log roll. Though, any such thought would be a grand mistake. 

Like northern Ireland, the soil in Skye (and around Oban, as well)  lends itself to peat bogs. This combined with the stone underground works to keeps vegetation low to the ground, water close to the surface–and makes trees hard to come by. The only trees (spruces, I think) seem to have been planted there in unnatural places and patterns tree farms) making the sheep seem more a natural part of the landscape than the trees. 

Together, the effect is of the English lake district super-sized. Lovely craggy mountains and hills are visible at every turn with varying rainbows of colour as they climb ever higher. And unlike the lovely vistas in Virginia, for example, the man made structures add to the beauty. Small cape cod esque atome croft houses all painted white. Not a subway or strip mall to be found. Uninterrupted beauty…nearly all with water views. 

The island is roughly 6-10 miles across (though much longer), so visitors are always within 5 miles of the sea. This was apparent during our 5 mile hike up and around Old Man of Storr. We were greeted with striking 360 degree water views after our 600-700 meter climb—one of the best hikes we’ve ever undertaken. The views were extraordinarily stunning.

Breakfasts at home, lunch picnics on the run and seafood dinners were our sustenance during our stay on Skye. We hired a furnished 2 bedroom flat during our stay and have been reminded that this type of arrangement works well with a little one in tow. W loved ambling about the flat and was more at ease with so few formal meals per day–as compared with our stay at a B&B in Oban. 

Aside from hiking, eating and driving (to take in the views), there’s not much to do on Skye. But for us, it was a gorgeous respite from the real world and a relaxing reminder to what the world was like before Walmart and Tesco. 

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