Skye Tour

This morning we were picked up at our guest house by Brian, who was taking us on a scenic tour of Skye. Brian was born and bred on Skye. He even showed us the burial plot where he will eventually be laid to rest on Skye. His accent is broad, so we didn’t quite catch every word, but we enjoyed the conversation and his genial nature.

We travelled south to Sligachan, where we’d stopped with Jerome yesterday. Brian told us that if we drank the pure water from the Sligachan River, it was like sipping from the fountain of youth. He added that he drank it and he was 125 years old! Yesterday, Jerome, who is Brian’s next door neighbour, told us that it’s an old wives tale put out there to suck tourists in. Anyway, we went down to the stream where it flows under the old stone bridge and dutifully drank the water. I guess time will be the judge of whether there’s any truth in that old local folklore. We also had another look at the monument to the mountaineers as they gazed towards their beloved Black Cullin Mountains.

We drove further south to Eas a’ Bhradain, a waterfall photo stop for many who drive along the coastal road on the east of Skye. We left there, heading north now, and stopped after a short distance for another photo stop. Brian didn’t tell us the name of this place, but he said he wanted to build a house there. The view was really quite special looking down the valley with the Red Cullin range to the left and the Black Cullin range to the right.

Just through Portree, we turned off the main road onto a single track road heading due north up the east coast of the island. We’d driven on single track roads on Mull and become familiar with how drivers should use them. The key is to drive at a steady pace and keep an eye on the road ahead. When a vehicle is coming towards you, one driver should pull over into the passing space to allow the other to pass. All it takes is common sense and courteous driving. Brian handled the single track as if he’s been driving on it all his adult life, which of course he has.

The further we got from Portree, the worse the state of repairs the road was in. By the time we came within view of the iconic Old Man of Storr, the road was quite potholed. Despite this, the tourist traffic on it today was quite heavy, especially with camper vans. At Loch Fada we stopped for another photo opportunity, this time looking directly across the lock to the Trotternish Ridge behind, where The Old Man of Storr stood erect looking like the landscape was giving the ‘thumbs up’. Legend has it that Skye was once a land of giants. When one, The Old Man, died and was buried, his thumb was left protruding above the ground. Passing the car park near the beginning of the track to The Old Man of Storr, we noticed that it was full to overflowing. We didn’t have time for that walk, but we couldn’t have stopped there anyway.

We drove further north to Rigg Viewpoint, the second place where Brian wanted to build a house. The view took in the islands of Raasay and Rona to the south east and east respectively, and the hazy Scottish mainland in the distance to the north east. In the water nearby were salmon farms.

Lealt Falls was our next stop. As we were becoming accustomed to, the view was quite spectacular, although Brian kept telling us the best view was yet to come. A relatively new viewing platform allowed us to walk out a short way from the cliff to get a better view of the falls. At the base of the cliff are the ruins of an old diatomite factory and smoking chimney. Diatomite is a porous rock that was used mainly in the filtration of liquids or to make the fire bricks used in pottery kilns. Though Brian didn’t think so, we thought we wouldn’t mind a house with this beautiful view.

We continued our drive north, passing Loch Mealt on our left. Soon we entered Staffin, a very picturesque village of whitewashed cottages and churches. Brian told us that Staffin is perhaps the most religious village in all of Scotland. Nothing must disturb the Sabbath in this village, so late on a Saturday everything shuts down and won’t reopen until Monday. You can’t even hang out your washing on Sunday. It’s a day of prayer and rest.

Thankfully we weren’t there on a Sunday, because we found a great little newly opened cafe and had a delicious lunch. The business donates some of its profits to supporting the homeless. We were glad to see every table occupied.

From Staffin we began our climb to the Quiraing. It’s a section of the Trotternish Range that was created by a massive landslide millions of years ago. It’s a challenging single track road that gets you up there, but it’s worth the trouble when you reach the car park at the top. I think Brian was right. Despite all the beautiful views we’d seen earlier in the day, this one took first prize. Walking tracks from the car park will take you both north and south. Along each track there are vantage points that must provide endless delight for serious photographers, especially when the sun breaking through the clouds and its rays of light are illuminating the peaks and the land below. The car park was full and there were many people out walking. In the distance is the sea and the village of Staffin, where we’d recently stopped for lunch.

Coming down the narrow single track road we spotted a log jam. Three vehicles coming up the hill were trying to squeeze into a passing place that was only big enough for two of them. The third vehicle was making it almost impossible for the two vehicles coming down the hill to squeeze past. Brian pulled into a parking space higher up the hill and waited for them to resolve the impasse. Eventually they got past and traffic began flowing again. It could have been easily avoided if the third driver coming up the hill was either a bit smarter or a bit more courteous. If he’d hung back to give the two in front space, those coming down the hill would have got past without having to stop. It’s moments like these when we appreciated having a driver with local knowledge. The rest of the drive back to Portree was uneventful and we asked Brian to drop us off in town.

We called in at the ice cream shop for a double cone each and Marg and Janie went looking for some gifts for the grandkids. We wandered down to Portree’s well known ‘coloured houses’ for a photo stop. On the way back, Marg found a wool shop. Surprise, surprise! The range was small, however, and they didn’t have what Marg wanted so she walked out empty handed. That doesn’t happen very often. We walked back to our guest house. The sun was out, and we were hot and tired by the time we got back. Tomorrow we leave Skye and take a short rail journey north to Plockton.

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