Isle of Skye.
When I traveled to Scotland, one of the things scheduled into the itinerary was a day tour of the Isle of Skye.
The first trip that my mother and I took to Scotland was about following the lines of our ancestral heritage. If you’ve followed my blog for some time, then you are already aware of that trip and that my paternal grandfather, Andrew McLachlan Scott, was born in Nova Scotia, Canada. And that his father, George Brown Scott, was 16 when he emigrated to Canada in 1911, along with his family, aboard the Scotian, which departed from Glasgow, Scotland and arrived in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada.
We took that trip in 2017. My second overseas trip and my mother’s first.
She said it was a once in a lifetime trip and that she’d probably never return.
…until the next year
…when she decided she really did want to see the Highlands.
Namely, the Isle of Skye.
Even though I designed the itinerary to maximize our experience with the limited time spent in each location, it was a tight timeline.
Our base for the Highland part of our UK stay was Inverness. The Isle of Skye was on the “must see” portion of the trip. In the past, I haven’t typically taken “tours” because then I’m not in charge of how much time I have available at each location. However, we determined this was our best option. We booked a tour through Viator, but later received an email that stated that tour was no longer available. Everything else for our UK trip was booked at this point. It turns out that the Fairy Pools are VERY popular, which makes it hard for tour buses to visit.
We began the search for a viable option and came across WOW Scotland. They were extremely helpful in our communications and even shared the name of a company that we could use to tour the fairy pools. Logistically, that portion did not work with our timeline and location. WOW Scotland was offering every other thing that we wished to see so we booked their Isle of Skye day tour.
Another thing we loved about WOW Scotland was that the trip was guaranteed! Some tour companies will cancel if there aren’t enough people.
However, that wouldn’t have been a problem for this trip.
The tour leaves from the Inverness Bus station. Show up even earlier than the 30 min prior check-in time.
We stayed at a hotel extremely close to the bus station. Since we had a 4-something a.m. wake-up call the day before when we traveled to the Isle of Lewis (read about that here), we showed up at check-in time. All but 4 seats were already claimed…no windows left … and we weren’t beside each other (the woman next to me slept the majority of the driving portion. Hello?! You took the window!).
On with the Tour.
In general, the Highlands are unlike anything you’ve experienced. The terrain and scenery are not only stunning but also completely its own.
There was so much amazingness packed into this day that even by narrowing my photos down to one (okay…sometimes two) shots per stop, I still felt that it was necessary to divide the tour into two parts.
You leave from the Inverness bus station at 8:30 in the morning and return around 8:30 at night. The tour has a separate driver and tour guide. This is awesome. If you haven’t ridden on single-track roads, you’ll be thankful later that the driver doesn’t have to focus on the road as well as remember to tell you about the passing scenery.
Outside the city of Inverness, you drive through the Black Isle. The Black Isle is steeped in mystery. Some claiming that it’s named after the black magic that was practiced here. With others stating that it’s due to the fact that the land appears black when the mountains are snow-capped.
It’s around an hour before the first stop in the village of Achnasheen, home of a railway station (and bathrooms!). While the weather was less than stellar on the day we visited, you will still catch beautiful views along the way. The photo above caught my eye because of the perfect reflection into the water.
Place your camera lens as close to the window as possible in order to cut down on reflective glare.
As you travel along, you never know what surprise you may chance to see.
This was a herd of deer near a home along the road. I didn’t add to my notes what type of deer these were, but rest assured the tour guide did know!
Scotland has four species of deer: red, roe, fallow and sika. The red and roe are native to Scotland.
Driving westward, we come to the next stop.
The quick stop at Loch Carron affords stunning views and peaceful scenery. In fact, I captured a short video where birds were singing as I panned around the trees and the loch.
It is also at the stop that you can look across part of the loch and see the ruins of Strome Castle along the shore. Strome Castle was a fortification owned by Clan MacDonald and besieged by Clan Mackenzie. These neighboring clans had many feuds which play a large part in the historical aspect of the Highlands.
The Skye Bridge.
The rain had started as we crossed the Skye Bridge.
Luckily, it was only a drizzle and we were able to climb to the viewpoint at our stop in Kyleakin. From this vantage point, you are able to view the Skye Bridge and also the ruins of Castle Moil.
At this point, the rain began to pick up and we were thankful for the cup of hot chocolate (and the sweet treat) that we purchased from the cafe before departing.
Our next stop was Sligachan. Here, you can take a short hike out to a beautiful little spot or relax in Seaumus’ Bar.
Given that this would be the closest to the Fairy Pools that we would get to see, we opted for the hike.
The rain was much heavier at this point.
Waterproof shoes and a raincoat are an essential part of many Highland journeys. The wind is often whipping through, so umbrellas are not typically advised. I did have a small umbrella to try to hold over my camera. I was not able to capture many photos because the rain would still find the lens. Some things in life just have to be cherished in the memories you store in your brain.
This area has brought you to the Red and Black Cuillin Mountains. These mountain ranges dominate the landscape of Skye.
Back at the bar, with its selection of over 400 malt whiskeys, there is also ale on tap, most of which is brewed at the adjacent Cuillin Brewery. I would have loved to have raised a glass and toasted Sláinte (Gaelic meaning “to your health”), but I was in the bathroom squeezing as much water as possible out my coat and drying off my camera.
This stop is about 40 minutes and then we are back on the road.
The rained has subsided, leaving a foggy sky. Given the weather, our next stop as we made our way through the Isle of Skye was Kilt Rock.
Located on the Trotternish Peninsula, these cliffs are said to look like a pleated kilt.
Mealt Falls is just as awe-inspiring as one might assume. The waterfall plunges down 180 feet (60 meters)!
Along with the sound of rushing water, where I stand at the viewpoint, a haunting, magical tone can be heard.
Is it the wind whistling through the hollows of the bars or the fairies calling out from below?
Don’t forget to check out part 2. You can find that here.
Let your light shine!