Skye has double weather at all times. Sunshine with rain not more than a mile out. Or rain with fog imminently rolling in. A forty degree monsoon then bam, the sky clears and a rainbow spreads above you. It’s an isle that doesn’t do anything half-heartedly. The grass isn’t just green, it’s an unnatural Kool-Aid green. The wind doesn’t just blow, it bowls you over. The sky above lingers for no more than a moment. It’s ever changing leaving you in a state of constantly wondering what’s next. No wonder people come here in search of fairies. If they were to exist, they’d make a home on this isle.
My husband and I drove into the Isle of Skye from Edinburgh, passing signs along the way for “Crudenmore, “Possible Cows” and “Old Sick Bay Dental Practice” before arriving at Kinloch Lodge where we’d stay the next two nights. The lodge was my big hotel splurge for our three week trip to Scotland and England. Kinloch served as a former seventeenth century hunting lodge for the Macdonald clan until 1972 when Godfrey Macdonald, 8th Lord Macdonald and 35th High Chief of his clan (imagine introducing yourself at a dinner party with that mouthful) converted it into an inn. Kinloch now features a renowned restaurant (formerly Michelin starred and now just Michelin recommended, the horror!) and a whisky bar with 100+ bottles of the amber elixir.
I booked a room plus breakfast and dinner, handy given there are few restaurants outside of towns, and there are few towns across the isle. Upon our arrival I was agog at the view overlooking Loch Hourn. As soon as we stepped inside we were given champagne cocktails to sip in the library before dinner. While I cozied into a plaid couch perusing through a century old book on the pheasants of Scotland I overheard a conversation behind me between two young couples. The woman from couple A instructed the woman from couple B how to do her hair and makeup the following afternoon and what time she was to be gussied up. Given that woman B was pretty and petite, with shiny black hair and black glasses, I initially thought something salacious may be at play, but gleaned that she was speaking to photographers they’d hired.
Once business was complete the group moved onto small talk led primarily by the photographers. This is where we’re from — Norway! What are our thoughts on road tripping in Scandinavia — too dark! Here’s our take on tapas in Spain — too salty! Then the woman of couple number two asked, very seriously, if they believed in fairies. The photographers scoffed and let out a small laugh before responding “no” and asked the same question back at her, to which she replied flatly “yes. Of course”. This was followed by silence and I thought “Ooooo how awkward for you hipsterwegians! This raven haired nymph must be staring you down right now”.
I go to dress for dinner, which sounds fancy, but really means changing out of leggings covered in the boiling tea I spilled on myself leaving Edinburgh. We’re the second table to be sat in the formal dining room. It’s us and a group of seventy-something Brits, each with a martini glass in front of them. Over the hour the room filled with couples, primarily with 50+ year old British couples. The crowd seemed on edge by the unhurried service and were constantly flagging their servers down to request refills on drinks or lodge various complaints.
The three course menu is intimidating. Dish descriptions include “lovage emulsion”,” sea buckthorn gel” and “cavolo nero”. I Google some items so as not to look like a complete rube when plates are delivered, and learn that cavolo negro, which I assumed was some kind of billion dollar caviar is just a type of kale, proving all you need to turn the mundane upscale is copy.
We ordered chargrilled asparagus with rocket, truffled asparagus foam and chicory, seared monkfish with scallop vinaigrette, vegetable linguini and walnut pesto, jerusalem artichoke with egg mousse and soy roast broccoli, roast duck breast with leg croquette and carrot vinegar jus, baked passionfruit cheesecake with shortbread, sea buckthorn gel and yogurt banana sorbet, and chocolate fondant with honeycomb ice cream and a salt caramel chocolate basket.
A good general rule in restaurants is longer the item name, the smaller the dish. Dinner is plenty filling and the presentation is beautiful, but in a “the egg mousse is the three dots creating an isosceles triangle” kind of way.
The meal lasts over two hours and by the time it’s over I’m feeling tuckered out and ready for a bath then bed. Outside the sky is still eerily bright. Daylight is long in May, with darkness lasting only from 11:10 PM-3:21 AM. I run a steaming bath and copper-colored water pours out. The host warned us on our arrival of brown water, letting us know it’s naturally colored by the peat in the region and that it’s perfectly safe and delicious to drink. I assumed he meant the water was slightly tinged. Philadelphia water. This water is beyond that. It’s tea colored, and not weak tea either. Strong, English breakfast tea. This water has a distinct minerally and peaty aroma. It feels different on the skin. Wetter. Slicker. Skye water.
Despite first impressions I find my bath incredibly relaxing. The water felt spa-like. People pay good money to slather themselves in mud and have koi chomp on their bunions, spas could make a killing by adding a peat bath to their services list.
I go to bed with a violet twilight peeking through the curtains and am thankful for the eye mask I packed for the flight. When I wake to pee at 4AM it’s already dawn and when we make our way back to the dining room at 8AM the sun is high.
Breakfast has two courses. Unnecessary yet luxurious. I start with a steaming bowl of oatmeal porridge with cinnamon, nutmeg and brown sugar, which is easily the best porridge I’ve ever had. Carl orders the housemade granola made with dark chocolate, apricots and nuts to start, and the Scottish grill as his main. I’d come to know the grill, the Scottish rendition of the full English, as too much breakfast. He’s served a platter heaped with pork sausage, smoked bacon, black pudding, tomatoes, butter-fried mushrooms, eggs, and toast. My spinach florentine looks paltry in comparison.
While eating I picked up on the rich people dining behaviors happening around the room. The white haired English couple next to me ordered the toast and scones to start, which is customarily served with homemade jam. However, when the wife was served jam she was quite upset. The jam wasn’t spread on the toast or scones, mind you, there were simply three jam jars on her plate. This was unacceptable. She called the server over and let them know she specifically requested no jam. The server, a tall, Spanish looking gentleman with big dark eyes looked at her quizzically. I’m thinking his reaction was similar to mine. This is a situation that needs no intervention. Solutions are simple and obvious.
I imagine he’d like to respond with something like “Move the jars onto the table. Or just leave them where they are and don’t use them. Literally, do nothing. Continue about your day without finding something to complain about within your first hour of waking”. Instead, he apologizes for the mixup, figuring that should rectify the situation. The steely British stare she’s radiating makes it clear the apology is not sufficient. Something further must be done on his part. Some action must be taken to fix such a glaring mistake. He apologizes twice more then awkwardly removes the offending jars, carrying them into the kitchen and out of sight. Then she does something so unseemly that I’m still in shock. She eats her toast dry.
I watch all this behavior, judging. Yet I’m acutely aware that as the pregnant woman who asked if the house butter was made with unpasteurized milk that in the eyes of the waitstaff I’m definitely lumped in with the chorus of needy bozos.
When the hour long breakfast service wraps up it’s into the car and off to Isle of Skye Bakery in Portree, the isles largest town. Portree is centrally located, with numerous restaurants and pubs (“many” of either would be a stretch). To further hone in on how small the isle is, Portree is also the home of Skye’s only high school. I have no idea how school sporting events would work in such a land.
At the bakery we scoop up an orange poppyseed cake and local gooseberry jam for lunch later. We still have the jar of clotted cream and loaf of oat bread we picked up on the drive yesterday. I figure the addition of cake will make a lovely picnic lunch on a hike. Isle of Skye Bakery opened at 10 AM and when we left just shy of 10:30 the small parking lot was filled with cars. I was grateful to beat the rush since our first hike of the day was The Old Man of Storr, the isle’s most photographed and popular destination. The road to Portree was well paved, a proper A-road, but just outside of town the road narrows, barely fitting two cars. When passing oncoming vehicles each driver slows, praying their vehicles can clear each other. Almost everyone drives as far towards the shoulder as possible, treading the white line like a tightrope walker. The term shoulder is generous in Skye, ranging from six inches of gravel to a cliff wall.
The road is bumpy, causing passengers to bobble like rag dolls with a constant thump-a-thump-a-thump. A car (or tour group) is vital to visit Skye, but I’d also venture that Skye would be impossible for the inexperienced or insecure driver. On the road to Storr we passed a Japanese couple in a polished black SUV. The man had perfectly trimmed hair and a jet black hoodie zipped up to the chin. As he drove he clutched the wheel with white knuckles. Every inch of his body was tense. He had an intense focus on the road, like he believed it was about to turn to lava any moment. His passenger girlfriend stared at her phone, oblivious to the scenery and her partner’s silent and ongoing panic attack.
Within minutes of our arrival it began to rain. Not a heavy rain, more of a spitting. Temperatures in May are chilly, making spring showers painful to get caught in. Storr is a grouping of monoliths looking over the Sound of Raasay between mainland Scotland and Skye. A place where the moody weather enhances the surroundings and a common shooting location for movies and television, most often seen in fantasy. It is the definition of Tolkienesque. The epitome of otherworldly. It’s referred to as the Old Man due to the rocks resembling the profile of a bearded man. Personally, I don’t see it. The rock formation in Sedona Arizona dubbed Snoopy because it looks like the cartoon canine laying on his dog house? Spot on. But this one is lost on me.
The hike up takes about an hour and is clogged with hikers, even on a cold, rainy Tuesday. Continue on the path beyond the route’s popular ending point and the crowds clear. Suddenly this mythical place is all yours. Carl and I made a loop beyond rocks and watched as the rain stopped, the mist rolled in, followed by the sun beaming. All of this in a matter of fifteen minutes.
Weather in Great Britain is unpredictable. At any moment it may pour down rain. You never know. Always best to be prepared with an umbrella and an understanding that while nothing in life is ever really in your control, the weather is nothing more than a mischievous house elf moving your socks about. Skye takes this unpredictability to an extreme. Within moments a week’s worth of weather can be experienced. I can look over the isle and see rain in one direction, sun in another, and not know which is bound my way. The whole west to east direction doesn’t exist here. It’s chaos, like the weather pattern is dictated by the giants and fairies said to roam these lands.
On our walk down the rains rolled back in with force. Instead of a light dripping rain we were pelted with a sideways downpour. The kind that smacks you in the face and leaves your fingers and nose a bright pink and makes me want to drive back to the lodge for a nap. But I didn’t come all the way out to this small isle in the Hebrides to nap. We continue our drive North to Kilt Rock viewpoint, a palisade of basalt sea cliffs whose name comes from the naturally grooved pattern in the rocks resembling pleats in a skirt. It’s a quick stop with a lovely, albeit tourist jammed, view of the sound, and a short layover on our way to hike the Quiraing.
I thought driving in Skye was difficult earlier in the day, but buckle up cowboy. To get to Quiraing from Kilt Rock we turned off the A-road onto an unnamed one. Navigation simply instructs us to “turn left”. We’re on a single lane road with pull-outs every quarter mile. The general rule is the car closest to a pull-out is the one that stops to wait for the oncoming vehicle to pass. Aggressive drivers don’t head these areas and blaze down them like it’s Mad Max rules and will intimidate oncoming traffic to reverse. Passive drivers or those that don’t know how large their vehicle is, a large bucket since many on the road are in rentals, pull off whenever they see another car miles ahead. This turns a one mile drive into a half hour journey.
The scenery is breathtaking. Farmlands are bathed in sunlight (oh yeah, it stopped raining again) and filled with grazing sheep. Eventually we’re required to wind our way up the side of a mountain to arrive at the trailhead which is an anxiety inducing climb. When we see a car making the slow descent towards us I hold my breath. They pull into the curve of the mountainside, requiring us to drive around them, teetering a few feet from the drop-off. I hold my breath until I’m purple in the face and release only when we’re safely past them.
The Quiraing is a flat topped expansive valley. Hikers can spend miles curving along its ridgeline taking in views throughout. We fight the wind for a mile before deciding it’s time to plop down for a picnic and from our lunch spot I watch a wedding in the distance, the bride’s white gown contrasting against the kelly green grass.
Picnics are typically peaceful and lazy. This was not my experience in Skye. Anytime I broke a hunk from the loaf the wind tried to carry it off. When I attempted to spread some clotted cream my piece of bread split into two, then I watched as half of it tumbled across the grass and off the cliffside. I pivoted and dipped the loaf into my jar of gooseberry jam then shoved the sticky chunks into my face in heaping mouthfuls. This takes the silver medal in “least relaxing picnic lunch” I’ve had, beaten only by an afternoon in Franschhoek South Africa when I bought a luxury picnic basket in a vineyard then had to fight a hoard of yellow jackets for its contents, all the while watching a distant forest fire plume smoke into an otherwise sapphire sky.
For as hard as the wind blows the landscape remains still. I’m used to wind creating waves in grasslands. Here the grass hugs the land like a mossy skin. I imagine a giant wearing a pelt of tightly shorn grass then shedding it like a cloak after coming home in the blustery evening. Hey, if everyone can make up their own local legends why can’t I?
Our next destination is the Fairy Glen. Equally enchanting yet on a much different scale. Grazing sheep create wave-like patterns in the grass that trace up small and knobby knolls. Grass in the fairy glen is an unnatural green. Kool-Aid green. Slime green. Ecto-cooler green. I would accuse a nearby farmer of dumping dye over the landscape in an attempt to create an attraction, but the locals here hate tourists coming to the glen. Visitors rearrange rocks into spiral patterns and leave change out as fairy offerings. Each year residents of Skye make the Sisyphusian effort of removing the rocks to restore the landscape to its natural state, and each summer tourists inflict the Zeusian punishment of moving them back.
Some describe the landscape as looking like a shrunken down, miniaturized Quairaing, hence, fairy-esque, but I think it’s because when in a landscape that’s as fantastical as Skye we feel the need to explain its magic by imparting a mythical name on everything.
Dinner that evening is a mix of old and new faces. Yesterday’s fairy hunting couple are seated in the center of the room. She’s in a cerulean, navy and heather tartan shawl over a long white dress and wears her hair twisted beneath a crown of flowers. He wears a sport coat in a matching tartan print over a heather kilt. Given their dress, photographer meetup and the magical land we’re in I deduce there’s a 100% chance these two are newlyweds.
They ate next to an American woman with her teenage daughter. The mother was tan, golden blonde and slender. The daughter is pale, platinum blonde, incredibly thin and clearly in high school — I’d wager sixteen years old. Neither spoke to one another as the mother scrolled through photos on a twelve hundred dollar Nikon. When the server arrives with the usual greeting of “How are we doing this evening” the mom answered “Oh, I’m doing great. I’m just gawking over these gorgeous photos my daughter took. She’s an amazing photographer and has the best eye”. This was said with a little nod towards the camera which she held a few inches higher. Clearly she expected the server to ask to see some of these magnificent photos and oooh and ahhh, but with a full dining room the server instead let out a chipper “I bet! The scenery is stunning here. And what will we be having this evening? The braised hispi has some particularly wonderful umami notes”. Ordering then devolved into a series of the daughter’s allergens: gluten, soy, corn. Then dietary preferences: vegetarian, no eggs, low sugar. This ruled out each menu item.
In the end her dinner became a plate of steamed vegetables and a whittled down cheese board of cheddar and brie. The fruit, crackers and bleu were all booted off the tray. The server was very accommodating during this exchange until the mother asked for a glass of white wine for her daughter. Things then got heated.
Certainly. I just need to see some ID first.
Not needed. It’s fine.
I understand, but I’m required to verify everyone is 18 years of age to serve them.
I’m saying it’s OK.
I’m sorry, but I can’t serve until I..
And I’M SAYING it’s OK.
The mother requested the manager who took the side of his waitstaff, saying their liquor license could be revoked if they were to serve to an underage patron. This was met by the matriarch’s argument that the license would indeed not be revoked because she said so. The back and forth continued until she finally relented and plastered a smile on her face for the rest of the service, as if nothing were ever the matter.
At no point during dinner did I hear the daughter speak. Not with staff. Not with her mother. Her back was to me so I’m unsure if she was so soft spoken I simply didn’t hear her, or if she truly remained mute. Her mother was more of a fangirl than a parent, emanating vibes of “I’m not a regular mom. I’m a cool mom.” Witnessing their relationship I was reminded that if there’s one thing I don’t miss, it’s being sixteen.
Kinloch’s setting is beautiful. Its food is impressive and its rooms comfortable. But it’s the people watching that I’m most taken with. The lodge is a splurge on my part. I’m not used to being closely surrounded by rich people and feel like I’m watching a David Attenborough documentary. “And now we watch as the man in the crested sports jacket flags down a server to note that the 15 page wine menu lacks his preferred malbec. Let’s observe how his face reddens with frustration the longer he speaks. Magnificent.”
The day’s menu is completely new tonight. We have a smoked halibut tartare, compressed watermelon with balsamic, dried tomato and courgette, roast hake with pan fried gnocchi, braised hispi cabbage with butternut and miso, a lemon panna cotta with cardamom, honeycomb and meringue and white chocolate mousse with cookie crumb and kinloch grown rhubarb. Carl declared the hake is the best fish he’s ever eaten. I’m in awe of the sugar spiral garnishing the mousse; it’s just so dang twirly.
After dinner we head to the whisky bar for Carl to sample a few local drams. I have a bun brewing and am reduced to looking longingly at the spirits menu. He orders two malts, as peaty as they come, and is served two snifters along with a small pitcher of water and dropper, provided to create the preferred scotch to water ratio. The bartender recommended two drops to bring out the best flavor. I’d reckon they’d consider anything over four blasphemous. Carl sips away letting me know the notes he’s getting and how he thinks the two vary. I take a few wee nips, but the thing about being pregnant is my palette for booze is shot. All I can confirm is that I’m sampling two scotches. They are peated. That is all. Throughout my nine months I’d have the same reaction to any alcohol I sampled. “Mmmm, it’s wine” or “Mmmm it’s beer”.
We reclined on the velvet couches in front of the fireplace, getting cozy as groups came in and out ordering scotch to take to their rooms. My favorite was a toasty trio of Germans, each wearing plaid vests with matching sports coats. They entered boisterously and rang the bell on the counter for service. All of 40 seconds went by before they rang it a second time. Another five seconds went by before it rang a third, fourth and fifth time, emitting a series of shrill ding, ding, dings before the bartender appeared and filled their order for three double whiskies, which the Germans carried back to their private dining room. If I wanted to find the party in Kinloch, it would be this group of dapper drunk Deutschmen.
Carl momentarily considers flexing his German skills to get an invite to their table. Instead, we head upstairs to pack our bags. We’ll be sleeping in another hotel on the isle the next day. My pockets aren’t deep enough for three nights at Kinloch. As I toss my bag into the car in the morning I see the mother and daughter duo from dinner pulling out. The daughter sat in the backseat with a bored Margot Tenenbaum expression on her face as her mother played chauffeur.
Today we’re touring the western and more rugged end of the isle. Our first stop is the Clach Ard Pictish stone. There are over 300 Pictish stones located across Scotland, dating from the sixth to ninth centuries. Little is known about the Picts, a group of Scottish peoples dating back to the Roman era, and even less is known about their stones. Later ones have more clear cut purposes, such as gravestones, but the purpose of the early stones which pre-date the spread of Christianity is a bit of a mystery. The Clach Ard stone falls into the “we don’t know” category. What we do know is the stone was being used as a cottage door jam in the late nineteenth century before it was planted upright near the very home it was jamming in. A small wooden fence was then built around it and that was that.
We drove past the stone twice, almost sure Google was lost before we spotted the stone standing in a desolate field across from a small B&B. The sign bolted to the Clach Ard fence is just a few short sentences, letting us know that symbols for a mirror and a comb were identified on the stone. Riveting. I left having learned nothing, except that in an isle whose people date back millennia that ancient relics are so readily available they can be left out to weather. In the United States everything is so new that if we find one of Ulysses S. Grant’s belt buckles it’s put into a vault.
From Clach Ard we journey onto Dunvegan Castle, the primary seat of the MacLeod clan for over 800 years. Dunvegan’s interior feels proper castle-y. Read, there’s a dungeon. It’s a rock shaft thirteen feet deep but only four feet wide, preventing prisoners from laying down. In true medieval fashion a slit was built into the thick rock wall to waft the smells of food into the pit, further torturing prisoners actively being starved to death.
How families could sip tea and play the harp in the drawing room next door is beyond me. Imagine how they confirmed the shaft was properly soundproofed. “Sorry little Sally, mummy can’t concentrate on what fine needlework you’re doing while she hears the treacherous uncle Barnaby wailing away. Miss MacDonald, see to it that an extra layer of stones is added to the dungeon post hace”.
Then there’s the deep navy dining room whose walls are covered in portraits of clan leaders past, including the 22nd chieftan Norman MacLeod, known as “the wicked one” in his time. He’s said to have imprisoned and starved his first wife in said dungeon in order to marry his second. He chose to be painted wearing head to toe red tartan, including a bulky crimson cape draped over one shoulder. I read his murderous description, took a look at the portrait and nodded “yep, this guy definitely killed his wife”.
On a less macabre note the North Room holds Dunvegan’s most prized treasures. These include the Dunvegan cup, given to the 16th chieftain Rory Mor by the O’Neil clan as a thanks for his support during the 16th century wars with Queen Elizabeth, and Mor’s horn, which can hold one and a half bottles of wine. Tradition has it that the heir to the chief must chug the horn’s contents without putting it down or without falling down themselves. If there’s one way to shape a leader it’s to push the prospective candidate to alcoholism during their formative years.
The most treasured item of them all is the fairy flag, whose stories date back to the fifteenth century. The flag has multiple origin stories, many involving the flag being gifted to MacLeod’s by mysterious personages. These include from a fairy to her chieftain lover, fairies swaddling a chieftain infant in the flag as he slumbered, and as a reward for defeating an evil spirit in the Crusades. Beyond its magical origin the flag is rumored to have magical properties and is credited with rallying the MacLeod clan to victory during losing battles. The flag is so precious it even has its own heredity for who can bear it, and those few are given the honor of being buried in the chieftain tomb. I find it lovely that the most badass, most revered symbol of clan pride and manliness is a gift blessed by fairies. I wouldn’t say I believe in them, but I wouldn’t want to be on the bad side of the fairies of Skye, so I wouldn’t say that I don’t not believe in them.
The castle grounds are just as impressive as the interior. So impressive we spend the majority of our visit outside in the misty weather walking through groves of knotted trees, immaculately maintained hedgerows, gardens of towering rhododendrons and collections of herbs. I bank “sneezewort” into the brain box of good pet names thanks to the herb garden.
Lunch is a quick stop into main street’s Dunvegan Bakery where we grab a black coffee and a carrot and “meat” cornish pasty. Cornish pasties are the original Hot Pocket. It’s a delicious combination of meat and veg crimped into a buttery pastry shell and baked. The thing the pasty most excels at, much like its Hot Pocket brethren, is that it always manages to scald the tongue of the eater. It could have been baked at dawn, but will still destroy your mouth when bit into at noon.
This self-inflicted tongue burning is done in the car while driving to Neist Lighthouse. Built in 1909, the lighthouse is located on the most western point of Skye. On this isle the sheep outnumber people 10-1. There are just 13,000 people and over 100,000 sheep, making the roads a sheep freeway. Felted friends are constantly in the middle of the road, staring down cars with a don’t care attitude. It’s clear they’re unafraid of cars the same way giraffes ignore vehicles in Africa. They know who the true owners of this land are; everyone else is merely passing through. Why did the sheep cross the road in Skye? Bahhhcause should you take down one it knows its kind will continue their reign in these hills. Viva le sheepe!
I will say that sheep sauntering across the road are far less intimidating than sheep cozying up next to rock walls on the shoulders of highways like they are in England. In that scenario there’s a granny riding your tail as you zoom down a cliffside at sixty an hour, unsure if a lamb is about to make a rash decision and become lamb chops.
It’s on the craggy, cliffside drive to Neist point I witnessed that which I did not want to see, a massive white van going in reverse to let an oncoming car pass. We’d been behind the van for miles and during that time it steamed ahead, requiring all oncoming traffic to succumb to its size. And now, less than a mile from Neist Point parking they met a vehicle unwilling to back up. What happens when an impenetrable force meets an immovable object? It backs up, bitch.
At Neist Point the wind is absurd. I never fully understood what windy met until I encountered Scotland windy and witnessed a crow stuck in place mid-air while desperately flapping its wings. There must be a true crime podcast about whatever that crow did in another life to deserve this torture.
The lighthouse can be reached by a cement walkway and rusted stairwell that descends along a cliffside. It’s a short hike, just shy of 1.5 miles there and back again, but when the wind is smacking you so hard your jacket and pants fill up like you’re the Michelin Man expect it to take longer. It was a laborious walk and I slogged about like a giant with a dozen arrows in each limb until I finally reached the lighthouse.
Neist Point looks over the sea of the Hebrides, specifically the section dubbed Little Minch. In the distance I can just make out the silhouette of the Uist islands. Like all lighthouses it’s a lonesome structure with cream plastered walls and mustard trim, yet in the sunlight it looks like a Wes Anderson set. Peaceful and stylish albeit for the howling wind. Sheep graze nearby and I wonder if there’s any grass on this isle they’ve left untouched. Who owns the sheep out here anyway? There must be an unspoken rule on Skye that if a member of your flock has wandered all the way to the tip of the isle they’re up for grabs so long as you’re willing to drive over winding cliff roads with a truckload of livestock.
Our final stop for the day is the short Fairy Pools hike. On the way I’m feeling a bit peckish and we made what we believed to be a ten minute detour to Caora Dhubh Coffee Company, located via another single track road that hugs Loch Harport. Every 90 seconds a car comes trouncing down the lane causing the 2.5 mile drive to take 20 minutes. I was confused why the road was so trafficked, until we saw that the tiny coffee shack was located directly across from the Talisker whisky distillery.
On another day a whisky tasting may have been in order, but we were in search of snacks, not single malts. Caora Dhubh’s one-room cafe has a sparse space, small but mighty selection of baked goods and limited drink menu. We took our millionaire shortbread, chocolate banana muffin and rooibos tea to the outdoor picnic table overlooking the loch and nearly lost the last half of our muffin to the wind. It’s a wonder the shack doesn’t blow up and away like Dorothy’s house.
When we arrived at the Fairy Pools the clouds were low and the sky was ominous. The hike is short, just 1.5 miles alongside a small series of waterfalls cutting through a meadow under the shadow of craggy mountains. The daring undressed and dipped into the pools formed at the foot of each fall. Everyone loves a waterfall, but I find the pools less impressive than the landscape they’re in. I noticed that in Great Britain the popular waterfalls are short, with just a dribble of water. Call me a waterfall snob, but I spent years waterfall hopping in the American Pacific Northwest and would spot a British sized waterfall from my passenger side car window without asking to pull over.
The clouds above must’ve heard my internal “meh” because within moments of that thought the sky dropped heaps of frigid water on the crowd of hikers. Carl noted that we may as well have taken a dip since we wound up soaked through anyway. We can see the end of the trail ahead but decide to turn back early, trading the last quarter mile for comfort.
When we started the hike we passed a small wedding ceremony in progress. The bride was glowing in a gauzy white gown and a crown of flowers set over loose curls. As I spotted the newlyweds on our way back she carried the train of her dress in a muddy heap and the bouncy curls were reduced to a wet tangle. However, rain on your wedding day is said to bring good luck and the couple still beamed.
We’re staying the night at the Sligachan Hotel, located right next to the famous Sligachan bridge that features a stellar view over the surrounding valleys. Our room is compact yet comfortable and as I’m stepping out of a steaming shower Carl yells for me to hurry to the window to catch a rainbow splitting the sky in two. I dressed in a flash then ran outside onto the bridge. My husband stood behind me and tied his arms around my waist, chin resting on the top of my head. I felt so at peace as I watched the rainbow fade, leaving a golden glow in its wake.
Despite the crowds Skye manages to still feel wild. It’s a pot-holey, sheep swarmed, windswept land bathed in lore and legend. An isle on the edge of the earth that makes me grateful for the rain. It’s only then I can become grateful for the light.