Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Over the sea to Skye

A glimpse of morning sunshine helped Skye to put on her pretty face for us today and so we were encouraged to travel further than we had on 'everything's closed' Sunday.
Beyond Broadford, Skye is a postcard of rugged mountains, sheer cliffs, sweeping valleys and sea views. There are stone walls and bridges everywhere. All the houses are white washed with grey slate or occasionally, thatched roofs and further down the island you can see the remains of the crofter's cottages that were destroyed by the English hundreds of years ago. Seriously, it is impossible to describe how pretty it is. It's no wonder Bonnie Prince Charlie chose it as his refuge after Culloden.

We drove the length of the island, from Kyleaken to Portree, to Uig and back. It was 240 km all up but these are Highland miles where 1mile = about 20 Australian km, so it took us 4 hrs.

Our first stop was Portree, a bustling little seaport with some fascinating shops and a harbourside full of history. We bought some hand knitted beanies from the local craft market being held in the hall. I loved the sign that said it was open from 9am till 5 or 'thereabouts'.

Portree Harbour
Craft market
We were glad of the beanies when we got to the Old Man of Storr. Most people come to this area to go walking. This was not our reason for choosing the area but after seeing all the guide books it seemed important that we do at least one. The walks are graded A+ through to C in terms of difficulty. This one was a B so it seemed reasonable that we could manage it in our runners and street clothes and all the steps in Paris and Switzerland had emboldened me to believe I could manage the 'areas of steep ascent'. We probably should have picked up some clues from the other walkers in the car park who were donning their waterproofs, hiking boots, back packs and nordic walking poles but of course, we are hardy Aussies, not into that sissy stuff!

Our car is way down there near the sea!
The first part of the track was manageable enough, albeit a wee bit chilly. My lungs started to seize up at the 4th stile but it wasn't until it started snowing just as we got to the REALLY steep and slippery stone steps that I began to question our wisdom (well, mine anyway. Geoff could scramble up any mountain in his shorts and t shirt!). With great trepidation and visions of lengthy travel insurance claims as a result of my fool hardiness, I soldiered on and felt some satisfaction when we got to the base of the rocky protrusion. It snowed again on the way down as I inched my way along the skinny little path, willing myself not to look down or have a panic attack. I ruined my silver Nikes and my hip flexors are screaming but at least you know you're alive when you go rock climbing in Skye!

The phallic looking stone is where we're heading
Made it to the top. That's snow on my glasses!
It didn't look that far to Uig at the far end of the island so we set off to explore. When you get to the 'back end' of Skye, the road turns into an asphalted goat track. It's hardly wide enough for one car, has no lines and edges that drop off drastically enough to lose a tyre. And while you're watching for oncoming vehicles you also have to be aware of the wandering sheep who have complete freedom to sit in the middle of the road or worse still, roam onto it just as you come around a bend. And then there's the distraction of the magnificent, 360 degree views. Needless to say it took us a long time to get to Uig and we were very hungry from our climbing. We stopped at a cafe called Ella's on the Uig waterfront, another quaint establishment that had racks of second hand clothes for sale and really dreadful 50s music blasting. I tried another Scottish sounding menu item, the crawdie. It was a cheese, pesto and tomato sandwich! Geoff had veggie soup and Taine had chocolate cake. My trained Thermomix eye recognised both their dishes!

Crofter's cottage
From Uig we went to Dunvegan. I had really wanted to see the castle there but guess what? Closed till Easter. From Dunvegan the road returns to a more modern form and it didn't take long to get back to the Skye Bridge and our welcoming little cottage.

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