Portions of this post were originally published on All Women All Trails, a community of adventurous women sharing their experiences in the outdoors.
After our trip on the Jacobite Train, we headed out toward the Isle of Skye and what a gorgeous drive it was. The scenery kept getting wilder and wilder until we were in the middle of a grand wilderness, as untamed and rugged as it was beautiful. There were golden eagles, red stags, and wild goats roaming the hillsides. Beams of light were striking the lochs below the clouds, causing us to gape in wonder.
It is possible to take a ferry or cross a bridge to Skye, but both of these options can be closed or shut down due to weather conditions, so it’s important to keep an eye on the forecast.
EILEEN DONAN CASTLE
Not far from Isle of Skye is the Eileen Donan Castle, which was closed when we got to it. Thankfully the daylight this time of year is long and we were able to walk around the castle, bracing ourselves against the biting chill wind. The grounds have a cafe and gift shop as well, but the nice thing about this castle is being able to walk all the way around it even when it’s not open.
One thing I took for granted when planning the trip to Skye was that we would actually get there. The day before, the wind had been so strong that the bridge was closed to cars and the ferries weren’t running either. Luckily this was not the case today, so we crossed the bridge and drove straight to Portree. On the way, we saw 5 rainbows and a dolphin swimming in one of the harbors.
Upon getting into town we decided to aim for a restaurant. Not having a reservation meant that the first place we stopped had no available seating for the rest of the evening. The lovely hostess recommended one a few doors down which turned out to be a really great find called No. 1 Bosville Terrace. The staff were so kind, the food was delicious, and even though we spent more than we usually would on a night out, we were glad to have found a meal before every place in town closed for the evening. One thing to know when planning to eat out in Scotland is that it’s best to reserve ahead of time. Most restaurants in this area closed at 9 pm as well, so earlier than we’re used to in the U.S.
FAIRY GLEN, UIG
The places we’ve stayed so far have been quite nice and the Uig Hotel topped the list for the trip. The view out our window is to die for. There is a nice bar downstairs with a respectable choice of Scotch whisky and the breakfast is just as hearty as the others we’ve had up till now.
The Castle Ewen Fairy Glen was a mile from the hotel where we stayed, and little did we know how truly magical it would be. I keep using that word to describe the places we saw in Scotland because it’s hard to describe these mystical lands in any other way. The glen is made up of knobby, conical, and textured hills that look like the wind has blown ridges into them over time. The castle is actually a basalt rock formation that happens to look like the many ruins which dot the landscape on Skye. Sheep roam freely, munching on lush green grasses, talking to each other across the hills with “Baaa!” carrying through the warbles of songbirds in the wind blown trees.
You can walk all over these hills as much as your heart desires, and this is a great place to explore without any fear of getting lost. Not far beyond the “castle,” a lovely stream makes babbling sounds that can be heard through the glen when all is quiet.
Half a morning could easily be spent here, exploring all the nooks and crannies of this unique landscape. Parking is limited, so arrive early, or park in Uig and walk the road (approximately 30 minutes). Be sure to Leave No Trace when traversing the glen. As fun as it is to see the stone circles and cairns, these are often removed by the locals who want to keep this area pristine.
We loved this spot so much. Stunning scenery often makes me question whether I’m dreaming or not, which then makes me question why my actual everyday life is so devoid of this kind of beauty. My soul has been fed to bursting on this trip.
The Isle of Skye isn’t hard to navigate, but some care is required due to the many one track roads around and through the island. Rob got the hang of the pull offs, and I made lots of loud noises when sheep were in the road and I felt like he was going too fast.
Can we just talk about the sheep for a moment? I adore sheep. I don’t know why I love their wooly goodness so much, but I do. When I was a kid I wanted two soooooo badly. This trip is like my childhood dream on steroids. Sheep are EVERYWHERE, and on Skye they roam freely through the glens, in the roads, on all the hillsides. We also hit the sheep jackpot because it’s lambing season and all the tiny little lambs are running everywhere, hopping through meadows, staying close to their mums, taking naps in tufts of grass. Seriously, I am dying.
After the Fairy Glen we headed to the Quiraing which was such a dynamic spot. When we got out of the car the wind nearly knocked us off our feet. Literally, it was difficult to stand. We’d planned to do the hike, a 6.8 km loop, that leads through this phenomenal area which is part of the Trotternish ridge. The wind was causing me to lose my balance and the raindrops felt like small bullets hitting the skin. We shielded our faces and took in as much of the jaw dropping scenery as we could before deciding to head to the next destination. Leaving this particular walk was the biggest disappointment of the day, but at least we got to see the area, and now have a reason to go back to Skye someday. If you find yourself here on a clear day when the wind is gentle, the Quiraing is the perfect way to spend a couple of hours soaking up all the scenery your heart can hold.
Another stunning view of the Skye coast awaited us when we pulled off into the car park for Lealt Waterfall. A trail leads toward the cliffs, where you can look back and catch a view of the falls. When you reach the main overlook, the expanse of sea and coastline lies before you, along with the ruins of the diatomite works below. Diatomite was a deposit used in the manufacture of dynamite and was shipped via railway to the bay. The trail continues downward, eventually leading to the shore where you can get a spot on view of the falls. Although the climb back up is a steep one, this is a gorgeous spot worthy of time and exploration.
SKYE PIE CAFE
The road along the coast is a really great drive because there is so much to see along the way, including castle ruins, waterfalls, the Skye Pie Café. The cafe is now closed, which makes me so sad. The owners also have a yarn company and are venturing out in that direction. There was something really special and quaint about the cafe though. Locals were getting the news from each other, catching up on gossip, and enjoying the company that must be craved when living in such a quiet place. The food we had was delicious. Best of luck to them in their new venture!
OLD MAN OF STORR
The Old Man of Storr was another hike on the list that was foiled due to foul weather. This pinnacle of rock was caused by a landslide many years ago and is one of the most photographed areas on Skye. Chances are you’ve seen pictures without realizing you were looking at Storr.
We were halfway up the 3.8 km trail before the wind and rain kicked in hard again. We were about a half hour in, but could see across the expanse that there was quite a distance left to climb. Ultimately, we decided to call it and instead spend some time in the towns of Portree and Uig. It was the right decision, even though it was sad to walk away from another trail we wanted to finish. The views from halfway up the trail are stunning and I kept turning around to make sure I wasn’t missing anything.
I’m not used to quitting mid-hike, especially on a short trail. When I decide to go, I go, even if the weather is less than favorable. However, the wind on the Isle of Skye is so strong that it was difficult to stand up at times. There are no trees that act as barriers, and weather systems move rapidly across the open landscape. It is possible to hike in these conditions with the right gear, but the experience would have been memorable for all the wrong reasons.
The shops in Portree had some of the prettiest handmade, artistic items I’d seen since we got to this country. We also enjoyed the Uig Pottery and Quirky Clay stores by the pier in Uig, where we could see our hotel across the harbor. I had to buy one of the adorable little highland sheep after we stopped and talked with the owner of Quirky Clay. He grew up on Skye, went to college in England, and then returned here because he realized he loved it so much. His creations invoke smiles and I wish I could have purchased a whole farmyard full of happy cows and sheep. The Skye Brewery is also in this location, but had sadly closed early that day.
The Neist Point Lighthouse sits on a gorgeous peninsula and has a well maintained trail that leads right to its door. Be prepared for a 2.2 km, steep, paved path with stairs and the occasional sheep who might be standing in your way. The lighthouse cannot be immediately seen and requires a walk over the main promontory to get a good view. When we were there, it didn’t seem like the lighthouse was open to visitors, but you can walk around it and enjoy the glorious sea and surrounding cliffs from that vantage point. Even though this trail isn’t long, we definitely took our time and spent a couple of hours enjoying this lovely spot.
I’m going to be so sad to leave this place, but I hope I come back again someday.
Isle Of My Heart
Donald A. Mackenzie
O, would that I were in the Isle of my Heart,
My dear island where I grew up;
O, would that I were in the Isle of my Heart,
Isle of the high cold mountains.
Barefoot I’d run over moorland and heather
If I could cross over the ferry to Kyle,
I would go in a hurry to the village I love
To the home where I was raised.
O, would that I were …
Content I would be if I were just now
Beside the peat-stack on a hillock at rest
The most beautiful mist, wreathing and swimming
And falling o’er the shoulders of Blath-Bheinn
O, would that I were …
My wish is to stay with the kin of my heart
In William’s wee bothy by the waves on the beach,
Where forever we’d listen each night and each day
With but moorland and sea beside us.
O, would that I were …
I see the Meall and I see the Sgorr
The side of Quiraing and the hills of the Storr
Little Helaval and Big Helaval
The Three Streams delta and Gearraidh