(TL;DR - We went to Skye. It was nice!)
It's been three years since we first visited Skye, and we enjoyed it so much we thought we would go back again, booking Applegate cottage for the Easter week. So we got a cat sitter for Charlie, packed our thickest jumpers and looked forward to another Highland adventure.
The first step was getting there, and it's a fairly long drive, but there's plenty to see on the way. Also, the winter has played havoc with the roads, and some friends had warned us there were huge potholes on the way up. However the workers have been out doing their stuff and the majority have been patched up.
We drove up by Loch Lomond, over Rannoch Moor and through Glencoe, part way up the Caledonian Canal and then off to the left through the hills to Kyle of Lochalsh. You don't need to worry about getting bored on a trip like this as there's plenty to see all the way up. Over the bridge and onto Skye, and after the first 20 minutes the island starts hitting us with view after view.
Driving round the sea lochs we pass the Red Coullins, still with some snow on top. Then we go through Sligachan, with the Black Coullins looming over us, a warning in razor sharp rock. As the road winds round the hills we see Storr in the distance, with the old man standing proud, and as we close in to our destination, Ben Tianavaig comes into view, the big triangular hill that guards Portree and at whose foot our cottage sits.
Fair dos to the Skye district council by the way. The roads must have been a mess after the winter we had, but there are lots of patches of new tarmac laid down and we didn't come across any real problems, even on the more remote single track roads.
Applegate sits in a wee nest of five cottages, just above the village of Camustainavaig. It's spacious for the three of us, well equipped, and with amazing views out of the big French windows and the velux upstairs. It has a wood burning stove, and we made good use of it during our week, with the outside temperature hovering around 5 degrees. It also has satellite telly and decent broadband, so with our Amazon Firestick we were sorted for entertainment.
I was quite pleased with myself for finding the place again without needing Google Maps' help, and even remembered how to get into Portree to the Co-Op, where we stocked up for the week. We got our evening meal in the bargain section and enjoyed a 49p lasagne once we were back. Quite a contrast to our final meal of the week (see later).
OK, first proper day, and we're looking for some of the trips that we didn't do the last time we were here. Neist Point is the furthest West you can get on the island, and under an hour drive away, so that's the way we headed. I'm starting to get used to the single track protocol by now, and remember to wave most of the time. The point has a decent car park, and a good path down the cliff, up the hill, down the hill and out to the lighthouse. A wee request (literally) Skye tourism people: it would be nice if there was a toilet at some point. After nearly an hour's drive out there, an hour or so walking to the lighthouse and back, then back along the single track road, we were greatly relieved to use the facilities at Dunvegan.
We weren't far now from an old favourite, the Coral Beach, which was just 15 minutes' drive up the road, followed by a brisk walk along the coast. It's amazing how all these little pieces of bleached seaweed end up on this one small beach, making it look like a tropical paradise.
It was a bit colder than that.
We stopped at Dunvegan again on the way back. Giant Angus McAskill's museum was being painted, but we did look up a bit of the fascinating history of this man, and we visited a cake shop, Jann's Cakes, for some large and tasty delicacies. Then it was off back home.
Easter Sunday, and we'd looked about for a decent church to go to. We plumped for the XCEL church in Portree which had a decent service. It was good to see so many children in.
Afterwards we drove round to the Skye Baking Company for lunch. We visited there last time and liked their tablet, so we had a good lunch of breakfast bread (bread with eggs and black pudding mixed in) and quiche, and bought some tablet for ourselves.
We were still looking for places we hadn't been before and read about Brothers' Point being a less-visited place. It's a headland with a steep hillock in the middle, not far from the Mealt Falls. The walking guide gave it one muddy boot for marshiness, but it was much worse than that, and we had soaking shoes by the time we'd worked our way across the field from the beach. There was a scary walk around the cliffs to the point itself, and then the option of climbing over the hillock, which we declined after one look. We're not scared of a bit of effort but know our limits. So it was muddy, but scenic and at least somewhere different.
On the way back we stopped at Portree for a takeaway at Fat Panda. It was very busy, and the girl on the till seemed to get a bit of a roasting in the kitchen for making a mistake, but she was doing a sterling job with the hordes of hungry locals, tourists and phone orders, including the Indian couple who wanted the special fried rice (fried rice with pork) without any pork.
OK, time for an old favourite, and we plumped for the Fairy Pools in Glenbrittle. Cate had wanted to swim in them but chickened out when we offered to bring her wetsuit. It's one of the busiest attractions on the island but we were lucky to get a space in the car park. Claire didn't slip on the hillside and ruin her trousers this time, but we still enjoyed the walk down to the river.
The pools are lovely and Cate did manage to get a few paddles in some of them.
Glenbrittle camping site was just another 5 miles down the single track road, so we went to see what it was like. The road was great and with very little traffic it was a bit more relaxing than the usual single track drives. The view of the loch in front and the Cuillins behind us was spectacular, and it seemed lovely and sunny until we opened the car door to the gale force winds. So it was back to the main road and on down to Broadford.
In Broadford, we stopped for a toilet stop and a chocolate pizza, before carrying on south to Kyleakin, where the bridge comes over. We stopped near the roundabout and went on a trek up the Hill of the Red Fox. Not to be confused with the other Hill of the Red Fox (this was a Cnoc, the bigger one near Storr a Sgurr) this was an easy climb, though the longer route we went wound round through forest that had been cut down. Anyway it had a decent view from the top of the bridge and the Kyle, and also the new £93 million fish food plant. Bigger than I'd have expected a fish food plant to be! Also, Cate's walking shoe disintegrated, so there's one for the shopping list when we get back.
I remember reading a book called The Hill of the Red Fox when I was at school. Not sure if I read it all or just a section but I vividly remember a bit near the start where a stranger on the train is holding on with white knuckles. I bought the book for my Kindle and started reading it, which was great as it references a lot of the places we've been to or driven through.
We had a quick visit into Kyleakin village, before driving back north, stopping at Broadford for a fish supper and calamari (guess who).
Tuesday was rainy all day. There's not a lot to do on Skye when it's raining, and the forums online just give useful advice like "wrap up and go out anyway". We didn't fancy a soaking so stayed in for the day. The cottage has a few games to occupy the time and one of the thousand piece jigsaws came out, so we had enough to keep us busy. To get out at least once we went out for dinner, to the Market Place. It's a wee place in an industrial estate just on the edge of Portree, but nice inside and the food was lovely.
Wednesday was supposed to be rainy too, but the forecast changed overnight and the weather held for a mostly sunny day. Cate and I fancied tackling some hills and Claire felt she couldn't manage with her arthritis (the fairy pools had been a stretch, literally) so Claire went for a nap and Cate and I went for a Quiraing.
The first thing we noticed as we drove out was that while it had been raining yesterday for us, at the height of the hills it had come down as snow. The view was transformed by a blanket over everything higher than about 500 feet.
We made our way up to the Quiraing, and up the scary road to the high car park. Unfortunately it was chocka, and no sign of anyone leaving, so we turned round and went south again to the Storr instead.
It's worth a wee note here to thank the Skye tourist board. In all the week we were here we didn't have to pay at a single car park (except on the last day when we stopped at the Portree town centre one). I've been places before where we had to pay at one car park, then an hour later pay at another. It's annoying to have to make sure you have a few pound coins spare all the time. Anyway here all the parking was free and it made for a more relaxing trip.
Back to the Storr. We started up the main path, which was dry and easy to navigate, though hard work as it climbs quite steeply. Once we got to the end of this there was a gate and the path changed to following the bare rocks and grassy hummocks of the hill. This was quite muddy, but it wasn't too long before the mud turned to slush and then snow, and by the time we approached the height of the Old Man we were treading snow that was sometimes knee deep. Cate stopped to rest and build a snowman, while I worked up a bit higher. The views were great, the sun was shining on us and we had a great time.
Back home for a pizza and we got out for a walk down the Braes road to get Claire out of the house. A lovely day considering it had been supposed to rain all day.
Our final full day and it was sunny again. We had a good lie in before heading out for a few brief stops.
At the top of the Trotternish peninsula is Flodigarry, where we'd stopped last time and visited a small loch. We came back again to take a short walk towards the Quiraing (but not very far towards it) and enjoy the views.
Next we stopped at the Columba 1400 centre, a place for youth groups to go for holidays, and which has a decent cafe. It's in Staffin, so only a 5 minute drive from where we were.
After lunch we headed down to the Staffin Beach to see if we could spot the dinosaur footprints this time. We think we might have seen them but it was hard to tell. Almost any impression in the rocks there looks like a dinosaur footprint if you look hard enough.
Back home again and we had a final walk, around the Camustianavaig circuit. This was a couple of miles circular route down to Camustianavaig village and down to the shore before looping back round and up to the main road again. We encountered a few big birds on the walk, and more than a few sheep.
Time to pack our bags and leave. But we had one final stop to make. Someone had asked before we went if we were going to go to the Three Chimneys, and I'd responded that it was too dear for us. However Cate liked the idea of visiting a Michelin starred restaurant so much that she offered to pay for it with her pocket money (I think she might be getting too much pocket money!) Anyway, Claire offered to go halfers with her Christmas money and I paid for the drink and the tip. So on a wild, windy, rainy Friday morning we crossed the island and followed a single track road for 5 miles to a very much out of the way top-class restaurant.
We had a 3 course lunch, with some fancy bread as a pre-starter, and it was certainly an experience. We all ordered different things to try as much variety as possible, and the waiter explained all the dishes to us as they came out. My pigeon and beetroot, hake in hazelnut crumb and wildflower and duck egg custard were all very good, and the others' meals equally interesting and tasty.
Now it was just the long slog home. And it was made even longer when we got to the road across to Invergarry. A lorry carrying a huge wind turbine blade had got stuck and it was going to take at least a couple of hours to free it. So we detoured back to the Inverness road, and joined the Caledonian Canal at Fort Augustus. Then we had just left the Green Welly Stop when we were halted again. This time it was a lorry that had shed a huge metal girder thing into a field, and a lorry with a crane had come to lift it out. We had to wait for 20 minutes before the operation was complete.
So it was a longer drive even than expected. Cate was kept busy though, and spotted deer 4 times on the journey. Finally we arrived back home and were welcomed by an attention-seeking cat.
Dave's Home Page