If you missed it, be sure to check out day one of our two day trip to the Isle of Skye!
L - 7am came very early that morning, but it was a very comfortable sleep. The duvet and pillow that the hostel gave were really nice, nicer than most hostels. After a quick breakfast of cereal and tea, we packed up our stuff and “checked out” of the hostel, while our roommates slept in. We walked to the harbor to see if the sky was clear enough for a sunrise - nope. But I found a cute tugboat! Then we hopped back on the coach for our tiny tour of Skye.
B - I woke abruptly to the sound of my alarm and it took me a minute to realize exactly where I was; in the top bunk of a bunk bed in a brightly colored Hostel on the Isle of Skye. With an air of excitement, I jumped to the floor, organized my things (and made doubly sure that all of my camera equipment was where I left it the night before) and went downstairs for breakfast before the bulk of our group had arrived. After breakfast, Lindsey and I walked quickly around the little town of Portree, taking in the scenery. Before long, it was time to jump back on the bus and hit the road on our journey around Skye.
L - First stop was the infamous Old Man of Storr. This crazy rock formation is very high up on a ridge. Let’s just say we were dry and warm when we got off the coach, but we were absolutely drenched by the time we walked the 20 minutes to the top. The wind whipped us around and the rain/mist felt like it came up from underneath us. Needless to say it was a fantastic view, when you could see. The funniest thing was watching a few Chinese girls attempt to use their umbrellas at the top. (It didn’t last long.) We did manage to get a few photographs of the monolith amidst the rain. I was very happy to go back down to the coach and attempt to warm up before our next stop. Ironically, it was very sunny and dry at the coach stop.
B - Yeah, it was just a little wet up there. This must be the famous Scottish weather we’ve heard so much about. After one of the most miserable hikes I’ve ever participated in, we finally got to the viewing point where the rain was literally going sideways. A number of people in our group almost fell over as a gust of wind suddenly blew over us. What bothered me the most was the fact that I couldn’t really open my camera bag to get even my weather proof digital camera out simply because I knew that the second I would open that bag, it would make the inside of the bag damp the rest of the day and a damp place is the opposite of where you want to keep old film cameras, lenses and film. After about fifteen minutes, the rain let up slightly and I took my chances. I swung my bag around and pulled out my camera and started firing away. I only able to use the wide angle lens that was already on my camera because I wasn’t about to switch lenses and expose the delicate internals of my camera to the elements, so some far away photos of the Old Man of Storr and some close-ups of Lindsey’s face will have to suffice for now.
L - Our next stop was only a few minutes north at the Kilt Rock and Mealt Falls. The wind continued to whip, but from that point onwards there was hardly a cloud in sight. It was a very unusual day in Skye. The cliffs lit with sunlight were almost too bright to look at. It was a short stop.
B - It was at this point that we saw our, like, fourteenth rainbow of the trip. It went from stereotypical rainy Scottish weather to one of the most beautiful and mild days I’ve ever experienced in a matter of ten minutes. Unfortunately this was a heavy tourist stop so the crowd was thick around the falls. I jumped off the bus, snapped a couple photos of the cliffs and the waterfall, avoided the trampled muddy pits of the parking area and jumped back on the bus. Since I opened my camera bag earlier in the rain, I was forced to keep my bag open and aim it towards the sun any chance I could get while holding my biggest camera, my six pound Pentax 67, in my lap in the hopes of everything drying as quickly as possible. Unfortunately for me, the bus driver thought it best to crank the heat up on the bus which turned the whole bus into a greenhouse. All the windows on the bus were fogged, as were my lenses.
L - Next stop was a bit more interesting. Going back south, we stopped at Lealt Gorge, which opened out into the open sea. The cliffs were easier to see and just as steep as at Mealt falls. Bo enjoyed climbing like a mountain goat along the ridge. We also made a friend! Skye native, Neil the Shepherd sits in his kilt at the top of the ridge, watching over his 200+ sheep. Lealt was the furtherest north we got on this trip, but there was so much more to see, we will definitely be going back.
B - I can’t help myself sometimes. I will never miss an opportunity to climb, run and jump! Lealt Gorge was probably my favorite location for the day. The cliffs were unbelievably beautiful and the hills smattered with sheep were about as stereotypical Scottish as you can get. I am a bit jealous of Neil considering he has lived in this beautiful landscape his whole life but then again, most days are not this beautiful on Skye. I was able to photograph the shepherd and one of his sheep, both of which seemed to be watching over the rest of the flock. I’ve never thought of sheep as intelligent creatures, but this one at least seemed to have a sense of purpose.
click to view in full-size splendor
L - We stopped back in Portree for lunch and got the notoriously best fish and chips in town. It was very flaky and buttery. I think they use Hake, which is naturally a tender, flaky fish. We had a not-so-friendly companion attempt to take our chips, but eventually he got bored and left us. After lunch one of the few shops in town happened to be open on a Sunday morning so we stopped in and bought our new little friend - Craig! Craig the Coo! He’s about an inch tall.
B - From that point on, all other fish and chips I get will be compared against that fish and chips from Portree. The five hour bus road would probably be worth that meal alone. That seagull made an enemy that day. I must have chased him away five or six times but every time I would turn my back, he would waddle back over, hoping for an opportunity to present itself so that he may partake in my fish and chips. After lunch, we walked around town a bit more, stopped in one of the shops where Lindsey found her little friend and then it was once again time to jump back on the bus. This time however, we would not be leaving on time. Apparently, a group of people on our trip (who have repeatedly brought down the atmosphere of the bus the day before and earlier that day) apparently were not paying attention to when we were to be back on the bus so we all had to wait. After a few minutes, our guide announced that we would be leaving and that those who were late would have to ride on one of the other buses for the next few hours as we had a schedule to keep. Way to be, Hoji.
L - On the way out of Skye we sang a few songs, including The Proclaimers’ 500 miles. Ironically it’s a little over 500 miles from Edinburgh to Portree and back again. We watched Made of Honor and Skyfall on the drive back, both have a lot filmed in the Highlands and Skye, so it was nice to recognize a lot of the scenery in the films. Granted, we weren’t really focused on the films until it got dark outside. It was still much too pretty to not look out the window.It was a late night getting into Edinburgh, but it was worth it. The whirlwind tour was over, but now we have a lot of ideas about our own trip coming up in the spring. We know where to go and how much time we want to add to our trip. The tour was actually really great, even for a whirlwind. We didn’t feel restricted to our group, we had quite a lot of freedom, and all the logistically details were taken care of for us. It was a lovely introduction to an area we had never encountered. Hoji was very attentive to everyone’s needs and interests and at the same time really tried to enlighten us with fun facts and details about our itinerary. I would definitely recommend the tour as a simple taster tour.
click to view in full-size splendor
B - Its funny how the journey home always seems to go significantly faster than the journey from home. Although, music and movies tend to speed things up. We finally made it back to Edinburgh and after a bit of a walk, back to our apartment. Overall, it was a very good trip. It went by unfathomably fast unfortunately but we knew that that would be the case. From the very beginning, we agreed that this trip would be more of a “scouting mission” for our own independent trip to the highlands and back to Skye. Now we know where the good spots are and we have some ideas of new places to go and see next time. Too bad we can’t hire Hoji to guide just the two of us.