I need to tell you about my favorite place on earth. It is when my soul feels at home, and my heart soars with joy every time I visit this special place. The Isle of Skye. These are pieces and parts from my journal entries as I traveled in Scotland.
The allure of Skye had me completely smitten and my desire to visit Skye was completely incurable, and once I finally arrived at the Isle of Skye, my feelings were confirmed every second I was there, and reaffirmed each time I have visited.
I first laid eyes on this magical place from afar. Standing on the foot bridge of Eilean Doonan Castle near the village of Dornie. I gazed across Loch Long to see the Cuillin Mountains off into the distance, oh my gosh!! This was Skye!!! My dream place, and there was no going back.
A short drive from Eilean Doonan Castle and there it was in front of me the Skye Bridge!! My ticket onto the island. My heart was racing, and I could barely contain my excitement……. I was going to finally touch the ground that had been calling to me. The isle of Skye is so many things. It’s big, really big, 639 square miles with many single track roads. The topography is extremely diverse with incredible landscapes that are always changing. Skye is green and brown and rust, and purple with heather, there are trees in places, and absolutely barren open vistas, two completely different mountain ranges the Red Cuillin and the brooding Black Cuillin, the colorful harbor of Portree, charming white houses with distinct architecture that dot the roadsides, a “coral” beach with turquoise water and seals bobbing up and down watching me watch them.
Skye is a bird lover’s paradise, and the sea is rich with whales, porpoises, and dolphins. The isle of Skye has endless possibilities, and it is the thing my dreams are made of. I stayed at the Cuillin Hills Hotel, which has a perfect view of the picturesque Portree Harbour lined with its cheerful and pastel buildings, and many boats gently floating in the harbour. Portree is the capital of the island and a quaint and charming little town. It is extremely easy to navigate on foot and I love walking all over the town when I am visiting Skye.
Portree has many good choices for accommodation and dining. While meandering about town, I’ve enjoyed visiting many of the gift shops, all at a very unhurried pace. I found the co-op to be extremely useful for various provisions to take with me the next day as I explored Skye. I learned it was wise to have plenty of petrol in the car and not to pass up a chance for a toilet break, those chances are few and far between while exploring the Trotternish.
My first day began on the most northerly peninsula of Skye, the Trotternish Peninsula. I left Portree and headed up the Trotternish going counter clockwise. I had no idea just what I was in for. It doesn’t take long before you find yourself on a single-track road with passing places. It’s a good idea to have an understanding of how these work before embarking on a self-drive on the island. I quickly learned that sheep have no issue laying in the middle of the road and the gorgeous Heilancoos can cause a traffic jam. There is nothing I’d rather see holding up traffic than the hairy coos.
The first sight I saw off into the distance was unmistakable……The old Man of Storr, I couldn’t believe I was actually seeing it. One legend (of many) has it that the Old Man Storr was a giant, and when he died, the giant with his thumb sticking out of the ground. The Old Man Storr is a rock formation that sits at an elevation of 2,358 feet. The rock itself is 180 feet high. The Old Man Storr is a popular hiking spot with rough gravel trails and hardscrabble ground. Often shrouded in mist and clouds, I found this added to the mystery and beauty of the island.
Sunny, cloudy or rainy, it doesn’t matter. Skye is stunning any which way you get here. From there, on the A85, a short distance from Staffin, it was a quick stop to see Kilt Rock and Mealt Falls, which tumble 330 feet over a cliff into the Sound of Raasay. I looked in the direction from which I came and I was rewarded with a breathtaking view of the Applecross peninsula on the mainland. I saw mountains that seemed to roll on forever and ever.
Moving on, the next stop was An Corran Beach in Staffin where many fossilized dinosaur footprints were discovered by Catherine Booth in 2002 after being uncovered by a bad storm. I made sure to stop here during low tide. Low tide is a must in order to see the footprints. I walked around looking for these dinosaur footprints for a good half hour …nothing……then all of a sudden.… I saw one…….after that I saw them all over the place. Paleontologists believe these footprints are that of a Hadrosaur, which roamed the island some 170 million years ago. Skye has been called the “Dinosaur Isle” or the “Jurassic Isle.” There are other places on the island to see dinosaur footprints. Reportedly, some of the best dinosaur tracks in the world are on the south shore of Duntulm Castle during low tide. Huge Sauropod footprints from some 170 million years ago can be found on the beach.
Very near Staffin rises the incomparable Trotternish Ridge. It is awesome in the truest sense of the word, and its beauty and majesty I cannot adequately put into words, it is something that one must see in person. The Trotternish Ridge has a hiking trail, and I plan to do it next time I am there. For this trip, it was January, and the sunset is around 3:30 PM. I made it to the Quiraing, which has a breathtaking viewpoint and sits at 856 feet above sea level with absolutely superb views of the Trotternish Ridge, the most Northerly summit on the Trotternish Peninsula. I watched a gorgeous sunset. The Quiraing is a land slippage with fantastic rock formations with a green plateau contrasted by dark rocks and sheep. The Quiraing is the most beautiful, glorious picturesque place I have ever seen. I am utterly and completely gobsmacked when I arrive at the Quiraing. Words cannot adequately describe its beauty and marvel, and pictures don’t do it justice. Again, it is a place best seen in person. The Quiraing is a lovely place to watch the sunset, especially when the weather is good. With clear sunny skies, you can see all the way to the sea. I visited the Quiraing on two occasions and the last time was in October 2019. After taking in the awe and majesty of this place, it wasn’t easy, but I had to move on.
The next stop was the Kilmuir Cemetery to visit Flora MacDonald’s grave.
Flora MacDonald was best known for helping Bonnie Prince Charlie escape capture from the English after his defeat at Culloden. Flora later married and moved to North Carolina, USA for a time, and eventually returned to Skye where she died in 1770. Another very interesting grave near that of Flora MacDonald is that of Angus Martin or Aonghas na Geoithe meaning “Angus of the Wind.”
Legend has it Angus stole this grave slab from a king buried on the island of Iona to mark his grave. Regardless, it is a superb marker and worth a look. Also, worth enjoying are the views from Kilmuir Cemetery, which extend across the Minch to Harris and North Uist. South Uist, Flora’s island of birth can be viewed from a different place on the island.
I continued my counterclockwise journey to the West side of the Trotternish Peninsula, passing through the port town of Uig and head to Balancnoc and find my way to the enchanting Faerie Glen.
The Faerie Glen stole my heart from the moment I saw images of it on the Internet and I had to visit there. I have always had a love for faeries and Skye has no shortage of faerie lore. I have had the luck of visiting this gem on four different occasions and it never disappoints. If you visit the Quiraing, this sweet place will have a familiar feel. It is a land slippage like the Quiraing, only in a miniature version. I have had the pleasure of being alone here on two occasions except for some random sheep wandering around, and I was truly able to find blissful serenity. My heart and soul were at ease. Lined with Rowan trees, (which legend has it, the faeries use for protection) and a falling down stone wall, I found my way to one of the paths that lead up the magical glen. The Faerie Glen is a special place with green, round hills, lochans, waterfalls, and a hill with a tall basalt topping called Castle Ewan.
The view from the Faerie Glen is stunning and off into the distance is a ridge with numerous waterfalls. It is impossible to capture with my camera. I’ve spent hours here in the rain and sun, enjoying the fresh air, sound of babbling streams and waterfalls, and otherworldly scenery. One thing I have found disturbing is the stone stacks and stone spirals that tourists have created. Please, if you visit here do not stack stones, create spirals, or leave trinkets for the faeries. The residents of Skye are stuck repeatedly cleaning up this mess and the Faeries and sheep that live in the hills don’t like it either.
The Trotternish peninsula is easily a very full day. I stopped by the Skye Museum of Island Life, but it was not open in January, I never made it to the Staffin Dinosaur Museum or Duntulm Castle. To be continued……