U.K. Holiday: April 2017

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Thursday, April 20 - The Isle of Skye

On this day, we'd booked the WOW Scotland tour that Ginger had found on TripAdvisor through Viator. We were up early, before 6:30, got breakfast right at 7:00, and were out of the hotel at 8:00. The bus station was just a 5 minute walk, but we knew we wanted to allow plenty of time. We ended up leaving a few minutes earlier than our scheduled 8:30 time because everyone was on board by 8:20 or so. Northwest out of Inverness, we crossed the highlands, and by about 10:00 were skirting Loch Carron (a "sea loch", or "sea lake", that's not really a lake but an inlet that connects the Atlantic Ocean with the river Carron). Along the way, our guide, Sandy (Alexander) pointed out a lot of sights having to do with various clans, farming, sporting (hunting lodges), trains for transporting fish & cattle down to London in centuries past, forestry/logging (one or the area's main industries), and a curious sport called shinty.

Photos of the morning drive (18 images)

We made it to Skye about just after 10:30, where we stopped in Kyleakin, just over the Skye Bridge from the mainland, for just enough time for a chance to take in the harbor views and learn about Saucy Mary.

Photos of Kyleakin (7 images)

Thirty minutes later we stopped at a cool old stone bridge near Sligachan, where we were told to wash our faces in the stream to achieve eternal youth and beauty, and took in the gorgeous scenery. Along the way, Sandy gave us some more informative explanations of the landscape (loaded with red granite), as well as historic and cultural events involving Vikings and the Highland Clearance (basically landlords ousting people in favor of using the land for sheep farming). In Portree, Sandy got off the bus for 5 minutes to grab lunches for those who ordered them, then we continued further North and unloaded at Kilt Rock near the little town of Staffin. Here, the ground takes a sheer drop of about 100 feet to the ocean below. What is interesting about this stop is both the rock formations and the lovely waterfall, Mealt Falls. Just be sure you don't step in sheep and deer droppings -- they're literally everywhere. Back on the bus, we continued North and West, stopping for a few minutes to frolic in a very green, very windy hilly pasture area, and ended up at the ruins of castle at Duntulm on the rocky coast, the most Northern part of our tour day, and, in fact, the Northernmost point of our entire vacation.

Photos of the journey North on Skye (55 images)

Turning toward the South, the town of Uig was our next destination, where there was a brewery and couple of shops, a fine time and place for and afternoon latte and espresso. Then it was onward to Fairy Glen (or, "Faerie Glen") to stretch our legs and scamper to the top of Castle Ewan (not a castle, but a kind-of-castle-shaped rock formation). Portree was on our way back, and this time it was a real stop where we were able to look around the town and shops for an extended bit of time. Ginger even got authentic, paper wrapped fish and chips from a real fish and chips shop! Back on the bus, and more history/legends from Sandy as we crossed the bridge back off the island onto the Scottish mainland.

Photos of the return journey back South on Skye (32 images)

We'd been good little tourists and followed our schedule, so on our way back to Inverness we had a bonus stop at the iconic Eilean Donan castle. It was closed, but we got to see the grounds and views of the nice lake (well, lakes, or inlets, as this is where the sea lochs Loch Duich, Loch Long, and Loch Alsh all converge). Then, it was further East to the town of Invermorriston and along the shores of Loch Ness. This is where we learned our first fun fact about Loch Ness: being so deep, almost 900 feet at its deepest point, it contains much more water than you would expect: actually more water than all the other lakes & rivers & tea kettles and tea cups in all of the U.K.! Since it didn't get dark until well after 8:00 pm, we got a chance to stop at a viewpoint above Urquhart Castle on the shore of the Loch before heading back to Inverness for the night. Dinner was done, so there wasn't anything left to do when we got back to the city except walk to the hotel and turn in for the night.

Photos of the evening drive back to Inverness (20 images)