Exploring Scotland – Part IX: The Isle of Skye

Day 9 – 3rd August 2013

This morning we headed up the Trotternish (northeast) peninsula of Skye along the A855 towards Elishader. As the rain, wind and fog was approaching, the Old Man of Storr was not visible. One of these days, I’ll get to Skye on a sunny day (or at least less overcast) when I can actually see it as the last time I’d been on Skye (May 2006 was the last time). We stopped off at a viewing area in Lealt, near Kilt Rock, where a waterfall dropped heavily due to the increased rain flow. It was also very windy as we made our way over the slight path to take the photos. I had on this ‘waterproof’ camping poncho – not exactly the best thing to wear on the coast of Skye as the wind kept taking the edges and blowing it around like crazy – thus the rains that had started and coming at us somewhat sideways started the soaking of clothing.

Lealt Falls, Isle of Skye, Scotland. © J. Lynn Stapleton, 3rd August, 2013

Lealt Falls, Isle of Skye, Scotland. © J. Lynn Stapleton, 3rd August, 2013

From there, we moved up the road to the Mealt Falls at Creag an Fhèilídh (Kilt Rock) near Elishader. The falls come from the overflow from Loch Mealt and drops 55 metres (180ft) over the sea cliffs. I’ve been here before, but it is nonetheless spectacular, even in overcast conditions. The rain had stopped at this point though it was still windy. Along the viewing area along the cliff edge, there’s a steel fencing that surrounds the outcropping and the winds blowing through the steel creating lovely music. It was wonderful. At various times with the heavy winds, the spray from the waterfall blew sideways as it poured down the cliffs. Looking further up the coast nearby were the cliffs of Kilt Rock. The dolorite columns of the cliffs form pleats that resemble the pleats of a kilt, lending to its name. The Creag an Fhèilídh is one of thirteen sites of the Ceumannan – Staffin Ecomuseum – a museum without walls – all the sites are out in nature to explore.

For the adventurous, climbers can actually repel and climb the cliffs of Kilt Rock. I’ve never learned how to do rock climbing but this looks like something I’d be willing to learn to try someday.

Mealt Falls, Elishader, Isle of Skye. © J. Lynn Stapleton, 3rd July 2013

Mealt Falls, Elishader, Isle of Skye. © J. Lynn Stapleton, 3rd July 2013

Kilt Rock, Elishader, Isle of Skye. © J. Lynn Stapleton, 3rd August 2013

Kilt Rock, Elishader, Isle of Skye. © J. Lynn Stapleton, 3rd August 2013

We moved further along the steep and sometimes hair-pin turn road to go visit the Cuith-Raing, or Quiraing, is on a landslip along the eastern side of Meall na Suiramach, northern-most summit of Trotternish Ridge. The geological theatre comprises several landmarks, of which only a few were actually visible due to the low-lying cloud and fog, and due to the heavy wind and rain, we weren’t actually out there long. That said, the views were beautifully dramatic.

The Cuith-Raing, Isle of Skye. © J. Lynn Stapleton, 3rd August 2013

The Cuith-Raing, Isle of Skye. © J. Lynn Stapleton, 3rd August 2013

The Cuith-Raing, Isle of Skye. © J. Lynn Stapleton, 3rd August 2013

The Cuith-Raing, Isle of Skye. © J. Lynn Stapleton, 3rd August 2013

The Cuith-Raing, Isle of Skye. © J. Lynn Stapleton, 3rd August 2013

The Cuith-Raing, Isle of Skye. © J. Lynn Stapleton, 3rd August 2013

The Cuith-Raing, Isle of Skye. © J. Lynn Stapleton, 3rd August 2013

The Cuith-Raing, Isle of Skye. © J. Lynn Stapleton, 3rd August 2013

The next part of our trip took us to the Faerie Glen on the western side of the Trotternish peninsula, a little bit inland from Uig. I’d been here before as well, but it’s just absolutely stunning, even in the overcast setting. Though the last time I was here it was a fair bit less windy, so it made going to the top of the structure a little more tricky, and I ended up deciding not to do it this time – I’d been able to go up last time so there wasn’t as much of a goal to achieve, especially as the approach is really narrow…remember I said it was really windy? 🙂

When you get to the faerie glen, you’ll notice that the hills and valleys are smaller here than their highland counterparts. It’s a beautiful hike through the hills. And if you so wish, you can throw down a few shiny coins into the stone circles on the hills – the faeries like shiny coins – but don’t throw down anything else; trash left brings bad luck.

Faerie Glen, Isle of Skye. © J. Lynn Stapleton, 3rd August 2013

Faerie Glen, Isle of Skye. © J. Lynn Stapleton, 3rd August 2013

Faerie Glen, Isle of Skye. © J. Lynn Stapleton, 3rd August 2013

Faerie Glen, Isle of Skye. © J. Lynn Stapleton, 3rd August 2013

Faerie Glen, Isle of Skye. © J. Lynn Stapleton, 3rd August 2013

Faerie Glen, Isle of Skye. © J. Lynn Stapleton, 3rd August 2013

Faerie Glen, Isle of Skye. © J. Lynn Stapleton, 3rd August 2013

Faerie Glen, Isle of Skye. © J. Lynn Stapleton, 3rd August 2013

Faerie Glen, Isle of Skye. © J. Lynn Stapleton, 3rd August 2013

Faerie Glen, Isle of Skye. © J. Lynn Stapleton, 3rd August 2013

Faerie Glen, Isle of Skye. © J. Lynn Stapleton, 3rd August 2013

Faerie Glen, Isle of Skye. © J. Lynn Stapleton, 3rd August 2013

When we left the Faerie Glen we headed west and briefly stopped off to see Dunvegan Castle – from a distance.

Dunvegan Castle, Isle of Skye © J. Lynn Stapleton, 3rd August, 2013

Dunvegan Castle, Isle of Skye © J. Lynn Stapleton, 3rd August, 2013

On our return to Portree, we passed by The MacLeod’s Table, two flat-topped hills, which we could scarcely see due to foggy conditions. We had a bit of a break so we returned back to Portree for some lunch, so a few of us went to the Portree Hotel’s dining room for some food then after I wandered around a few shops up on Bosville Terrace, picking up some more postcards, stamps and snack food. There were a few shops selling many different items of clothing – quite a bit of it with wool. They had these gorgeous Aaron knit sweaters which I would have loved to buy, but didn’t get for various reasons, but mainly because they were made of wool and as I’ve mentioned before, I can’t wear wool (unless I’ve got long sleeve turtleneck shirts on underneath). Also, my mum knits and has made me a couple of Aaron knit cable sweaters made with acrylic yarn, and thirdly, I was running out of space in my suitcase. However, I did find a nice waterproof jacket, which I did need – and folded up fairly small when not in use – on sale for £30, so I did get that – and put it right on as it had started to lightly rain again. I quickly made my way back to the bus terminal where our bus was parked and was taking us off on our afternoon adventure. Not everyone was coming along that afternoon though as some had been on Skye on the first leg of their tours the week before.

We continued for a drive in the afternoon up towards where our tour guide went through school and where he grew up. The scenery was quite beautiful. It was overcast and occasionally sprinkling with rain, then we popped into the Talisker Whiskey Distillery, where I picked up a couple of small bottles of Scotch to bring up to my father. And we happened upon a few scarecrows that were part of the Tattie Bogal Scarecrow Festival. The one below was one of my favourites.

Scarecrow, Tattie Bogle Scarecrow Festival, Isle of Skye, Scotland. © J. Lynn Stapleton, 4th August, 2013

Scarecrow, Tattie Bogle Scarecrow Festival, Isle of Skye, Scotland. © J. Lynn Stapleton, 3rd August, 2013

Talisker Whiskey Distillery, Carbost, Isle of Skye, Scotland. © J. Lynn Stapleton, 3rd August, 2013

Talisker Whiskey Distillery, Carbost, Isle of Skye, Scotland. © J. Lynn Stapleton, 3rd August, 2013

Loch Harport, Isle of Skye © J. Lynn Stapleton, 3rd August 2013

Loch Harport, Isle of Skye © J. Lynn Stapleton, 3rd August 2013

Grazing Sheep, Loch Harport, Isle of Skye. © J. Lynn Stapleton, 3rd August 2013

Grazing Sheep, Loch Harport, Isle of Skye. © J. Lynn Stapleton, 3rd August 2013

We drove on a little longer through Dunvegan and down through and stopped off at the Sligachan Hotel and headed over to the Sligachan Bridge, with the river heavy with rain rushing through the arches. The nearby Cuillin mountains nearby provided a lovely backdrop. I wish it hadn’t started raining but there was some wonderful shots to be taken. According to legend, the Cuillin take their name from the Gaelic hero, Cúchulainn, although this is probably a folk etymology. Legend has it that Cúchulainn learned martial arts from the warrior woman, Scáthach, who was said to have a fighting school in Skye. She bested him in a fight and so after learning from her, he challenged her once more to a fight and won. (ref. Tour guide’s local knowledge, along with Wikipedia reference and– The Cuillin History & the Peak Names

Sligachan Bridge, Sligachan, Isle of Skye. © J. Lynn Stapleton, 3rd August 2013

Sligachan Bridge, Sligachan, Isle of Skye. © J. Lynn Stapleton, 3rd August 2013

Sligachan Bridge, Sligachan, Isle of Skye. © J. Lynn Stapleton, 3rd August 2013

Sligachan Bridge, Sligachan, Isle of Skye. © J. Lynn Stapleton, 3rd August 2013

The Cuillins, Sligachan, Isle of Skye. © J. Lynn Stapleton, 3rd August 2013

The Cuillins, Sligachan, Isle of Skye. © J. Lynn Stapleton, 3rd August 2013

We headed back up to Portree for the night. I stopped off at the hostel where they’d moved me into a four bed female dorm. I hung up my wet clothes and changed before heading up to The Co-operative Supermarket for a few things, then up to the Bosville Hotel restaurant for supper. Some of my tour mates had gone there the evening before and had recommended the place, so I decided to take them up on it and I’m glad I did – fantastic meal and dessert – and grateful for the time I went, as shortly after there was quite a queue for seating. I headed back to the hostel and relaxed for a while, got showered and dressed for bed before writing up some more postcards. I listened to a couple of BBC Radio4 podcasts before falling asleep.

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Exploring Scotland – Part VIII: Harris & Skye

Day 8: 2nd August 2013

Today we left the flatter hills of Lewis for the more mountainous area of Harris, as we ventured southwards in order to catch the ferry over to Skye in the afternoon. It was fairly barren, given the landscape, but quite beautiful.

Isle of Lewis, Scotland. © J. Lynn Stapleton, 2nd August 2013

Isle of Lewis, Scotland. © J. Lynn Stapleton, 2nd August 2013

Isle of Lewis, Scotland. © J. Lynn Stapleton, 2nd August 2013

Isle of Lewis, Scotland. © J. Lynn Stapleton, 2nd August 2013

Isle of Harris, Scotland. © J. Lynn Stapleton, 2nd August 2013

Isle of Harris, Scotland. © J. Lynn Stapleton, 2nd August 2013

Isle of Harris, Scotland. © J. Lynn Stapleton, 2nd August 2013

Isle of Harris, Scotland. © J. Lynn Stapleton, 2nd August 2013

Isle of Harris, Scotland. © J. Lynn Stapleton, 2nd August 2013

Isle of Harris, Scotland. © J. Lynn Stapleton, 2nd August 2013

We stopped off at the newly opened Harris Tweed Centre in Drinishader, Harris, where you could see an exhibition on how the process is making tweed from the initial stages of getting pure virgin wool to the mills where it is dyed according to requested colours to the spinning of the wool onto spools and spun into cloth in the weaver’s homes then returned to the mills for finishing. To get an idea of the process of how tweed is made, the Harris Tweed Authority demonstrates this in a 4-part series of posts on their blog: How to Make Harris Tweed. It’s really quite fascinating if you really like crafting as it is a detailed but fascinating process.

Harris Tweed Centre, Drinishader, Isle of Harris, Scotland. © J. Lynn Stapleton, 2nd August 2013

Harris Tweed Centre, Drinishader, Isle of Harris, Scotland. © J. Lynn Stapleton, 2nd August 2013

Harris Tweed Centre, Drinishader, Isle of Harris, Scotland. © J. Lynn Stapleton, 2nd August 2013

Harris Tweed Centre, Drinishader, Isle of Harris, Scotland. © J. Lynn Stapleton, 2nd August 2013

We browsed through the shop at the various items from tweed iPhone covers to hats, jackets, and various other things made with Tweed. Looks wonderful, alas, I can’t wear wool such as a sweater or jacket unless it’s fully lined and I’ve got a cotton long-sleeve turtleneck on. Mum’s the only one in the family that can wear wool.

After this we headed south to Rodel in the south end of Harris to see Tùr Chliamainn (St. Clement’s Church), a fifteenth century church that had been built for the Chiefs of the Clan MacLeod of Harris. There are two chapels on either side of the main hall, and the rear of the church, there’s a tower that you could go up along to a small room. The high winds could be heard loudly as you went up the tour and the overcast skies made for an eerie atmosphere.

St. Clement's Church, Rodel, Harris, Scotland. © J. Lynn Stapleton, 2nd August 2013

St. Clement’s Church, Rodel, Harris, Scotland. © J. Lynn Stapleton, 2nd August 2013

St. Clement's Church, Rodel, Harris, Scotland. © J. Lynn Stapleton, 2nd August 2013

St. Clement’s Church, Rodel, Harris, Scotland. © J. Lynn Stapleton, 2nd August 2013

St. Clement's Church, Rodel, Harris, Scotland. © J. Lynn Stapleton, 2nd August 2013

St. Clement’s Church, Rodel, Harris, Scotland. © J. Lynn Stapleton, 2nd August 2013

St. Clement's Church, Rodel, Harris, Scotland. © J. Lynn Stapleton, 2nd August 2013

St. Clement’s Church, Rodel, Harris, Scotland. © J. Lynn Stapleton, 2nd August 2013

St. Clement's Church, Rodel, Harris, Scotland. © J. Lynn Stapleton, 2nd August 2013

St. Clement’s Church, Rodel, Harris, Scotland. © J. Lynn Stapleton, 2nd August 2013

After a while, we headed up a little to have lunch at The Anchorage Restaurant in Leverburgh, over-looking a lovely bay. We then drove up the western coast of the lower end of Harris, heading back to the Port of Tarbert where we were to catch the ferry over to the Isle of Skye. Along the way we stopped at for a couple photo opportunities on the A859, overlooking gorgeous beaches with soft sands and shallow turquoise waters of the Atlantic Ocean.

Seilebost Beach, Harris, Scotland. © J. Lynn Stapleton, 2nd August 2013

Seilebost Beach, Harris, Scotland. © J. Lynn Stapleton, 2nd August 2013

Seilebost Beach, Harris, Scotland. © J. Lynn Stapleton, 2nd August 2013

Seilebost Beach, Harris, Scotland. © J. Lynn Stapleton, 2nd August 2013

Seilebost Beach, Harris, Scotland. © J. Lynn Stapleton, 2nd August 2013

Seilebost Beach, Harris, Scotland. © J. Lynn Stapleton, 2nd August 2013

On the ride over to Skye, the winds were up and so were the waves. I found a place to sit down, and watch a bit of tele that was running a few episodes of “Midsomer Murders”, though at some point I fell asleep and woke shortly before we were to disembark the ferry as we arrived in Uist on the Isle of Skye and from there we made our way to Portree where we were staying for two nights. There was a minor quibble when we got to the hostel in that they couldn’t find my reservation, but they were able set up an extra mattress in one of the dorm rooms. Anyway, I got my stuff sorted for the time being and headed out to wander the streets of Portree. Given that my computer was down I was happy to find a shop that had some books to buy. I found a copy of Denise Mina’s “Still Midnight”; I couldn’t remember if I had a copy of it at home (ETA: I do), but I hadn’t read it yet, so I picked up a copy to read. I stopped round the Cooperative supermarket to pick up some cereal for the next two mornings, some fruit and soft drinks before heading for food for supper.

It was still mostly overcast, but as I was headed down to the pier to get some supper from the Fish & Chips shop, it had started to clear off a little. I took this shot down at the pier and took my take-away back to the hostel. I finished my tea and got ready for bed, curled up on the mattress and read for a little while before turning in for the night.

Portree Harbour, Portree, Isle of Skye, Scotland. ©  J. Lynn Stapleton, 2nd August 2013

Portree Harbour, Portree, Isle of Skye, Scotland. © J. Lynn Stapleton, 2nd August 2013