It started with a save the date.
A few months later the wedding invite arrived, and a decision had to be made – go to Scotland for the wedding or to not go.
We chose to go.
Then all the other choices that go along with planning a trip started popping up. How long would we be there? What would we do while there? Would we go anywhere else?
I’ve wanted to go to the Isle of Skye for a few years now, and somehow I thankfully managed to convince my parents of spending a few days in Skye.
People, a few days were not long enough. More specifically 2.5 days wasn’t long enough. There is so much to do and see on Skye, that I think you could spend a lifetime and not see it all. But let me back up just a bit before I jump into all we did in Skye.
Let me first start off by saying that you can check out highlights from my whole trip on my Instagram Highlights – here
We left Dulles International Sunday night – not a red eye, but by the time we left it felt like it. About 7 hours later we were landing in Edinburgh. I hadn’t been back overseas since moving back to the U.S. in 2007, so needless to say I was so excited, and more so, I hadn’t been back to Scotland since 2006.
Now, because it had been so long since I’d seen that side of my family – some since 2006, others since 2009 – I did think it was going to be a little awkward seeing them all. Though social media is a weirdly wonderful thing sometimes. Even though it had been so long since I’d seen everyone, it wasn’t nearly as awkward as I thought it would be. I think that’s because even though we haven’t physically seen each other, we were still connected via Facebook, Instagram, Twitter…making it almost feel like no time had passed. It was great getting to see everyone again, but that was pretty short lived. We were in Edinburgh – well right outside the city – for half a day, and then we left for Skye.
We probably should have done a little more research about the area, because nothing prepared us for Single Track Roads with passing spots. Not to mention that our rental car, really didn’t have the clearance to handle the conditions of some of the roads.
Our trip to Skye started early that next morning. The great thing about the drive from Edinburgh to Skye – everywhere you look, everything you pass, is worthy of stopping to take pictures. Of course, we didn’t stop for every opportunity, but we stopped for a quite a few. We even stopped for coffee and chips (weird combination, but it works) and that was a picture moment as well.
A little while later, we crossed the bridge into Skye! After stopping at our hotel – the Bosville – we headed for our first location – The Old Man of Storr. One of the more iconic landmarks of Skye.
On a clear good weather day, it would’ve been a decent hike, but that wasn’t our experience. It was a pretty miserable morning on Skye, and when you’re up a mountain, it’s even worse. Sleeting rain, 40-50 mph winds, and muddy. Overall, it was a crap hike, and we didn’t even see The Storr. When you’re doing the hike, you get to this place where the trail kind of disappears up a muddy rock wall, and already soaked and tired, we weren’t going to attempt it. Though, I’m not sure if we would have been able to see anything anyways, with how foggy and gross it was. So we headed down, and I had to walk the rocky, wet path glasses-less.
We were bundled in rain gear, and I was beyond hot, and unable to take anything off due to the wind. So my internal temp was significantly higher than the air around me, and my glasses fogged up so badly, and I couldn’t see out of them even if I wanted too – I’m sure other glasses wearers understand. If we had, had more time on Skye, I might have tried to do the hike again when it was nicer. It just gives me another reason to go back.
With The Storr a bust, we headed back into Portree – the capital of Skye – to our hotel, to chill out before the Evening Light and Whisky tour was supposed to start.
Shameless plug – If you’re planning a trip to Skye, to Portree, you definitely want to check out the Evening Light and Whisky Tour, or any of these other tours.
David MacDonald – who was our tour guide – was fantastic and the information he provided was interesting, and overall it was a great night.
We start this tour with a couple from Pennsylvania of all places, and David takes us around Portree. One of the first questions he asked was “Have any of you watched Game of Thrones or Outlander?” He told us that Outlander was generating a lot of tourism for Skye – the opening song is actually about Bonnie Prince Charlie’s escape to Skye. David also informed us that parts of the prequel GoT series would be filmed in Skye, so the show will feature some big landmarks. Game of Thrones became this sort of anchor throughout the tour. David then told us that George R. R. Martian has talked about how a lot of what happens in his series is what actually happened in the highlands history.
He took us to places that I don’t think we would have found on our own.
First he took us to the Watchtower – which isn’t really a watchtower, but an apothecary tower. He told us about how back in the day (a long time ago) if ships that came into Portree Harbor (or any harbor) and saw the tower, they would know that a Doctor, or someone who practiced medicine was in the immediate vicinity. They would then come to shore to have their sick/injured looked at.
David took us up the tower and from there you could see The Storr, which are lava plugs that have been slowly pushed up from the ground over time – creating these rocky pillars. (The above picture was taken from the top of the tower.)
From there he took us through little paths and past a house that Clan MacDonald owns and told us that Princess Anne still occasionally stays in when she comes to Portree. He said that she could occasionally be seen walking around in town.
Then he took us through some more little paths to give us a better look at Loch Portree and the iconic colorful houses on the bay. He told us a lot about the history of the clans and the highlands.
Coming back to the Game of Throne reference from early, David was very easily able to paint a picture of who the Clans were as people. His comparisons were Clan MacNeacail (Clan Nicolson) were the Starks, while Clan MacDonald were the Lannisters. If you know anything about Game of Thrones, then you’ll understand the comparisons. For those who may not understand them – the Starks are loyal, willing to fight for what’s right, will show up for the fight, don’t have to be bribed to do what’s right, whereas the Lannister’s will fight if you can pay them enough, they only look out for themselves, and are disloyal.
Clan MacNeacail – showed up to every fight, protected Bonnie Prince Charlie
Clan MacDonald – only showed up to fight if the money was good, were too arrogant and disloyal.
You might be asking who Bonnie Prince Charlie is since I’ve mentioned him twice now. He’s a whole other history lesson, but in short his grandfather was removed from the English throne, and when Charlie (Prince Charles Edward Stuart) came of age, he claimed that he was the rightful heir to the throne of England. He hoped to gain support from France and when they declined any more support than the offering of two ships, he found himself in the highlands. He managed to convince some of the clans to join his cause, but it doesn’t have a happy ending. When people tell the story of Bonnie Prince Charlie, it’s usually tied to his role in the 1745 uprising and defeat at Culloden in April 1746, which ended the Stuart cause, and any other attempts at their claim to the throne. Charlie escaped from Scotland to Skye after the uprising.
I’m going to link the Wiki page – here – if you want to know more, but I could do an entire blog post about Bonnie Prince Charlie. If you’re interested, you’ll also want to look up Flora MacDonald, because her story is pretty epic as well.
Another figure David told us about was Somerled, who only existed for about 10 years in history – he kind of just appeared. He ended up being the King (for lack of a better term) of the Isles, who vanquished the Viking invaders. He’s often imagined as a Celtic Hero, but not that much is known about him. David said that he could trace his ancestry back through Clan MacDonald, and therefor to Somerled.
I’m going to link the Wiki Page for him as well – here
Whew, I feel like I was just back in school doing research for a paper, but that’s also one of the coolest thing about Skye – the sheer amount of history, of the Clans and the highlands. It’s no wonder it constantly inspires people.
As the last stop before the Whisky portion of the tour, David took us out to this little secluded spot, where all you could hear was the water on the rocks, and the occasional bird flying by. It was so quiet and the weather finally broke, and the sun decided to make it’s appearance right at sunset. We got to see the golden orange glow on the mountains – which didn’t really come across in photos, but some things you just have to live and experience and put the camera away. There were a lot of moments like that on this trip. I could have taken a million photos, but I didn’t. For some of it, I just stared at it, took it in, let the magic that was Skye imprint itself in my brain.
While we were out here in the middle of nowhere, David told us about the oldest man at 96 still living in Portree and had lived there for his whole life, except for during WWII. He told us two stories that this man had told him. (Both of these stories are in my Scotland Highlights on my Instagram page.) The first being this one –
About 60 years ago, one of the man’s friends decided to go fishing past this point, since just on the other side there is a rock shelf that makes for the perfect fishing spot. So the friend threw out his net, and when he drew it back in, he found that he caught something that wasn’t a fish. Instead of fish, he pulled in a bag of Spanish Galleons, a really pleasant surprise. He took them back into town and told everyone about what he found. The area was quickly dubbed Gold Point.
Fast-forward a few years. The 96-year-old man decides to go fishing in that same area. He throws his net out, and when it’s time to drag it in, he finds that it’s caught on something. He pulls and pulls and it doesn’t budge. Thinking that he’s going to have to forfeit the net, he finally gets it free, but it’s heavy. He has no idea what he’s dragging towards him, but when he finally gets the net back onto his boat, he finds that he’s caught a plank of wood. There are words carved into it. (The above photo is a picture of Gold Point.)
So a long time ago, it was said that a Spanish ship got lost somewhere up near Portree, but no one was really sure where, or if it had actually even been in the area, but with the find of the Galleons and the plank of wood, a team is being put together to dive in the area to see if they can find the ship.
The second story is one of the coolest things I’ve heard, and if David ever gets his wish of having enough money to recreate the scene, I totally want to be there for it. This story takes place right where we were standing at David told it to us.
The man was standing out in this middle of nowhere point, when he heard an engine. This was right around WWII time. Coming around the point, a German Bomber plane was flying at low altitude followed by an English Spitfire plane. The Spitfire was firing and chasing the Bomber. The whizzed past him and back over the mountain that stood behind him – heading towards The Old Man of Storr. The man hears a boom, and a crash, and suddenly there is an engine heading back his way. The Spitfire is flying at such a low altitude that he can clearly see the pilot and the pilot can see him, so he tips his wings – the sign of victory. (The above photo is where the planes would have flown.)
To this day, people can still find little bits of the bomber plane.
Honestly, I could probably sit and listen to the man’s stories all day, because it sounds like he’s lived a very eventful life.
As the final tour stop, we went to the Portree Hotel and sat in the bar. As part of the tour, we’d be getting a dram of Whisky – my first ever.
David got us all a different kind, some sweet others smoky. He told us that most people like either the sweeter whiskies, or the smoky ones, and once you figure out which ones you don’t like, you’ve knocked out about 200 kinds. Before he let us try our whisky, he told us to pour a tiny amount into the palm of our hand and then rub them together until the liquid dried. This would give us an idea of what the flavors in our drams would be. I got a sweet caramel whisky, though David did say he tasted bananas…I didn’t. I tasted more of a canned peaches flavor. Since I had a sweet whisky, he gave me his to try – pretty much the smokiest whisky you can get, and while I didn’t hate it, it wasn’t my favorite. I don’t think I’ll really ever be a whisky drinker, but who knows.
He gave me a list of what he gave us
- Caol Ila 12 yr. Islay – very smoky ß this is the one I tried that David had.
- Talisker 10 yr. Skye – lighter smoky
- Auchentoshan 12 yr. Glasgow – clean
- Old Pultengy 10 yr. Wick – fruity ß this is the one I had.
Do with this what you will. Talisker is distilled on Skye, and we totally brought a bottle home.
Another shameless plug – this time on David’s behalf, here’s his YouTube channel – here
Check him out!
Onto day two of Skye!
I knew from the beginning that I wanted to get out to Neist Point – about the furthest point West from Portree. It’s the home of an old lighthouse, and it was on my list of “Must See This Trip” so we set out early, and tried putting “Neist Point” into the GPS and our car didn’t like that. None of the maps we had with us, had roads listed, so we kind of just had to guess. Now, we could’ve used Google Maps, but that international phone plan isn’t cheap, and we didn’t want any of our phones triggering it.
We knew we could get to Dunvegan castle – about half way between Neist Point and Portree, so we set off.
When we arrived at Dunvegan, we got a road map, and could kind of figure out where we needed to go. Initially we weren’t actually going to stop at the castle, but we figured that since we were here, we would. We bought tickets, and toured the castle that is still the home of Clan MacLeod and has been their home for the last 800 years. 800 years of history is in the castle, and I would be lying if I said I wasn’t super envious of the library. All cloth bound books, in seemingly perfect condition. I’d die if I were able to just peruse through them. Serious collectors items. Serious book envy.
If you’re in Skye, you should check out Dunvegan.
Now onto Neist Point – the whole reason we woke up early. The fun…or terrifying thing about Skye (depending on how you look at it) is the Single Track Roads. Something might be ten miles away, and take over an hour to get to. Neist Point is one of those places. After we left the castle, finding Neist Point was journey. Every sign for it was about six inches big underneath all the signs for various towns. If you missed it, you were finding somewhere to turn around.
And finally, we parked, and we were here! Only…the lighthouse was nowhere to be seen, so I was instantly confused. What the Internet didn’t tell me when I did my research was the intensity of the hike was that allows you to reach the lighthouse. I hate the hike. It sucked…well heading down to the lighthouse wasn’t too bad, except I kept thinking that the wind would blow my glasses straight off my face.
Neist Point is utterly gorgeous. So green, so blue, so…windy, but just crystal clear. We got lucky, we had a perfect few hours wandering around, and could just barely see the Outer Herbrides. It rained for about five minutes as we started our trek back up to where we parked the car.
This is the part that sucked so much. What was just a steep decline coming down, felt like an even steeper incline going up. It was about a 30-35 degree incline, with wind. My legs and butt were killing me by the time we got to the top. I ended up in my t-shirt by the time I reached the top. The views were so worth it though, I’d do it again.
With every intention of heading to The Quiraing – a scenic 2 hour hike, we ended up opting out, making it another reason to go back. Tired, and hungry, we headed back into Portree to do some exploring, take some photos, and do a little shopping. I needed Band-Aids for my heels – stupid hiking boots.
Then it was time for dinner, and after not having lunch, and having eaten breakfast at 7:30AM I was starving. Well, the restaurant we ended up in, was classy af, with classy af food. I liked 2/3 of the courses, so it wasn’t all a loss, but I figured that I was going to be running to the little corner store for an after dinner, dinner.
The next day was our final day in Skye and I was not ready to leave by any means. I would have happily stayed for another week. We knew we were heading to the Fairy Pools on our way out, and I was excited. This was another place on my “Must Visit” list, and this one was easier to find. We parked and started the hike down to the “pools”. Really the Fairy Pools are a collect of pools and rivers, and you hike up along side them.
I saw magic that day. There is just no way that it wasn’t magic. Fairies could easily live there, no problem. I do wish there hadn’t been as many people (* cough * rude people * cough *) but it was just utterly beautiful. The Cuillin Mountains acted as the backdrop for the pools, and they just looked like a scene right out of a fantasy. We finally had to tear ourselves away from the Fairy Pools, away from Skye, and head back towards Edinburgh. It was a painful goodbye.
We were going to stop at the Glenfinnan Viaduct…or the Harry Potter Bridge in the second movie, with the Ford Anglia. Unfortunately our schedule didn’t allow for that, so again, just another reason to come back! (At this point, everything is a reason to go back.)
Back in Edinburgh, we went out that night for dinner with the family, and then Friday was spent relaxing and getting ready for the wedding on Saturday.
Yeah, I bet you forgot that’s how this whole trip started.
Then it was wedding day! The ceremony was beautiful, my cousin was gorgeous and I couldn’t be happier for her and her new husband. The reception was so much fun, and I definitely had too much Champagne, but hey, it’s a wedding.
I’m not going to post any photos from the wedding, but it was magical, and beautiful and it didn’t end when 1AM came rolling around. I was done; I was tired and wanted to go home to bed.
The next day was recovery day; everyone slept in, and then just sat around talking.
We were down to our last two full days in Scotland. It was kind of crazy how quickly time passed.
Monday we headed out to Dunans Castle. It’s an old castle needed renovated. It has a long and storied past, and in order to raise funds to renovate it, square feet of land can be purchased, which gives the buyer the honorary title of Laird or Lady. My dad was gifted the square foot, so he got to stand on his square foot of land, on * his * castle. It was a perfect day and seeing the castle was cool.
After the tour we headed home, but stopped at a local Inn for lunch. We got to stare out at Loch Fyne while we ate. When we left, we planned on stopping at Loch Lomond – the most photographable loch in all of Scotland. I mean, all of Scotland is a giant photo opportunity, but okay. It was gorgeous.
Then we were back at the house and then it was Tuesday.
We headed into the city. I wanted to go to the elephant house – the birthplace of Harry Potter. J.K. Rowling spent time in this café writing one of my favorite series, so I knew we needed to stop by.
Unfortunately it’s a pretty big tourist destination now, and whatever ambiance she would have had writing, from what I could tell was gone. It was cool nonetheless.
Walking through Edinburgh it was easy to tell how she was inspired. Just looking at Edinburgh Castle from Prince’s street is Hogwarts.
We walked the Royal Mile (Castle – Palace) and did some shopping along the way. It was an enjoyable afternoon, but walking was starting to get a little old, and it was getting late, so we caught the bus back to the house.
Then it was time to pack and the next day we caught our flight home.
I enjoyed the whole trip, but I really wish we had more time in Skye. I’m already dying to go back, and know I’m spending at least a week there. The desire and the draw will eat at me until I can get back over. There are a few places that claw at me like that and Skye has joined that small list. One of these days I’ll get back over there, and I’ll see everything I did and more.
If you’re looking for somewhere magical to go to, put Skye on your list. Just be prepared to hike and for Single Track Roads.
Have you been to the Isle of Skye? If so, what was your favorite thing you did/saw?
***All photos in this post are taken by me. Please don’t repost without credit! Thank you!