Oh Misty Isle…

Day 4 of our trip finds us in Portree, Isle of Skye. My previous post followed us on our journey from Edinburgh to Portree via train and rental car.

We had talked about waking up early to see the sunrise in Portree harbor, but as soon as our alarm went off, back to sleep we went. It’s probably a good thing we didn’t bother to wake up early, though, as the area was completely covered in clouds and mist. We enjoyed breakfast in the hotel’s restaurant, which had a fantastic view of the harbor below. It was interesting to watch the mist rise as the minutes went by, allowing us to see more and more of the landscape finally. This was our first view of Skye. Colorful houses lined the shore, boats bobbed along in the water, and the tall, rocky hills slowly peeked through the clouds. Gobbling up our toast and scrambled eggs, we hastily made our way to the car to begin our journey for the day. 

Breakfast at Cuillin Hills Hotel
Portree Harbor

Because of the tyre problem yesterday, this would be our only day to look around Skye. We decided to drive north a few miles to see Kilt Rock and the Old Man of Storr before heading south to the Talisker Distillery and the Fairy Pools. Driving up was easy initially, with just a slight drizzle and slight wind but nothing threatening, we thought. We passed the Old Man of Storr and watched as brave groups of people made their way up the mountain.


At one point, I asked Bob to pull over so that I could take a picture of the cliffs looming over the sea below. I noticed a little pathway leading to a better view and since it wasn’t raining at the moment, we decided to quickly walk over and take a look. The pathway was small and rocky and very, very close to the steep drop off, but we didn’t think anything of it as we made our way up. Once we got to the top, we could see the cliffs below and it was just beautiful. I was able to snap a few pictures of the dark, looming clouds before they suddenly cracked open. At first it was just some heavy drops of rain, and we quickly turned around to head back – and then the rain drops hardened and we were being pelted hard and fast by hail. I had read up on the weather on Skye and was prepared for the weather to turn at any moment, but I guess I just didn’t really understand what to expect until we were in the brunt of it. We started sprinting carefully back to the car as the winds blew harder and harder and the hail became thicker and thicker. At one point I wasn’t able to breathe moving forwards anymore and I couldn’t see in front of me, so I turned around, slowly taking steps back down the rocky path. It was at this moment that I truly wondered if we would make it back to the car. I asked Bob later what he was thinking and the thought had crossed his mind too – either we would be blown straight off the cliff, or we would just curl up on the ground and give up. At this point, we were soaking, and still so far from the car, but the weather let up slightly, enough for us to see and we continued on – we did not curl up and die there.

We jumped back into the car, soaking head to foot, scrambling to get the heat on. Was it going to be like this everywhere we went on Skye, we wondered?

We drove a bit further up North and dared to brace the elements again to see Kilt Rock, though we weren’t out there for long. I thought for sure we were going to get blown straight over the railing and into the sea. After all of this, I just wanted to be back in the warm car, so we got back in and started the longer drive south towards Carbost, where Talisker Distillery was located. The drive down was still beautiful, despite the rain and the winds. Bob did such a great job handling the single track roads – though my stomach was still in knots the whole drive!

The Distillery is situated on the edge of a harbor, surrounded by beautiful hills. Inside, we were able to warm up a bit before taking an hour tour around the Distillery. It was really neat to see how their whiskey was made. Walking through, we were overwhelmed with rich, grainy, caramel-like smells. I truly enjoyed the tour, as well as the whiskey sample at the end. I didn’t think I would like the smoky flavor of Talisker whiskey, but it was surprisingly very nice.

After our tour, we headed back out into the cold to make our way to the Fairy Pools, one of the main reasons people come to Skye. Our GPS didn’t want to work in this area, but luckily we were able to find it pretty quickly. The parking area was pretty full but we found a spot. A warning to those visiting this area: the parking lot is small and precarious. Be careful!

We wrapped up in multiple layers and headed down the hill towards the pools, a little nervous about the weather. The majority of our walk down was pleasant, with just a few gusts of wind but no rain. We jumped over rocks and sunk into the mud and Bob walked into the river a bit. The water of the Fairy Pools is a beautiful turquoise, sometimes a deep green. Waterfalls connect the different levels along the mountain’s descent. We walked a good ways down the path and weren’t sure how far it continued – perhaps we missed the best views because we didn’t go to the end, but what we saw was breathtaking. The black Cuillin Hills rose high above the pools, their tips covered by a thick mist. The clouds above were moving quickly, and the sky went from dark and threatening, to blue and welcoming, back to dark and threatening. There were a good number of people out and about, and quite a few people just walking their dogs.


Can you imagine having this area as your backyard?

At some point we knew it was time to turn back, and as we hobbled down towards the car, the wind started to pick up and the sky started to threaten immediate rain. We hurried back, and as we neared the car park, hail began to fall again. This time we made it back without getting soaked. We had a time trying to back up the car out of the lot, and the road back was blocked by a number of maintenance vehicles but despite what my nerves suggested as we squeezed through, we made it back to the main road safely.

After the Distillery and the Fairy Pools, we decided to make our way off Skye and towards our next hotel in Fort William. I was hoping we’d make the drive before sunset. We stopped at a small takeaway food store in Broadford and enjoyed the coastal scenery for a little bit. I got a huge plate of mac and cheese and Bob got haddock (his way of contributing to the fish’s extinction).

At this point I was freezing from being soaked and from being outside all day and I struggled to keep warm in the car. Luckily our trip wasn’t too long and we got to our hotel around the time the sun was going down. Our GPS took us the wrong way at first but we were able to find our hotel anyways, despite feeling slightly worried about nightfall and the rain and being lost in an area with bad data connection. Our hotel was a cute little hotel on the shore of Loch Leven, right by the large bridge heading into Glencoe. We had a good view of the mountains across the lake, which would soon be covered in snow.

The Loch Leven Hotel near Fort William.
Rooms at the Loch Leven Hotel
Dinner at the Loch Leven Hotel

For dinner, we ate at the hotel restaurant and overheard a couple next to us discussing the upcoming snow through Glencoe. Would we be able to make our drive to Glasgow, we wondered? Thankfully the staff at the hotel was great at answering our worried questions and were good enough to explain to us the weather precautions the city takes. We were still a bit worried, but we would have to wait until the morning to see how things turned out.

The next leg of our journey will take us to Glasgow, where we will take a flight over to Belfast for St. Patrick’s Day.

Cheers!

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