For anything but a short weekend trip, I prefer exotic, far-away places. Places where everything is so new and so difficult to understand that there is not a single occasion to get bored, not a moment to think about the work that awaits back home. Going to Scotland for a week was thus an unusual choice for us. Nevertheless, we discovered that there’s a lot to like about this country, and especially the hiking trails (in particular the ones we did not do yet!) make me wish to come back…
After visiting friends in Glasgow, we left towards the Highlands and on to Skye. Our rental car, Scottie, had already become our friend when we took the ferry from Mallaig to Armadale and we almost felt like we were neglecting him when we had to leave him alone on the car deck.
We did not spend a lot of time in Portree but we did stay in an excellent B&B and we had a great dinner too.
Larchside B&B was the nicest accommodation we had on this trip to Scotland and in fact one of the two best B&Bs I have ever stayed in (the other being Gray’s Haven B&B in Edmonton, Ca). Our room was infinitely cosy, the hosts Craig and Kasha lovely, we were given a lot of advice what to do on Skye, there were DVDs to watch, and the breakfast was the best we had in Scotland. The only one who was a bit sceptical at the beginning was Scottie, our car, since he (or we…) didn’t have a lot of experience with driving on gravel and made a very noisy entrance to the parking behind the house. Everything was just perfect, and yet our hosts apologized for everything (even for the fact that they have the cutest of all dogs).
For dinner, Craig from Larchside B&B recommended The Granary in Portree and we were lucky enough to get a small table even though we arrived after 8 pm. For some reason, Scottish restaurants stop serving food early and because there was always so much to do outside, we always arrived late by Scottish standards. We had the mussels which were served with chips, salad, fresh bread and a local beer.
North of Portree
After breakfast, we left Portree with the plan to see as much of the island as we could. Our first stop was at the Old Man of Storr. Somehow, we had missed the part about it being bit of a walk to get there from the parking. In any case, we started walking, firmly believing that it was just a five minutes walk, and while it got more and more clouded, we realized that it was in fact not just five minutes to get there… Plan to have ∼1.5 hours for the way up and down and to have some time to explore. The first stretch of the way was a little depressing as it passed through cleared forestry. The second half however was stunning even though the fog and the clouds got so thick by the time that we could only see the closest rock formations, the closest valleys and the closest sheep. Standing at the foot of the most impressive rock (within the admittedly limited visibility range), we wished we had brought gloves. During the descent it was still raining and we were asked the same question several times:
“Is it worth it?”
And yes, it is.
Stopping for a light lunch on the way, we continued to the Quirang. To be honest, I am not sure what they really are. I guess it is a kind of rock formation. Whatever the name really refers to, there was a nice walk through some pretty spectacular landscape with rocks, valleys and sometimes even views of the sea. At some points, the path was a little exposed, something which one of us didn’t quite like. It was not too scary however, and the walk doesn’t require any particular technical skills nor is it too exhausting.
Still continuing with our day of driving, we headed for the Fairy Glen next. The Fairy Glen is an enchanted little miniature landscape with conic hills and verdant green grass. It reminds of the Shire and I believe the sheep who live here are the most dignified we have seen in Scotland, with an air of superiority around them, like, look, I chose the most magic place to live in.
Not that other sheep we saw did not have their own character as well. I believe we saw more sheep than humans. Eating grass and walking on the road, sure. But also standing next to the most dramatic cliffs, spoiling the character of every picture with their cuteness. Like this one who lives at Neist Point, where there’s a light house, views over the sea to the outer hebrides and dramatic cliffs. And on every walk, looking up exhausted after a steep stretch, there were always some of them looking down at us, even if we could hardly imagine how such clumsy looking animals could have climbed up so far.
What to take with you during the day: Water- and windproof clothes, comfortable hiking boots (class B or C), a map (on a smartphone), your camera, a second set of clothes to change into if you get wet
Something we didn’t have but wished we had: a thermos flask with hot tea to keep in the car
Where to sleep: Larchside B&B
When to eat: Try to arrive before 8 pm.