Monday, July 5, 2010

The Isle of Skye

By Claire
July 1-2
We woke up to a real Scottish day—rain and overcast and wind. It was kind of fun and about time we experienced the “real” Scotland.

Our drive from Dingwall was one of the most beautiful we’ve seen on our trip. It really felt like we were in the Highlands—rain, mist and big, wind-swept mountains. We plan to spend two days here.

I’ve been amazed at the abundance of wild rhododendrons all over Scotland. They cover entire hillsides and are all along roadways, bursting with color, most commonly this lovely lavender.

It was a slow, bumpy ride on narrow roads with “passing places” where we or they would have to pull over to let the other by. I think our average speed was 30 mph. We finally came to the Skye Bridge which replaced the ferry in 1995. The bridge is not without controversy. It severely damaged B&B business in the towns it connects and it concerns environmentalists, who worry about disruption to the otter habitat.

Skye Bridge in the mist

This bridge was Europe’s most expensive toll bridge, which infuriated the locals. Lowlanders (city folk) sold off their urban homes and bought cheap property on Skye. Natives were used to the slow pace of the island that ran according to the whim of the ferry. The new folks found their commute into civilization too frustrating by boat so they demanded a new bridge. A deal was struck and a privately funded bridge was built. The toll wasn’t established until it opened and the ferry line it replaced closed. Locals were shocked to be charged £5 per car each way to go to the mainland. A few years ago, the bridge was bought by the Scottish Executive[link], the fare was abolished and the Skye natives are happy.

There are few roads in this area; so for once it was impossible to get lost. We arrived in blustery wind and rain (my jeans were soaked just getting out of Homer and walking to the bathroom). But, we settled in and with our view spot enjoyed the rocking and rolling of Homer and the whistling of the wind.

This rugged, remote-feeling Isle of Skye is known for its unpredictable weather—Skye means “cloudy” in Old Norse and locals call it “The Misty Isle.”

Skye seems to have more sheep than people; 200 years ago, many human residents were forced to move off the island to make room for more livestock during the Highland Clearances. The people who remain are some of the most ardently Gaelic Scots in Scotland. They even have a Gaelic college. Half of all native island residents speak Gaelic (pronounced “gallic”) as their first language. All the signage was in Gaelic, sometimes with the English translation.

Later on, the clouds parted and the sun came out. We decided to check out their tourist information room, something we’ve found very useful at all the British campgrounds.

We are located right on the shores of Loch Greshornish at a working croft (farm) with Highland cattle, sheep, ducks and chickens. They even sell their eggs, and a fresh fish van visits weekly.

I was able to get my still slightly swollen ankle into a hiking boot today and was thrilled to finally see some Highland cattle up close.

The weather changed so dramatically we really couldn’t quite believe it. It is very warm and sunny now and, as usual, people are outside sunning themselves. It really is a lovely campground with wild iris and beautiful views. They even have Pods for rent, something several of the Camping and Caravanning Club sites offer. They are built from locally-sourced timber and insulated with wool.

The stillness is all the more surprising after the howling wind. We had a long, calm, light evening—even here it doesn’t get dark until quite late. I’m not even sure it ever gets really dark. I stayed up until midnight and it seemed more like twilight than full dark.

Our second day consisted of rain and gale force winds. Homer was buffeted so strongly by the wind we decided to stay put with our books. We’re enjoying our wee dram every evening.

And yet, and yet, this New Road will someday be the Old Road too. ~ Neil Munro (1863 – 1930)


Elle in Umbria- where it's HOT! said...

Kind of ominous (?) this Neil Munro quote ~ and yet the fellow was known for his humorous writings.

Carol said...

Very pretty, but desolate feeling. I liked the picture of the highland cows. They kind of look like Yaks, which somehow seems appropriate.

punkingee said...

I'm "homesick"... and envious of you for being there.

Kim said...

Oh a Highland coo!

Chuck and Claire said...

That's right, a hairy coo!