We had a full day of sight-seeing planned for Isle of Skye, focusing on the Eastern side. Starting and ending at the Portree Youth Hostel, we planned to visit the otherworldly Fairy Pools (my main motivation for visited the Isle), the rugged Cuillin, the famous Talisker Distillery for a scotch tour, the Dunvegan Castle, and the Neist Point Lighthouse for the quintessential Isle of Skye shot.
Morning in Portree
We had breakfast at the Portree youth hostel before sitting off to explore Skye. To our great amusement, there were actually sheep crossing the street at rush hour as we made our way into the highlands. I thought that was just something they put on postcards for tourists, but no – it really happens here!
Our first stop was the Fairy Pools. Parking cost £5 and when we made our way to the trail discovered it was impassable without tall waterproof boots! There was a wide stream you had to wade across. I had rain boots on, but Matt did not. We wandered up and down the stream looking for an easier crossing, but the stream was it! Other people were taking their shoes and socks off to wade through, but Matt wasn’t up for that. He volunteered to stay back while I went ahead.
I got out our Samsung 360 camera and took videos all the way up so that Matt could still share the experience. The Fairy Pools were a series of small waterfalls and a rocky stream below mountains. It was pretty, but not as pretty as I’d expected.
I found Matt back at the car having a snooze. He had spoken to the parking administrator who said there was an alternative route up the hill to the left of the lot, but a long walk away from where we had parked. Good to know!
We drove to the Cuillin Viewpoint in the GPS system, which turned out not to be a viewpoint but just an unmarked spot in the road. We could see lots of mountains during the drive though, but that is the case anywhere here! There are lots and lots of mountains in the Highlands.
We made our way to the local distillery, Talisker. Matt commented on how making scotch in such a beautiful part of the world must be a dream job for many! At the distillery, we tasted the Distiller’s Edition (not a fan of that one – too sharp) and read the information boards on display before going in search for lunch. As the tours had been booked up until Sunday, there wasn’t much else to do there. So, we left.
We saw signs for seafood takeout on the road leaving the distillery, so followed the arrows up the hill to a quaint little shop and sitting area. We ordered smoked mackerel, rollmop herring, and oatcakes, which we ate at picnic tables overlooking the loch and mountains. The food was delicious and reasonably priced – I highly recommend!
Neist Point Lighthouse
The last stop on our itinerary for the day was the Neist Point Lighthouse. It was a good thing as the drive out was extremely stressful. It was a long, winding single-track road with heavy traffic of tourists in cars, vans, and coach buses. Sheep were everywhere and the scenery was beautiful, but it was too hair raising to truly enjoy the drive. It was a form of torture – about 10 miles of road barely wide enough for one vehicle.
The sight once we got there was incredible however. I had never seen such cliffs before in my life! The landscape was so dramatic with just the sound of the wind, the sea, and the “bah-h-h” of sheep all around. Sheep dotted the landscape and you had to watch very step once you got to the lighthouse as their excrement was everywhere! The lighthouse is closed off to the public, but you can admire it from outside the walls. It had the biggest fog horn Matt and I had ever seen!
We visited the Dunvegan Castle on the Isle of Skye. You couldn’t view it from the carpark, the road, nor was there any official viewing point available to the public. It was tricky to find a spot to take a photo without paying admission. The road beyond the castle was narrow and winding with many confused tourists like ourselves driving up and down. Eventually, we found a relatively decent view from a facilities building on the property. It started to rain, so we didn’t doddle. It was far, far away – but we could see it over the leafy trees and hedges.
Co-op Food Grocery Store
We stopped in the larger of the two Co-op Food Grocery Stores in Portree on our way back into town. I drew out some more cash from the ATM and saw a Scottie dog in a tartan collar as we left. How Scottish! We picked up a corkscrew to donate to the hostel’s kitchen supplies, some cheese, and rye bread.
The large Co-op Grocery Store had the best prices on postcards I’d seen and a lovely selection! They really know how to do postcards well here – excellent photography and stock.
An Evening in Portree
There was a rainbow arching over downtown as we arrived home at the hostel. Matt relaxed after all the driving he’d done that day as I set about making dinner.
People gave me side glances as I set the table for us in the dining hall. I had a bottle of Côte du Rhône wine, salad with vinaigrette, rye bread with a round of goat cheese, Himalayan salt, my purse sized pepper grinder, and pasta in a garlic and tomato sauce. Our plates polished, we got out a bar of chocolate to enjoy while we sipped our wine. Who knew Cadbury Dairy Milk and French wine went so well together!
We were quite impressed by the wine. When I went to see if it was available from the LCBO, I discovered this was Co-op Food branded wine! This French wine was like Loblaws putting out a Presidents Choice bottle of wine back home! We laughed out loud in amusement. This wine was so good! You definitely can’t judge a wine by its price tag…
Martin Healy Band at the Pier Hotel – again!
We didn’t intend to go out again that night, but on our evening stroll around town we heard music coming from the Pier Hotel Bar again! The Martin Healy band was at it again, so we stopped in the crowded little bar for a pint.
I got chatting with some of the patrons, some of which recognized us from last night. They were quite impressed by my hair colour and one got out pictures of his grand daughter to show both of us. They made dirty jokes and teased us. Once the American tourists cleared out (not finishing their beer we might add) we slipped into their seats beside the band.
Between sets, I got chatting with the guitarist. They remembered us from last night and when they found out we were Canadian, treated us to songs from our homeland! They sang songs by Neil Young, Ian & Sylvia Tyson (Four Strong Winds which just happened to be one of Matt’s all-time favourite songs), and the Waterboys. We got the whole bar singing with Fisherman’s Blues – it was such an experience! Matt was belting out all the tunes he knew (and some he didn’t) and I looked upon him, besotted.
We shook the hands of all the band members and locals before we left – they all asked if we’d be back tomorrow! The guitarist told me to message him when I plan to go to Ireland for advice on where to go. He suggested we keep to the West Coast Way and avoid the big cities. The place he said we must go to Donegal or someplace with a similar name starting with a “D” – I’ll have to do a Google search.
The guitarist told Matt to bring his harmonicas next time too! He assured Matt that musicians in Ireland would love to have a blues harpist jam with them at the bars there! They were all about making music for the pure joy of it.
Matt and I got home past midnight. We felt so happy! It had been such a wonderful experience. On YouTube, Matt played me the original tunes we’d heard renditions of and we fell asleep humming Fisherman’s Blues, which became our anthem for the trip.
Last Morning in Skye
The sun came out in all its glory on our last morning in Portree. We felt a little worse for wear after singing at the bar last night. After breakfast, we picked up sandwiches for the road at the little Co-op grocery store and stopped by the post office to mail some postcards.
As the weather was so fine, I was motivated to get the classic shot Portree shot that was featured on so many postcards. Turned out, you could admire the view just around the corner from the grocery store where all the high end hotels and restaurants were! We took some classic shots on our phone and even got our picture taken by another tourist – how perfect!
Oldman of Storr
Matt was very intrigued by the craggy rock formations at the Oldman of Storr. It was relatively close to the hostel, so we made our way there after we checked-out. The fine weather had turned to rain, adding drama to the landscape!
We chose to go the opposite way than the flow of tourists, starting the hike on the lochin side. It took us two hours to do the loop (with many stops for photos along the way). We got very wet in the rain. I had a knapsack and tote bag full of supplies and camera gear – but of course forgot the rain pants in the car! I really should have brought the rain-cover for my backpack too. Noted for next time…
I can’t decide if I liked Oldman of Storr or Neist Point best. The swooping cliffs at Neist Point is one of the most beautiful sights I’ve seen in my life, but the Oldman of Storr was much more fun to photograph. I got some great shots here at Storr. Every corner looked as if it could be the setting for an saga, movie, or fantasy novel.