October 2, 2014
We were up at 5 am (ouch) and we had some bagels for breakfast before heading downstairs. We had done most of the packing last night so it was just a matter of putting in the last few things. Caroline took Rocky for a short walk and then at 6 am we were on our way.
We took the Tube from Old Street to Baker Street, where we met the National Express bus which took us to Luton Airport. We were travelling on EasyJet, so we were each allowed only one carry-on bag. We watched the staff enforcing this policy as we lined up to board. The flight to Inverness took about two hours and the time went by quickly. The man from Hertz met the flight and drove us over to the rental car lot to pick up our car, which didn’t take too long.
Our first task was to buy groceries for our time on Skye. We managed to miss the Tesco which was on the driving instructions we had received, and so finally we had to settle for a much lower-grade supermarket. After buying four days’ worth of food and loading it into the trunk we carried on through a crowded street in the centre of Inverness, which led us to the A82, the scenic route to the west. Once we were out of the city the driving was all fine again.
Before long we were driving along the shore of Loch Ness, which we remembered from our Great Glen Way walk a few years ago. Through Drumnadrochit we drove, then Invermoriston (Nessie was nowhere to be seen), and then we turned off on the road to Skye, where we hadn’t been before. This road went away from Loch Ness and up into mostly uninhabited territory, with only a few hydroelectric sites on the river. It was beautiful country, grey and green, much like the mountains of Norway with the addition of brown where the bracken was dying off.
We had planned to take a little ferry over to the island, but due to the gale-force winds on the west coast it was not operating today. So we carried on and drove over the bridge instead. This took us past the castle of Eilean Donan, one of the most photographed castles in Scotland. Despite the high winds we had a good look around, and then had a snack in the café. It was definitely worth stopping there. The castle is on an island just offshore, and it has featured in numerous movies and whisky ads and the like. But it’s been there for about 800 years and was most recently rebuilt in the 1930’s. Even today it’s available for weddings and similar functions.
We finally reached the Merman Cottage in Upper Edinbane about 6 pm. By this time the wind was so strong that we could hardly stand up in it. The cottage was cold when we arrived, but it had all the modern conveniences so it didn’t take long to warm up. It was really quite nice, with two bedrooms plus a small bathroom upstairs, and kitchen and dining/sitting room downstairs. The kitchen was well-stocked with utensils and so making meals was easy. We had spaghetti and sauce for the main course followed by tea and cookies.
Outside the wind was howling furiously, but we were snug in our cottage with the metre-thick stone walls.
October 3, 2014
Sometime during the night the wind stopped howling, and when we got up the sky had the odd patch of blue in it. So this looked promising. After breakfast we got our boots on and headed out to the car to explore our part of the island.
First we drove up the Vaternish peninsula, to the Skyeskins shop. Caroline had booked us into the Three Chimneys restaurant for lunch, so we had time in the morning to look around. Along the route we stopped several times to take photos of the views. The weather had improved considerably so there were now large stretches of blue sky. At Skyeskins they tan sheepskins and make them into a variety of items; they are one of the few working tanneries in the UK. Unfortunately there was nobody to give us a tour, but we checked out the shop and Caroline bought some fur-lined slippers.
We then continued along the B886 to its end at Trumpan, where we stopped to look at the ruins of the church which dated from the 1500’s. By now it was time to head to the Three Chimneys for lunch. We were thinking it was in Dunvegan, but after asking around we found it was actually in Colbost, about 5 km down the road. So we zoomed over there and were only a few minutes late for our reservation.
The Three Chimneys had been awarded one star by Michelin. Everything was excellent and beautifully presented and the service was really good. We each had a different starter; Rosemary had blade and tongue of Black Isle beef and Paul had a Russian salad made mostly with root vegetables. Following this was halibut and mackerel for Rosemary and breast of woodpigeon for Paul. All of the dishes were made with local (i.e. Scottish) ingredients and with great attention to detail, even to the choice of colour of the plates the dishes were served on. And they tasted good too, with no clashing of flavours. Rosemary’s dessert was frangipane with plums and Paul had the cheese selection, a fine variety of Scottish cheeses accompanied by oatcakes and smoky-flavoured chutney.
Once done with our meals we headed over to the Neist Point lighthouse for a short walk. So far the weather was still good and it was only a short walk, so we didn’t bother with rain gear and just headed down the trail. It was a bit steep going down from the car park and people walking back up were wheezing horribly. From the car park we couldn’t see the lighthouse but once we got down the steps and around a head of land it came into view. It was built in 1909 and over time it had succumbed to the elements, becoming all nasty and battered. At present it is behind a wire fence with “No Admittance” signs posted. We went around to the sea side of the lighthouse to take photos, and from there we could see in the distance a squall rapidly approaching.
So we started to head back to the car, but before we got very far the squall caught us and beat us with horizontal rain for five minutes and by the time we reached the car park we were quite wet. By then the squall had passed, so we walked out to the headland to see the view from there, and also to let the wind dry our clothes out. By now it was after 4 pm; we had planned to do the short walk to Coral Beaches but we had forgotten to bring anything which told us where that was. So since we couldn’t remember, we headed back to our cottage, stopping at craft shops along the way.
We got back at 5:30 pm and as none of us were particularly hungry we postponed dinner. Finally at around 7:30 pm we cooked up frittata and toast for a light dinner.
Next: Skye, part 2