Saturday, 3 October 2015

Catching up with myself - Walks, History, Family and the Isle of Skye

Me, standing on a wind blown hill on the Isle of Skye, looking very Scottish, if not very cold.
A whole week has passed since my last blog.  Time is speeding away and there isn't enough of it in the day to sit down and write about all the things we've done and seen and enjoyed.  I posted my last blog on Sunday, September 27 and that was after a full weekend of family and exploration on Skye.  I had hoped to sit down and at least write a post the very next day describing all we'd been doing but, like every day, it got away from me.   Now, today, it's Saturday morning in October!, and we're back at Sheena's house in Inverness.  The house is quiet.  Sheena is off to Glasgow with a friend, her son Sasha is at work and George is sleeping and I have some time to myself to catch up on the last week.

On Friday, Sept 25 we got up early at our beautiful harbour side bed & breakfast in Oban and headed for the ferry crossing to Skye from the little town of Mallaig on the west coast.  Thankfully the rain had stopped and the day turned out to be dry making for a wonderfully scenic drive as expected.

The view of Mallaig as we pulled away for the crossing to Skye.  The clouds were trying to part for a little sunshine as we started our half hour crossing.  It turns out the skies did clear for a bright weekend & our visit.

We arrived at Ann and Donnie's house around 4:30 to a wonderful welcome.  They are good friends and Ann is George's cousin.  While I caught up over a few glasses of wine with Ann, George went to see his Aunt Effie.  Ann cooked us a wonderful meal that night and we had an all round enjoyable introduction back to Skye. 

The whiskey did come out - a bit - later that first evening at Ann & Donnie's house.  Luckily both George and Donnie showed immense restraint and no too much damage was done.  Great night with good friends.
The next day George visited his aunt early and I spent some time with Donnie - who knows Skye like the back of his hand - finding new places to visit and things to see and do.  He suggested we seek out the Isle of St Columba and then do a walk to the Fairy Pools.  And with George back about 11 off we went!

First St Columba's Isle.  I admit I didn't know much about St Columba other than the fact he founded the religious sect at Iona in the fifth century (around 560AD) and he's a saint in the Catholic church. After a bit of research I found out he brought Christianity to the Pics in Scotland and pretty much established the religion in Scotland.  Additionally, the Isle of Columba grew as the seat of the Bishops of the Isles from the 10th to the 16th century and is the sacred burial place of 28 clan chiefs from the MacNicols/Nicolsons!  I thought the place would be well marked and set up as, at least, a semi protected well marked tourist spot.  It wasn't.  Donnie had given us good instructions and George's aunt practically pointed to it from her house but we still had to search a bit to find the overgrown little island in the middle of  the river Snizort.

After crossing a little grown over bridge over the river this is what we found ... a quiet, and a bit eerie, mound and grassy area with some gravestones.  Sad really.  At one time there had been a cathedral and abbey on the site and even further way back it was the site of a pagan Pictish centre.  Such history now disappearing into the earth.

From there we travelled further to the west of the island to look for the Fairy Ponds at the foot of the Cuillin mountains.  I asked Donnie how we would know we were there and he replied, "you'll know by all the cars parked".   We drove down more impossibly beautiful and narrow roads and entered an area on the side of a glen with a small parking lot off the road.  The lot was full of cars with more parked all along the narrow road.  As we pulled in I noticed there were people preparing themselves for what looked like a days mountaineering!  They were decked out in the latest Gortex coats and trousers, walking boots, woolly hats and gloves.  Me and George - we had on our normal jeans & sweaters, regular shoes ... I had an overcoat .. and that was as prepared as we were.  I thought we were just going for a short walk to some pools but, NO!, it looked like a fair hike just to get to the first waterfalls.  Oh well, we didn't come all this way to give up now.

The view from about mid way to the pools.  Follow the path ... way in the distance is the road and the car.  It was cold and the wind was fresh but the walk was exhilarating!

We walked and walked towards these mountains - beautiful!  I could just imagine that we were headed into the Misty Mountains of Hobbit lore as we walked. 

The Pools are a series of waterfalls with large and sometimes deep pools at the bottom of each.  Supposedly on a sunny day when the falls are not as heavy you can see multiple colours at the bottom of the pools reflecting the minerals in the rock and the lichen and moss growing on the sides.  It was a knockout place and a great walk.  We had to turn back way too soon because the cold and our overall unpreparedness was making the experience less and less enjoyable.  The whole walk around the foot of the mountains and past the pools can take most of the day.  It would be good to someday go back and do it right. 

Tired but elated we returned to Ann & Donnie's house for a Bar-B-Q on Saturday night.  I didn't expect to have a cook out on Skye with the wind blowing and only 12C degrees outside but there we were ... having a good ole time just like back home in Australia!!  Catherine, our good friend who sailed to the Louisiades with us, came over and we had a wonderful catch up and cracking meal.

The next day we toured a bit further afield and ended our day with a trip around the Talisker distillery.  Delicious ... much better than the Jamisons Irish whiskey ... but we knew that all along.

Sunday night - our final night with Ann, Donnie, their daughter Caitlyn and Catherine.  Donny's brother caught a wild salmon and we had another terrific meal.  I had never had wild caught salmon before - only farmed - and the flavour and texture were terrific.  So sad to say goodbye.

We left A & D's on Monday morning after a quick final visit to George's aunt.  George decided we would take a small ferry crossing to the mainland instead of the bridge at Kyle of Lochalsh .  The "scenic" route he said.  Turned out it was a drive on a one lane track clinging to the side of a mountain!!  Scary!  Then, when we arrived at the bottom of the mountain, it turned out the ferry was stuck on the opposite side and we had to go all the way back up the scary road and to the perfectly wonderful bridge!

And that was our trip to Skye!  We came back to Inverness, Sheena's house, did some washing and took off again on Wednesday for the wilds of Orkney.

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