It was my search for “Hairy Coos” (or “Shaggy Moos” as I affectionately call them) that led me to Northern Scotland. I had gone to Dublin for TBEX and like most of my travel plans, a snow ball of ideas quickly ensued. It began with hopping over to Scotland on my way to Germany to visit friends and ended with having a month and a half long European excursion. In diving deep into my constant travel research, I decided I wanted to take a famous long train route up the coast from Glasgow to Mallaig (read about my train ride from hell that turned into one of my best trips). From there I could take a 30 minute ferry ride to the Isle of Skye and just from looking at the photos I hoped and prayed would be worth the hassle. Thankfully, I was right.
Isle of Sky vs. Island
So this trip had me scratching my head with confusing geographical terms yet again. What’s the difference between an isle and an island? Aside from the word isle evoking feelings like it’s an island’s snobby cousin there really isn’t any difference. An Island is “a piece of land surrounded by water” and an isle is “an island or peninsula, especially a small one.” So really it’s prose verse poetry and my vision of an isle being a classy island is spot on.
A northern island in the chain of islands that make up the Inner Hebrides, Skye offers dramatic scenery and an ethereal mystique. Mountains, wildlife and unparalleled serenity surround you and the short few days I spent here were some of my more favorite times of this trip.
Being the largest town on the island I decided to stay here and work my way out of town on day trips. You can explore Portree in an afternoon but it’s charming scenery and friendly visitors will keep you happily entertained. Shop for some tartan plaid gear, have a coffee at Cafe Arriba, or walk down to the harbor and bird watch. Be prepared to be off the grid when visiting here, I had limited cell service most places on the island and in Portree there were only a few places with accessible wifi, thankfully a pub was one of them (using a bar as an office has its perks). Sometimes it’s nice to be in a place where you can’t access the outside world easily, as long as you are prepared for it! The Portree Independent Hostel was located in the center of town and had a friendly, welcoming staff. Thanks so much for the hospitality!
Sitting atop a hill overlooking a loch, Dunvegan Castle is the focal point of the town. The MacLeod family still calls this castle home, a place that their clan has occupied continuously for over 800 years making this castle one of the oldest occupied fortresses in Scotland.
The castle is full of stories both historical and magical and with over 30 generations residing here it has a lot to share. The tour was great, it gives you an overview of Scottish history along with some of the background of the family, the castle’s past, and of course the best part, the folklore. The best story from Dunvegan is the Fairy Flag. Fairies are a prominent part of Scottish tradition so it isn’t a surprise that a fairy tale is entwined in the history of the castle. An old, deteriorated flag is proudly displayed, framed in the castle with a history of following men into battle, it’s magical powers helping to win wars during the crusades. The faded yellow silk is thought to date as far back as between the 4-7th centuries making it’s tattered existence miraculous. Whether you believe all of the things this flag has accomplished or not, it adds to the enchantment of Dunvegan Castle. Make sure you take the guided tour of the building, it’s fun, free and informative and don’t forget to leave time to walk around the castle, the gardens and view from the water’s edge are as equally as peaceful as they are beautiful.
A bay in the Trotternish peninsula, Uig is a village with a ferry stop a couple of shops a restaurant and a coffee shop and on a nice day it’s a great starting point to explore this part of the island. It was a sunny day and I got to spend time exploring and taking it all in.