Over the sea to Skye
As she jumps in the car and heads to Skye, Anna Millar discovers the journey can be almost as beautiful as the destination
Brad Pitt may be somewhat lacking but as we clamber Thelma and Louise-style into my old knackered banger, a miraculous sunny spell sets the mood for the days to come. Heading north out of Edinburgh, we leave behind us the traffic jams and daily grind of the big smoke, in search of a serene long weekend exploring Glencoe and Skye.
Having finally left the shackles of the real world behind we opt to stay a night in the village of Kinlochleven, seven miles outside Glencoe, surrounded as it is by the mountains and moors of the Scottish Highlands. Often referred to as the ‘Glen of Weeping,’ the trip is a first for both of us, and silence reigns as we drive through the awe-inspiring mountains that greet us at the mouth of the glen. Each turn in the road seems to bring a more stunning view than the last. Three and a half hours later we arrive at our B&B, nestled at the eastern end of a breathtaking Loch Leven. We drop our stuff, don trainers and head for the hills. Map in hand, an impressive wrong turn finds us on the old military road now used as part of the West Highland Way. An unplanned 12-mile and four-hour jaunt later, we’re ready to tuck into a pint, some pub grub and discuss the main event: our arrival in Skye the following morning. A friend recently compared her time there as a ‘little injection of happiness’ but little prepares you for the feeling of total freedom as you drive across the bridge from Kyle of Lochalsh to Skye. The Sound of Sleat to our left, we head towards our evening’s rest. Years of history are captured in every bend, as the roads rise and fall, boasting yet another extraordinary view of jagged ridges, inlets and soft hidden sands. One tiny village follows another as the island’s peninsula stands proud in the shadows of the almost inexplicably beautiful Cuillin Hills.
We head south and find with ease the Hotel Eilean Iarmain, nestled on a sheltered bay in the south of Skye, the Sound of Sleat and the hills of Knoydart whispering over the water towards us. Far more than simply somewhere to rest our heads, this hotel is almost like a little slice of Skye in miniature. Old fashioned charm abounds, first in the spacious cottage style bedroom we are led to a room just off the main house. Dinner can be found at the 2AA Rosette restaurant, which boasts a slew of local produce, from fish through to venison; for more relaxed dining, there’s the Praban bar next door, with an array of local real ales on tap. Locals chat with tourists on the benches outside as the sunsets on the Isle Orsnay bay.
The next day we head north to Portree, but not before taking time to explore the art gallery in the building adjacent to our hotel. An intimate space it allows local and travelling artists to set up residency for weeks at a time. Next door to this sits the award-winning Gaelic Whiskies, where whisky lovers can make the most of the free tasting sessions. Shoppers won’t be disappointed either by the tiny boutique also in residence, boasting tweed and woollen designs, all hand tailored in Scotland.
Keen to discover more, we hit the road again for the capital, this time for the bustling harbour town of Portree, which boasts in one neat package all the industries Skye has to offer from tourism and agriculture to fishing and whisky distilling.
En route, we keep pulling over simply to take in the view: and sit in wonder at, arguably, some of the most dramatic scenery Scotland has to offer. Never more than five miles from the sea, lochs sit on one side, the Cuillins, including 12 Munros, on the other. Beyond Portree we set up camp and rest for the night with a dram, before planning our final day, which includes a trip to Dunvegan Castle, used in the Highlander movie of the 80s and in the recent romcom, Made of Honour.
In the blink of an eye, it seems, it’s over.
The silence descends one last time, as we meander down the island towards the bridge that will ultimately take us home.
Hotel Eilean Iarmain, Isle Ornsay Hotel, Sleat, Isle of Skye, 01471 833 332, firstname.lastname@example.org