The idyllic Isle of Skye is somewhere that many tourists return to again and again: to fall in love with its beauty and tranquillity. Chelsea Gasko takes us around her favourite spots
‘If you’ve never been kissed on the Isle of the Mist, it’s a joy you must try before you die …’ The whole pub crowd joins in for the chorus of this jaunty tune; swaying to and fro along with local band, Bramax, in the tiny seaside village of Kyleakin – it’s just another Tuesday night on the Isle of Skye.
This island – The Misty Isle – belongs to the Scottish Hebrides and is delightfully accessible to travellers, with just a short, arching bridge separating it from the mainland of Scotland. Once over the bridge, the lively village of Kyleakin casts its spell. Home to a collection of cosy hostels and friendly pubs, Kyleakin is famed as a bit of a backpacker’s paradise. Spend some time sampling the freshly caught prawns (or freshly brewed ale) or taking a stroll along the coast to the ruinous Castle Moil and you’ll soon learn why.
After tearing yourself from the clutches of Kyleakin’s cosiness, make your way westward to the mystical Cuillin Mountains. Rugged and startlingly beautiful, the Cuillins offer both menacing peaks and gentle summits to suit the hiking fantasies of one and all. Or for the more laidback adventurer, the Faerie Pools at Glen Brittle offer an intimate closeness with the mountains, without actually having to scale any rock faces.
A brief traipse down a trail and over a river or two will take you to the Faerie Pools (so-called, naturally, because that’s where the local faeries hang out). Cascading gently from one turquoise pool to the next, the fresh Cuillin water trickles over smooth rocks and under curved archways. It’s in places like this that Skye truly comes alive to its visitor. Give in completely, and the Faerie Pools will turn you into a true dippy hippy.
Another way of experiencing these mountains is by taking a boat trip from the little village of Elgol. The small boats whizz you toward the mountains, stopping along the way to ogle at seals and dolphins, before leaving you to your own devices for an hour or so at the idyllic Loch Coruisk. This loch perches defiantly in the centre of the mighty mountain range, with rocky peaks bursting from its shores straight up to the sky.
Skye is awash with these perfect views. A wonderful place for holiday snaps is the Old Man of Storr; an enormous rock protrusion that sprouts upwards from the Trotternish Ridge. Proudly visible for miles around, the Storr awaits hikers as they first wind through a mossy forest and up a long, steep, rocky path. It’s well worth the huffing and puffing, as the view from the top is one of Skye’s best. It extends over the islands of Rona and Raasay, to mainland Scotland and also along the eastern coast of Skye back to the Cuillins.
But if you want to get away from the hordes of tourists, cut through the Trotternish Peninsula to the port town of Uig. Here, nestled safely away from coaches and car-loads, lies a secret Faerie Glen. Those in on the secret will know to turn at the small road sign-posted toward ‘Balnaknock’ (ssh, you didn’t hear it from us). Follow this road through a few tiny crofts and you’ll find yourself in the land of the faeries. Just like the Faerie Pools, a weird presence flits through the air. Notoriously mischievous creatures, it is believed that Skye’s faeries are able to charm unsuspecting wanderers away into their world.
The Faerie Glen is made up of several small hills which are decorated with little horizontal lines of bright green grass. Over the years, visitors have created rock formations between the lush knolls. You’ll come across hearts, spirals and peace signs as you roam through the glen alongside its many sheep inhabitants.
And what better place to weave a dream than one where places take their names from mythical creatures? A visit to the Isle of Skye will refresh the weary wanderer and inspire the city-dweller to embrace nature’s rawness whole-heartedly. Skye has a little something for everyone, and there’s always a pub waiting around the bend, just in case you think this whole faery stuff is a lot of mumbo jumbo.
You can travel to Skye easily by either bus or train. Citylink (www.citylink.co.uk) and National Express (www.nationalexpress.com) both run direct bus services. Or try Scotrail for a direct train service link (www.firstscotrail.com).