The Isle of Skye in Scotland, with scenic landscapes consisting of rugged mountains, waterfalls, sea cliffs, hiking trails, forests and grasslands, mesmerises visitors.
Bring a painter to the Isle of Skye in Scotland and chances are that his canvas would remain untouched for a long while. If there is something called ‘being over-inspired’, then blame it on the Isle of Skye. Any living being with blood coursing through their veins would be completely transfixed by the charms that Skye has to offer. Some of the most scenic and dramatic landscapes consisting of rugged mountains, waterfalls, sea cliffs, fairy pools, hiking trails, forests and grasslands ensure that the island remains imprinted in memory forever.
It was precisely the quaint villages and picture perfect, almost mystical landscapes that prompted me along with a bunch of friends to travel to the island from Glasgow. We all nursed a fervent hope of catching the Northern Lights (Aurora Borealis) though we did not have any luck in that quarter.
The history of the island is quite fascinating. Skye has been occupied since the Mesolithic period including a time of Norse rule and a long period of domination by Clan MacLeod and Clan Donald.
Coming back to the mode of transport, one way to tour the highlands and Isle of Skye is to rent a car and drive through the beautiful landscape, enjoying it at your leisure. The other option is book a tour with one of the tour operators. Since none of us could drive, my four friends and I booked a three-day trip with a tour operator. We stayed at the largest settlement and capital Portree, which boasts of a picturesque harbor. The tour operator had arranged a comfortable mini bus and the guide-cum-driver was quite knowledgeable of the places we visited. A very jovial person and an artist, he even shared some of his works in the form of photographs, jewelry and sculptures — made out of knick-knacks found on lake shores. He took a special liking to our group — could be because we were a boisterous and crazy bunch.
The anecdotes and folklore shared by the guide about the locales we visited made the trip even more memorable. An interesting folklore the guide narrated was about the five sisters of Kintail, who turned into mountain ridges waiting for their promised husbands to return from Ireland.
Back to the mesmerising, rugged, wild and mysteriously beautiful island. Skye’s coastline is a series of peninsulas and bays radiating out from a centre dominated by Cuillin hills. Right from the 13th century, Dunvegan Castle has been the seat of Clan MacLeod. The 18th-century Armadale Castle, once home of Clan Donald of Sleat, now hosts the Clan Donald Centre. There is complete silence at some spots especially at Fairy Glen. The strange rock formations at Fairy Glen made it look like an elfin landscape straight out of a fairytale.
Since it was the end of the Scottish winter, the land still retained shades of brown and gold with intermittent dark forests of spruce. The grass, just recovering from the cold, was a shade of yellow and tender green — something straight out of a picture. At the Kilt rock as we enjoyed the Mealt waterfall, it drizzled causing a rainbow in the sky that seemed to mirror the rainbow created by the waterfall. No wonder Skye has been the location for various well-known novels and films and has been immortalised in poetry and song.
The weather god was not benevolent in the first two days of the trip. The biting, cold wind and unpredictable rain forced us to keep our winter jackets with hoods on. Day three was when the sun god finally decided to smile and we could take pictures where we did not look like Eskimos.
Skye is a trekker’s and rock climber’s paradise. The Cuillin Range with 12 peaks above 3000 ft and the Trotternish Ridge offer challenging climbs. The Isle of Skye is also a great destination if you are a wildlife enthusiast with the famed White Tailed Sea Eagle leading the bird watchers’ lists. Otters, seals, whales, dolphins and red deer are some of the other sea and wildlife that can be spotted on the island. The Aros Centre in Skye covers the heritage of Skye and the lives of the island's sea eagles.
The beautiful landscape added wings to our feet prompting several ‘up in the air photos’ at Ann Corran beach and Fairy Glen. Finally, the guide warned us to refrain from ‘jump photos’ at Kilt rock because of the strong winds that could easily sweep a person away. Niest point, where a lighthouse is situated, was a huge disappointment since it is closed on Sundays. The only other living beings at Niest point, besides the tourists, were sheep — huge flocks that dotted the landscape like little white specks on a green carpet.
Another unique Scottish animal is the highland cattle, also known as highland coos, hairy yak like cattle with a fringed hairstyle. We could not see one up close, but we did see a few grazing in the meadows.
We also had some comic moments when we were waylaid by a horse that had escaped its fold. He only let us go after he had raided apples from all the passengers in the mini bus.
Skye gave us all a truckload of memories and what I can remember vividly are men in kilts playing bag pipes — the universal representation of Scotland right after the famed Scotch whiskey and haggis, which is the national delicacy. Haggis is a mix of sheep’s innards, oatmeal and spices, all wrapped up in a sheep stomach and we soon found that haggis was not our cup of tea. Finally, it was time for us to return to Glasgow, but not before stating univocally that the beautiful landscape coupled with the company of good friends will always remain a cherished memory.
(As told to Priya Sreekumar)...