High in the Skye
Journey Across the Scottish Highlands
By Sarah Stockman
After a taxing six-hour coach ride from Edinburgh to Isle of Skye I was ready for some relaxation—the island was the perfect destination to unwind.
This tiny harbor town is home to very few Scottish highlanders; actually the sheep in this region outnumber the humans! I saw how many sheep dwell throughout the journey towards the highlands. The coach followed the trail of Bonnie Prince Charlie, who began the Jacobite uprising in 1745. Looking at the land today was an amazing experience; the amount of history throughout Scotland is easily appreciated especially when you have the chance to stand where epic battles took place.
Next, I passed through the rugged valley known as Glen Coe. Surprisingly, it was a particularly warm day by Scotland standards so I was shocked to see giant bens (Gaelic for mountains) topped off with snow! The contrast between the bright green landscapes on the ground, the reddish rock on the bottom of the bens and then the white puffs of snow at the peaks of the mountains was so pleasing to the eye. There’s no denying the natural beauty of Scotland.
Midday dining at Fort William was quite lovely. The small town is surrounded by the sea where the Rivers Nevis and Lochy meet, and Ben Nevis—the highest mountain in the British Isles—towers in the background. I wouldn’t say that Fort William was necessarily impressive; however, it was a nice break during the journey to Skye.
As the road trip continued we came upon one of Scotland’s national icons—Eilean Donan Castle. After mispronouncing the name all day, I learned that the word “Eilean” is simply Gaelic for the word “Island.” Sitting at the junction of three saltwater lochs (lakes), this reconstructed castle is known as one of the most beautiful in the country. I’m no history buff; so learning about the tumultuous history of this landmark was extremely interesting. The fortress has actually been built and rebuilt several times over the centuries as a few different clans juggled the position of power. The outdoor setting is a photographer’s dream; however no photography was allowed inside the castle because ancestors of the original clans still use the castle as a residence during certain seasons.
Following a brief drive through the main part of town known as Portree I arrived at the Cuillin Hills Hotel. The quaint, family-owned hotel overlooks Portree Bay and offers beautiful views of the Sound of Raasay and the Cuillin Mountain Range. After checking into the hotel and settling in, I decided to sit outside and enjoy the uncharacteristically warm and sunny weather while enjoying the view. Directly across the bay lies a row of houses colored in bright pastel pinks, whites and blues. With such bright colors, the scenery seemed almost unreal as was absolutely spectacular.
The next activity proved completely out of my comfort zone, but “when in Rome” I suppose. I had the opportunity to try Scottish whisky. To those accustomed to drinking alcohol this may not seem like that big of a deal; however, I don’t drink often so this was the equivalent of tasting haggis to me. I began with a sweeter malt named GlenDronack. After watering it down and adding a few ice cubes I was still disgusted after the first sip. The heat warmed my cheeks, my lips felt tingly, my tongue swelled and I immediately questioned my decision to experiment, but it was actually a lot of fun. Then I tried a whisky that is actually made at a distillery in Skye called Talisker. On a hunch, just from smelling the drink, I asked my mom to take a video when I had my first taste. Needless to say, the video is priceless. I have never tasted anything so strong! It didn’t end there. The burn in my throat lasted for quite a few minutes and I actually had a difficult time keeping it down. Call it stupidity or bravery, but even after that experience I tried the third and final whisky, Deanston. Although not as strong as the Talisker it confirmed my decision that whisky is not the drink for me. Others who tasted with me seemed to agree that the Talisker was extreme, but the consensus seemed to be that the GlenDronack was the best of the three. Pick your poison.
The adventure isn’t over yet! What’s coming up? Hiking in the Quiraing!