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Across the fields of bounding heather ~ (click link for wonderful old Beers Family recording of Dumbarton’s Drums…)

our walk heather-1

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5 sistersa

The Isle of Skye is a big lobster-shaped island to the west of Scotland, near Inverness.  It is part of the inner Hebrides and is considered part of the Highlands.  The above photo is of Five Sisters Peaks; on the advice of a delightful woman who filled our car with gas we made a diversion to climb a hill (by car!) to get a good view of the mountains.  It was well worth the short amount of time it took, and was one of our first tastes of the excitement the Skye scenery offers.

The woman who gave us our gas was no exception; everyone we met on Skye was friendly and helpful to a fault.  Consider this: the host at The Salento B&B actually offered us the use of his washing machine to do our laundry.  It didn’t work out with our timing, but the fact that he offered amazed us.  He was typical of the people we met – eager to help, happy to chat, informative and fun.

We were on Skye for only three full days, not nearly long enough to explore the whole island.  My favorite day included a brief stop at the Isle’s capital Portree:

portreea

followed by a walk through the woods called “Two Churches Walk.”  Much of Skye is windswept and feels barren, but this walk through a tall piny forest gave us a good feeling for the large Norway Spruce forests that have been planted on the mainland and to a lesser extent on the island in the years since WWII.

MacLeod 2 churches walk (7)a

This walk began and ended at St. Mary’s Church, a small ruined chapel where many of the chiefs of the MacLeod clan are buried.

MacLeod cemetery (8)

No, it wasn’t especially warm that day…

From there we went to Dunvegan Castle, home for 800 years (with a brief 20th century lapse) of Clan MacLeod.  In addition to the castle itself
Dunvegan Castle
there are extensive and beautifully maintained gardens, including a water garden and a circle garden.

Dunvegan Castle water garden

Dunvegan Castle garden-12

But for us the most exciting and fun part of the experience was the ride in a small boat to see the seal population of Loch Dunvegan.  We had wanted to take a boat tour this day, but our plans had been scotched (oh ha ha) by winds and tides.  To our delight the Dunvegan boats were operating, and we were the only two aboard with Captain Allan, who gave us a good history of the clan, the seals and the area in general. I couldn’t stop taking pictures of the seals – they are very cooperative.

Dunvegan Castle seal boat ride-1

Dunvegan Castle seal boat ride-16a

Dunvegan Castle seal boat ride-17a

Note the guy having a big yawn up there in the grass… or judging from the others’ expressions, maybe he just told a really stupid joke.

Dunvegan Castle seal boat ride-24a

Is there anything more picturesque than sheep calmly grazing?

sheep may safely graze-8

There may well be more four-footed inhabitants of the Isle than two – it certainly seemed that way to us as we drove around – and frequently the cows and sheep are not fenced in.

not highland cows-1

The real story of Skye, though, is the scenery and the light.  Clouds and showers come and go with frequency, shifting the light and changing the landscape before your very eyes.  None of it is easy to catch with a camera, but we both loyally tried.  Here are some photos from our drives around the island, and from a short hike we took up a hillside to view the water on both sides of the peninsula we were on:

light and sheep-1a

our walk-3a

scenery-10

Those are the Cuillin Hills in the background, some of which are over 3,000 feet in elevation. Here is another view of them:

cuillin hillsa

They are a dark and brooding presence on the south part of the Isle.

On our last evening on Skye we went a short distance onto the mainland to the picturesque town of Plockton where, we were told, many movies and TV shows have been filmed.  There we ate haggis at the cozy old Plockton Inn – an experience no one should miss when visiting Scotland.

Plockton-3

We were sad to leave the Isle of Skye – it has many more secrets than we had time to discover.  As we drove away we looked back at the castle of Eilean Donan, not far  from the Isle – it summed up for us all the magic of the preceding days, and issued a mute but compelling invitation to return.

castle and rainbow-1a

If you’ve any patience left at all, you will find about 60 photos of the whole Scotland trip here. (I recommend the slide show, full screen (F11) – the quality of the photos is much better than in this post…)

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