Archive for November 27th, 2009

Woke with much excitement this morning; off to the Isle of Skye today.   Had breakfast and packed a picnic lunch 🙂 and set off real early. We wanted to make good progress as the island is over 50 miles away and would take about an hour or so to get there.   Hahaha! Little did we know!

On the way out I stopped at reception to ask for a new kettle; ours had died 😦 and to take a photo of the reception area.   This set the tone for the day! 🙂   Everything is so gorgeous and we didn’t stop once or twice, we stopped dozens of times!

We barely left the grounds of the park when we made or first stop!   At Laggan Swing Bridge.   The day was absolutely glorious and the water on the Loch such a beautiful blue, it just begged for a photo or two.

Laggan Swing Bridge

part of the bridge mechanisms

The valley we are in is just breathtakingly gorgeous and yet we had no idea of the splendour that waited ahead.   The next stop was hardly a mile down the road and so it went.   We eventually got to Invergarry where we were to turn left for the Kyle of Lochalsh and the Isle of Skye.

Invergarry Hotel

Of course we stopped once again in Invergarry to take photos of the wonderful hotel

the bridge with river running swiftly below

the beautiful stone bridge we had just driven over and the river that rushed by in the ravine below.

colours too gorgeous to imagine

The colours of the forest are just too gorgeous to imagine.

We did not linger too long and soon made our way towards Skye.   Oh my word!   The scenery was absolutely spectacular.  We hardly got anywhere at all with the frequent stops along the way.   Driving through hills of Glen Quoich was such a treat.  We gasped with disbelief when we rounded a bend and there before our eyes was Loch Garry! 

Loch Garry

Stupendous is just insufficient to describe the beauty.   The Loch is huge and stretches for mile upon mile, a massive expanse of beautiful blue water snug amongst the steeply sloping tree covered hills.

wooded slopes leading down into glacial valley; Loch Garry

A left-over from the glaciers that formed these valleys 12,000 years ago, the water is a flat expanse of icy-blue.

mile upon mile of blue water

We spent ages just looking, reluctant to leave, but time was fleeting and we still had quite a way to go.

The road twists and winds, up and steeply down through towering hills and wooded glacial valleys,

gushing waterfalls everywhere you look

gushing waterfalls round every corner and rushing headlong down the mountain sides.

rushing, gurgling down the mountainsides

At one spot where we stopped, right at the top of the mountain, we were greeted by a really strange spectacle: a large flat expanse of ground with countless little cairns dotting the area. Really bizarre.

hundreds of little cairns dotted the hilltop

countless cairns, blue glacial waters of Loch Garry in the backround

We kept saying: ‘Ok, no more stops now till we get to Eilean Donan Castle’!   Pointless words, every corner revealed another view, another waterfall,    

another bridge, and we screamed to a stop so many times that it eventually became a joke.

welcome to Skye and Lochalsh

Welcome to Skye and Lochalsh

Nearing Kyle of Lochalsh we passed through a tiny village situated right on the edge of the Sound of Sleat, a massive stretch of water on the left and on the right a valley cut in the cleft of the mountains we had just driven through.

The village of Dornie in the background, the Sound of Sleat on the right

As we passed through the village I noticed a statue high on top of a hill and a ramshackle church in the middle of an ancient graveyard.  

roofless church in graveyard

We screamed to a stop once again (I am sure I wore the brakes out!) and parking the car snug against the hedges, walked along a winding dirt path that took us up the steep sides of the hill and eventually to the top and behold: the statue.   It was actually a memorial erected by the clan Macrae and friends in memory of Macrae’s home and abroad who fell at home and abroad in the Great War of 1914-1918. 

Memorial inscription

the stone memorial and statue

The stone edifice of a man in uniform with the family crest carved into  the stone; has a view second to none, as far as the eye can see,

a view as far as the eye can see

across the hills and along the valleys far, far away. 

me on the hillside

There are a couple of benches atop the crest and even though the wind was attempting to blow us off our feet we sat and tarried for a while in the peace and quiet. 

CJ sitting on the bench atop the hill

Then we clambered back down through slushy mud and peat, ever mindful of holes and uneven ground just waiting to twist an unwary ankle!

Thence to the graveyard; to explore the tumble down roofless church, with

tumble down church

new memorials alongside ancient gravestones and memorials; I love those old cemeteries, the stories they tell.  

As we clambered about the sun broke through the clouds and shone down in a stream of silver light onto the loch and hills. 

sun touching the mountains

What is quite amazing is that these two photos were taken within minutes of each other from slightly different angles!

Not long and just after we had said no more stopping till we get to the castle, we rounded a bend and there it was!

Eilean Donan Castle

Eilean Donan Castle perched on its island at the head of Loch Duich.

Eilean Donan Castle

Only one of the most photographed castles in Scotland and on every calendar you get of castles of Scotland.   Awesome.

an island fortress

When you see photos of the castle it always looks like it is in the middle of the Loch, but although on it’s own little island, in fact it is not in the middle of the Loch.   Just a short walk over a beautiful stone bridge

the bridge leading up to the castle

and you are on the wee island that supports the structure.   The castle per se is closed from October till March, but that did not stop us exploring the outer perimeters.

CJ exploring the outer walls of Eilean Donan Castle

the bridge leading to the castle Eilean Donan

At the entrance to the castle is a family memorial carrying the family crest or arms and listing all the names of fallen Macraes from the 1914-1918 war       

Clan Macrae memorial to family members fallen during the Great War 1914-18

and alongside 2 fine cannons pointing across the Loch and along the bridge.

....down the barrel of a gun!

after exploring I then clambered down to the rocks below to look at the views from under the bridge.

view of the Loch from under the bridge at Eilean Donan Castle

Amazing views from under the bridge.

The castle is situated on a tidal Loch and the rocks were covered with seaweed, with that wonderful salty sea smell. With a long history dating back centuries, the castle is famous for many events, and more recently the film Highlander starring Sean Connery.

me and CJ at Eilean Donan Castle

The castle is a fabulous stone structure,

Eilean Donan Castle

imperious and imposing as castles are meant to be,

view across the Sound

and with an incredible view across the loch and mountains.

I can see that once the tide comes in how the castle would be inaccessible from the road.  

Very near to the Isle of Skye now and with the day waning, we decided to hotfoot it along and get there before the sun disappeared.   There is a fantastic new bridge that crosses the Firth from Kyle of Lochalsh to the isle.

bridge across the sea to Skye 🙂 as seen from the car

The views are just incredible and we gasped at every turn.   As we drove over the sea to Skye and onto the island we cheered, hooray!   It had taken us 5 hours to get there!

Making a sharp turn to the left we stopped off in a wee town called Kyleakin, the gateway to Skye, with a long and proud history.

history of Kyleakin; gateway to Skye

Kyleakin is a harbour town with views to die for.

Kyleakin harbour

On a rocky outcrop near the edge of town are the remains of Castle Moil.

Castle Moil on the Isle of Skye (this is CJ's photo)

Looking across the Inner Sound we could see Scalpay Island across the water.

Scalpay Island across Inner Sound

The bridge looked magnificent against the blue sky and with the sun beginning to set, looked mystical in the soft misty air.

a soft misty look across the Sound to the bridge

We decided to explore further inland so set off along the road to Broadford.

a tiny croft, a stunning view

The views are just incredible and we saw tiny little crofts snug amongst the grass with a fabulous backdrop of sea and sky.

dusk falls on the Isle of Sky

Now it was starting to get darker so we stopped off at a hotel for tea and scones with cream.   Thence homeward bound.

crossing the bridge from the Isle of Skye to Kyle of Lochalsh

Re-crossing the bridge we pledge to return at a later date and explore the whole island.

A quick stop at the castle for some sunset photos,

night falls on Eilean Donan Castle (one of CJ's photos)

Eilean Donan Castle as dusk falls (one of CJ's photos)

then with the rain starting up again we set off for home.

Driving along the winding roads we were once again enchanted by the waterfalls that plunge down the slopes of the mountains!

plunging waterfalls

Earlier on in the day before we reached Kyle of Lochalsh we had noticed a wonderful old-fashioned stone bridge (no longer in use) along the way, but as we had no-where to park decided to stop on the way back home.   The rain was pouring down by now and we almost missed the stop when CJ happened to glance out the window and noticed it again.   I slammed on brakes and did a quick turn to the left onto the hard-shoulder and pulled into a lay-bye nearby.   Jumping out the car in the rain we splooshed and splashed along slipping and sliding in the mud and reached the crest of the road in one piece.   So far, so good!   Hahaha.   Not wanting to get soaked to the skin we ran along to the centre of the main-road bridge to get a good viewpoint. 

old stone bridge

As we ran CJ happened to glance up and noticed a huge puddle of water on the left of where we were heading and a great big truck heading our way.   As she turned to shout a warning: “Puddle!” the truck roared by and all I had time to do was duck my head and turn my back as a huge arc of dirty, greasy, black water poured over my head.   I was soaked to the skin.   Thankfully I had, had just enough time to raise my camera into the air just out of reach of the torrent as the water poured over me.    We were laughing so much that it wasn’t just the rain that was to blame for my trousers being wet :).    By now we were absolutely soaked so with no further ado snapped away with the cameras (with very blurry results)

a very blurry photo 🙂 🙂

and then ran lickety-split for the car.   With no time to spare we jumped off the road and down onto the lay-bye as another stream of cars whooshed by.    What a scream.

one last photo for the day!

And so to home!  One last stop along the way in the waning light to photograph one last river

icy rivers rush headlong down the valleys (Cj's photo)

by the time we got back to the cabin we were wet and cold and still hysterical with laughter.   Next up; a hot steaming shower…of clean water accompanied by a towel.   What a brilliant day.

Looking at a map of Scotland after our adventure, I was amazed to see just how many islands are off the west coast.   There is of course Skye, then Rana, Raasay, Scalpay, Canna, Rum, Eigg, Muck, Coll, Tiree, Mull, Lismore, Colonsay, Jura, Islay, Kintyre, Arran, Bute, as well as farther northwest is Lewis, Harris, North Uist, South Uist, Barra (a tiny little island with it’s own airport), hundreds of little splotches of land with no names, and way north are the Orkney Islands (including the isle of Hoy), and even farther north are the Shetland Islands.   Awesome!”

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