Isle of Skye has been voted 4th best island in the world by National Geographic.
And the story begin…
It’s summer, it’s time off from work for us and we decided to do something different. We quickly search for affordable flights but everything seems to be unrealistic and no, we are not looking for a private jet. It’s just school holiday in England.
We’ve heard so many times of Scotland’s beauty that we say yes, let’s do this. I personally don’t know where I am heading to but we love discovering new places. We was expecting mountains, valleys and a very rich flora and fauna. What I wasn’t expecting is this island to take a place in my heart forever.
We’re packing some clothes, I throw the tent and some sleeping bags at the back of the car and off we went. Of course, we didn’t go straight to Scotland, we always choose the longest route. But that’s mainly because we can’t help to stop at anything that looks worthy to admire. So, a trip that was meant to be 8 – 10 hours drive it took 4 wonderful days to arrive at the destination.
Somerset county – Cheddar Gorge
The weather is really hot so we stop in Cheddar Gorge, a limestone gorge in the Mendip Hills, near the village of Cheddar. The gorge is absolutely gorgeous, it reminds me a bit of Romania with goats climbing as high as possible and the pretty cliff-edge flowers. Cheddar on its own it’s a great destination for a day out in the summer, when is light until late. Really famous for the caves and of course for the tradition of making cheddar cheese. About half a mile from the Gorge, back into the village of Cheddar, you can visit the Cheddar Gorge Cheese Company. The first mention of cheddar cheese in written history was 1170. The caves of Cheddar Gorge kept dairy products cool enough for an industry to develop. The Cheddar Gorge Cheese Company is the only cheese maker left in Cheddar.
We spent about two days here, exploring the surroundings and taking advantage of the brilliant weather. It’s a lot to do in the Somerset county, therefore I’ll have to reveal it another time.
Everywhere you look in the village, the “sorry, no vacancy” sign hits us in the face. Clearly we are in full season, it’s time for a strategy as it’s getting late. Soon enough, we pass by a campsite with a big sign at the front ” fire allowed”…yeayy, exactly what we want. Situated next to a forest, it’s a life saver for us, as we get permission to use this logs and kindling from the ground.
A different route…
After two amazing days of living in a tent, we decide to stick to the goal of visiting Scottish Highlands. Well, as much as we can because we left Somerset and in a couple of hours here we are, breathing the Welsh air. For whoever knows United Kingdom’s map, you can tell it’s the most tangled, topsy-turvy, scattered route we can follow. We don’t regret it even a bit because the Welsh landscapes in the summer are wonderful. So, spinning around for another two days.
But we got to do what we got to do. Therefore…towards Scotland
The dry stone walls of Scotland
As soon as we step in Scotland, we notice something apart like the dry stone walls. The walls are a common thing for the rural Scotland, for us they look beautiful, similar to art. They still serve as boundary markers and as fences to contain sheep. Originally, land was cleared of stones for better grazing and crop growing. The stones were then piled up around the margins to contain the livestock. The history of Scottish dry stone walls is profoundly linked to the clan system (was the main political system in Scotland) Some of them date back to the 1600s.
After a long drive we stop in Perth, to visit a friend. He and his family are not just friends but they’re passionate about travelling, mountains and about Scotland. Exactly the persons you want to talk with when time is short and you want to hit the best of a place. Because he knows us well enough, he is giving us a route to follow. He would love to give us more climbing routes and long walking paths to follow but when you have small children you can’t do much of this. That’s why…we need to come back as our son is keen to do more climbing now.
Next day in the morning, we leave Perth behind, heading towards Crieff, then reaching another beautiful country side of Scotland named Lochearnhead. The views start to get more and more impressive and we are wondering how we have missed this place by now. Finally, Fort William lies in front of us, the outdoor capital of UK. It’s pretty crowded, looking like an anthill, everyone with his points of interest. Some of the people ready to go hiking while others are keen to practice some water sports. It looks really promising but we only stop here to have some food.
Isle of Skye – pure island happiness
Once we’ve cross the Skye Bridge, we suddenly get a strange feeling that this land it’s from another world, so full of mister and beauty. Some call the island “the fairies-land” because its mysticism. We are so happy we getting a road trip as we can stop as many times as we want to. So many waterfalls coming from unexpected places, sea cliffs and mountains. We want to call our friend from Perth to thank him but unfortunately on this island the network is really poor. To be fair, I think it’s part of its beauty, anyone stepping in gets lost in time and space. So, if you want to explore the island don’t count on your phone as it won’t work. Take maps or a sat navigator, specially that Isle of Skye is not abundant in road signs either.
It’s already evening and we are in Portree, the main town on the Isle of Skye. The town is only about 200 years old and was created as a fishing village at the beginning of the 19th century by the Lord MacDonald. I find Portree to be very pretty with narrow streets and surrounded by the hills. It’s a good place to come back after you visited the island as it’s a good shopping place and you can get loads of crafted items. Although there is a campsite nearby, we pick a B&B and that proves to be a good choice as we get the chance to taste their kind of traditional food like black pudding and haggis. Have you had them before? What do you think? Portree is a good place for accommodation, also it has some nice pubs with wooden beams and an open fire.
I must say we felt Scotland has so much to offer after we seen Dunvegan, thought to be the oldest occupied castle in northern Scotland. We do enjoy our visit here and that’s mainly because it’s a strange blend between the past and the present. On one hand, we see a family (Clan MacLeod) that have lived in the castle for more than 30 generations and on the other hand the stories about the fairies, that seems to make part of their life.
In the castle is displayed one of the most controversial possession of Clan MacLeod – the Fairy Flag. This is the Highlands myths and fantastical tales seem to appear around every corner. Despite the different legends, the Fairy Flag is something special.
Worthy to mention is the boat trip you can get here to see the seals. It was absolutely amazing to see them near to us, some of them getting so close to the boat that you could’ve even touch them. It was very cute, impressive and touching to see a mommy seal breastfeeding her baby. Absolutely adorable!
We left all this wonders behind and to one point we got near Staffin, where are the famous cliffs called ‘Kilt Rock’ as the cliff face looks a bit like a tartan kilt. There is also an impressive waterfall by the lookout point that falls straight into the sea. Our pictures here are not the best ones as it quite difficult if you don’t have a drone.
Duntulm Castle – the ruins above the sea
A special place to see on the Isle is definitely Duntulm Castle. Is not much left of this castle, that’s why is not even mentioned in many flyers or magazines. You’ll find the ruins of Duntulm, standing on the cliff of basalt (cliffs of Totterish), looking across The Minch (known as the Scotland’s fjord) to the Isle of Lewis.
As I said before, due to poor network and no sat navigator, we’ve had to follow the signs and any other clues that can help. At one point, we met a local old man and we asked him about the Castle. He start laughing and said there’s no castle here just some very old stones. Now, maybe for him were just some stones but these ruins are having a lot of history behind. One of the earliest written record of Duntulm comes when King James V visited in 1540 and said that he was impressed by the castle’s strength and the hospitality he was shown here.
We enjoyed such a beautiful sunset here. The scenery is absolutely superb. The dramatic view, especially when you get near the cliff edge is speechless. Now, I don’t wonder why according to a European Environment Agency Scotland is one of the quietest destinations in Europe. There’s no more to add, just simply enjoy in silence.
The End is not here…
When it comes to the places to visit on Isle of Skye, there are many worthy to talk about it. But I think discovering by yourself, will make your journey unforgettable. I will come back anytime to this Isle, I feel like we haven’t finish exploring it. This time we’ll try coming via ferry from Glenelg to Kylerhea, the route that promise even more beauty and more wildlife.
I love that you can stop on any rock and fishing in the sea. Delighted that it was the only place where I’ve spot a whale’s spectacular swimming. I need to come back for the Coral Beach, for swimming in the sea that on a bright day looks so blue like the tropical beaches.