Scotland 2016 – Day 4

I think I could spend the rest of the summer here and not get bored, tired, or homesick! I slept a full night last night, so I was up and ready to go early this morning. While I waited for breakfast to start at 7:30, I wandered around the terrace overlooking Portree Harbour. There is a family of rabbits who call the terrace home and kept hopping back and forth. And while I was eating breakfast, a rainbow appeared over the harbour… a good sign for the day!

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Early morning rainbow over Portree

After breakfast, I still hadn’t decided what to do today, so I looked up the weather. It appeared today had the least chance of rain out of the next few, so I headed for the Trotternish Peninsula. This is probably what most people picture when they think of the Isle of Skye. It has many of the iconic landscapes Skye is known for, including the Old Man of Storr, Kilt Rock/Mealt Falls, and the Quiraing. I set off in the direction of the Old Man of Storr, about 7 miles north of Portree. By the time I got there, it was raining. And who wants to hike in the rain? I sat in the parking lot for about 25 minutes waiting for the rain to pass, but no dice. I decided I could always come back later or another day.

I kept going along the A855 towards Staffin. A little further along was one of my two favorite stops of the day. The overlook is for Lealt Falls, but it was the walk up to the viewpoint and the views of the coastline that made it my favorite. (Lealt Falls itself is tucked in a dark canyon, and the water was dark brown.) Along the path from the parking lot were about a dozen sheep, some grazing and some just lying around. Behind them, the cliffs tower over the Sound of Raasay. Breathtaking! However, soon not one but two tour buses pulled in. I high-tailed it to the viewpoint itself and managed to beat the masses and get a few pictures before the crowds showed up!

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The path to Lealt Falls Overlook

Next up was Mealt Falls/Kilt Rock. I had seen pictures of the waterfall cascading into the ocean here, and had my tripod ready to go! Unfortunately, the water was hardly more than a trickle, and there was a fence that made it hard to get a good photo. Kilt Rock forms the backdrop for Mealt Falls, so named because it is said to resemble a Scottish kilt with its tartan patterns. I’ll let you decide for yourself…

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Mealt Falls with Kilt Rock behind

After that, I continued to make my way around to Uig (pronounced Oo-ig), stopping at a “beach” in Staffin and the ruins of Duntulm Castle on the way. Uig is one of the main ports for ferries to the Western Isles (Outer Hebrides) and I will be back there on Wednesday morning to catch the ferry to Lochmaddy on North Uist. There was a cute tearoom near the ferry terminal, but I was leery because I was afraid to would be too busy. I’m glad I decided to stop anyway because I had a very delicious ham and cheese panini (I’m finding Scottish dairy to be just as yummy as Irish dairy!).

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Phone booth in the middle of nowhere – Trotternish Peninsula

I managed to drive a few miles past the turnoff for the Fairy Glen before I realized it and turned around to go back. One of the reasons this place is so incredible is that it isn’t well-known, and there are no road signs directing passing tourists to it. This was the other (albeit unexpected) highlight of the day. The Fairy Glen is a hidden spot that definitely seems like it belongs in a fairy tale. The hills are the greenest green I have seen and you can just wander around all of the miniature hills to a variety of viewpoints.  Off in the distance, two waterfalls cascade down into the landscape. There are some fairly well-worn paths through the glen, and around every bend is another “wow” moment! The crown jewel is the highest peak, known as Castle Ewen. You can climb all the way to the summit, but by the time I got there, it had started to rain and I decided to head back to the car. There is no visitor center here, not even a parking lot, but it was one of the best experiences I have had so far.

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The Fairy Glen

By this point, it was about 3 PM, and I drove back to Portree. Since the skies were clearing a bit, I decided I would try to tackle the Old Man of Storr again. The Old Man and the nearby Needle are large pinnacle-like rock formations and easily recognizable. The top was visible from the parking lot (which was full) so I headed up. The hike is about 4 km up and back, and most of it is a step climb. Of course, I left the printout I had of the trail in my car, so I just followed the other people on the trail. Towards the top, the trail branches off, and I vaguely remembered reading that I should take the left-hand trail. The trail becomes a series of steep rock steps the rest of the way. It is also not well-marked. Once I got to the top, there were several smaller trails, but no clear sign of which was was the “right way”. I decided to head left where the path seemed to circle around the Old Man and (hopefully) rejoin the other trail. If you Google the Old Man of Storr you will see photos of the Old Man and the rest of the rock formations (known as the Sanctuary). It turns out, these photos are all taken much further along, past the Old Man, looking back. Since I didn’t realize this at the time (and probably wouldn’t have gone further anyway), I was left to wonder how those iconic photos were shot. I could barely get the entire rock into the frame of my camera!

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The Old Man of Storr

Feeling tired by this point, I knew if I went back to the hotel I wouldn’t feel like going back out. I headed to the Isles Inn pub for dinner. The macaroni and cheese was unmemorable, but the chocolate bread and butter pudding with custard made up for it in spades! (As a side note, I’ve so far only found one cider that I can’t get at home… I keep asking, but Angry Orchard isn’t really going to cut it!)