Scotland 2016 – Day 6

Off the beaten path. That’s where I spent the day today, visiting the Waternish and Duirinish Peninsulas. The landscapes weren’t nearly as dramatic, and the rain was much more frequent and steady this morning, but I managed to make the best of it.

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In the tiny village of Red Burn

The Waternish Peninsula juts out into the Little Minch to the west of the Trotternish Peninsula and is much more remote. One single-track road cuts through most of the length of it, ending at Trumpan and the ruins of the Trumpan Church, where a feuding clan set fire to the church in May 1578 while the other clan was worshiping inside. I stopped briefly and wandered around the tiny village of Stein and then drove out to the ruins. It is about four miles inland from the tip of the peninsula, with sweeping views in every direction. I headed back to the car when the rain set in and backtracked to the main road and on to Dunvegan.

Dunvegan’s claim to fame is being the home of Dunvegan Castle (the seat of the chief of the Clan MacLeod for more than 800 years), which I skipped over entirely, instead heading for the Claigan Coral Beaches I had read about. I suppose living on the coast of New England has made me a bit jaded with regard to beaches, but after walking the mile or so to the beach, I was underwhelmed. The beach is made up of maerl, which gives it a white glow in the sun. Maybe I was tired, maybe it was the gray skies, who knows, but I didn’t love it. I headed back into town and had a scone and hot chocolate at the Dunvegan Bakery. The Scots seem to enjoy their scones with butter and jam, as opposed to the English clotted cream and jam. I don’t think it’s quite as good. I also tried blackcurrant jam on the scone, another first for me.

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Today’s traffic jam on the road to Neist Point

After lunch, it was off to Neist Point. You will also no doubt recognize pictures of this famous landmark, sitting at the headland of the Duirinish Peninsula. The lighthouse is actually tucked behind the headlands, with a steep trail leading a mile or so down to the lighthouse. Unfortunately, the iconic shots are taken from another trail leading to a viewpoint above the parking lot. Which I realized after I had trekked most of the way down to the lighthouse. I did get the iconic shot, but I also got quite the workout!

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Neist Point Lighthouse

Today was also “moving day”. The Cuillin Hills Hotel only had a room for three of my four nights in Portree, so I had to pack up and head to the Portree Hotel for the night tonight. I’ve been spoiled the last few nights. Tonight’s room is up 57 stairs (I counted them) under the eaves in what could best be described as the attic, and rather cramped. I set out in search of dinner, and heard music playing on my way.  It turns out, there was a “Skye Myths and Legends” show on at the hotel across the street at 6PM, and I decided “why not?”. The two guys who did most of the talking and who greeted everyone afterwards were fabulous. There were also two girls as part of the program. They performed a mixture of dramatic stories and songs about the legends surrounding the Isle of Skye. Definitely an enjoyable way to pass an hour. After that, the Isle of Skye Pipe Band put on a show in the streets around Somerled Square. I only stayed for a half hour or so, then off to dinner at the hotel restaurant followed by live music in the hotel bar. All in all, not a bad day in Scotland!

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Scotland 2016 – Day 3

Seriously… Scotland is amazing! Around every bend in the road is something else I want to stop to take pictures of. Today I drove along the shores of Caribbean blue Loch Torridon and the Inner Sound, drove across the third highest road in Scotland, and visited one of the most photographed castles in the world.

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Applecross Peninsula

I slept until 6:30 and then decided I would head out for a walk before breakfast. I walked along Loch Torridon over to the boathouse and back before enjoying eggs Benedict for breakfast. Then it was off to drive around the Applecross Peninsula.

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The harbor in the tiny fishing village of Ardheslaig

I drove back through Shieldaig and then kept following the coastal road. In places, it hugged the coastline, but mostly it was precariously tucked higher up along the hillside. The road is single-track all the way to Applecross. There are passing places fairly often, but it’s a bit nerve-wracking to see another car coming straight at you and having to back up into one of the passing places. Also nerve-wracking is coming up a hill or around a corner and not being able to see if anyone’s coming. The water was a gorgeous shade of blue/green and frequently dotted with fishing boats. There were many tiny villages along the way (when I say tiny, I mean no more than a dozen houses) and I stopped at a few of them to take pictures.

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Applecross Peninsula

Once I got to Applecross, it was on to the next adventure: driving across the Bealach na Bà. The Bealach na Bà (Pass of the Cattle) is the third highest road in Scotland and climbs to 2,054 feet at gradients close to 20%. The way down involved several hairpin turns (all single lane of course). But the views were incredible! From the top of the pass, you can climb a short way to views over the Inner Sound to the Isle of Skye and beyond. While I was admiring the view from the top, the clouds rolled in and soon the area was covered in fog. It was quite an experience!

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Bealach na Ba

I was planning to eat a scone at the cafe at Eilean Donan Castle, but I spotted the Carron Restaurant on the way, with a sign advertising homemade baked goods with a craft shop next door. How could I resist? Unfortunately, they only had butter for the scone (not cream), so that was a deal-breaker. (I know, I’ve become a scone snob!) Instead I had the apple crumble with custard. Delicious! Then it was on to Eilean Donan Castle. You’ve no doubt seen photos of this castle situated on a small tidal island and connected by a stone bridge. The castle dates back to the 13th century, and I took plenty of photos of the outside, but I decided against visiting the restored interior.

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Eilean Donan Castle

Then it was on to my home for the next four nights: the Isle of Skye. Skye has several iconic landmarks which I hope to visit over the next few days. I got settled in at the Cuillin Hills Hotel in Portree (complete with a room overlooking the harbor), and walked into town for dinner at No. 1 Bosville Terrace. I was up late last night, so I’m turning in early. I have two possible plans for tomorrow, and I’m going to decide in the morning which direction I will head in for the day.