|Over the bridge to Skye
||[Jun. 10th, 2015|09:59 pm]
To fill in the gaps between what I posted while we were in Scotland: starting again from the beginning.
I left us at the Glenspean Hotel, with its Durham émigré proprietors, preparing to take the road to the isles. I had haggis for breakfast (with poached eggs on top) after which I felt ready for anything, and we embarked on another spectacular drive, through Glen Shiel, past the Five Sisters (a ridge of five linked summits), along the little rushing stream and its waterfalls. The silver lining of a summer full of rain clouds is that all the waterfalls are at their best.
Road sign of the day: Feral goats for 2 miles - but disappointingly, we didn't see any feral goats.
We stopped for coffee at Eilean Donan. It's a long, long time since we were last there, and the image in my mind was - well, the famous image, the castle reflected in the gleaming water, the one that you know if you know any image of a highland castle at all. I had managed to forget that the water is a sea loch ("where three great sea lochs meet," says the castle's website), and was taken aback at the site of the castle on its rock rising out of the mud and seaweed of low tide. I hadn't forgotten the visitor centre, that simply hadn't been built at the time of our previous visit, but we managed to snag the table by the window, the one with the view:
It was beginning to rain as we left, and was pouring down by the time we reached Kyle of Lochalsh, so we stopped only long enough to pick up a few essentials (cash, throat sweets, a paperback from the charity shelves at the pharmacist's) and then crossed the bridge to Skye. That too hadn't been built at the time of our previous visit: technically it's two bridges, a short hop from the mainland to Eilean Bàn, and then the longer crossing to Skye.
There was rain and sunshine and surprising gusts of wind and more rain. The old joke about forecasting Scottish weather goes: If you can see the hills, it's going to rain; if you can't see the hills, it is raining. We could only guess at the bulk of the Cuillin as we skirted the island, and took refuge from the rain at Talisker.
The distillery tour was - well, it was OK, but it wasn't the best I've done. How could it be? A combination of health and safety legislation and economies of scale means that, as distilleries market themselves more and more as tourist destinations, there is less and less they can actually show the visitor. When I first visited Highland Park, we tiptoed around the malting floor, hoping for a glimpse of Barley and Malt, distillery's the legendary cats; Talisker boast that they malt their own barley, and they do, but at another distillery in the group, not here. Still, every visit has something new to offer: at Talisker for the first time in my life I added a drop of water to my whisky - or rather, on our guide's recommendation I invited her to do so. She delicately released a single drop of water from a glass rod; I could not detect any difference. I might have been tempted to acquire a dropper of my own, as a souvenir and for showing off purposes, but they weren't on offer. I wasn't impressed with the shop, which majored on sweatshirts, and offered the entry level Talisker at only a few pounds more (once you claimed the reduction included in the price of the entry ticket) than I had paid in Tesco's for durham_rambler's birthday present.