|Skye, where the weather happens
||[Aug. 19th, 2015|12:28 pm]
Multi-strand holiday posting: are you confused yet? I know I am...
Three months ago, almost to the day, we were on Skye, on our way to the Long Island, the Outer Hebrides. But we had a little time to explore Skye itself, and the last time I wrote about it, we were leaving the Windrush café where we had acquired, among other things, directions to the broch we'd seen signposted as we entered the village.
It was blowy but bright as we pulled into the parking area, crossed the road and started to climb up through the field towards the broch. We could see the ring of masonry ahead of us, and the clouds rushing over the gleaming sea behind us. Then the clouds ahead of us grew darker, and the wind sharper; I raised the hood of my waterproof as the clouds opened and what came out was not rain but hail, striking hard despite the layers of clothing, stinging the back of my head. Just as abruptly it stopped, leaving the ground dotted with white, and we were able to explore inside the broch with nothing worse than the wind to contend with:
We returned to the car exhilarated, and continued our tour of the island, but we'd already passed the high point of the drive: neither of us was in the mood for the full stately home experience that is Dunvegan Castle, and although we pressed on to the car park at Neist Point, the rain and the wind made us decide against the walk down to see the lighthouse. Instead, we returned to Portree, found D. who had arrived while we were out, and had tea in the bar of our hotel.
By early evening the weather had brightened, and we decided we had time for a stroll round Portree before dinner. Up above the harbour we found a fingerpost pointing to 'Am Meail', and followed it. We never did find out what Am Meail might be, but our path took us round the headland on a delightful walkway, forest above us to the right and sea to the left below:
Later I worked out that we had strolled around the Lump. Don't be put off by the name. At the end of the circuit, wooden steps lead up to the Apothecary's Tower, a viewpoint from the top of which we could make out the ridge of the Storr, with the spike of the Old Man clearly visible below it.
So the following morning, setting off for Uig and the ferry to Harris, we asked at the desk whether we would have time for a closer look, and were reassured that there would be plenty of time, and encouraged to take the even more scenic route over the Quiraing ('the what?'). We stopped at the layby before the Old Man, and admired the view (though the photograph I kept from that session was the one of the sheep), and were glad that we had anticipated, because he was not visible from his own designated car park, which is tucked in below a bank covered with primroses. We would, with hindsight, have had time to walk up to the stones, but instead we drove on, and took the minor road to the Quiraing:
The road winds across the island, up into a rocky landscape, and at the top there's a parking space and an information board which explains that the Quiraing is that rock face yonder, "reminiscent of The Lord of the Rings". The name comes from the Norse 'kvi' and 'rand' and means 'round fold' - in Gaelic 'Cuith-raing'. Something I had not realised before this trip is that although we habitually distinguish between the Northern Isles ('Norse') and the Western Isles ('Celtic'), the Western Isles too show the marks of the Vikings, particularly in their place names. All those island names ending in -ay do mean what I am trying to tell myself they don't. But I would never have identified 'Quiraing' as Norse; the name itself might just be reminiscent of The Lord of the Rings.
We arrived at Uig with time in hand, and visited Uig Pottery. I did not buy any of their puffin themed pretties, not even the set of bowls (which did appeal, though their puffins are too cartoony for my liking), certainly not the puffin with a lamp growing out of its head; but I did buy next year's puffin calendar. And on their recommendation we spent our spare time visiting the Fairy Glen. I had seen the name in the guidebook, and been deterred by it, but it's a charming landscape of small-scale crags and lochans:
It would have been more charming still if it had been less busy with tour buses and people photographing each other, but that's life. The bare trees accorded with my view of fairyland as a somewhat sinister realm:
Soup for lunch in the café by the ferry terminal, and we were off on the boat to Harris - but I've written about that before...