We woke up in Invergarry to yet another beautiful day. I haven’t actually mentioned it, but my god we were lucky with the weather. The hike at Glen Nevis was another day of clear blue skies and bright sunshine, and after what we’d been repeatedly told, (“It always rains in Fort William”) we figured it wasn’t long before our luck would change. Thankfully, it held out and our entire journey from Invergarry to Skye was lovely.
I have to admit I slept for about half the journey there, but from what I remember it was quite pretty. The outskirts of Skye are fairly industrial as a lot of fishing etc happens there (from what I can roughly remember), so I’m glad that we decided to stay in Portree. Well, actually there are lots of different places to stay, I think as long as you’re fairly central it doesn’t matter. If you’re there for more than a couple of days and want to explore you’re going to have to drive anyway.
Before going to Skye, we assumed it was going to be quite small. I’m not sure why, but we did all think the same thing. Anyway, it’s not. It takes about an hour to get across the bridge and along the one road that leads into Portree. A whole hour. You may not have had the same assumption about Skye as we did, but that was a genuine surprise. Well, I knew how long the journey would take as I planned the route, but still.
It was a pretty journey, lacking in only one thing – sunshine. Once we crossed the bridge into Skye, the clouds came in and it rained steadily as we made our way. This wasn’t the end of the world though, and didn’t put us off our plans for the day – hiking the Fairy Pools.
The Fairy Pools are all over Tumblr and Pinterest, and the walk is listed on many a ‘top walk’ list, and since we were only spending a couple of days on Skye it sounded like the one for us. It was about an hour from Portree to the car park (along a one track, windy road fyi – nowhere near as bad as the road to the Observatory though. Also there are little signs up down the whole road letting you know where the passing places are. Which I thought was pretty damn nifty, and definitely something we should introduce in England, as opposed to people driving into hedges oblivious to the fact there is a passing place 50 foot behind them.) The nearest town to the walk is Carbost, though it’s pretty much out on it’s own. Don’t think that means it will be quiet though! We got the last spot in the car park. (Which is free by the way. Thanks Forestry Commission.)
That is one thing that I loved about Scotland, you think you’re absolutely in the middle of nowhere on your own and the Forestry Commission have helpfully set a little sign up. Though saying that, there really are people that live completely in the middle of nowhere. They must genuinely have to hibernate like bears in the winter, because I can’t see a car getting along those roads in the snow. Nevertheless, they are a surprising people, the inhabitants of Skye, so you never know they might manage it; I won’t lie, I did get quite The Wicker Man feeling on Skye. The scarecrows leftover from the competition a few years back didn’t help, or the woman that told my Dad he couldn’t ever leave… “Because he brought good weather.” I don’t mean that offensively though, everyone we met there was genuinely lovely but it’s a different way of life.
The walk itself takes about 40 minutes/an hour, depending on how fast you want to walk it and exactly how far you want to go. There is a path, but obviously you can stray from it and wander as far as you like. There’s not that much there (aside from the pools of course) so you’re quite free to. Also walking isn’t the only activity option, we even saw a lad stripping down and going swimming. It didn’t look too appealing to me in all honesty. The sun had come out by the time we got to the pools, but it was still spitting with rain a little – Scottish Sunshine, if you will and it was a bit nippy. Then again some spas charge for that sort of experience, I suppose, so there must be some good in it.
It was a really nice walk, a bit challenging at times going across rivers etc on little boulders, though I’m extremely accident prone and I managed to keep myself upright, so maybe not that difficult. The pools were very pretty, and changed colours as the light did, and there were lots of amateur photographers there with their little tripods and welly boots… And netting around their faces.
Now, we’d been told about midges, and how they like to feast on tourists, but because of our luck the day before in that we saw/weren’t bitten by any we kind of figured we were good and didn’t need to think about them. Oh, how wrong we were. There were thousands upon thousands of them, hence the photographers head to toe in netting.
We were bitten to death. Well actually that’s how they get you – you think you’ve escaped it, as at first you have little red blotches that don’t itch or hurt or anything. Then a day or so later, they start to itch. And my god is it infuriating. Whilst in America I always had about 30 mosquito bites (for a month), because we were camping, often under the stars and apparently I have sweet blood. Nonetheless, they were nothing in comparison to the itching incited by these bites. Days and days on end, they kept me up at night.
Basically, if you go to the fairy pools, wear stuff head to toe and apply Avon Skin So Soft to any exposed skin. (I don’t know why, but all the locals swear by it as a midge repellent. Maybe they don’t like parties where people are sold products. I didn’t ask.) Or move constantly. As soon as you stand still you’re a goner.
After all that fun, we drove back to Portree where we stayed at The Bosville, by the harbour. It’s a lovely hotel, with fairly well decorated rooms and good food, in a great location. The only issues I had with it were that it was too loud; they need to do something about sound proofing and it was a bit over priced. Everything on Portree is a little bit over priced, as for some reason Skye is a bit of a tourist trap. Ok, well I say for some reason – the island is absolutely beautiful, and has been the setting for many different television and film productions, as well as, inspiration for poetry and art and much more. There are also hundreds of walks there, and a fair amount of history, especially Jurassic. Do expect to pay through the teeth for that if you visit though.
The next day was a whole one without travelling. The car was settled in it’s resting spot, and we rested a bit longer too.
The main plan we had for the day, was a wildlife boat trip from Portree harbour. We chose to go on a ‘Brigadoon‘ boat trip, because they had good reviews, left from 2 minutes walk from our hotel and in all honesty, weren’t quite as long as some of the other ones. I understand that to really see wildlife, you often have to go out for a whole day, but I’m not that great on boats and didn’t want to risk a whole day at sea feeling like I was about to die. Not worth it.
I booked over the phone about a month before – you book your spot and then pay when you get there. We booked on the 12 o clock one… And couldn’t find the dock (It’s right down the end of the harbour, like behind the coast guards. They need to get a sign really) so we came back and did the 2pm one, after a scone and a pot of tea at a cafe round the corner.
There isn’t that much in Portree in the way of shops etc by the way, there’s a Boots, a few places to eat, tourist information, a pub and lots of souvenir shops, from what I can remember. So don’t go there expecting to shop until you drop. Unless you’re desperate for lots and lots of postcards of Portree. Which you might be, I suppose.
The boat trip was really good, the guide knew what he was talking about and we saw loads of sea eagles (White tailed eagles, some of the rarest birds in the UK), and some seals and jellyfish. Also, miraculously I didn’t feel sick at all – the boat was quite smooth. So a win win. Especially as it’s really good value for money. They provide you with binoculars and pause for you to look at the wildlife. I’d recommend it, but I haven’t been on any of the other tours so can’t compare.
After our trip, we had a meander round town, got some dinner and by then it was late evening so we retired so be driven insane by midges in our rooms.
The next day, we were still very much irritated by the bites but this time, in the car on the longest drive yet…
To John O’Groats. The most Northernly Inhabited place in Mainland UK, I believe.