Tag Archives: isle of skye

Isle of Skye

The Isle of Skye is absolutely breathtaking!!  Turn after turn it’s just filled with so many beautiful wonders of nature that it’s almost just too much to take!!  I’m so glad that I had the chance to get there!!  The tour itself was so-so, but what it lacked was made up by the beautiful surroundings.  But I’m getting a tad ahead of myself…

I’ve already mentioned that I booked my ticket at the tourist info center in Inverness.  When asking the employee at the desk about this specific tour, a 12 hour tour by WOW Scotland that cost almost 70 pounds (about $118 US), she seemed very hesitant to say anything about it… It was really kind of odd.  I wasn’t sure if it was just her or if she  just didn’t want to say anything negative about the tour.  So because of her hesitation, I hesitated too.  Then she went on to explain that she had never been on this particular tour from WOW Scotland so she couldn’t say too much about it one way or another aside what was advertised on the brochure.  But she had taken others that she enjoyed from WOW Scotland (though again she wasn’t very enthusiastic in her descriptions).  Against all the other tours of the Isle of Skye, it covered much more of the Isle and seemed to take us to more places.  And the tour itself was longer than any of the others…

My largest concern though was that we would simply be in the bus all day being carted from one site to the next, only let out for little breaks and to snap some shots.  I wanted to be able to spend some amount of time at each place.  And though there were numerous stops listed on the itinerary, I figured “heck, we have 12 hours and the Isle isn’t all that big.  I’m sure we will get some good time at each place!”.  So despite the lack of salesmanship by the tourist office employee, I talked myself into buying the tour.  Later I went on TripAdvisor and was further assured by my decision to book the tour because of the 5 star rating the tour had received.  Fast forward to the day of the tour…

All started off well, we were picked up in front of the tourist info center (nice central and easy location!!) in a mini bus that was quite comfortable and suited for our needs.  There were about 20 of us in total.  Though he didn’t show up in a kilt (a comment that a fellow tour-goer made later in the day that she was kind of hoping to see since we were on a Scottish tour) our guide was a local, was friendly and humorous and all.  He was knowledgeable and had stories to tell about each area…

But here is the kicker… Perhaps it was simply that the tour was as long as it was.  Or because of “the event” that happened later in the tour that sort of unfortunately out-shown the rest of the tour (for the better in my book, lol!!).  Or perhaps though funny and witty the guide wasn’t THAT memorable in the way he presented the info.  Or perhaps the pure natural beauty of the Island simply made everything else about the trip null and void in my mind… I simply just don’t know… But what I’m getting at here is that again, while our guide did have lots of history and stories to tell, I can’t recall a single one of them aside from a little disturbing statistic about Loch Ness and that the leopard man lives on the Isle of Skye…

No, I wasn’t drunk… I wasn’t hung over… I was completely present and alert and aware and listening just as I had on every tour prior (and all those after) yet I just can’t recall any of the stories he told.

And honestly I was a bit disappointed by the amount of time that we were allotted at each spot.  The original itinerary only allotted on average 15 minutes at each place, except for our lunch spot- 1/2 hour- then we were supposed to have an hour in one of the little towns.  Mind you, the brochure never mentioned how much time would be spent in each place so it was unknown at the time of booking.  Personally I would have given the little town less time since we weren’t there for a town!!  We were there for the sights!!!  We didn’t even get out of the van to walk around or near Loch Ness!!  We simply drove by it and had to take pictures out of the van window!!  That was kinda disappointing!!  But luckily or unluckily, as fate would have it we ended up having almost 3 hours in one of our locations… More on “the event” in a bit!

I know I’m going back and forth on how the tour actually was… Sorry for that!  But I guess if I had to be pinned down I would say yes, the tour was worth it if only for the sights of the Isle of Skye alone.  And having basically a chauffeur to take us around was quite nice (until “the event”).  Had it not been for the sights and being chauffeured around, well I wouldn’t say I would have been that crazy about it.

Oh, but for anybody planning on doing the trip, one word of advice: eat your lunch IN the van!!!!  Don’t wait for the break!!!  The only reason I say this is because you may otherwise be sharing your lunch with the midges!!  Or rather will also be eating the midges as part of your lunch!  Not to mention, if you eat at the lunch spot you will get less time to walk around!

Midges… for those who don’t know they are itty bitty teeny tiny little gnat like flies that come in swarms and will bite the absolute life out of you!  Before I went to Scotland I was warned about them but had never encountered them until the Isle of Skye.  Though they thankfully never actually bit me, they were so darn annoying!!!  They would swarm all around your head and mouth and body and hands and basically anywhere where skin was exposed just buzzing!!  So needless to say, as I tried to eat my sandwich they swarmed all around it and me and I ended up eating more midges I think than sandwich!  Needless to say about half way through I lost my appetite… So yes, eat your lunch ON The van!!!

The sights included: Loch Ness, Urquhart Castle, Hairy Coos, Eilean Donan Castle, Strath Bran & Strath Carron, Slighachan, Faerie Glen, Quiraing (sight of “the event”), Kilt Rock, Trotternish Ridge & the Old Man of Storr, and finally Portree.

Yes, as mentioned before quite a bit was covered so perhaps I should have expected just a few minutes at each place and should stop complaining about the lack of time spent at each location…  Not to mention, the majority of tourists really aren’t into walking around much or hiking on tours.  Most are happier being taken around so they can snap their shots and say they’ve been there (not me obviously).  It’s unfair to expect everyone’s needs to be met so perhaps I shouldn’t take it out as a fault of the tour so much…

In any event, enjoy the pictures of each place and a story of “the event” via the below links:)  Oh one last little bit about the Isle of Skye in general: it was the first place where Gaelic became basically the prominent language.  Road signs turned to Gaelic only (some also had the original or “English” names as well)!!  And about 8% of the population of the Isle of Skye still speak Gaelic today!

Loch Ness, Urquhart Castle & Hairy Coos

Eilean Donan Castle, Slighachan & Faerie Glen

Quiraing (site of “the event”)

Kilt Rock, Trotternish Ridge, the Old Man of Storr & Portree

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Eilean Donan Castle, Slighachan & Faerie Glen

The Eilean Donan Castle is apparently THE MOST PHOTOGRAPHED castle in the WORLD!  Quite an impressive accomplishment!!  You MUST also check out the Faerie Glen picts!!!  By far my FAVORITE!!! 🙂  Slighachan was the site of the midges… Ick!

On to Quiraing (site of “the event”)

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Quiraing (site of “the event”)

Ah, the event!!!  Yes… So this happened just as we were approaching Quiraing.  So on the Isle of Skye, the majority of the roads leading from one picturesque place to another are VERY narrow… I mean to the point that it’s really only one lane wide!!  But since there are two ways of traffic, there are several spots along the road (probably every 200 meters or so) where a vehicle can pull over to let the oncoming car pass.

So on our way to Quiraing (thankfully only walking distance away) we came across a traffic jam along the single lane road.  The issue ahead of us was a car was head on with a camper (trying to come in our direction).  They weren’t able to pass each other because some tourist had parked their camper IN the pull-off zone designated only for vehicles to pass one another!!  With the parked camper in the way there was no way for anyone to pass each other on the road, unless they went off-roading…

So our driver got out and helped at least the car to get around the camper trying to come our way.  And he helped the camper squeeze as close to the side of the road as possible so that WE could possible squeeze along them to our destination…

As we attempted to pass the left side of our van went off the road and due to the recent wet weather just sunk into the land and that was it… We were stuck!!!  A very long story short, we weren’t pulled back out of the rut for almost 3 hours!!!  So at first we just had lots of time (YAY!!!) to wander around, which I took full advantage of!!  Our guide hitched a ride into town (just down the valley) to try and get someone to get us out of the rut (literally).  When no one came for hours, one of the church charity vans from town came and picked us up and took us into town so we could at least get some hot beverage while we waited for our rescue.  Of course it was a very frustrating situation for the guide, but he took it in stride as we all did.  We ended up not getting back to town until almost 11pm because of it, but we still got to hit all the hot spots on the list, so all was well that ended well!!

And honestly… the more I think about it… The more I think that this unexpected hitch kinda made the trip for me (along with the beauty of Skye of course!!).  I do enjoy unplanned events thrown into the mix!!  Strange, I know!

On to Kilt Rock, the Old Man of Storr & Portree

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Kilt Rock, the Old Man of Storr & Portree

On to Oban

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Inverness

Inverness… Made most famous by Loch Ness where Nessie, the fabled (or real?!?!?) monster of the Loch lives!!  I actually really liked Inverness!  It was not too large a place, but also not too small.  As Goldilocks would say, it was just right:)

I got there on bus and of course started my day there by wandering around hostel after hostel trying to find somewhere to sleep for the night.  The hostel by the bus station was full, which was fine by me cause I got an odd feeling from the staff there when I arrived to inquire about availability.  So I wandered as always aimlessly toward what turned out to be the main shopping street and in general main street of Inverness: High Street.  Well, ok, maybe it isn’t the official main street, but it was pretty central to all things touristy (the castle, museums, tourist info center, and lots of shopping).  And perhaps another little thing to mention: High Street was closed off to traffic and was only available for foot traffic, which I quite enjoyed!!  Anyway, I found Highlander Hostel after a few other failed attempts just off High Street.  I booked a room for the night since it was the first place that I’d come across that had room… I was getting worried again that no space would be available elsewhere and I had better jump on this one!  I went to my room to settle in and was not at all impressed with the accommodations.  It just had the feeling of uncleanliness!!  Though there was a bathroom in the room itself, it was being shared by 9 others (10 including me) and just the sight of hair everywhere… Ick!!  I know that you get what you pay for and many times staying in hostels is an absolute gamble, but some places are MUCH more clean feeling and more welcoming than others…

Not really feeling that location (but being stuck there for the first night) and knowing that I wanted to stay in Inverness at least a few night (since I had to get to Loch Ness to see Nessie!!) I set out immediately to find a room for the next night at another hostel.  A little down the road from the Castle and just along the river I came across the Inverness Student Hostel.  From the second I walked in I knew this place would be great!!  And indeed it was!!  The vibe was just warm and welcoming, the place felt clean and safe, the staff were friendly and sane (at the other hostel the guy who checked me in, though there was a “no smoking inside” policy later lit one up in the check-in/common area just because no one was around… yeah… great example to set!).

The Inverness Student Hostel was all booked up for the night I arrived (I had half a mind to demand a refund from the other place and just stay there instead) but had a space available for the next two nights.  Perfect!!  That’s all I needed!!  I paid a little extra to be in a room with only 5 others, but it was worth it!!  I payed for my nights in advance to stay there the next few nights and on my way out noticed that they had affiliate hostels in Oban (pronounced by locals as “Oh-BIN” where I was planning to go next anyway).  Liking the feel of the place that much- I went ahead and booked in advance (what was wrong with me?!?! ;)) a room at the Oban hostel (called simply Oban Backpackers) for a few nights as well!!  I must admit that though the whole “find something when you get there” is fun and adventurous, also knowing that I had a place to stay for sure at the next location was quite comforting… Especially since the past few towns I had been in seemed to be short on places to stay!!

After securing my spot at the Inverness Student Hostel and the Oban Backpackers, I headed out to explore Inverness a bit more.  Since I was going to stay there for two full days, I figured a trip to the tourist info center would be wise.  There I found an all day tour (literally 12 hours long) for the Isle of Skye hosted by WOW Scotland! tours.  I won’t go into great detail here about the booking as I will save it for the Isle of Skye post I’m doing next, but needless to say I did book the tour.  The tour would not be until that Friday (2 days from my arrival date) however so I had a day in between to simply chill and explore Inverness at leisure.

At this point it was dinner time, so I wandered around for somewhere to eat.  On the opposite side of High Street there was an Italian Tapas restaurant.  And even though I was going to be in Italy soon, I really wasn’t hugely hungry so the idea of tapas really appealed to me.  Plus, I had heard that many of the immigrants to Scotland were from Italy, so I was pretty confident the food would be authentic and not disappointing!

I was right about my instincts- the food was very good!!  I had a tapas gnocchi dish with a glass of prosecco.  Now mind you, when I would go out for lunch or dinner I would only bring a certain amount of cash with me.  This was mainly so I wouldn’t go nuts on drinking too much, because lord knows if I had brought my card I could have just had my dinner and a drink, then another, then another… To my surprise, this is exactly what had ended up happening anyway!!

I was simply sitting at a table for one, enjoying my gnocchi and glass of prosecco when I noticed 3 guys sitting at the bar.  Just something about them made me think that they, or at least one of them owned the place.  Just the way they looked around and looked at things and moved around every now and again.  They had the aura of being invested.  I basically finished my meal and sat enjoying my prosecco.  One of the three guys came and stood by my table looking out to the street, then asked if I had enjoyed my meal.  I replied that I did and to satisfy my curiosity on whether I was right about whether he was an owner, I asked if he was.  And indeed, he replied yes.  One question led to another and he ended up sitting down with me (a true Italian!  Always inviting and entertaining) and asked if I wanted another prosecco.  Though I said no, I eventually said yes and was brought another glass.  I won’t drone on with every detail but basically what ended up happening was I was introduced to his cousins (the other 2 at the bar) and a nephew and after a BOTTLE of prosecco and a shot of limoncello I was invited to stay for the after party (apparently it was the owners birthday) to which I stayed for a piece of cake and WATER to sober up a bit, lol!!  I was also invited to the after, after party at someone’s house but declined vehemently and made my way back to the hostel at some point shorty after.  It was a great and unexpected time!!  Italians certainly know how to make people feel welcome!!  It was also quite entertaining because the owner was Italian but spoke English in a Scottish accent.  His cousins only spoke Italian.  I spoke English and some Spanish and even less of Italian, but could understand all 3… The bartender was from Guatemala and spoke English and Spanish, so conversations between everyone was just about the most interesting and entertaining thing!!  Between one language and another and trying to say one thing then having to interrupt someone during their conversation so they could translate something for you, it was just a mad house of languages!!  Lots of fun though!! 🙂

In any event, after stumbling home I went to sleep then left the next morning for the Inverness Student Hostel.  The next day wasn’t the best of weather so I mainly just did indoor things like a Natural History museum and caught up on emailing, etc.  I was supposed to go back that evening for dinner with one of the cousins, but felt not very social (dang hangovers!!) that day sadly.  Plus, I had an early tour the next day and wanted to be 100% for it!!  I kinda felt bad about not showing for dinner, but such is life!  You can’t please everyone.  But I am very grateful nonetheless for their hospitality and the great time that was had the night before:)

On to Isle of Skye

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