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Winter Skye

January 21, 2011

Because it’s too beautiful to keep to myself, here are some more images from my recent visit to the Isle of Skye. These were all taken in the south of the island, mostly on the Sleat peninsula.

I notice that, aka the Scottish tourist board, has been enthusiastically plugging the delights of a Scottish winter. And indeed it’s all true: everything looks especially beautiful under snow and blue skies, both of which we still have this week. At the risk of seeming disloyal, however, I have to note that what they don’t mention is the state of the roads. It took me six hours to drive the hundred and fifty miles home from Skye, almost every mile of which was on un-ploughed roads thick with ice and fresh snow. Even in a four-wheel drive car, it was slow and stressful going. I’m not complaining about the state of the road. It’s not realistic to expect the snow plough drivers to be everywhere at once, and anyway the snow was still falling heavily on parts of the journey. I’m just pointing out that bad road conditions are always a possibility at this time of year, and you have to plan accordingly (I had snow boots, blankets, thermos, a shovel and so on in the car and was very glad of them). So, for anyone who would like to visit the Highlands in winter but without the hassle of travel, Dancing Beastie is at your service. Settle back and enjoy some more photos of snowy Skye.

First light at Eilean Iarmain. The lighthouse guards the skerries: across the Sound, a pinprick of light answers from the mainland.

A snowy dawn, with another snow shower approaching from Kintail.

I could watch this view for days and never tire of it. Every moment, the changing light transforms the landscape.

Later in the day, needing some time to myself, I decided to revisit the north side of Sleat in search of a lovely beach I remembered. This may have been a mistake. I had forgotten how very steep and winding the single-track road was…

this is a nice easy bit

and had underestimated the amount of snow and sheet ice there would be on the road surface. Precipitous drops down icy slopes made for extremely testing conditions for both car and driver.

where's the road gone?

But I think  – I think – that the view of the Cuillins from the beach at Achnacloich was worth the effort. It was strange to see the Black Cuillins turned white, and the once-golden beach black in the low cold light. I was the only soul there except for the birds. There was no sound other than the whisper of wind and tide, and the whirpling cries of a curlew on the shoreline.

It was quite a contrast to my last visit, on a sunny day in July 2008. Then it was eighty degrees Fahrenheit (26.6 C), if you can believe it, and we had spent the day sunbathing and swimming in the warm sea.

But the monochrome bleakness of the winter landscape has its own beauty. Here are the famous climbers’ mountains of the Cuillins and Blaven, photographed in fading light, looking north-west from the Tarskavaig road. You really have a feeling of being on the far edge of Europe here. (This photo needs to be seen full size to do the view justice – click on it to enlarge.)

Sunday dawned a perfect, crisp, blue-sky day on Sleat. I was sorry to be leaving. The clouds had vanished from the mountains and the Red Cuillins were so clear that, for the first time in many visits, I could clearly see the snow-covered cairn at the top of Beinn na Caillich from across the peaty moorland.

Well, maybe you can’t make it out in that photo, but it’s unmistakeable from Broadford, the small town in the lee of the hill:

Spotted it?

The first time I saw the clouds lift right off the top of Beinn na Cailleach was on my first visit to Skye, about a minute after my husband had asked me to marry him, at the top of a hill facing the Red Cuillins. One day I think I’ll have to add my own stone to the cairn. I was envious of anyone climbing in Skye on a morning like this, but I needed to get home to my boys. So I set my face to the mainland and its snow clouds, and the long drive home.

Sunset at Loch Laggan, still far from home

See also: Birches by a frozen loch; The Road to the Isles; Skye

15 Comments leave one →
  1. January 21, 2011 12:04 pm

    Oh my, this is just so heartstoppingly beautiful.
    Can you believe I was actually in Skye WITHOUT a camera?! Neither can I. What is worse is that my cousin’s husband (a photog) was bored with the scenery. Unbelievable.

    • dancingbeastie permalink
      January 21, 2011 12:14 pm

      I made the same mistake once. Now I travel everywhere with a camera in my pocket – even on the school run.

      Your cousin’s husband is henceforth banned from visiting Skye. Ever. Again.

  2. lorraine permalink
    January 21, 2011 2:02 pm

    I so enjoyed these pictures. I was in Skye with my daughter last November and although there was no snow,we found the scenery to be breathtakingly beautiful. I am Scottish but live in Vancouver, BC now. Your blog brings back fond memories for me.

    • dancingbeastie permalink
      January 21, 2011 2:18 pm

      Oh, good, then I am very glad you found it! Thank you for your visit. I have a friend who moved from our village to BC last year, funnily enough. I always think that BC sounds like Scotland scaled up (and with added bears). I’d love to visit one day.

  3. January 21, 2011 4:11 pm

    Thank you for showing us these lovely photos. We ran off to the Isle of Skye to get married, joined by 20 family members and friends, 3 of whom were Subalterns in my husbands regiment ……they still talk about how much they enjoyed it nearly 18 years later!!

    • dancingbeastie permalink
      January 21, 2011 5:54 pm

      Oh, how fabulous and romantic! You win! 😉 It’s one of those places that get under your skin, isn’t it.

  4. Janet permalink
    January 22, 2011 5:14 am

    Magnificent views, thank you. Hope to get to Skye sometime. Your photos show that wonderful northern European light that we never see in New Zealand, though we certainly have edge of the world views!

    • dancingbeastie permalink
      January 22, 2011 5:03 pm

      How interesting that you notice a particular quality to the light. Never having been to NZ, I can’t know what the difference is. But certainly the Scottish light seems very ‘blue’ compared to the warmer light you get in southern Germany or in Italy, for example. Our light, such as it is, can seem very dismal on a dull day – but I do love the bright cold days that we get in winter.

      You really do seem on the edge of the world from where I’m standing, and I bet your views are spectacular. I wish NZ wasn’t right at the antipodes of Scotland – I’d love to visit but it’s such an epic trip from one to the other, isn’t it? Even if we can travel by plane rather than by emigrant ship these days!

      Thank you for visiting DB.

  5. January 23, 2011 11:28 am

    Oh these photos are breathtaking! I’ve only spent one afternoon on Skye… with my mother who likes to travel around a place on fast forward. I would love to go back and really enjoy the place sometime. Thanks for the photos, so at least my eyes can travel travel there, if not the rest of me.

    • dancingbeastie permalink
      January 23, 2011 4:16 pm

      My pleasure. I feel the same about your pictures of Japan: I don’t think I’ll ever go there, but it’s wonderful to ‘visit’ your memories.

  6. March 29, 2012 12:03 am

    It looks so different with snow – so serene. Thanks for sharing your link on my blog and for reading mine. Glad to see another view of Skye in winter.

    • dancingbeastie permalink*
      March 29, 2012 7:17 pm

      It’s a pleasure to share it with you, and thanks for following up the link!


  1. Getting to Skye at last: morning at Eilean Iarmain « Dancing Beastie
  2. A twelvemonth of images « Dancing Beastie
  3. A day off in Skye « Dancing Beastie

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