A day off in Skye
From where we live, it takes most of a winter’s day to drive to the Isle of Skye. An invitation to stay with a friend there for a couple of nights last week involved, therefore, two days’ driving for one day on the island. Was it worth it? I would do it again in a heartbeat. The drive up through the Highlands, across the Great Glen, up and down the shores of icy lochs in the shadow of snowy mountains, past Eilean Donan castle to the Kyle of Lochalsh, is surely one of the most beautiful journeys in the British Isles. It is a holiday in itself just getting to Skye: the journey is as magical as the destination.
And once there…this truly is a place that restoreth the soul. While my husband was wild-fowl shooting with our friends, I had a blissful day to myself, starting with sitting on the bedroom windowsill watching the sun rise across the Sound of Sleat.
Salmon-coloured clouds gradually lightened to reveal the snow on the far hills of the mainland.
Down by the shore a little later, I saw a heron in search of breakfast.
The heron’s stealthy tiptoe through the shallows was interrupted by a liquid, haunting call: picking its way across the seaweed came a curlew, a small body on thin stilts of legs, beak like curved chopsticks.
In this blessed place it is hard for a visitor to get anything done. I stood and stood, listening to the curlews, watching the day lighten over sea and mountain, the morning sun catching the windows of the lighthouse in the bay.
At last the sub-zero temperatures drove me back inside for porridge and hot coffee. Then a morning of meandering, my time my own, free – thanks to the kindness of school-friends at home – from the tyranny of school runs and clock-watching. So I did exactly as I pleased, stopping in lay-bys to take dozens of pictures; wandering along rocky shorelines; buying Christmas presents in a blue shed from a shopkeeper with two temperamental parrots and a puppy in a sheepskin jacket (yes, the puppy, not the owner); scrambling up a shaggy frozen hillside for a glorious view of the Black Cuillins in negative, as it were, now white with snow; before meeting up with husband and friends for a convivial picnic lunch in a snug bothy in the hills.
The short winter’s afternoon led to an evening of friendship and good cheer over an excellent dinner of seared Skye scallops and tender local venison. As the youngest of the party by some years, we found solace in the company of those who had been friends with my husband’s late father, sharing many happy memories of previous gatherings in this same spot over the decades. Absent friends were vividly remembered and indeed, for one evening, felt hardly absent at all.
In fact, the only thing that I don’t like about this blessed place…is leaving it. The journey back, though, is almost as beautiful as the journey there. And now elder son has broken up for the holidays, Christmas is almost here, and for once I feel happy and (relatively) calm about the festivities – thanks, in no small part, to our day off in Skye.
You might enjoy more images of these locations in Winter Skye.