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A day off in Skye

December 17, 2012

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.

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Salmon-coloured clouds gradually lightened to reveal the snow on the far hills of the mainland.

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Down by the shore a little later, I saw a heron in search of breakfast.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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15 Comments leave one →
  1. hmunro permalink
    December 17, 2012 10:41 am

    Stunningly beautiful! Sounds like the perfect antidote to the usual hustle-and-bustle of the holidays. Thanks for taking us along.

    • dancingbeastie permalink*
      December 17, 2012 10:46 pm

      It’s really, really wonderful. We are very lucky to be able to get there with relative ease.

  2. December 17, 2012 12:11 pm

    Wonderful photos of a glorious landscape, DB. I know just what you mean about the journey being part of the experience, as it’s what we always feel on our long treks up and down through the Highlands. That day off is exactly what you needed. Enjoy the countdown to Christmas. 🙂

    • dancingbeastie permalink*
      December 17, 2012 10:48 pm

      Thank you, and you too. I have held on to the spirit of Advent fairly well this year, I think, but now that we have one son on holiday I have succumbed to growing Christmassy-ness!

  3. Toffeeapple permalink
    December 17, 2012 1:02 pm

    I never fail to be awed by the landscape in Scotland. I haven’t been to Skye but those place I have seen are truly beautiful too.

  4. Toffeeapple permalink
    December 17, 2012 1:02 pm

    Those places, obviously!

    • dancingbeastie permalink*
      December 17, 2012 10:50 pm

      Wouldn’t have noticed the typo but for your own eagle eye! There is such beauty in the Highlands: not on the scale of younger mountain ranges (Rockies, Alps etc.) but with grandeur and a sense of history that I find unbeatable.

  5. December 17, 2012 4:05 pm

    Stunningly beautiful. My favourite place too, although I have to fly from France to get there!

    • dancingbeastie permalink*
      December 17, 2012 10:52 pm

      Skye is not the easiest place to access, is it? The nearest airport must be Inverness, on the other side of Scotland. Sometimes this bugs me, but really I think it’s the salvation of the island. The bridge is more than enough.

      • December 18, 2012 8:23 am

        Agree. There’s a big push to get the old airstrip at Broadford refurbished but I’m also in two minds..

  6. December 17, 2012 11:03 pm

    gorgeous!

    • dancingbeastie permalink*
      December 21, 2012 6:38 pm

      Isn’t it. Thanks!

  7. December 19, 2012 8:37 am

    Beautiful pictures. My husband and I love Skye. We’ve had to settle for a Canadian island instead. Some day we will have to take our children to see what a lovely place it is.

  8. December 20, 2012 9:06 am

    Possibly the best of your Christmas present, apart from everyone being home together?

    • dancingbeastie permalink*
      December 21, 2012 6:39 pm

      It was pretty heavenly so yes, a wonderful gift.

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