Hello from Portree, The Isle of Skye, Scotland (compiled from an email sent Oct 11, 2004)Note:  You can now click on each pic to see a bigger image if you wish.

Hi all,

I just arrived back at the hostel in Edinburgh after 3 days out to the Isle of Skye which is off the west coast of Scotland. Skye is fairly small, no
matter where you are on the island you’re at most 12 km from the sea. It is populated by about 10,000 people nowadays and has a pretty rich
history of Scottish clan fighting (McDonald’s and McLeod’s mostly).

It is also known for its ridiculously great scenery. It is similar to the rest of the Scottish highlands, with small mountain ridges everywhere, and a heck of a lot of green pasture land for grazing sheep.

Baaaa!

Both of my tour guides have noted that Scotland is home to about 5 million Scots and about 10 million sheep, and I definately verified that first hand. Our first stop on day one was to visit with Hamish. He’s quite the character, and is a celebrity to the tour groups.

B

From there we made our way through the lochs and glens of the highlands in a similar fashion to my Loch Ness tour, making our first stop at super scenic Loch Lochy to get some great shots.

Loch Lochy

Scottish Highlands

Scottish Highlands

Scottish Highlands

Scottish Highlands

Scottish Highlands

Onwards we went, eventually coming across the most well preserved castle I’ve seen on my trip thus far – Eilean Donan. (Pronounced Illen Don-Ann). The castle was in complete ruins from an English bombardment for over 200 years until it was restored to it’s present state. The castle was rebuilt between 1912 and 1932 at the cost of a quarter of a million pounds (or
$600k CDN)..

Eilean Donan Castle

Stopping and making our base at Portree (or, originally, Port Righ,Port of the King) that night and for the next, we got well acquainted with the local pubs.

Welcome to Portree

Port Righ is another gem of a town. Having never experienced growing up around oceans or seas, I greatly appreciated the scenery in the mornings before we left to tour the island.

Portree, Sunrise

Portree in the morning

Our morning sent us by some small lochs.

One of my favorite shots..

We also saw the rock formation known as The Old Man of Storr (the needle of rock on the right side of the hill pictured below). The story goes that an old man stood sadly on the side hill – his eventual freezing in stone a testament to his love for his wife: the “Old Lady of Storr”. She stood, not far away, frozen in her spot on the same mountain. You
probably see the old lady has been knocked down nearby ..or did she fall?

The Old Man of Storr

We definitely had a full day of exploring as we traveled to the west, north, and east ends of Skye.

Kilt Rock on the Isle of Skye, thus named because the rock formation looks like the pleats of a kilt

Skye's Coast

We had a 2 and 1/2 hour hike/climb in the morning along a series of mountain ridges to a rocky area used to hide stolen cattle back in the days of clan wars. You could see for miles for much of the climb, and the scenery was truly breathtaking.

Photos from the morning hike

Photos from the morning hike

Photos from the morning hike

We also took a two hour walk in the afternoon to the westernmost point of Skye, to see a lighthouse turned bed & breakfast, and admired the cliffs
and some interesting rock structures made by visitors to the coast.

East coast of Skye

Bed and Breakfast, East coast of Skye

Cool rock structures. I made one too..you'll have to find it if you go

At this time of the year, some of the trees and mosses and grasses are changing color, and I can tell you for sure that if you enjoy nature scenery, you have to see Skye for yourself.

Great natural colors

The trip also offered the chance to visit some castles, and I enjoyed them as well. One particularly creepy one was the Duntulum castle ruins. Here’s the story behind its haunting.

Duntulum castle ruins

The castle belongs to the clan Macdonald, and it’s chief Donald Gorm Macdonald. The chief wasn’t much liked by all his clan, and one of his cousins, Hugh, had decided to murder his cousin – as he thought he could be a better clan leader. In the event of this happening, Hugh would become the new clan leader and govern the clan as he saw fit.

Duntulum castle ruins, my tour group

Hugh’s plan failed – Gorm got wind of Hugh’s plans to try and kill him. Gorm had his henchman grab Hugh and imprison him in Duntulum Castle’s dungeon. Hugh at this time had really thought he was done for after being imprisoned some 2 days with no communication from Gorm. On the third day, Hugh was very surprised to see his prison door opening and Gorm’s servants bringing in trays of salted beef and salted fish and a huge goblet for him. Hugh quickly began to eat the salted meats as he was famished, and felt a bit better thinking maybe his
cousin wasn’t going to kill him after all. Reaching for the goblet to quench his thirst, he discovered it empty – and then heard Gorm’s henchman working to completely imprison his cell in stone. It was said Hugh died stark raving mad of thirst, some say he tried to eat his own hands before the end. In the evenings, you are supposed to be able to still hear his screams from the castle’s dungeon. Supposedly, the Macdonald’s abandoned the castle because of his ghost.

Unfortunately, the dungeon was boarded up as the castle has since passed into slightly dangerous ruins, but you still are able to peer into the dungeon and walk around the castle, which I did.

ARRETE!

Editor’s Note:  Skye was a great trip, especially having viewed that scenery and having heard tons of great stories. Our guide was so animated and knowledgeable – he made the trip that much more interesting. I think I could hear a collective sigh from the tour bus as we drove up on the bridge between Skye and mainland Scotland on our way home. Many of us came away from this tour wanting to buy a parcel of land on Skye, to call it our home.

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