Myth, magic and legend – welcome to the Isle of Skye.
I’ve just returned from a week-long tour of Scotland and I have so much to share about the country, my head is spinning. It is without doubt, one of the most beautiful places I have ever visited. I’ve climbed a mountain, found my ancestral home, whale-watched and walked barefoot on a deserted beach, among other things. But the place which stands out most in my mind as I think back over this extraordinary trip is the mythical Isle of Skye.
Skye is windswept, wild and utterly glorious. If you only have a short time to see the Highlands, this is the place to go. I was on a Haggis Adventures tour, and our guide, Andy, a native highlander, declared this ‘winged isle’ to be his favourite place.
As we had already seen lochs and mountains of breathtaking beauty, Skye had a lot to live up to. But it was love at first sight. We arrived into Kyle of Lochalsh in the early evening, just as the sun was bathing everything in a golden glow. This village is actually still on the mainland, but it is the point of entry to the Isle of Skye, just a few metres over the bridge. It was the perfect introduction.
Andy took us on one of his ‘romantic walks’ – for which he became famed over the 5 days – to the undeniably romantic ruins of Castle Moir, which sit atop a small island, on the stretch of water between Kyle of Localsh and the Isle of Skye. As the tide was out, we were able to walk to the castle, past two stranded ships and across a beach littered with shells, driftwood, and even crab pincers.
According to legend, this was the castle of Saucy Mary, who would apparently expose her chest to sailors in return for a toll charge for the crossing. The boys in the group requested that the girls reenact this historical scene, but we politely refused.
The following day, we set out to explore the Isle of Skye properly. Appropriately, given that the island’s other nickname is the ‘Misty Isle’, a veil of mist hung over the early-morning landscape. In fact, though blue sky broke through, the landscapes on Skye looked like a giant had painted them in watercolour.
Perfectly still lochs reflected the landscape like mirrors, so clearly that it was rather disorienting – there was no longer a fixed sense of up and down, of what was land and sky and what was water. But it was beautiful.
It is no wonder that myths and legends abound here: The Old Man (and his wife) of Storr, turned to rock by the gods, the fight between gods which resulted in the flat top of Mcleod’s ‘table’ mountain.
There is even a faerie river which will beautify anyone who dips their face in for seven seconds (some of our group tried this one, despite the chilliness of the morning!)
We walked alongside a canyon and drank from a waterfall, then wound our way to the Quiraing mountains on the Trotternish peninsula, in the very north of the island. We were to climb one of the mountains in this range, close to Storr mountain.
The mountain and surrounding landscape feels at once completely ethereal and strikingly familiar; perhaps no wonder, since it has been used as the setting in films such as Prometheus and Stardust. You can see why it was chosen – it is a fairytale land which is somehow unreal.
It was a tough climb to the top. but worth it for the breathtaking views of the island in all its mythical glory.
We only had one day on the Isle of Skye, but it is somewhere I know I will visit again. The island demands longer, in order to fully experience its magic.