"THE gruelling task of restoring power to thousands of homes could still take days, after storms caused some of the worst damage to the electricity network in 30 years." The Scotsman
were to be cruising now in the mailboat on Loch Lomond! In honor of their plight and dashed hopes,
I got very spoiled at my last pretty place, with lots of room, the pool, cats and good movies, but this feels like grandma’s house: Cozy, the heat on all night, and sometimes I think I must be a monk. I settle in my mind a lot better in a small space, with less options.
28 March: We wake up early, even with the one-hour-less time change. There are two couples at breakfast, though the women seem more inclined to talk. Then left alone, a husband and I chat and I tell him about the Fairy Pools, as they are returning to Skye soon, to walk the hills. I ask Peggy if I need to be gone during the day and she laughs: ‘Doon be daft!’
The view over
makes me want to work on my novel, but it’s laundry time. Then after a latte at Saucy Mary’s and newspaper articles sent in, the weather has calmed, so next is a drive over the teeny road to Kylerhea. This is a settlement of about fifteen whitewashed homes roosted in protected nests among trees and scrub. The road ends where the ferry from Glenelg arrives during season. Broadford Bay
Kyle Rhea is the narrowest waterway to cross to the mainland from Skye and where the cattle used to swim to Glenelg at the opposite bank. From there, they were southward bound, toward towns like Falkirk and Linlithgow. There is a quaint self-catering house called The Old Inn, which is the original pre-1800 Kylerhea Old Inn, where the drovers slept.
After Thomas Telford built the slipways here and at Glenelg, in 1821, they were used for funneling about three-hundred cattle a day. Both slipways are made of depressed whinstone blocks. This one is paved with stone setts and Telford utilized a natural cut in the rock for funneling. These same locations are an ancient route and were used for the passenger ferry as early as the sixteenth century.
During the walk to the Otter Hide, Fooh and I meet a local Scot and he explains the tides of the narrows to us. They move at each other from north and south and at about 5 p.m., the otters know it is prime-time to fish. The water here at the narrows can run up to 8 knots—it really is a fast moving body of water today and clearly at odds with itself...but not really. I see movement is not as antagonistic as one would think—more an accommodating pact between the two bodies of water, the Sound of Sleat on the south and Loch Alsh north of the narrows at Kyle Rhea, both slipping silently aside to make room for the other. I wish I could find a Scotsman to talk to me about Skye and the Cuillin like this—to explain the names and shapes of the peaks.
This is a precious walk, where an occasional tall ship or copy of a Viking longboat might slide by, with a shark alongside. I watch grey seals, which must also be aware that it is dinnertime, and white-tailed sea eagles soaring and dipping sideways to sight their own special sushi dish.
The hide is a nicely hewn wooden structure, with stools and a high counter on which to lean my elbows and gaze through provided binoculars. Try as I might, I see no otters. A golden eagle may have just made a dive—I am very bad at identifying bird life, but I work at it. I do recognize the red grouse and here is a sea eagle, ruffling its neck feathers and casting a yellow-lidded eye downward. There are also black-backed gulls.
I won’t embarrass myself by emphasizing my ignorance and will simply tell you birdwatchers what I am told. Besides being a wonderful walking area to sight whales and porpoises, you will see the very long-necked oystercatcher and peregrine, with its long orange beak and orange stick-legs. In the summer, you can enjoy the cuckoo, cormorants, willow and wood warblers, robins and chaffinches. We give up our watch and take the long walk back to the car, with the boys whispering that we are being followed by some orange-breasted stonechats—how did these guys get so smart?
This road leading from Kylerhea was originally created for General Wade’s military road system, though it’s likely part of this was a dirt path used for centuries before that. He was sent to Scotland by George I, to ascertain how the disarmament of the Highlanders was progressing, after the Jacobite uprisings of 1689 and 1715. Wade constructed roads and barracks through the Highlands; his companies were called The Black Watch. Now the road winding around the hills has retaining walls, though I still feel a bit edgy driving along here. This was the principle route in and out of Skye, before the Skye Bridge was built in the early 21st century.
At Caberfeidh, Peggy greets me with a small pitcher of milk for my afternoon tea. I settle into the sofa of the dining room and write happily for awhile. The stormy silvery bay mesmerizes me and I feel absolutely blissful.
|Irishman's Point, Broadford|
29 March: Scottish porridge alone this morning. Did I scare everyone into eating early? I try not to be a chatterbox, though I am always so grateful to have anyone to talk to, but usually interrogate my meal companions about themselves, simply because I am interested—who knows? Today is our walk around Irishman’s Point in Broadford. Fooh and Angus say they are ready for an adventure...little do we know...
With Fooh and Angus leaning out of the backpack, I happily tread past the hostel, which has a prime location looking out over the bay. Fooh is impressed that I recognize the oystercatchers, with their bills even longer than their long legs which end in big chicken feet. Photo-taking of blackish, brackish seaweed turns on my artistic soul, then over a stile, around the point, along the edge of the water—when all goes haywire.
It is a mucking mess, if I may say so. The rocks and basalt are slippery, so it is too difficult and no fun to walk close to the edge of the water. Up a bit is the deep sloshy grassy muck. I become discouraged and decide to head up the hill and along a fence. The view is magnificent, with the isles of Crowlin far off in the distance, and closer up, Pabay and Longay. The going is just as tough here and I plan to move right up over the hill to the road on the far side of the conifers. No messing around.
The fence is un-crossable here, so we follow it around the corner and keep climbing. I have to go pee, but decide to wait, then it gets worse, because I have to go poo. Oh dear. This happens to me every time I go into a bookstore! But why here? Okay, so it could be readily taken care of, except there is nowhere to step except on my bit of patchy grass. So my task is to squat in my own bed, so to speak, find bits of dried leafy vegetation to use and move on, hoping the troops aren’t close behind me—I can hear them now...'oh yuck, what the...?'
After hours of this, I see some buildings. It turns out to be the company that is cutting these trees. Now the final hour—of acres of bog, six-foot piles of Christmas tree branches with no bottom, and all intermingled with—oh, la, what a surprise—berry vines! Acres of berry vines—wrapped around, trailing through, tangled in all of the above. I have fallen from grace with the gods and have been plunged into a dark hellhole. So close and yet, so far, far from any place I would choose to be rather than here. I want to shout out for help, but am too mortified. How embarrassing and how could I betray my country by revealing my stupidity to these Scots?
|Beautiful croft house at Stein.|
|So-called oldest inn on the island, Stein Inn on Waternish.|
|Proof of the "Gulf Stream" in this western area known as the Hebrides.|