Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Scotland: Exploring the Isle of Skye

If you're still craving for more of the Scottish Highlands, then a visit to the islands is in order! Just a few kilometers from Eilean Donan is the Isle of Skye, the largest island of the Inner Hebrides, connected by a bridge to the Scottish mainland.

Skye is stunning! Too bad though we arrived too early in the year. Winter had barely said goodbye. So it was gloomy and at times rainy as we explored the island. But the scenery was still fantastic, although the sun and spring or summer blooms would have made the experience all the more pleasant.

The drive from the Kyle of Lochlash on mainland Scotland to the village of Kyleakin is about ten kilometers, crossing the Skye Bridge. There is a train service to Kyle of Lochalsh from Inverness. Then a bus will take you to the island. We stayed in Kyleakin for two nights. There are a good number of inns and hostels in the village.

In Kyleakin, we walked to Castle Moil (Caisteal Maol), a ruined 15th century castle and ancient seat of Clan Mackinnon. You can actually explore this picturesque fishing village in under an hour.

The next day, we drove around the island, stopping briefly at one of the barbed fences to catch a glimpse of Highland cattle, a Scottish breed of cattle with long horns and wavy coats.

We drove past Broadford, a village spread around a large bay, on the way to the Isle of Skye Brewing Co. where we sampled the local beer.

In Trotternish, the northernmost peninsula of the island, are restored blackhouses, traditional houses common in the Scottish Highlands. It also has stunning rock formations like the Old Man of Storr. We also visited Kilt Rock and Falls.

All the way, we enjoyed quaint view of small villages or isolated homes in the middle of nowhere. Even the iconic British red telephone box calls attention in the sparse landscape.

For lunch, we went to Portree, the largest town and capital of Skye. It has a small town square called Somerled Square. And there's Portree Harbour, another iconic image of Skye, with its colorful houses by the pier.

Driving around Skye, you won't miss the Cuillin, a mountain range that dominates the Skye landscape.

On our last day, we drove to Armadale to catch the ferry to Mallaig. This ferry crossing is another way to get to Skye. There is a train service from Glasgow to Mallaig with a convenient connection to the ferry service to Armadale.

Unfortunately, Dunvegan Castle, the ancestral home of the Clan MacLeod, had not yet opened for the year (it's closed during winter). So we missed visiting the castle, the oldest continuously inhabited castle in the whole of Scotland. Hopefully I get to visit Skye again at the height of spring or summer!

Part 1: Edinburgh Castle, Holyrood Palace, Harry Potter and more from the Scottish capital
Part 2: Eilean Donan Castle and Loch Ness
Part 3: Exploring the Isle of Skye
Part 4: Glencoe, Glenfinnan, spectacular scenery of the Scottish Highlands
Part 5: Glasgow's George Square at night

Also check out my photos of England, Scotland and Wales.
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