“Listen to the Silence
And let your soul catch up.”
Due to Covid19 travel restrictions this year my family decided to spend our summer holiday in Scotland. It’s our second time to spend a holiday there this year (first one was our skiing trip)and I wouldn’t mind coming back again in the future. Who doesn’t love spending in this beautiful part of the world? Since the start of the lockdown in March I’ve been fantasizing of owning a property there, somewhere remote and quiet like the deep silence you will only find in the mountains of Scotland; where the trees and mountains are blanketed in a mist.
This time we’ve decided to explore the Inner Hebrides, one of Scottish Highlands picturesque islands- the Isle of Skye. If you research places to explore in Scotland, a lot of travel websites always recommend that you must visit Skye first. I was initially discourage by its distance from London since we will only be driving but after spending 4 long days in the island I totally understand why it must be worth visiting. The whole of Skye is one big photo of spectacular scenery.
We had a few stops along the way; the first was an overnight stay in the city of Edinburgh. Although I’ve been on this city a lot of times I always found myself viewing this part of Scotland with a fresh eye every time we arrive. For even just a brief wander in this city, one would always find something exciting and new, from a beautiful sunset that looms over the old city to a bagpipe music you can hear round the corner.
We also had a brief stop in Pitlorchy- a town in the county of Perthshire which is one of Scotland’s beautiful places to visit. The reason for the stop is that we can visit the Queen’s view- to have been named after Queen Victoria, following her visit to the area in 1866. The place can be located just off the busy motorway that leads to tree lined road and vast flowing river with a view of the mountain from a distance. It is a worthy stop if you are not in a rush. The good thing about the place is that the viewing platform is only a short minutes’ walk from the car park and the nearby café shop if you plan of stopping for lunch. We enjoyed our visit with a delicious piece of cake and a nice warm coffee before heading the rest of the afternoon for the long drive.
The platform overlooks the Tummel Loch and if you’re lucky to be there on a clear day you can actually see the mountains of Glencoe. Unfortunately, the weather wasn’t at its best during our visit because of the rain and mist that day which hinder the view I was expecting but nonetheless, we love the dramatic effect brought by the gloomy weather. The fog cloaks the river and trees which appeared rather dreamy and beautiful. I can imagine how majestic this place is around autumn when the forest trees turn its leaves into hues of different colours from crimson, to golden yellows and burnt orange.
The dilemma of road trip to the Highlands is that the places we passed along were very scenic. Just like the unique old stone bridge we passed amidst the natural landscape of the mountains that it feels a shame not to stop, get out of the car and savour the view for a few magical moment and capture some photos for safe keeping for us to look back after our travel.
Another stop we planned just before crossing the bridge to Skye was the Eilean Donan Castle. The place was made famous when it was used as a backdrop of one of the James Bond movie ‘Skyfall’. Compared to other castles in parts of Scotland Eilean Donan is smaller in size but personally I think what made it striking from other castle was its stunning location. The castle perched on a small island overlooking the Isle of Skye with a view of the forested mountains. The location is truly breath-taking. The castle is easily recognizable for it is located along the busy road. We stayed for a moment but decided not to go inside and explore the castle. It was surprising when we found out that droning was allowed during our visit but because there was a wedding happening that day it was only allowed after 6 pm which and because we still have an hour’s drive to go to our accommodation we decided not to stay longer.
It was already late in the afternoon when we finally saw the bridge to Skye (after such a long drive and frequent stops) so we decided to have a takeaway of fish and chips before crossing the bridge. We found a perfect place to sit that has a perfect view of the Skye Bridge and had our dinner there. The place we stopped by got few open shops so we grabbed few essential groceries before heading to our booked accommodation and we’re glad we did it because the village we stayed had only a couple of small shops and it looks like they have very limited choices.
The house that we booked was close to the Fairy Pools- our top place to visit and explore. It is a self-catering terraced house that has 3 bedrooms which perfectly suits our needs, a small group of 5 which includes children. What sold me to the place was the lovely view outside the kitchen and dining area because it looks out to the sea and mountains. I found it pretty relaxing sipping a cup of tea in the morning. In fact I wouldn’t mind washing the dishes there all the time if that was my view.
As plan, our first day in Skye was spent hiking to the Fairy Pools. We arrived just after we have our breakfast and we found out that the car park was already bustling with tourist. I thought it’s not going be as busy as the past summer because of the covid19 and some tourist might still be hesitant to travel but I was mistaken for there were hordes of tourist, some looked like they had already done their hikes to the pool and some who were about to embark.
The hike to the pools was easy and manageable for us who are not season hikers plus we have children as well (just to be mindful that there are some parts that are muddy and slippery so it is worth paying attention when you have small children around).
The first section of the hike leads to the beautiful crystal stream full of lovely small waterfalls. There was huge selection of heather flowers along the sides of the pool that were in full bloom at that time of the year which I found very pretty. Its vibrant display of coloured petals added splendour to the already breath-taking landscape of the pools and the black peaks of the Cuillin Hills brooding in mist and clouds that looks majestic from a distance.
During our hike I often wondered if it was with this reason that the place is named Fairy pools- for its natural beauty embodies a sense of enchantment and astonishingly mesmerising crystal clear blue waters. (And perhaps a great place to bring the children to ignite their curiosity about myths and legends and let them wonder with their ever vivid imagination of magical beings happily wandering around in the crystal blue waters with their colourful fairy wings).
The weather was pleasant for a hike that day; there were patches of clouds in the sky with a prospect of rain which I prefer than a fine weather where it would be too hot or humid for a hike. We wore raincoats just in case the weather change. What I actually dreaded before coming to Skye were the midges- a small flying blood-thirsty insect that stings. So many travel sites advice that August is not a great time to visit the island because when the temperature is humid the midges are also plentiful especially near the water. But contrary to that, the midges actually didn’t bother us during the entire duration of our holiday. There were a few adventurous tourists swimming in the pool which is commendable for their bravery to swim in the cold. I think it would be fun to try it once in a lifetime swimming in the wild.
We took a few more pictures and tried our newly bought mirrorless camera and attempted taking few pictures of the water using long exposure shots before heading back to our accommodation to have our lunch and rest our weary feet.
Neist Point Lighthouse
Later in that day we decided to have a drive around Skye before deciding to go for another hike to the Neist Point Lighthouse- one of the most famous lighthouses in Scotland and can be located on the most westerly tip of Skye near the town of Glendale.
It was only my husband and son who decided to hike to see the lighthouse and the rest of us decided to stay in the car and wait for them. It was too windy that day so we decided to stay in the car because the lighter ones amongst us might be blown away (J) but seriously, after the hike to the pools I think most of us are pretty knackered. They said that it was quite a hike to the lighthouse when they get back and although the path was concreted there were some parts that were steep. They managed to take some nice photos and I assumed if it was not cloudy that day that they might be able to capture a nice sunset photo of the lighthouse.
The second day was our last full day in the Skye so our time in the island was very packed. Although our accommodation was close to the Fairy Pools it was an hour’s drive to see the other parts of Skye.
That morning we woke up early and planned to hike to the Old man of Storr and in the afternoon plan to drive to Quiraing pass but the mountain was blanketed in fog when we arrive so we changed our plans and drive to Quiraing instead and plan to come back in the afternoon when the fog clears out.
Kilt Rock and Mealt Falls
We drove to other places close by and one of those was a quick visit to see the Kilt rock and Mealt falls. The famous Kilt Rock is a sea cliff which its vertical basalt columns form that resembles a kilt. Finding this place is easy as it’s near the road and there were huge signs posted as well. There is a free car park near the viewing platform for both the Kilt rock and Mealt Falls. The waterfall which runs down the side of the cliff can be seen from the same viewpoint and it is well worth a view. There is an info sign near the viewpoint that states that the spot is also great for spotting seals and dolphins in the right season.
Just after lunch we drove straight to Quiraing pass and I’m so glad we managed to squeeze some time to include this in our itinerary, for there was nothing as beautiful as this place. In fact the place is known as photographer’s paradise and it’s easy to understand why. I learned after our holiday that so many Hollywood movies have been film here like Stardust, BFG, and Snow White and the Huntsman to name a few. The Skye’s abundant natural beauty makes the place truly magical.
The mountain pass takes you to a popular scenic drive where you can see stunning mountains, ridges, dramatic rock formations and lochs. The road towards the pass is in good condition but it is extremely narrow that you probably need to take precaution when driving in very windy condition.
There is a paid car park in the area in case your group decides to walk or hike up to the mountains. In fact there were a lot of cars that are park when we arrived. There were few hikers we saw and I assumed how amazing it would be to hike up to the top and see the view from there but since we’re planning to hike up that afternoon to the Old Man of Storr we decided to forego our desire to explore Quiraing.
Old Man of Storr
Just after lunch we headed straight to the Old Man of Storr- one of Scotland’s most iconic places. The ‘Old Man’ is a large pinnacle of rock that stands high and is visible for miles. We even saw it from the road when we’re driving from Portree. The weather was accurate with its forecast because when we arrived the fog dissipates and blue sky welcomes us that we can actually see the Old man of Storr.
The car park was less busy in the afternoon compared in the morning when we first arrived. After paying for our parking and got our backpack ready we headed straight to the gate by the information board and started our hike up to the mountain. There were few fellow hikers we met on the way. The path to the mountain is clear but steep and rocky. The first part of the walk we passed through harvested coniferous trees which give unobstructed view of the sea. As we near to the middle of the climb it gets steeper and rougher.
We decided to take our time and stopped on the way if we need to. It probably took us an hour and a half to get to the summit. There is a stairs that is made from rock when you get to the foot of the ‘Old Man’ and the climb becomes very steep and difficult. I almost give up when I get to this part but I can see that we were almost there.
Before the climb the temperature was hot and humid but once we got to the summit it suddenly turns chilly. We’re glad to have our jumper with us as we rested on the grass and have a little snack while enjoying the view before us. The climb to the top was definitely very rewarding because the views are simply stunning. We can see the sea over the Islands of Raasay and Rona and beyond the mainland. We stayed a little bit more and enjoyed that especial moment before deciding to hike back to the car park.
On our way back we decided to use a different route. I realized that although it is a long path down it is more picturesque as compared to the other route. The path has many beautiful wildflowers including the vibrant pink-purple foxgloves that are typical in the summer months. The route seems to be less popular because we only saw a couple of hikers going up and it was only us going down. We got to savour that especial moment in silence as we appreciate the beauty around us.
On our way back to our accommodation we decided to pass by in the colourful town of Portree-the main town of Skye. We had a little wander around town and the pretty harbour lined with brightly painted houses that offered great view of the surrounding hills and sea.
Our time in Skye was beyond wonderful and especial for we get to spend time as a family in one of the most beautiful places on earth that we’ve been so lucky to travel and see. Maybe one day we can come back again and hope that travel will have no restrictions that time, and we’re all free to wander and explore without the threats of a pandemic; or who knows that dream of mine might one day become a reality to own a small cottage in the Highlands. Remote and quiet like the deep silence you will find in the mountains of Scotland with the view of the changing season outside my window. It is free to dream right?