isle of skye // day 1

Laurel and I have been looking forward to this Isle of Skye trip for months now - practically since we arrived in Edinburgh. It’s taken us great patience to wait until May to actually head up there, but I’m so glad we did, because even though it’s springtime we are still leaving in our puffer coats! I can’t imagine what I would have had to pack if we had gone back in January.

The company we’ve chosen is MacBackpackers. It has the best price (look out for discount codes online - we got 20% off just by doing a two-minute Google search) and exactly the itinerary we were looking for. We ended up picking the 3-day trip to Isle of Skye, but there are many others to chose from!

At 9am we meet up with our group at Castle Rock Hostel, which, by the way, looks like a great budget place to stay in Edinburgh. Soon enough, we’ve left the Midlothian area and crossed the Firth of Forth into the Kingdom of Fife. We make a quick stop at Pitlochry, a village at the border between the lowlands and the highlands. Then, Richard leads us through a lovely walk in Scotland’s biggest National Park.

Back on the bus, Richard points out the Dalwhinnie Distillery, which produces a whopping 70 million liters of whiskey a year! He also tells us that South Korea is, after the US, Scotland’s second biggest whiskey exporter, which is actually not too surprising when you know a bit about the Asian country’s drinking culture...

We stop at Glenmore Forest Park and walk out to Loch Morlich. Richard tells us to look out for the bits of broken glass scattered throughout the sand. These are not from last night’s barbecue, but rather from Norwegian soldiers who used to practice their shooting during WWII! As such, they’re no longer sharp and dangerous, which means you have no excuse not to dip your feet into the water of the highest beach in Britain (320m).

After this, we stop by the Balnuaran of Clava, erected by over 4,000 years ago, during the late neolithic period. The site consists in three large cairns, one ring cairn and two passage cairns, as well as a few standing stones. It’s really impressive to think that such elaborate burial rituals existed so long ago.

After driving by the historic site of Culloden Battlefield, we pass through Inverness, the most northern city in Britain. Loch Ness is only a few minutes’ drive from Inverness. The lake is 23.25 miles long and incredibly deep. Interestingly, Loch Ness is neither the longest, the deepest nor the biggest loch in Scotland. So why, then is it so famous? (Apart from the monster, that is.) Well, Loch Ness actually contains the largest volume of water due to its length, depth and surface combined. In fact, there is more water in Loch Ness than in all of the lakes of England and Wales combined. Much gallons. Very water. As for its world-famous creature, it was first seen in 565 A.D, and has made a few reappearances since. Richard manages to prove that all individuals who believe in God also technically believe in the Loch Ness Monster, but I don’t quite remember what his exact logic entails. Doesn’t concern me, anyhow.

Two of our group’s bravest members opt to go for a swim in the lake. Keep in mind the temperature is a mere 5 degrees celsius, both inside the lake and out. These two courageous souls run into the water and completely immerse themselves into the freezing Loch Ness (while the rest of us busy ourselves taking as many proof-serving photos as we can). Needless to say, we’re all very impressed. Also, Richard had promised the two swimmers some whiskey for their feat, but being the generous man that he is, he serves us each a glass. Unfortunately, half of us are not exactly fans of the Scottish drink, and after a few painful sips, embarrassingly resort to emptying the remainders of our plastic cups on the roadside at our photo stop of Urquhart Castle.

At around 7pm, we arrive at our lovely hostel in the village of
Kyleakin, at the south tip of Isle of Skye. Kyleakin is so small it only has two restaurants, Saucy Mary and King Haakon. Most of the activity comes from tourism, but there’s also a top secret navy base for NATO (which, thanks to Richard, is no longer much of a secret to anyone). Rumor has it the base has a collection of nuclear submarines. Either way, where there is a navy base, there will inevitably be sailors. More of these guys in tomorrow’s journal entry.

Our hostel, Loch Buie, is a lovely cottage on the harbor. The lounge area has large windows facing the piers, and it allows for a beautiful view of the sunset. It’s also the warmest and coziest room in the house, which explains why the majority of our group spends the evening sipping tea, chatting and playing board games by the roaring fireplace.

After dinner, we have just enough time to walk over to the nearby Caisteal Maol, also known as the Bare Castle, which was once the home of the Viking princess Saucy Mary herself. We’re lucky, since the tide is sufficiently low for us to walk along the beach without getting our feet too wet (flooded sneakers and drenched socks are my worst nightmare). The sun is setting, and we get a wonderful sight of both the castle ruins and Kyleakin. Definitely the highlight of our trip thus far.

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