isle of skye // day 2

After a nice breakfast in the hostel lounge, we’re off to spend the entire day exploring Isle of Skye. Richard starts by giving us a brief history and some fun facts about the island. We learn, for instance, that the Isle of Skye has a small total of 10,000 permanent residents, though this number fluctuates with the time of year. Its three main industries are fishing, tourism and whiskey (no surprises there).

By popular demand, Richard pulls over next to a field of hairy coos. I know I’ve seen some up close before, but I can’t help marvel at these animals’ cuteness. Plus, these coos have different colors, and some even have little calves! If I had known, I’d have brought some white bread for them to feast on - they love that processed stuff. Back on the bus, hilarity ensues as one of our groups asks another: “How's your hairy cow?” Upon overhearing this question, Richard interjects “That's a very personal question, Michael!” Haha.

Our first official stop is at the
river Sligachan. According to legend, immersing your face in the water for seven seconds will bless you with the gift of eternal youth. In short: free botox for life (though I’m not sure how ‘eternal’ this treatment really is, since Richard immerses his own face for what he calls a “touch-up”). I’ve already missed the opportunity to swim in the Loch Ness, so there’s no way I’m passing up on this experience. One by one, we lay on our bellies and descend our faces into the water. It’s actually not as bad as I thought it would be! The water is incredibly soft, and very refreshing. This spot also provides a great view of Red Cuillin and Black Cuillin, two mountains formed way back from when Skye was a massive volcano.

After this, we arrive at the
Glen Brittle Fairy Pools, located at the foot of the Black Cuillin. This series of small waterfalls is very beautiful, albeit slightly disappointing from what I had been expecting (Pinterest hypes me up a wee bit much sometimes). I tried looking up an explanation for the pools’ nearly turquoise color, but this proved unfruitful. If anyone cares to enlighten me on the matter, feel free!

Back on the bus, I recognize familiar tunes by Django Django, which Richard tells me are actually Scottish! I could have sworn they were from Brooklyn - yet again, which quality bands aren’t from Brooklyn these days?

We stop on the road again, this time to take some photos of Dunvegan Castle, which was once the siege of the clan MacLeod. We also attempt to spot some seals out on the shore, but those little bastards have decided to tan out on a small island in the distance. Oh well - maybe you’ll be luckier than we are!

For lunch, we have a picnic on the picturesque Coral Beach. The water is the same translucent aqua blue color one would find in Hawaii or Mexico. What makes Coral Beach truly unforgettable, however, is the composition of its shore ground. Indeed, the sand is made out of tiny, dried and calcified seaweed known as maerl. Pick up a handful and you’ll see for yourself! There are also thousands of miniature snail shells and round shells. I highly recommend climbing up Cnoc Mor a Ghrobain, a flat-topped hill from which you’ll get an excellent view of the entire beach and its surroundings.

We then ride out to the eastern side of Skye and take a hike up the
Quiraing. Richard had promised us a Lord of the Rings-worthy experience, and I think I can speak for all of us in saying we are not disappointed. ‘Sublime’ is definitely the right word to describe the view from this mountain. (Note for Game of Thrones fans: the view from Quiraing is actually Wester-Ross, a.k.a. the inspiration behind Martin’s Westeros. Cool, huh?)

Finally, we make a photo stop at Kilt Rock, a sea cliff named for its pleat-like basalt columns, and at The Old Man of Storr (Bod an Stòir in gaelic, which literally means ‘The Penis of Storr’. This name is a long story, but you’ll have to ask Richard about it yourself!).

At 10pm we head out to the King Haakon bar for an authentic night out with locals. The place is bustling with a strange mix of fishermen, navy buffs and tourists like us. True to our habits, Laurel and I split a bottle of cider. The locally produced strawberry-kiwi recommended by the barman is delicious. Soon enough, the live band begins to play. Our group bonds over dancing to their very decent covers, and it’s a fun experience I’ll never forget.

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