It feels so weird to have begun writing about our trip to Scotland in May of last year and only just now be finishing up the series. I’ve decided if I ever take a break that long again, I’m just going to give up on blogging entirely because it has been a pain to try to recall enough details to write even halfway decent posts about the things we did on this trip. I’m really grateful to those of you who have mentioned in the comments that your travel memories fade pretty quickly, too, because I was really starting to worry about the state of my brain there for awhile! I still feel a little guilty that I’ve already forgotten the specifics of a trip that actually had a pretty big impact on me, but I suppose the important thing is being able to remember how something made you feel, and I definitely haven’t lost that in the recesses of my mind…yet.
This was the first trip we took with anyone outside of our family of three since moving to the UK. When my parents said they were coming to visit us in London, it seemed like the perfect time to tack on an extra week to their visit and travel somewhere together. I was pretty intimidated at the thought of planning a trip that would be something all five of us would enjoy, but it actually turned out pretty close to perfect. (At least in my opinion, maybe you should ask my parents for theirs!) If you’ve been following along, you probably noticed that our entire trip was spent walking around outside, but when you’re in one of the most beautiful places in the world, why would you want to do anything else? Despite some pretty ridiculous weather, we were able to enjoy each and every hike we took, but none more so than our hike up Ben Tianavaig on our last full day on the Isle of Skye.
Once again we got lost on the way to this one, but eventually found our starting point by the bay in Camastianavaig, fairly close to the town of Portree. (I’m never too upset when getting lost means an unexpected run-in with sheep along the road! Although I am sort of upset that we never got stopped by a herd of them crossing in front of us. Isn’t that supposed to happen to everyone who visits the Highlands?)
Even from the low vantage point where we parked by the bay, I could already tell we were going to love this hike. We had clear skies for the first time and I could see all the way across the bay to the mountains on the other side. From the summit of Ben Tianavaig, we would have a perfect vantage point of these, plus clear views up and down the Sound of Raasay, the Trotternish coast, and of the Storr, where we’d hiked the previous day. Needless to say, I was totally stoked for this one.
The hike up Ben Tianavaig alternated between fairly easy and moderately difficult. The slope was not exceptionally steep, but the trail itself was really more of a sheep track than a trail and for much of it we felt like we were walking sideways up the side of the hill. Awkward. (Not for the sheep, though. How are they always so sure-footed?!) There were some steeper areas along the way where we were definitely feeling the thigh burn, but then the trail would level out and we’d get a break for awhile. This, for me, was perfect. I like to feel a little challenged, but not so much I can’t enjoy stopping to take photos along the way. Luckily, I took all of my photos on the way up because going down was a disaster!
We didn’t quite make it to the summit of Ben Tianavaig before we realized it might be a little difficult for a couple of us to continue on, so we stopped and took our photos from just below it – similar views, less work – then we started to head back down the way we came up. The thing is, when we were going up, we had the summit as our destination and we just followed the path in that direction. Going down, we couldn’t tell exactly where we needed to be heading to get back to the car and somehow deviated off the sheep track. Before we knew it, we found ourselves half crawling, half falling down the side of the hill, clinging with both hands onto the prickly brambles that were growing over the hill’s surface to keep from tumbling all the way down. (Well, everyone else used both hands. I had to use one to protect my camera. Priorities.)
I laughed at myself once I got back on the ground, but when we were stuck in what felt like a very precarious situation, I was pretty frightened. Around us, sheep were bouncing down the hill like it was nothing, but we were struggling to get anywhere without losing our footing. Had there been other people around, we probably wouldn’t have lost sight of the track in the first place, but we passed all of three people as we hiked up, and zero as we hiked down. Luckily, someone finally did start heading down and we were able to judge where the real path was by their location and Cory led us back to safety, but it definitely felt pretty touch-and-go there for awhile. :)
Once we were back on the path, it was just as pleasant going down as it had been going up and we arrived safely back to the bay with just a few scratches and bruises to take back home with us. Despite our detour (or maybe even a little bit because of it), this was my favorite hike we made on our Scotland trip. It was certainly the most memorable one, at least. I didn’t realize when I planned it this way, but saving Ben Tianavaig for our last day really was saving the best for last. We ended this trip on a high note and I left already missing where I’d just been.
Even though the specifics are fuzzy, the one thing that remains vivid in my mind is how at home I felt here. My uncle tells me my ancestors came from this part of the UK, so maybe a little part of me was coming home, but I don’t place a lot of stock in things like that. I think sometimes there are simply places we fit in better than others. I’m not a city girl. I’ve known that for a long time. Nor am I a hermit-in-the-woods sort of person a la Henry David Thoreau. Instead, I feel like I fall somewhere in the middle of those two things. I like wide-open spaces and rolling hills and farms with sheep and cows and landscapes that motivate me to get out and photograph something and relationships with like-minded people who accept that sometimes I do like
to be a hermit my privacy. (Longest sentence ever, sheesh.)
Right from the start I felt like this was that sort of place and everything we saw and did while we were there only further cemented it in my mind as somewhere I could see myself being very happy and comfortable in. Maybe not comfortable enough to put down roots and never leave (like this guy), but still, being here reminded me of what I’ve got to look forward to when we finally do decide to settle down. Hopefully one day we’ll find a place just like this to call home…but not anytime real soon. I’m still all-in on this expat thing. :)
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