When it comes to travel, are you a planner or do you have more fun when you arrive somewhere new and just wing it? On a scale of 1 to 10 where 1 is does booking my flight count as planning? and 10 is I have our entire day scheduled out into 15-minute increments of time, I’m probably somewhere around a 7. I like to book flights and accommodation at least 3-4 weeks in advance and then I spend the time up until we leave researching where we’re going, learning its history, and planning out our itinerary.
I see the appeal of just winging it, I really do. Especially when I start adding up how much time I actually spend on travel planning and realize it’s practically a part-time job that I’m definitely not getting paid for. But the thought of missing something cool or important because I didn’t take the time to do my research is enough to convince me all that time and effort I put in is worth it. I would always rather risk being over-scheduled than risk coming home and having someone ask, Did you see such-and-such? It’s the best!, only to realize I hadn’t even known it was there. Travel regret is a real thing, you guys.
That being said, early on I realized the importance of leaving at least a couple hours of open space on our itinerary every day, if only so we can use that time to do the things people tell us about after we’ve arrived. This happens nearly every time we travel, especially when we stay at a B&B and spend each morning talking to the family we’re staying with. It never fails that they know someplace awesome I never came across in my research. Such was the case in Scotland when Gavin, our host on the Isle of Skye, heard we hadn’t put the Fairy Pools on our to-do list and said, Och aye, ye can’t miss the pools! And he was right – if you’re visiting the Isle of Skye, you can’t miss the Fairy Pools. With their crystal blue waters and extraordinary surrounding landscape, the Fairy Pools’ reputation as one of the most magical places on Skye is certainly well-deserved.
Located at the base of the Black Cuillins, the area surrounding the Fairy Pools blew me away before we even made it out of the car park. We’d seen the Cuillins from a distance on some of our other hikes on the island, but this was our first time getting up close to them. A 40-minute drive from where we were staying in Portree, the southern side of the Isle of Skye looked markedly different from the northern end where we’d spent the whole previous day. Where the landscapes up north had been gentler, and maybe a little greener, the mountains down south were stark and much more imposing. For such a small island, the Isle of Skye really knows how to cover all the scenic bases!
After parking the car, we started walking down the trail that would lead us to the Fairy Pools. It was an easy route over a well-traveled dirt path; the only deviations necessary were a little rock-hopping across the creeks that intersect with the path. Easy stuff. Although the skies were blue and clear overhead, it was bitterly cold outside and just as windy as it had been the previous evening when we hiked up the Storr. I’m a small, but sturdy person and sometimes those winds would pick me up and blow me right off the path. I have never experienced winds like that anywhere else in Europe!
We could tell we were getting close to the pools when the creeks we were hopping over started growing wider, and we could hear the sound of the falls in the distance. Since I hadn’t done any research on the Fairy Pools prior to going, I had no idea what the pools were actually going to look like when we reached them, but I had assumed they’d be similar to natural springs we’ve visited in other parts of the world. I assumed wrong. This was a natural wonder like nothing I’d ever seen before.
The Fairy Pools were created by a deep, wide gash that cuts through the earth at the base of the mountains, and inside this gash sparkling blue pools build on top of each other all the way up to the Cuillins. I can’t even count how many pools and waterfalls we saw as we walked up the path. And of all sizes, too. There were small, shallow pools and big ones that looked deep enough to dive into. Some of the falls were barely a trickle and others were heavy enough we had to yell to hear ourselves when we got up next to them. It’s just an amazing thing to see in person. A magical spot, indeed.
However, the thing that struck me the most about the Fairy Pools was the color of the water. It’s so unusual to see shades of green and blue that vivid in freshwater! Scottish folklore suggests that if you’re brave (or hardy!) enough to take a dip in any of these frigid pools, supposedly you’ll benefit from their magical healing properties. We saw a few folks dipping their toes in, and one guy who clearly had lost his marbles because it was below freezing outside and he still took off his clothes and jumped in, but I couldn’t bring myself to do more than test the waters with my fingertips. (Maybe I spared myself a head cold with that?!)
I wish we’d had time to see more in southern Skye, but I’m sure this won’t be our last visit to Scotland. We’ll return to the Fairy Pools some day, hopefully next time in the dead of summer because that’s the only way I’ll be able to stand the cold water! (I’m such a baby. I like my oceans and lakes as warm as my bath water!)
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