The Isle of Skye – where do I begin? I first heard about this island in the Inner Hebrides off the coast of Scotland when we were considering a trip up north during our first year in the UK. It caught my attention because of the name. A place with a name like the Isle of Skye must be beautiful, right? (For the record, I also judge books by their covers.) We ultimately chose to go elsewhere in the UK for that trip, and the Isle of Skye was stored away for future reference. Fast forward about 18 months and we found ourselves, once again, pondering a trip up to Scotland. While Edinburgh would surely have made a lovely introduction to the country, we were looking for something a little different. A little less city, a little more sky. And mountains, and hiking trails, and sheep, too, of course.
There is, indeed, a lot of sky in Skye, but it doesn’t end there. I suppose the Isle Of Dramatic Scenery, Dense Fog, Gale Force Winds, And Some Of The World’s Greatest Natural Treasures doesn’t roll off the tongue as easily, though. There truly is no other place like the Isle of Skye. We spent four full days driving through the Highlands, hiking on Skye, and enjoying some of the freshest air and prettiest scenery I’ve seen since Ireland last year. And did I mention we weren’t doing it alone?
Sometime shortly after Christmas, my mom texted to let me know my dad had a business trip in Belgium in April and they wanted to spend a week with us in London before going on to Brussels. I looked at my calendar and saw the week she was referring to was also the week we’d planned our trip to Skye. Accepting that, once again, we were going to have to move Scotland to a later date, I was about to cross it out of my planner when I realized maybe, just maybe I didn’t have to. Without thinking, I texted back and asked her if they wanted to join us. Not two seconds later, a huge wave of anxiety had me backpedaling. I couldn’t plan a trip worthy of my parents – the people who took us on a 16-day trip across India, a Southeast Asian adventure to Singapore and Bali, and countless other exotic locales. How could I possibly compete with that? When we travel, we stay in cheap hotels, eat (sometimes questionable) street food, and refuse to pay for almost anything other than said food and accommodations. Luxury travel is something we know nothing about, unless it’s on someone else’s dime, of course.
But then I realized, maybe it doesn’t have to be luxurious. Maybe we can still make it memorable without breaking the bank. And I quickly discovered there is no better place to do that than the Isle of Skye. All of the best things the island has to offer are free. And so I set to work designing the ultimate Isle of Skye itinerary using this excellent website as a guide.
The hardest part was realizing we wouldn’t even be able to cover a fraction of the island in the four days we were going to be there. Google ‘hiking and the Isle of Skye’ and you’ll see what I mean. So I set about the difficult task of picking and choosing what I thought we’d all like best. Now, it’s not uncommon for me to spend around 30+ hours planning a trip. I do that nearly every time. But when you don’t have only yourself to think about – let’s be honest, as the resident family trip planner, what I want to see takes priority – the task becomes much much more time-consuming. I don’t even want to tell you how many hours I spent analyzing over 30 hiking locations just to choose five that I thought we would all enjoy/have the stamina for. But that extra work paid off in spades. Not a single disappointment the whole trip. And how could we have been the least bit disappointed with scenery like this?
Okay, so there might have been one tiny disappointment. I did not get stopped on the road by a herd of sheep like I’d hoped. (It’s possible I’ve seen too many romantic comedies.) But we certainly saw our fair share of the little woolly creatures. Even better, it was lambing season. I’m sure I don’t need to describe to you the level of cuteness that was.
We also lucked out big time with the weather. For about two months preceding our visit, it rained in Skye every day, sometimes all day. It did not look promising for us. And then, like Mother Nature had put us on trial and deemed us worthy, the rain cleared out the day before we arrived. Our days alternated between fog and sun, but never any rain. While I had come prepared for rain and cold weather, the one thing I hadn’t expected was the wind. I’m not talking hair-getting-stuck-in-your-lipgloss kind of wind. I’m talking blow-you-off-the-side-of-a-mountain wind. There was one time when we were hiking when I had to crawl on all fours, gripping the brambles growing on the cliffside to keep from blowing off the path. Now that was some wind. The only time I’ve ever experienced anything similar (that wasn’t actually a tornado or a hurricane) was on a summer night in Memphis when the winds were so strong and caused so much damage that some enterprising company started selling ‘I Survived Hurricane Elvis’ t-shirts the next day. My sister still has hers. Thankfully, the winds in Scotland weren’t always that strong, but they were always there. And I had the tangles in my hair every evening to prove it.
We stayed in Portree at Ballintoy B&B with our lovely hosts Gavin and Gillian who were very kind and a great source of Skye info and history. Portree ended up being the perfect base for exploring Skye and had, by far, the most choices for shops and dining on the island. (You must try the fish. It’s incredible. Like so fresh that seafood might be ruined for us back in London.) I highly recommend staying in this town if you plan on exploring more than one area of Skye as it’s ideally located on the main roads heading both north and south.
I could keep going for days about this trip, because it’s one of those, like Ireland was for us, that stays with you forever, but if you happened to read this post then you know I’m going to have to start writing about our trips a little differently. I’ve got only two more Scotland posts planned, one later this week about our road trip through the Scottish Highlands and one next week about hiking on the Isle of Skye. (That second one is going to be a list-style post. Sorry. I know how annoying those are, but desperate times!) I wish I had time to share more, I really do, but I’m confident that even with only three posts, I’ll have you convinced to make the Isle of Skye your next trip anyway!
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