Thursday 29 Dec 2016
After taking the ladies out to lunch at their choice, the Aros Centre, they had the hairdresser coming in the afternoon, so we were dismissed early.Can’t meet the New Year looking like a boorach.
We now had the late afternoon to ourselves which we hadn’t bargained for.What to do? It was after 2pm so there were only a couple of hours of daylight left for a walk.Dithered about going up the Old Man of Storr then came up with the Fairy Pools, thinking it might be more sheltered from the ferocious wind.It was 40mph at times with even stronger gusts.
Meanwhile, the cloud was lifting a bit over the Black Cuillin and the light had improved no end.Always a silver lining when the wind whips up; the cloud tends to lift and blow over.
When the elemental Black Cuillin are clear, it’s impossible not to stop at Sligachan. There are a couple of laybys above the hotel, off the main road which give superb views.The mountains were looking magnificent with Marsco and Sgurr nan Gillean sitting sentinel upon the wild moorland.It’s a show stopper of a view, a primeval landscape of grand proportions.
No matter how often we see it , we are mesmerised.It always looks different- time of year or day, ever-changing light, weather effects.There’s always something new to gasp at.In a country with wow views round every corner, this is one of my Top 10.
We finally arrived at the Fairy Pools car park around 3pm.It was mobbed! Squeezed into one of the few spaces left and got the boots and waterproofs on pronto, conscious of how little time we had to see it all before darkness descended.
The track has been much improved recently, it’s far drier and less slithery and we marched downhill quickly towards the river.Previously, there was a good chance you’d go flying on the greasy, muddy surface but no longer.
The walk takes you into an amphitheatre of 3,000 foot high rocky mountains , which rising straight up from the moorland. It’s dominated by the unusual split rock face of Waterpipe Gully, part of Sgurr an Fheadain, the Peak of the Chanter and so called because of its shape.
What an incredibly wild scene we were walking into now! For such little effort, to be immersed so quickly in that mountain majesty! It took us 15 minutes to reach the first of the turquoise, crystal clear pools that provide such a fabulous foreground to the dark, brooding peaks ahead.
They really are almost unreal in colour and on a hot summer’s day, what a place to swim.There are waterfalls all around and today, as the wind buffeted us severely at times, spume was being whipped up vertically into the air. Alarmingly, there were a few parents who were allowing quite young children to perch on the over-hangs, right on the river’s steep, broken edges and courting Nemesis.
We walked up to the highest point, the finest viewpoint of all, with a deep turquoise pool creating a gorgeous foreground in front of a waterfall, behind which the Black Cuillin brooded over all.No wonder this short walk is so popular.As long as you are adept at hopping over boulders to cross several tributary rivers, it’s an easy wander.
The wind really hit us on the way back though with 40 -50 mph gusts just about taking the legs from me, though Chris managed better.It made balance difficult especially when boulder hopping.But we soon made it back onto the wider track then headed uphill to the car park.
We’d also passed a huge boulder where Chris’s grandfather’s photo was taken early in the 20th century.He was a gamekeeper, crofter and part time lay preacher, running a farm at Drynoch.Chris’s Mum was the youngest of 9 children, a not uncommon size of family in those days.And very well fed they were too with the finest milk and cheese and butter (all homemade), their own beef and lamb, black pudding, fresh eggs, fish, haggis.I would love to have tasted those homemade scones, always made with buttermilk! It’s a way of life long gone and I love hearing Rena talking about it. I think much has been lost, much wisdom and sense of community and interdependence since those days; a harder time yes, but slower paced, less frantic.
The whole walk had taken an hour, even with me taking countless photos and scrabbling about down by the river itself.There can be few other walks anywhere to match the spectacle and beauty experienced in that short time.
Cafe Sia, Broadford
Stopped in Broadford and popped in to Cafe Sia which I’d been meaning to try for a while.Very nice inside with an extensive coffee and tea menu as well as reasonably priced pizzas, burgers, pasta and mussels n’ chips etc.Opted for a Darjeeling tea and a first class Brownie(more like Tiffin but I love Tiffin so all was forgiven).Chris had a glass of Chenin Blanc.The plates of food passing us looked good too.Will need to give it a proper try another time.Several Ceilidhs and music sessions and dances advertised all over the place for Hogmanay and New Year’s Day.
Another 20 minutes saw us at the charming Eilean Iarmain (Isle Ornsay) hotel in Sleat, one of our favourite spots on Skye.It was pitch dark by now so we couldn’t see anything except the brilliant fairy lights decorating the outside of this famous, very Gaelic Inn.It’s a 4 star small hotel in the most beautiful location you could wish for.
Am Praban bar, all woodlined and cosy with a roaring fire, does good pub food, well above average.Background music is usually good Scottish traditional tunes, foot-tapping stuff. The small room was jam packed when we got in at 6pm but we managed to get a table.Chris had more wine and I had a sherry as we waited for my nephew, Matthew.
What a lovely, lovely evening it turned out to be.Good food – mussels for us and a haggis, neeps and tatties starter for Matthew; then fish and chips for the guys and Confit Duck Leg for me with a green peppercorn sauce and red cabbage.Superb.And great company. Listened to my young nephew’s tales of all the places he’s now worked in as a locum pharmicist recently…..Shetland and Stornoway, Newcastle and Perthshire.Incredibly, after leaving his home in Glasgow at 4am yesterday, he started his first shift in Kyle at 8.30am, worked till 5.30, got a message from friends in Inverness and drove there for the evening, doing the journey via Achnasheen in 90mins! Then back to Kyle by 4am.Started work again at 8.30am this morning. It was exhausting just hearing about it.Oh to be young.
Two of Chris’s brothers joined us for a while, Coinneach and Robbie.So all in, a great night.
An hour’s drive from Sleat back to the house later, roads quiet but it’s not a drive I find easy in the dark on unlit roads with my poorish night sight (my contact lenses work great in daytime but I’ve always struggled with them at night.)
Another great day on Skye – as they usually turn out to be.
Friday 30th Dec – rest day
A lazy day of relentless heavy rain which lasted for 24 hours more or less, the worst weather we’ve ever had on Skye. Were tired anyway after the past two days, so relaxed at home.Made Dauphinoise potatoes for 12 people, our contribution to the Hogmanay dinner on Saturday.
Sat 31st Dec – Hogmanay
Off to family for lunch in lovely Sleat (again), taking ‘the girls ‘, with us this time.Still pretty wet most of the day.Another of Chris’s brothers had recently moved to Sleat with his wife so we had a tour of their beautiful new property with its ceiling to floor windows.Had a lovely afternoon and Jo is a good cook….. starters of parma ham and melon; followed by a tasty haddock and salmon fish pie then cheese and biscuits.Stuffed full and we had dinner at night to come too.(No wonder I’d already put on about 5lbs this month alone)
Then out to Hogmanay dinner at 7.30pm.Stars sparkling like diamonds now and the air icy cold.
It was a really lovely night of good company, laughter, catching up with everyone amd Chris’s nephew Tascal piping us in to 2017, dressed in full Highland regalia.Great food – smoked salmon canapes, parma ham and melon starter, roast haunch of Skye venison and a bramble jus, dauphinoise (my contribution), carrots and butternut squash, red cabbage.Then cheese and biscuits and dessert wine; and finally, a selection of desserts; homemade trifle, lemon meringue gateaux(gorgeous) and mixed berries and cream.Chocolates served with coffee and tea, though most were too focused on enjoying the wine to move onto tea (except me so I stuffed myself on those too.Well, someone had to do it.)
Caught the Bells countdown on TV…10,9, 8……..Happy New Year!!!! Hugs all round, a few teary eyes.I always think of my father at this time and miss him dreadfully.Then, as is the way now, we were all on our phones ‘Whats Apping’ family and friends elsewhere.Got a brilliant photo from Gregor and Vernice sharing a £31 (ouch) cocktail on the 118th floor of Hong Kong’s Ritz Carlton.They were 9 hours ahead of us, celebrating their last day together before another long , long separation.
We had an earlish start on the 1st with a 5.5 hr drive south to Glasgow to have dinner with my eldest son, Alasdair, so we headed off at 1.30am back to the house , giving a lift to Chris’s niece and a friend who were ready to throw the towel in too.
Next day: a photo journey of the incredible journey from Skye southwards to Glasgow