S is for Skye

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On the way to Skye

This A to Z could have been Sydney, or San Francisco, two extraordinarily beautiful places and back to which I have been drawn on more than one occasion. But because they are so iconic I’m torn between the two and instead will plump for the Isle of Skye, off the west coast of Scotland, part of the Inner Hebrides.

I first heard of Skye at primary school in lessons about Bonnie Prince Charlie and the 1745 rebellion. We were taught a glamorised story of the underdog’s derring-do against the superior English forces. The bloodshed – mostly caused by the despicable English in the eyes of our Scottish teacher – was rather cartoonish as I recall and the fact a lot of lowland Scots fought with the English underplayed. I remember her Scottish country dancing lessons (and a spell in a neck brace as a result) as well as the singing of a really rather good and uplifting folk song, the chorus of which goes

 Speed, bonnie boat, like a bird on the wing,
Onward! the sailors cry;
Carry the lad that’s born to be King
Over the sea to Skye.

I wanted to go.

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Loch Lomond is cold at any age

Roll the clock on 20 years and the Textiliste and I began our love affair with Scotland which continues to this day. We bought our first car in 1983 and holidayed in Scotland for the first time in 1984 – somewhere near Oban. We went back for every year for the next ten years, working our way up the west coast – Strontian, Glen Nevis, Plockton, the Applecross Peninsula. After a pause  with the children small and long drives less than popular we started up again in 1998 and pretty much haven’t missed a year since.


Plockton is beautiful, except from a skiff bobbing in the harbour. Our friends enjoyed themselves..

I don’t remember exactly what year we first crossed to Skye. In the mid 80s that meant a ferry to Kyle of Lochalsh. Now there’s a bridge but there’s something romantic – perhaps bringing back memories of sun dappled classrooms – in driving onto a ferry (even one as battered as the Caledonian Macbrayne boat), as the sun dipped of an evening – we knew it wouldn’t set until after midnight – such a bizarre experience this all day sunshine and something I’ve never really become accustomed to.

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Queuing for car ferries is a fact of life amongst the islands… Might as well smile even in that sweat shirt….

From there we’d drive to Portree, for haggis, neeps and tatties followed by a cloutie dumpling and custard perhaps. It might not be subtle food but it packs a punch and I love it.

Topographically Skye, for me, is  a curious mix. Sympathetic on the eye as you drive around, the lowland areas you are always aware that soon enough you’ll encounter the sharp-pointed Cuillin. These towering mountains, especially the Black Cuillin are both exhilarating to walk amongst, not least for the scree running, but scary as paths disappear and no compass works amongst these magnetic massifs.

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Most of the natives are penned in

One time a close friend and I walked the length of Glen Sligachan with the Red Cuillin looming above us. From our guide book, the only challenge appeared to be fording the river. The guide books said it was easy. What they didn’t explain, beyond a note on the hand drawn map that came with it, was this thing called the ‘Bad Step’.

This bad step was in fact a huge smooth Boulder at least twenty feet high that blocked the path and hung over the North Atlantic, not the most forgiving of water features. Boy did it look scary.

In fact it proved straightforward, once your taken your mind to a different place and decided you weren’t walking back the way you’d come. Overcoming it gave us both a huge boost and we finished the rest, ford and all in good time.

You forget the details, don’t you? I recommended the walk to a work colleague – ‘you’ll be fine’ I said. I didn’t realise he would take his young family. His daughter, twelve, slipped and broke her jaw. I felt guilty, of course, as did he. I stopped recommending walks after that.

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The vet loved and still loves the wild outdoors – maybe that’s why she’s becoming a vet?

We also discovered a gem of a place to eat. We came across the Three Chimneys restaurant in 1987 I think, purely by chance. it hadn’t been open long. It’s in the middle of nowhere, Colbost from memory, but worth the trek. These days you need to book

We are going back to Skye this June on our way to Harris and Lewis and our first visit to the outer Hebrides. Two nights in Portree and some sight seeing before the ferry. Maybe we will pop in again. I’m sure we will enjoy it and so, I’m sure will you.

PS if you are English and contemplating visiting, be advised of one thing. Following the Act of Union in 1707 or whenever the Scottish Enlightenment movement genetically modified their midge population – if you are not familiar with the midge they are a sort of flying piranha – so that they feed best on English blood. There’s no protection.

About TanGental

My name is Geoff Le Pard. Once I was a lawyer; now I am a writer. I've published several books: a four book series following Harry Spittle as he grows from hapless student to hapless partner in a London law firm; four others in different genres; a book of poetry; four anthologies of short fiction; and a memoir of my mother. I have several more in the pipeline. I have been blogging regularly since 2014, on topic as diverse as: poetry based on famous poems; memories from my life; my garden; my dog; a whole variety of short fiction; my attempts at baking and food; travel and the consequent disasters; theatre, film and book reviews; and the occasional thought piece. Mostly it is whatever takes my fancy. I avoid politics, mostly, and religion, always. I don't mean to upset anyone but if I do, well, sorry and I suggest you go elsewhere. These are my thoughts and no one else is to blame. If you want to nab anything I post, please acknowledge where it came from.
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27 Responses to S is for Skye

  1. I loved the Hebrides: https://everypicturetellsone.wordpress.com/2012/10/31/weekly-photo-challenge-2-foreign-islay/

    We got the CalMac 17 day (?) pass and blitzed most of them. Spent less time on Skye, seemed too near to the mainland, can’t remember if it was pre-bridge or not, loved the smaller less busy ones.

    Take lots and lots of photos. Looking foward to them. It was one of my best holidays ever.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. My only experience of the Inner Hebrides is one holiday and one honeymoon on Colonsay in the early 1990s. Teenage kids bored silly on the first trip – they weren’t invited on the second – but we loved it both times.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. noelleg44 says:

    Wonderful fun! I know what haggis is, but what is “neeps and tatties followed by a cloutie”? Got me singing, “You take the high road and I’ll take the low road…”


  4. Anabel Marsh says:

    I much prefer the Outer to the Inner Hebrides! You are in for a treat. We contemplated them this year but are going further north to Orkney and Shetland.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. willowdot21 says:

    Our first holiday together was up that way we started off in Fort William, we had driven all the way from London in our ex police car, Mini. We had a wonderful time and drove for miles we went on the ferry, we got lost! We drove a whole day not seeing another car! Then as the light was going and so was out petrol we came upon a cottage with a petrol pump outside we knocked on the door and after a series of strange grunts and words an old ( probably not that old but he looked it ) man came out and filled our car… it actually looked as if he was pumping the fuel up from a well a hundred foot down!
    We loved it every minute of it except the midges, we were staying in a static caravan on the shores of a huge Loch which was lovely but midge infested!! ………. Say No More!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. legreene515 says:

    What a wonderful post. I’ve never heard of Skye. Looks like a beautiful place to visit.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Autism Mom says:

    Your clear love of the place has convinced me we’ll have to put Skye and the Hebrides on our list of places to visit – maybe a trip just the hubby and me some coming year…

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Norah says:

    Lovely post, Geoff, though my internet is not displaying your photos at the moment. I’ll have to come back for those. I first heard of Skye in that song too, which sounded so romantic, a beautiful tune. I would have had no idea what it was about. Scotland must be a romantic place to keep you and the Textiliste going back for more. I don’t like the sound of a neck brace, or a broken jaw, though. One must take care, obviously – not to mention the birds!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. trifflepudling says:

    When my sister was little, she thought it was “Peabonnybo” (for Speed, Bonny Boat), and that’s how it’s always referred to now. What a nice post – want to go back now! Although Skye is the only place I’ve ever had serious blisters. Had to buy a pair of wellies in Ullapool for the rest of the hols, but they got me up Liathach!

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Charli Mills says:

    So glad you went with Skye. I first heard of the Isle in a romance novel I read as a teen. 🙂 In the states, we definitely have romantic notions of Scotland. My family (Kincaid) was on the Bonnie Prince Charlie side and lost all lands, but according to family legend, had enough silver to escape with their lives to the colonies. They brought cattle with them and were among the first ranchers from the American east to push cattle into the gold fields of California in 1852. Those are my buckaroo roots — displaced Scots that became California cowboys. I don’t recall shaggy cattle, though. Ours were black Angus.

    Liked by 1 person

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