Friday, 14 July 2017

Scottish wanderings - part 5

Monday 19 June - Isle of Skye

After breakfast we headed out down the island towards the south towards the Sleat Peninsula.

We diverted to visit the ruin of an old church, Kilchrist, that Jen had read about. The church stood on a rise next to a single lane road that ran west from Broadford. We were to see many church in a similar state across the highlands. As the population has moved away from areas there is no one left to maintain the church. Still, they do remain as the spiritual focus for families as evidenced by the continuing use of the churchyards for burials.

Up until this time I had only seen miniature specimens of scotch thistles. That all changed at this old church where I came across a thistle that looked like what I expected a scotch thistle to look like!

Walking around the churchyard was not without its hazards. The ground was very uneven and was liberally splattered with sheep poo from the resident sheep.

Returning to Broadford it was time for a coffee stop. The place we selected (there was a choice!) provided to be particularly slow for no apparent reason. They just didn't managed to make any coffee for almost half an hour ... and no explanation, either.

The day was very still without a ripple on the lochs we passed. The reflections in the water were a real treat. Not only that, there was actually some blue sky.

Throughout Scotland we had come across post boxes and phone booths in odd spots. Sometimes they were together but not always. It appeared quite random whether there would be one, and which one, or both. Today we spotted a phone booth nestled beside the road but with obvious track to the door.

At every turn there were great views across the water and towards mountains that lined the far shore.

By the time we reached Armidale Castle, the spiritual home of Clan Donald, we opted for lunch before tackling the extensive gardens. it was a wise choice.

While the grounds of Armidale are well maintained, the castle is a recent ruin having only been abandoned by the MacDonald family in the 1900s. They actually dismantled part of the castle and took it with them to their new abode. Only part of teh castle still stands and event that is considered unstable. Still, the grounds were impressive and the views fantastic.

On leaving Armidale we headed north. It looked as if the weather would hold so we wanted to make the most of it.

North of Portree is Old Man of Storr. The Old Man is a huge pinnacle of rock standing in front of the Storr Ridge which rise to around 2,300 feet. It was impressive. Finding a parking spot was not easy with the small carpark full and vehicles lined up on each side of the narrow road. In addition, there were buses to contend with, too, big tourist buses!

There were some great views, too

Loads of people were making the climb up the track leading to Storr Ridge
Just inside the Storr park I came across one of the small thistles that I had seen quite regularly throughout the places we had been whilst in Scotland. It is a particularly thorny plant with dark purple flowers are are often clustered. My hand was right next to the thistle when I took this photo.

Not far from this spiney plant was another one which was truly delightful. I had come across a number of small native orchids with tiny purple flowers. The one I found had a huge cluster of flowers all over the stem. Absolutely gorgeous!

There was more to see in the north of Skye and we continued on.

The Kilt Rock Waterfall was our next stop. The vertiginous 200 feet high cliffs were something worth seeing in their own right. They resemble the pleats of a kilt so the name is quite apt. In addition to the cliffs is a gushing waterfall where the water tumbles into the sea below.

To add to the experience, there was a piper present to entertain the visitors. I'm not sure whether he was collecting for a worthy cause (which could have been him) or not but he was certainly collecting a fair bit of money.

As we continued along the coastal road we kept having views of the rugged landscape, lochs (or was it the sea?) and scattered islands.

On the northern tip of Skye can be found the ruins of Duntulm Castle. It stands overlooking a glorious sweep of a bay.

 Having walked up to inspect the ruins we were a little disappointed that we could not get very close as the site is considered too unstable and risky.

This section of the coast was rugged, too.

Heading south we stopped at Kilmuir which boasts a collection of traditional thatched blackhouses which show how islanders used to live. Unfortunately we could not see around the site as it closed at 5 o'clock and it was already past that time. Still, we were able to look at the buildings and items placed around the site from outside the fence.

A short distance from the museum was a cemetery which houses a monument to Flora MacDonald who helped Bonnie Prince Charlie escape capture.

It was almost 6:45pm by the time we arrived back in Portree after a great day exploring the Isle of Skye.

Given the problems with securing a table for dinner the night before I ducked into one of the highly fancied eateries and asked for a table for 7:30pm. That was sort of doable. After returning to our abode and having a coffee we headed out arriving at the restaurant a little ahead of 7:30pm. We, along with quite a few other people were invited to sit in the area out front and wait for a table. The outside group was variously drinking wine, beer and coffee and some were tucking into deserts which looked unbelievable scrumptious.

We did get our table a little after 7:30pm and enjoyed a much nicer dining experience that had been the case on the previous night. While the place was packed the staff were attentive and the food was good.

With dinner complete we headed off to take some photos of Portree.

For the first time in ages I thought that it may be possible to get some sunset shots so I headed off to the highest point I could find in the town. It was well after 10pm and the rooves of the houses intruded on the scene but I did manage to get some photos.

Note the golden hue on the land across the water

It had been a great day on Skye and while we did not do any of the walks that I thought we might tackle it had certainly been a day full of diverse and wonderful scenery. 

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