Skye was never a priority on this trip, despite being the most famous Scottish island and known around the world. It was simply one of two connecting islands that enabled me to hop between the islands of my family roots. However, our twenty-four hours on Skye may have been the most ‘Scottish’ day that we experienced on the entire trip, and it became quickly evident why Skye is such a desirable destination.
After leaving Tiree, we took a beautiful sail down the Sound of Mull with our friends Caledonian MacBrayne. We then spent a night in Oban, a quaint ferry port on the mainland, built round a bay on the side of a hill. Between the sea and the aerial views, I fell in love with the town immediately. The next day, we took the West Highland Line, one of the UK’s most scenic train journeys, from Oban up to Mallaig, in order to then take a ferry to Skye. So glad I woke up for that famous view of the Glenfinnan viaduct!
After arriving in Armadale, Skye, by ferry the following morning, and taking the bus up to Broadford to meet Kirsten, we immediately drove east, over the Skye Bridge, back to the mainland. OK, so the first Scottish element of this day wasn’t technically on Skye but for the purposes of this blog post, we will pretend that it was.
The reason for heading back to the mainland was to visit Eilean Donan Castle, the most photographed castle in Scotland, and one that I had shown many of my students when teaching in Japan, despite never having been there myself. The sun was on our side as we pulled into the car park of the castle grounds, prompting a lengthy photo session with my two professional photographer pals.
After our memorable lunch at Eilean Donan, we set off back to the Isle of Skye, though it didn’t take long for us to stop again for the purpose of photography.
Scotland makes me happy. Eilean Donan had been on my bucket list for a number of years. Similarly, Kirsten had always wanted to visit the Fairy Pools, a stunning collection of turquoise pools and waterfalls at the foot of the Black Cuillin, a series of towering peaks in the heart of Skye. By the time we reached the pools, it was a bit cooler and the sun had done a runner. However, that didn’t stop Kirsten fully embracing her lifelong dream. Kudos to you, friend!
We then headed to the Skyewalker Hostel, an award-winning hostel in Portnalong, north of the Fairy Pools. Once a 1920s school building, the space has been turned into a fun, modern, clean and homely space with a very sociable and relaxed atmosphere. Though we were only there overnight, we were struck by how enthusiastic the owner was about the island on which he had chosen to live. That’s what you want/need when you visit a new place. The owner recommended two venues for our evening: Taigh Ailean, five minutes down the road, renowned for its fresh seafood, and The Old Inn, ten minutes drive away in Carbost, acclaimed for its traditional music sessions in the evening. Despite exhaustion setting in on all of us, we decided to do both. And we were not disappointed! Burgers in the first (no renowned seafood for us, thanks), dessert in the second (but seriously, which is better: cranachan or brownie and ice cream?), followed by live traditional Scottish tunes by musicians who seemed to keep multiplying (my ideal way to spend an evening). The perfect conclusion to our brief interlude on the island.
We stayed at Dunheanish Guest House in Oban where our twin room cost £41 per person. This was luxurious accommodation and I’d highly recommend it! The West Highland Line train from Oban to Mallaig cost £32.10 and takes about 5.5 hours, with a 45-minute stopover in Crianlarich. We then paid another £40 per person for our twin room at the Moorings Guesthouse in Mallaig. The following morning, we took a Caledonian MacBrayne ferry from Mallaig on the west coast of the mainland, to Armadale on Skye. This journey takes approximately 40 minutes and costs a bargainous £2.80 for an adult single. An en-suite private twin room at the Skyewalker hostel cost £30.00 per person for one night, whilst a room in a six bed dorm cost £18.50.