The Isle of Skye. Even the name sounds mythical. It’s reputation, what little I knew of it, was of a place with spectacular views around every corner. Thus my excitement when, while researching a trip to Scotland, I found a tour option that included this potential feast for the eyes. This stop could be the highlight of the trip.
But how did it measure up?
It had already been a long day of travel before we even boarded the ferry to the island. We’d started in Glasgow, made a stop for a cruise on Loch Lomond, checked out Glen Coe and heard about a black mark in its history, lunched on meat pies in Fort William before taking in a museum and talking over the experience with a quietly solid Scot, got disappointed by our crappy vantage point for the Glenfinnan Viaduct, and motored through the highlands to the coast. The Isle of Skye lay ahead and our guide was ruminating on when to do the island tour: that same evening or the next morning.
This was her quandary. The weather had been deteriorating as the day went on, but it was expected to improve. Eventually. A local guide would lead the tour, presumably he’d have an opinion too.
For me, it was a no-brainer. The forecast I saw didn’t have clearing until late in the day, and I was already bushed from this day’s travels on top of those of prior days. I was all for resting up and waiting for the better weather expected the next morning.
But it wasn’t a democracy, the passengers didn’t get a vote. Once we got to the island, the guides put their heads together and chose to run the island tour that evening, with the hope the weather would clear.
So after checking into the hotel, I took my grouchy self to the bus for the island tour and prayed for no rain. It didn’t look promising. As the ferry picture hints, it had been raining and blustery for the entire crossing, and although we’d see the occasional break in the clouds, rainy and blustery it remained.
Once on the island tour, there were several impediments to good photography.
It rained so much the bus windows became a water besmeared mess that was hard to see through for both human and camera. The human view through the window was akin to waking up at some ungodly hour with crud encrusted eyes, blearily trying to make sense of a fuzzy world. The camera was also confused. Autofocus wanted to focus on the besmeared window rather than the landscape, leaving smears and streaks of rain in relative focus and the landscape an indistinct blur. Switching to manual focus on the landscape was the only option, with the occasional hazard of my thumb’s autopilot kicking in and triggering autofocus anyway.
When the rain eased enough for at least part of the window to clear, the landscape peering through was none too clear from all the water in the air. The view went beyond a moody, misty look and into a distance obscuring haze.
But what of stops? What of viewpoints, places to disembark, places where under cover of hood or umbrella, free of bleary windows, at least some specter of drama or mood might be sussed out?
Nope. Not a one. I don’t know if it was the inclement weather or the schedule relative to dinner, but the most we could do when promising points came up, and there were a few despite the conditions, was wave at them as we drove past.
So, I shot very little, and have but one picture to share from the evening tour.
And even this one took a bunch of editing to clear up smear and reflections.
What there was of the tour followed the main road north, with a turnaround point partway up at some spot I could not identify. This limited run, combined with the poor visibility, barely gave the island a sense of place. Even in good weather, there would not have been enough time to give it a fair shake. But at least there were rainbows.
Unicorns not included.
By the next morning the weather was changing. Blue sections of sky jousted with grey, bright sun with rain showers. After breakfast I walked to a jetty near the hotel, and with cell phone in hand fired off a few shots.
Although we arrived at the island via ferry, there was an alternative route out.
Here in the USA, if someone mentions a sky bridge it refers to an enclosed bridge over a street, connecting two buildings. In Scotland, it’s something else. Beginning in 1995, the Scots opened a bridge connecting the Isle of Skye with the Scottish mainland. The Skye Bridge crosses a main span of about 1500 feet, then runs on the small island of Eilean Bàn for 1700 feet, followed by a shorter 650 foot span to the mainland. For us, it provided two things: a quicker way off the island, and a raised point that gave the most dramatic views of our excursion to Skye.
(Click on any picture for a larger view)
So was our trip to Skye a boon or a bust? The simple answer is both. It was a boon we could make the excursion at all. The short time we had and the weather blanketing that time was a bust. The rainbows, the morning harbor, and the drama of the clearing stormy skies upon our exit was a boon. The conclusion?
This place deserves a longer revisit. The Skyes the limit.