Sunday, April 11, 2010

Isle of Skye - day one

I recently wrote about missing my car, but there is nothing quite like a long, comfortable train ride through beautiful scenery with a good friend and lots of coffee. There Nell & I were on Monday morning, riding from Edinburgh up to Inverness, then west through the highlands to Kyle of Lochalsh, gateway to the Isle of Skye, our destination for the week.

If you can get past all the crap in the seats, you'll see some beautiful scenery whooshing by.

The train passed hills and valleys and passed tons of sparkling lochs like this one:

After about 8 hours in transit, we arrived. The old woman sitting next to me reminded me not to drink too much Talisker (that's the local whisky). We were now in the small town of Portree, which is the capital of Isle of Skye. I didn't know islands could have capitals, but I guess it is similar to a state having a capital city. We wandered a few minutes up the hill to Mrs. Milne's Bed & Breakfast where her teenaged grandson saw us to our cute, cozy room. We carried on to dinner at a local Inn where we chatted with the bartender about things to do. We turned in early to prepare for a morning hike up to see the Old Man of Storr, considered one of the best spots on the island.

Our first full day started with us missing the bus to the head of the trail because the times were posted wrong. This apparently happens a lot on Skye. So we took a taxi, saving our hitchhiking energy for later.

The hike was incredible. One of the prettiest trails I've been on. Everything was so RICH and fresh looking. Nell and I both kept having the urge to stick our hands in the peaty soil.

The higher we ascended, the less we could see. A thick mist rolled in, and it made the whole area feel totally mystical and magical, as if an elf would pop out and give us directions in the form of a cryptic riddle. Or maybe a fair maiden on a white steed would trot by followed by her dark knight. This easily could have been the trail the Lord of the Rings crew used to get to Mordor. Seriously, all these things kept popping up in my head. It was just so beautiful and cinematic. At one point I made the assertion that "I now understand why people get into live-action role playing".

Hiking the Old Man of Storr on this foggy day, I didn't just want to see a fair maiden on a white steed, I wanted to be the fair maiden on a white steed. Strange, I know.

Whilst singing a chorus to the great Irish folk tune "Wild Mountain Thyme", I heard someone piping in the lyrics from up ahead. Such commenced our friendship with a very jolly, educated tour guide named Neil and his crew of MacBackpacker tourists from Asia, all wearing cute little tennis shoes and colorful Wellies. As we descended, he also introduced us to some of his old college buddies who he had happened upon on the trail. They shared some whisky out of a flask with an engraving of a thistle plant. Oh, Scotland!

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