I have no idea how many miles we’ve driven or paths we’ve walked in the past two days in our explorations on the Isle of Skye, but I can certainly say that none of it has been dull! Single track roads, sheep roadblocks, muddy boots, wind burned cheeks, rain drops and sunshine, we’ve had it all. The island is much bigger and much more impressive than we imagined; about 50 miles from end to end, but about 400 miles of shoreline with all its twists and turns. There are massive cliffs, sea arches, tidal flats, heather covered hills, waterfalls, and caves.
In addition to all the geological treasures, history abounds from prehistoric times to recent centuries. We walked through an 800 year old castle, some iron age brochs, which are basically hollow walled structures that no one can agree as to their use, and checked out the souterrains, which are long underground storage passages also from the iron age. I think the brochs are amazing because they are rocks that are laid perfectly and without mortar so that the rocks fit together to make a strong wall that has lasted for literally 1,000’s of years!
The landscape on Skye lends itself to magic and legend, history and struggle. Looking into the protected bays or at the ruin of an ancient castle, you can just imagine a Viking long boat rowing in, or the Scottish chiefs fighting a battle to keep their lands intact. The land is a reminder of Clan feuds, battles for independence, and simply the effort to stay alive in a harsh place. At every turn there is a different type of beauty; stark or gentle, peaceful or dramatic.
After two days of awe-inspiring scenery, walks hither and yon, climbing up rocks and slipping down muddy trails, we found ourselves in a gathering – a céilidh! This is something I have dearly wanted to find and it was all that I’d hoped. We sat down at the bar of a small pub that was part of a B&B, and pretty soon people started wandering in with instruments under their arm. And soon, we heard it – the pull of a bow against a fiddle, the strum of a guitar, the plucking of a mandolin, the tapping of a bodhran (a hand-held frame drum). We both looked at each other with grins a mile wide and chills running up our arms. It was magical. So casual, so friendly, so full of life! People would come and go, and even kids would join in occasionally. At one point there were 4 fiddles, a couple of guitars, a mandolin, a couple of drums, a small accordion and even a bag pipe solo by a young boy! Even though some of the musicians obviously hadn’t met, they played together beautifully and you could see them talking to each other as they played, helping to direct the song or add phrasing. A céilidh! A moment I’ll never forget.
We soaked up the music and enjoyed sharing stories with the locals for a couple of hours, then drove back through a misty rain to our B&B in Uig. What a treat this island has been – definitely on our list of places to return to some day!