“Aye lad, for sure hameldame ole Eilean a’Cheo” was the thickly accented and somewhat incomprehensible drawl of a reply uttered from a rather uncordial elderly local to what I assumed to be a fairly non-pugnacious question “So…, do you enjoy living all the way out here on Skye?”.
‘Hameldaeme’, when pronounced slowly to reveal the veiled syllables, means ‘Hame (or him) will do me’ which, after a bit of pondering and transliteration, I take to imply that the Old Man of Skye with his apparently permanently etched scowl and weather beaten face is pretty happy with his life out on Eilean a’Cheo (the Gallic name for the Isle of Skye). Fair enough.
The Isle of Skye is wedged into the far northwestern reaches of Scotland. Composed of 5 pincer shaped peninsulas deeply incised with sea lochs (drowned river valleys) and inlets radiating out from a central spine, the Isle forms an integral annex to the central Highland belt of the mainland. It is the largest of the Inner Hebrides Islands at 2700km², and derives its name from the Norse word for cloud, ‘Ski’ and ‘Ey’ which means 'island'. The island is still commonly referred to as ‘The Misty Isle’ in accordance with its reputation for frequently inclement, inhospitable weather. Although, as the Isle’s much vaunted saying goes, ‘If you don’t like the weather on Skye, wait five minutes’- which is to say that while the weather is rarely extreme, it is extremely changeable.
There would be no need to endure such climatic dynamism for this band of stoic travelers, however, we had the good fortune of striking three days of irrepressibly balmy weather where the mercury rose to a genial 20.5°C, an unheralded phenomenon at this latitude by all accounts. My pasty and somewhat sickly white skin coloration borne of enduring a miserable Scottish winter temporarily abated as we lapped up the sun for some much needed vitamin D and embarked on three days of intrepid, inquisitive tiki-touring and exploring.
The succession of craggy and serrated peaks, known as the Cuillin Mountains, are undoubtedly the centrepiece of Skye. The Cuillin’s were propelled up from the seabed during the same tumultuous period of earth quakes and cataclysmic volcanic eruptions that shaped the rest of the Scottish Highlands 430 million years ago, and they’ve subsequently been cleaved open and whittled away by the irrepressible force of glacial erosion, fashioning vast U-shaped valleys in-between jagged pinnacles. Reminiscent perhaps of inland Otago and the foothills of the Southern Alps, the Cuillins are adorned with scrambling scree slopes and sporadic patches of low lying, wind ravaged scrub.