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Monday, 23 March 2009

The Isle of Skye: a Microcosm of the Scottish Highlands - Page 3

Written by Clint Cameron
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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?”.

After an amiable day spent out in the boat with faces inundated by the iridescent reflective glare of the sun, it was time to meander back to the petite little fishing village of Kyleakin. Until the bridge connecting Skye to the mainland was completed in 1995, Kyleakin served as the main ferry terminal for passenger’s crossing over Loch Alsh from the village of Kyle of Lochalsh. By the time we got back, of course, ‘Ahm be spewin’ feathers’ (another local term meaning, apparently, ‘I am particularly thirsty’) and there was no better place to soak up the early evening sun than indulging at Saucy Mary’s. The Isle of Skye: a Microcosm of the Scottish Highlands, The Isle of Skye, northwestern Scotland, Inner Hebrides Islands, Cuillin Mountains, Scottish Highlands, Glenbrittle, Sligachan, Loch Coruisk, Kyleakin, Portree, travel scotland, Clint CameronWith a constant influx of tourists, tour buses, and live music most nights mixed with a token smattering of locals, Saucy Mary’s is a jovial and raucous spot with festivities routinely kicking on well into the early hours.

King Haakon (so named in reference to the Isle’s Viking heritage) is Kyleakin’s other main establishment. It boasts a superb restaurant stocked with a fine selection of fresh, locally sourced and succulent seafood including scallops, lobsters and langoustine (fleshy mussels), complemented by a wide range of wines and whiskeys to be enjoyed whilst overlooking the bay.

The Isle of Skye: a Microcosm of the Scottish Highlands, The Isle of Skye, northwestern Scotland, Inner Hebrides Islands, Cuillin Mountains, Scottish Highlands, Glenbrittle, Sligachan, Loch Coruisk, Kyleakin, Portree, travel scotland, Clint CameronThe sun does not set on Skye during the summer months until well after 11.00 p.m. The residual afterglow of dusk lingers on in the west while an eerie, strengthening radiance in the eastern sky proclaims the arrival of the sun, creating an atmosphere of seemingly perpetual daylight. At this latitude, the Aurora Borealis or the Northern Lights can sometimes be seen on clear nights as hyper-charged electrons dance to the tune of the Earth’s magnetic field producing mesmerising displays of shimmering radiance.

The premature return of the sun heralded the arrival of another remarkably glorious day, and so it was that we set off in earnest to explore the northern third of the Isle, albeit at a rather leisurely pace not half indebted to Skye’s notoriously winding, single lane roads (a legacy, like much of the older quarters in the cities and townships of Britain, of roads designed for single horse drawn carriage). While they add character and reflect the Island’s archetypical relaxed pace of life they can make traveling rather pedestrian at times. This tended to be particularly exacerbated by the frequent stops from the interludes of black-faced sheep which, followed attentively by their little spring lambs, ambled obliviously across the road to gnaw on sappy roadside grasses. The other livestock characteristic of Skye is the hardy Highland cattle or “’airy kow’s” (hairy cows) as we took delight in saying. Adorned with elegant, widely splayed horns and splendidly flowing auburn locks masking perceptive eyes, highland cattle are a result of centuries of selective breeding to produce a breed well capable of enduring the harsh Scottish climate.

The stark bleakness of the landscape can be disconcerting, and we often wondered how the locals manage to cope with Scotland’s wettest island, where it rains 250 days a year with rainfall averages 1200 mm per year in lower lying parts and up to 3000mm per year in the Cuillins. The majority of the island is farmed, with green pastures riddled by tuffs of wind-sheared tussock on the plains and lower lying moorlands embalmed by damp, spongy sphagnum mosses. Few crops are able to be coaxed out of the Isle’s sodden, boggy ground. Perhaps that’s part of what makes the Isle unique and why it exudes such ruffian charm.

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Last modified on Sunday, 16 December 2012

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