For the last five days, I have been on a magical island. This magical island is sunny, warm, mountainous, beachy, mysterious, colorful, and inhabited primarily by sheep.
If you’ve ever been to Skye, I’d be curious to know if you had an experience like mine. The locals tell me it was nothing short of a miracle: five days straight of sunshine and not a drop of rain. Skye smiled down upon me and my companions.
I packed a raincoat, an umbrella, and some long sleeved shirts for chillier days. What I should have packed were a bathing suit, sandals, and lots of short sleeved tops. Oh, and sunscreen.
But as one of the signs advised us during one of our hiking trips: Expect the unexpected. It became our motto. The entire trip was filled with surprises.
Starting with the train ride from Inverness to Kyle of Lochalsh. They call it the most beautiful train ride in the country, and I believe it. The highlands are dramatic in their own right, but add the glorious sunshine reflecting on loch after shining loch all the way to the island itself and it was breathtaking. We disembarked in the afternoon and, instead of finding a bus, went straight to the edge of the pier to take it all in. We spent a good while just absorbing the vista of mountainous island that we were about to invade. Finally, we hunted down the bus, crossed the bridge and reached our home for the next couple of days: Kyleakin. I think we were all giddy at that point. None of us had expected the sunlight or the heat. And even though we knew we were going somewhere lovely, our surroundings were a bit hard to take in.
We had part of a day, so we hiked up to Castle Moil (pictured above) just outside of the tiny town. The views were perfectly satisfying for our first day on the island. Our cunning, money-saving plan was to bring a whole bunch of snacks and lunch items with us instead of eating out every day, so for a late lunch, we settled on the rocky beach (not the most comfortable, but joy at our surroundings surpassed discomfort) and ate a variety of treats.
It was quiet and peaceful. Hannah brought out her violin and treated us to some fiddling. It fit the scene perfectly. A gathering audience thought so too! Early summer days in the highlands are bright well into the night. Even after ten o’clock, the sun was still on its way down. We enjoyed our first sunset on Skye.The next day, I suppose we might have been “better” tourists if we’d struck out immediately for some well known site, like the Old Man of Storr. But it was hot, clear, and the perfect day for relaxing on the beach. And we were on holiday, weren’t we? Being on holiday means we get to do what we want. So the beach, it was.
Getting to the beach proved to be a bit interesting. While the lady at our hostel assured us that hitchhiking was easy, common, and a great way to get around, our hopeful thumbing resulted mostly in people laughing at us as they drove on past. So we waited for the bus.
Buses are rare creatures on Skye, which we soon learned made traveling anywhere a bit of a trick. The beach we wanted was between three and four miles away from where the bus dropped us off in Broadford Bay. A tourist info shopkeeper pointed us down a road with a doubtful look. We blithely set off. After walking down that road for over a mile and coming slowly to the realization that we were heading away from the water and toward busy roads (as busy as they got, anyway), we detoured into a neighborhood and asked a random person where we were going. He pointed us back the way we came and added that we needed to take a little side road for three miles, cross a pasture, locate an airstrip, and then we’d find our beach. His expression was about as skeptical as the first’s. But we were determined to find it, so we headed off again.
Fortunately, as we were heading down our little gravel road and pining for cool waters and sandy beaches, a car slowed and we were offered a lift from a third local who clearly thought us incapable of finding our beach. We gratefully accepted and five minutes later, we were there. The beach was, indeed, alongside a cow pasture and an air strip and involved some careful maneuvering to reach. But it was a beach. We spent the rest of the day relaxing on the sand or on the long, flat stretches of dark rock, walking along the surf, or wading into the cold water. Families joined us to enjoy the magical period of sunshine that Skye was experiencing. As we were leaving the beach that evening, wondering how exactly we’d get back to Kyleakin some seven miles away, a kind older couple offered us a ride and our problems dissolved. It was a perfect day.