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From Durnness to Skye

 

 

 

We are glad to leave Durness and set out for Skye. During the past days hurricane Hector was raging here. Damages were limited but the TV system broke down. It did not matter much because the heating in the living room did not work anyway and TV evenings were cancelled.

Once before, many years ago, we have been to Skye, by train and with backpacks. At that time there only was a ferry to the island. A ferry is still existing, as it is the last and only rotation ferry in the world. More about that later.

We are starting with surprisingly good weather...

The scenery is flying along and offers any number of interesting views. This route certainly is one of the most beautiful ones of Scotland. We are driving along the long Kyle of Durness. Somewhat more than 160 miles are ahead of us now.

One of those "lonely rides" we love so much. We meet few vehicles only and the landscape is terrific.

 

 

Partly straight stretches, then big dippers. Everyone can meet his taste here.

 

Only the weather in the meantime changed its mind and rain is pouring down. The saying that in Scotland each glen has its own weather is wrong today. Rain all over. 

When the rain ceases a little, we reach another highlight: the bridge of Kylesku. It looks majestic and gigantic.

It crosses Loch Gleann Dubh and connects the towns of Kylestrome and Unapool.

By now we approach the first stopover, Ullapool at Loch Broom, but before this we shall pass Ardvreck Castle...

Erected by the McLeoad clan end of the 15th century, this castle ruin is located on a peninsular in Loch Assynt.

The rain simply will not stop and we are glad to reach the small coastal town of Ullapool at Loch Broom. The town is charming but with all the rain and without an accomodation we prefer another time for a longer stay.

Our actual destination is getting closer and closer and the steady rain cannot sink our spirits. Anyway, we have to take care as we are on the 'Celtman Thriatlon' route and meet quite a number of soaked bicycle racers. There are sports I'm not really keen on...   

For the 'Celtman' you have to swim across a Loch, run 23 km across high plains and mountains, and go 200 km by bike. However, if you like to register, you can do it here:  Celtman

Behind Kinlochewe the bikers turn off and soon the relieving sign for Skye shows up ahead of us. 

Soon we are reaching Kinlochewe and get a first view of the Skye Bridge.

As mentioned before, this bridge did not exist on our first tour with backpack and tent, it was finished only in 1995.

It has a total length of 500 metres and a clearance height of about 30 metres. 

A few more miles only and we cross the bridge. Our next stop is the small town of Broadford to get supplies. 

The streets are obviously better here and financing is mainly due to EU-Funding like so many other things in Scotland as well as Wales and England. Hear me, English Parliament?!

Done - destination reached!

A pleasant surprise is waiting for us: different to our last cottage we even find a blazing fire in the fire-place. And in the kitchen we are made welcome by a 'Victoria Sponge'.

May the Skye-adventure beginn!

 


 

 

Kylerhea - The last Rotating Ferry in the World

 

 

 

On NDR3 TV we years ago saw a documentation about the last rotating car ferry in the world. This ferry crosses the Kyle Rhea - therefore the name - and connects Skye with the mainland, i.e. Glenelg.

Of course this was a "must have" on our journey and the route to Khylerhea took us through a divine region as you hardly ever will find again.

Sometime before the Skye-Bridge we had to turn right and could not stop marvelling.

Sure, the road became bumpy and difficult but it was just the landscape we were looking for!

Time seems to have stopped here, nothing but loneliness and a scenery where one would love to spend the rest of one's life.

Only a few sheep and roe could be seen on the way, beyond that... 

Here really the journey was the reward. Then we reached the actual destination, the last rotation ferry on this planet, but the car ferry still is at the opposite bank. We have time to look about us...

We either caught a good time or there are comfortably few passengers. 

Obviously we are the only ones waiting here for the ferry which still is at the opposite bank at Glenelg.

We can see how the ramps of the ferry are lifted up before it starts.

Slowly and leisurely the ferry comes chugging across the water. But actually it only takes a few minutes.

Now the ship has landed. A young woman jumps onto the jetty and ties the ferry up.

Now, that's thrilling. The passengers have to get off after all. Lets see how it works.

The captain gets off and the two of them together turn the platform plus cars plus passengers. 

Then the two ramps are lowered again and the passengers leave the vessel.

"Wanna get along?" the captain of the 'Glenachulish' calls out to us. What a question!

Well, that's what the last rotation car ferry of the world looks like. Not really complicated, is it? There are no further passengers so that we have the honour to be the only ones for the next crossing.

We just drive across the ramp onto the ferry. The rest is the task of the captain and his helper. We can get off the car and watch how the ramps are lifted. Here we go! 

Well, not right now. Of course both ramps have to be up so that nothing rolls into the water. 

We are leaving Kylrhea behind us. It's windy and bad weather. But that doesn't matter.

Our crossing to Glenelg is accompanied by a curious seal.

We reach Glenelg with its small lighthouse. Pity, the crossing was much too short.

Now the ramps are lowered again and we roll ashore.

That was that. Lunch time for the captain and his crew.

 


 

 

Eilean Donan Castle

 

 

We decide to return via Shiel Bridge along Loch Duich. At first the route seems to be a good choice.

Close to Shiel Bridge - at Ratagan - the view from the parking lot is overwhelming and we make a break.

We pass the waterfalls and then meet a sign. I'm very much afraid that now there is no other choice and this cup will not pass from me.

Right, okay, I'll give in. The weather is rotten and so there are few visitors at this tourists' highlight. So we'll go to see the castle, also inside with overcharged entrance fee and all. 

The rain increased and we wait a while until walking over to the castle.

Eilean Donan Castle today is owned by the Conchra Foundation created by the Macrae clan and is used as a museum.

Now, this is the entrance to the Macrae's ancestral seat.

In April 1719, 300 soldiers under the command of George Keith, 10th Earl Marischal, landed at Loch Duich as part of the Spanish support of the Jacobites and occupied Eilean Donan Castle. Anyway, as the promised main support from Spain failed to appear, the expected revolt of the Jacobite Highlanders did not take place. Subsequently, the Royal Navy sent three frigates to the region, reaching the castle by May 10th.

The Spanish soldiers shot with muscets at the negotiator who approached in a dinghi. On this the frigates openend the fire at the castle. The shooting lasted for one and a half day until a group from the frigates stormed the castle and took the 44 survivors as prisoners. Among the supplies found there were more than 300 barrels of gunpowder which were used to blast  Eilean Donan Castle.

Eilean Donan Castle was build around 1220 by Alexander II as defence against Viking raids.

Loch Alsh in the background. Eilean Dinan Castle at Loch Duich to the right.

In 1912 Lt. Col. John MacRae-Gilstrap bought the ruin and began with first restoration works. In this he was assisted by a local stone mason, Farquhar MacRae, who „claimed to have had a dream in which he saw, in the most vivid detail, exactly the way the castle originally looked“.

The complete restoration was performed between 1920 and 1932. Different to the original plans, the stone bridge for access was built as well as a war memorial for the soldiers of the Macrae clan killed in World War I.

Now and then the spirits of the past are looking through the castle windows...

...while in the kitchen, like centuries ago, everything is done for the support of the inhabitants of the castle.

This double bed is a few sizes too small for today's ideas of course...

After the death of MacRae-Gilstrap in 1937 the castle remained unihabited and was opened as museum to the public in 1955.

The restoration costs are estimated at 250.000 £.

This castle is one of the most photographed motives in Scotland. More than 310,000 visitors are counted per year and thus take Eilean Donan Castle to the third rank as to castles visited in Scotland.

Ranking first of course at a long, lonely distance is Edinburgh Castle, followed by Braemar Castle.

We've seen enough now and it has been worth the visit after all. It will not be the last castle on this tour. Anyway, we will like the next one better, which is to come in a few days. Just wait and see. 

After getting a few souvenirs from the castle shop we return across the stone pedestrian bridge. Back now over the Skye Bridge to Dunvegan.

 


 

 

Old Man of Storr

 

 

The weather improves so that today we betake ourselves to Portree, in our memory a small, romantic town at the banks of Loch Portree.

We are passing water falls and go down the congested roads of Skye. Street works and traffics jams everywhere.  

Then the route clears and we reach Portree.

Time has stopped here between black cliffs and green mounds.

It is said that in Portree the Irish monk St. Columba has preached in the early Middle Ages, therefore in former times the bay was named Eilean Choluimcille.

For a long time Portree consisted only of a few houses and a small pub. Only with Sir James, the 16th clan chief of the MacDonalds, who in 1766 at the early age of 25 died in Rome under tragical circumstances, the place gained some importance.

Portree is the tourist centre of the Isle of Skye and in summer always overcrowded. Especially during the Highland Games in August, the biggest regional event, accomodations all around are booked out. In 2017 this even lead to official warnings that travellers should book their rooms long in advance. Tourists without lodgings had turned to the police for help.

We go to see several shops and set out to our actual destination, the Old Man of Storr.

Our jam warning device sounds an alarm: a giant traffic jam ahead of us. When coming closer however, it turns out to be a giant number of cars parking left and right of the road on the peninsular of Trotternish.

There are snack stalls and many a crazy vessel. Several hundred wanderlust-people are already here to pay a visit to the Old Man. That much to custom tours.

We certainly will not meet dinos on our ascent... The peninsular of Trotternish like the greatest part of Skye consists of tertiary basaltic rock, resting on the older Jurassic sediments.

After at last finding a parking spot, we walk with the crowd. Several kilometres however are ahead of us and of of course uphill all the time so that the adventurers by and by split up.

 

All the time the view gets more interesting, down there we can see Loch Leathan.

The path is rocky and steep, some sandal-wearers haven given up early. By the way, the word Storr originates in Old Nordic and means Big or Peak.

There are further spires besides the Old Man who occasionally are described as his family. His ex, the spire which in former times was called his wife, has however collapsed years ago. The legend says that an old man and his wife were looking hereabouts for a cow gone astray. They met giants and ran away from them. During their escape they once looked back and turned into stone.

The sunlight playing on the rocks is all the time varied and fascinating.

Almost there, the 719 metres high Storr is in front of us. Due to the fragile basalt it cannot be recommended to mount the Storr but anyway we lack the breath after the ascent.

The "face" can be made out clearly. However, relating on light and shadow it can look quite differently.

Doesn't the Storr look like the menhir of Obelix?

Back we go, passing the panting und sweating newcomers. Quite warm today.


 

 

Kilt Rock

 

 

The next stop is to be Kilt Rock, Creag an Fheilidh.

 Passing a purple bus stop...

The rock received its name because it is said to look like a Scottish tartan. The parking lot is bumpy and muddy like a flooded stubblefield.

Up to a platform and when looking down it's just - down... This is the Mealt Fall, exit of the identically named Loch Mealt.

Besides the high waterfall there are a few smaller runlets.

Endless expanse. At clear days you can see the Isle of Lewis and even the Scottish mainland from here. 

We are travelling back. If you ever come to Skye, don't miss the quaint grocery at Dunvegan. It's worth a visit.

It is located at the only road of the place and can be found in this corrugated iron building. 

The shop is narrow and without shopper baskets... 

... but the vegetables are fresh and varied. Prices are low.

Anyway, there should not be more than 10 people at a time in the shop or you'll have a sound traffic jam.

The shelves are clean and well-kept...

We shopped here frequently and always found everything we were looking for.

So have shopping fun!


 

 

Duntulm Castle

 

 

On we go to visit a ruin, Duntulm Castle. Turn off right behind this phone booth... 

Duntulm Castle was owned by the clan of MacDonald of Sleat who erected the fortification in the 14th century.

Duntulm Castle is in a very bad state.

Only ruins are left of the fortifications and buildings, entering is forbidden. 

For the time being the area is closed and fenced - parts of the fence have already collapsed. 

As the remains of the outer walls together with the cliffs can be expected to crash into the sea, it seems improbable that the unit is re-opened.

Anyway, nobody prohibits you from taking a closer look at the ruins...

With the necessary caution of course, it's steep and slippery. 

Eilean Trodday in the distance - seen through the telephoto objective.

 

Home again. The wind has some advantages as can be seen... Our neighbour crosses my path. He's living in Manchester and holidays on Skye. He laments over the many tourists on Skye. That he is English and consequently also a tourist here, he does not seem to realize.

I cannot stop myself asking for his opinion about the Brexit. He claims to be a European, a real European. But in the EU he does not want to be. Just got a confirmation of my prejudices against the English.

Well, well, there are also intelligent neighbours at our cottage like this evening visitor...

 


 

 

Dunvegan Castle

 

 

After so much ruins we are looking forward to something better today: Dunvegan Castle.

It's not far from Dunvegan, down the main road, out of town and after 2 kilometres we are there. 

Cross the iron gate, pay your fee and start!

The ancestral home of the MacLeod clan.

Dunvegan Castle is the oldest continually inhabited castle of Scotland.

The dungeon, a good chance to get rid of hooligans - or wives.

Many figures, servants of the castle, can still be met today...

That's the typical room of a former maid...

... and the roster for her.

In the 13th century the MacLeods erected a first fortification on a rock. A simple shield wall secured the outbuildings and residence. Battlements were set up to shield the defenders. 

A truly ancient key. When there only was a seaside entrance, it could be opened with this key. 

Beyond the castle is a small jetty for motor boats. From here tours to the seal colonies in the bay of Dunvegan are offered.

Four canons look out to the sea.

Around 1340 Malcolm MacLeod, one of the most important chiefs of the clan, had the big donjon built.

In the 15th century the 8th clan chief Alasdair Crotach MacLeod had the Fairy Tower built. Its four habitable floors are connected by a narrow spiral staricase.

The large park was established in the Victorian age. 

And of course this well-kept park has a gardener.

Thanks to the Gulf Stream a variety of plants can grow here.

Really everything is very neat, they did not even forget the benches.

Moreover there are two waterfalls, several pergolas, and a water lily pool.

Plants and flowers are all labelled but we hardly can pronounce the names.

The park can be visited with the castle. It's included in the entrance fee. 

We are leaving this terrific park...

 


 

 

Neist Point Lighthouse

 

 

Neist Point is a small peninsular with a lighthouse at the most western point of the island.

We drive once across Skye, away from the congested main road with its roadworks. 

Right at the start we are welcomed by a fantastic view. 

A tongue of land with precipitous cliffs reaches out into the sea, Neist Point.

Walking along the cliffs, we can also see the lighthouse - our next stop... 

...meaning steps over steps.

I guess that they number about 300. We can't help grinning when we see how many visitors, Japanese first of all, turn from this horribly long way and take their pictures from the upper steps only. 

Somewhat exhausting indeed under the sun - but we did not come here to be lazy!

The lighthouse is 19 metres high and was put into service in 1909. 

The unit is still in use today...

... the technique was however automized in 1990 so that permanent personnel is not required. Today it is controlled by the Northern Lighthouse Board at Edinburgh.

Phat view from the fog horn. I can see the Hebrides! 

Besides sheep there are countless seabirds. With a bit of good luck you even can watch seals, dolphins, and wales. Today we have to content ourselves with sheep and birds.

That rock looks like some giant having bitten off a piece...

A great view out to the Atlantic. Further to the right are the Hebrides.

We meet a few natives close by...

... and further off.

A few steps only and we are back up again. 

 


 

 

The Time Capsule

 

 

Not so very far from our cottage is the Duirinish Stone. We can almost see it from the cottage, standing there like an ancient monument. 

However, it has only recently been erected by the community. There is a time capsule under it saving and recording time-typical things for future generations.

Here is the suitable musical accompaniment.

First however we visit St. Mary’s Church, a churchyard where MacLeod clan members were buried.

It's quiet here, we are alone. Only the wind is blowing softly...

A ruined chapel...

Inscriptions, hardly readable any longer...

Knightly figures of ancient times.

Although everything is old and derelict, it is well kept.

Of course there are many Celtic crosses...

... richly decorated grave stones...

This view makes me remember Eilean Fhinnain, the Celtic grave island in Loch Shiel. 

The whole churchyard is encompassed by one of those typical rock walls. Only a few steps now to the standing stone with the time capsule. 

The stone has a height of about 5 metres...

And the view is not really bad...

...well, actually it's swell.

Dunvegan at the foot of the mound... And so for supper.