I've had a fascination with Scotland, particularly the Highlands, for quit a while. I'll confess, it started with my love of the Highlander movie and later Braveheart. But it grew from there. I listened to Celtic music and read a couple of history books about Scotland. I was almost obsessed with it and the idea of going there. Years later, I finally made it to the Highlands and it surpassed my already lofty expectations.
I have struggled to describe it to friends since my return. I struggle, still, to put it into words. Luckily, I have hundreds of pictures from my trip so I don't have to put it all into words. I can let the images handle most of the description. I'll just give them some context (ask around, I'm all about context).
On a side-note, there is an app I’ve had on my iPad for a while but haven’t used. It’s called Storehouse and I’ve recently discovered that it is a fantastic visual storytelling platform. It also allows more of the story and more images to be shown without making my posts too long. It works on any device but is especially well suited for an iPad or other tablet. The app is free and you can follow me to see all of my stories as I post more.
My girlfriend, Erin, and I drove up the eastern coast of England, past by Edinburgh, drove through Glasgow and on to Loch Lomond. I knew the name from a Celtic music album I had. We got into the inn at night so our first glimpse of the Loch was the next morning. Our fantastic inn was on the shores of Loch Lomond and treated us to a spectacular view of the water and the stunning, snow-capped peaks of the Highlands. It was late-April and the Highlands aren't that high (Ben Nevis is the tallest at 4,409 ft, whereas the tallest peak in the Rockies is more that 14,400 ft), so we were quite surprised to see snow. But Spring is a little different over there compared to SoCal. It hovered around the mid-50s the entire time we were there.
One thing that makes the mountains of the Highlands so impressive is they start at just above sea level and then rise steeply to a few thousand feet and then drop again. Some of the partially snow-covered craggy peaks looked more like the Alps. As we were later told by a local, many climbers train in Scotland because they are the same types of peaks without the extreme altitude.
Our goal was a secluded cottage on a sheep farm on the Isle of Skye (I knew of Skye from a Celtic song as well, same album, actually). It was a spectacular drive through the Highlands to get there. Far from a direct route, the mountains and Lochs had to be circumnavigated. I'm sure Erin was getting tired of me stopping at every turn-off along the way to capture the rugged landscape, but she endured it well. That's what happens when you travel with a photographer.
We finally arrived at our cottage overlooking an inlet on the Greshornish peninsula. The (very) small town of Edinbane was a couple miles down the road and the Greshornish Inn was a couple miles up the penisula. Other than that, we were surrounded by sheep. Being Spring, that also meant we were surrounded by new-born lambs.
The owner of the Greshornish Inn took us under his wing and was a great resource for what to see and do on Skye. We spent a few evenings chatting with Neil, drinking wine & cider and using their internet (the cottage was cell phone and Internet free). We were treated to a very enjoyable private dinner at Greshornish our second night on Skye.
We had planned to do some hiking on this trip and Neil told us about a ‘nice little walk’ around the Greshornish peninsula. This ‘walk’ turned out to be a 4-mile hike following a sheep trail over cliffs and through a heather-strewn bog. And let me tell you, those sheep are crazy! At one point, we were hiking an 8” wide trail about a foot away from a 60’ drop into the sea while gail-force winds threatened to blow us over the side.
Towards the end of the hike, we met a middle-aged Scottish couple who told us about a few different hikes. When they mentioned a hike to a spectacular Loch that can only be reached by foot or by ferry, Erin’s eyes seemed to light up. It was a 16-mile round-trip from Sligachan to Loch Coruisk, and somehow, we decided to do it.
Unless you are an avid hiker, my suggestion is to take the ferry. In typical English understatement, Neil advised us that Loch Coruisk was a beautiful loch and well worth the ‘walk’ to get there.
I wasn’t really expecting much in the way of food. Some fish & chips, definitely, haggis, maybe, and some other local food. I was very pleasantly surprised. We went to the harbor in the biggest town on Skye, Portree, to find some seafood. What we found was a remarkable pot of steamed mussels in a creamy curry sauce in the unremarkably named Sea Breezes restaurant. The mussels were huge and perfectly cooked and the broth was so delicious we had the server put it in a to go coffee cup so we could take it with us.
In addition to our meal at Greshornish, Neil recommended we go to Dunvegan to The Old School restaurant. Reservations were recommended but since it was during the week and off-season, we decided to roll the dice. Fortunately, they accommodated us but reservations would have been a good idea.
The highlight of our culinary experience was Three Chimneys in Colbost, just up the road from Dunvegan. Three Chimneys is a Michelin star-rated restaurant and well deserving of that star. Helmed by chef/director Michael Smith, it highlighted locally fished, grown and foraged ingredients. We liked it so much that we went for lunch during the week and then dinner a few days later. For more about Three Chimneys, check out my Storehouse story. Next post will be dedicated to my dining experiences in the Highlands of Scotland.