We travel over the bridge to Skye without any bonnie boats, or indeed birds on wings, in sight. Skye, once voted one of top five island in the world by National Geographic magazine, is living up to its Gaelic name, Eilean a’ Cheo – Misty Isle – so the tops of the Cullins aren’t visible. We head to a hide at Kylerhea, supposedly the place to see otters, unless of course you are us. Any potential otters are a good way away out to sea. We think they are otters but I am still not totally convinced that they aren’t seals. We do definitely see a number of those. Using binoculars is always tricky when one wears glasses and today is no exception. I end up with a squint and round rubber marks on my glasses.
Historically cattle from Skye were swum across the 550 metre channel to Glenelg in groups of six or eight. They would be roped in a line behind a boat and rowed to the other side before being walked to market. There don’t see to be many cattle left; there are more sheep. Of course tourists are now the bedrock of Skye’s economic activity and there are plenty of those, the bridge making it easy for coaches to travel across in great numbers. They and many other vehicles, seem obliged to go at ridiculous speeds, hurtling past us at the most inappropriate points.
We travel north to Colbost, spotting a stranded campervan on the way. The driver has parked on a soft verge and the nearside is now significantly lower than the offside. Having no method of offering assistance we leave the owners telephoning the recovery services. At Colbost we can see a traditional Skye ‘black hut’, a stone built, two roomed dwelling, with no windows or chimney. There is a central fire and a typical boxed in bed. Animals would have been kept in one end and humans would inhabit the other. The roof would be rush or bracken. Today the rushes are held down with chicken wire and this is weighted by large stones being tied round the edge, rather like the corks on the stereotypical Australian hat. I guess, in the era pre-chicken wire, a net may have served the same purpose. The croft even has the remains of an illicit whisky still behind it.
We travel on to Portree, grabbing the last space in the car park. I narrowly avoid being mown down by a bus. It appears that the whole of Skye is in the throes of a power cut. We had seen so little habitation so far that we hadn’t noticed. A swift walk round Portree and we return to the mainland across the barren hillsides of Skye. It is beautiful and rugged here and somehow different from the mainland in an indefinable sort of way. We shall be back tomorrow en-route for the Outer Hebrides.