Spring Break: Part 2: The Wonders of Skye

Sydney Smith University of Aberdeen, Scotland


April 17, 2018

The following passage is directly from my travel journal on the day I took the train from Thurso to Dingwall and then further on to Kyle of Lochalsh.

“The landscape is flying by, but it makes me nostalgic of the landscape of New Mexico. Flat earth gives way to distant mountains. The grass is brown with a fine layer of fresh snow filling in the holes. The green of the trees is vibrant. A white, snow covered mountain juts out in the distance with the bright, baby blue sky behind it. The contrast of the colors is breathtaking. It reminds me of the US in so many ways, but it’s not. It’s 3,000+ miles away.”

I was wonderstruck once again by the natural beauty of Scotland. I keep forgetting that this is my life. I feel like I am living dream. Sleepwalking between realms that seem to have been designed by gods, or really good CGI on a green screen.

The day I traveled down from Caithness to the Isle of Skye, I was fully in my element. I wore a flannel, I had my tennis shoes on, and a backpack to survive out of. I was mentally at peace with the world and riding a high of giddiness wondering what I would see and do next.

The train ride from Dingwall to Kyle of Lochalsh was by far my favorite yet. We passed Bens, Glens, and Lochs, (mountains, valleys, and lakes/wide rivers) it was all so mesmerizing that I am pretty sure that I got a crick in my neck from staring wide-eyed out the window for so long.

When I finally arrived in Kyle of Lochalsh, I wasn’t even upset that I had just missed the bus to Kyleakin, where my hostel was located about 2 miles away, because this gave me a chance to walk over the Skye Bridge and gawk at my first real glimpse of the Isle of Skye.

The Skye Bridge was fun to hike up, because it gave me the most spectacular views of Kyleakin and Kyle of Lochalsh. Both little villages are nestled on opposite sides of Loch Alsh, and prior to the opening of the Skye Bridge in 1995, a ferry service operated between the two villages. The Skye Bridge connects mainland Scotland to the Isle of Skye, making transportation between the two a lot more accessible.

I checked into my hostel and set out to explore the village. Kyleakin is a small village with such a laid back attitude. It seemed like a tourist hub with all sorts of hotels, hostels, and inns lining the shore, but underneath this, it was a historic and lovely place.

I wanted to check out Caisteal Maol, which is a castle in ruins located near the harbor of Kyleakin, but sadly it had recently been struck by lightning and access to it was restricted due to rubble that may have been loosened. I still got to see the outside of it, but from a distance. The backdrop of the mountains and loch behind the castle was cool.

My favorite spot in Kyleakin was the War Memorial. It sat on top of a small hill in the middle of the village behind the local shop. On the top of this little hill, there were a couple big size rocks that where excellent for just sitting and chilling. Oddly, I went up there multiple times, but every time, I was alone. No one else seemed to trek up the extremely short incline to visit the spot. Facing the east, I was able to watch fishing boats come in to the harbor and admire Caisteal Maol and the mountains. The water was so calm that every boat sent delicate ripples across it and the faint sound of birds was lulling. Facing the west, I was able to see the sun set, although the view was a bit obstructed by the Skye Bridge, it was still beautiful. Watching the sunset was a great way to end my only night on the Isle of Skye.

The next morning, after packing up my backpack and trying smoked salmon for breakfast, I waited to be picked up for my preplanned bus tour of the Isle of Skye. When I was planning my spring break, I wanted to be able to see everything on the Isle of Skye, and after reviewing public transit schedules, I realized that I wouldn’t necessarily be able to do everything I wanted to while also carrying a 20-30lb backpack on my back. Luckily, I came across a Skye Tour company that gave tours to small groups of people, so I scheduled a tour for my day in Skye.

I was picked up first in Kyleakin, before the bus went over to Kyle of Lochalsh to pick up the other tour goers. I was kind of nervous because I did not know what to expect, but the tour guides were so friendly and enthusiastic. There were six of us in total on the tour. Four tour goers: a mother daughter duo, a woman from South Africa, and I, along with our two tour guides. To my utter surprise, as I was sitting in the back of the minibus/van, I heard the mother daughter duo speak for the first time and instantly knew where they were from. The mother had a deep southern twang similar to that of the Texas/Oklahoma area. My eyes widened in surprise, and from deep within me came the most southern accented question I have let out since being over here in Scotland. “Are y’all from the States?”

We instantly hit it off. They were from Oklahoma and knew sort of where in Texas I was from. They were a reminder of home that I did not know that I needed in that moment. It was so coincidental, that it made my time in Skye greater than it already was.

The tour began with a drive to Portree. We stopped to admire the Black Cuillin, a set of mountains part of the Cuillin mountain range located on the Isle of Skye, that appeared sharp and rigid from a distance.

We continued on our journey and stopped briefly in Portree so that we could all explore however we wanted and grab something for lunch. I went down to Portree Harbor to take a picture of their colorful buildings, and then I wandered aimlessly around all the shops eventually stopping at a bakery and stockpiling sweets.

After loading back up, we drove on. We got to see the Old Man of Storr, a pinnacle of rock that can be seen for miles. Sadly, we did not get to hike up to it. So, that is still on my bucket-list to do someday.

Our next breathtaking location, was Kilt Rock and Mealt Falls. Kilt Rock is named due to its appearance of being pleated. It was incredible. The sheer cliff with the waterfall running down it was enchanting. 

Following Mealt Falls, I didn’t think there could be anything else that made me so awestruck, and then we arrived at the Quiraing. The views were so stunning, they looked fake. I could not have imagined that a place like this existed, yet it did. I could have stayed there for hours looking out over the valley below and the sea in the distance, captivated by the splendor of the Isle of Skye. By the end of the day, the Quiraing was by far my favorite location.

We ended our tour by visiting the Fairy Glen outside of Uig. We were warned to not get too close to the water because we may be pulled under and transported to the land of fairies.

Everywhere we went, I was in awe. Everywhere I looked, I wanted to forever capture either with photograph or with memory. Words cannot summarize the beauty of the Isle of Skye. It is a magical place. Maybe it is because I have been reading Viking Mythology recently, or maybe it is because of the Viking influence of the naming of many of Skye’s main sites, but the only way I feasibly can describe the Isle of Skye is being possibly the land of gods. It is seemingly untouched, raw in its majesty, and feels like a living relic. It is a place that has and will continue to inspire stories for years to come.


Semester Scotland Travel