The Road to the Cuillins
I recently returned from a two week break on Skye with the family and have been asked on more than one occasion: “two weeks on Skye? What did you find to do in all that time?”.
It was this implied preconception and misconception that a small Island of the North West coast of Scotland couldn’t provide enough to occupy a family of five for two weeks that prompted me to write this Blog post.
The first thing to say is really stating the obvious I suppose. If you enjoy wide open soft sandy beaches, siting by a pool, consistent 12 hours of sunshine etc then this is not the place for you and I suspect Skye would not even appear on your radar as a potential destination.
If, like me, you enjoy stunning scenery, lochs, mountains, climbing, walking, wildlife, sea life, great food and drink, rock pools, relaxing by a log fire, weather that can have you in a t-shirt in the morning and wrapped up in a rain coat and woolly hat by lunchtime and to top it all wonderfully warm and welcoming people then Skye is certainly for you.
The Cottage at Dunpark
This year was our second visit. We fell in love with the cottage we stayed in last Easter – Dunpark – and were lucky enough to be able to book it again for this year. The cottage is comfortable with all the amenities you could want apart from a dishwasher – we brought one with us in the shape of our 13 year old daughter.
One of the main appeals of the cottage is it’s location. It is situated on the Sleat peninsula around a 10 minute drive from Armadale ferry port and overlooks the Sound with the mountains of mainland Scotland (including Knoydart) across the water providing a constant picturesque backdrop. There is a great garden for the children to play in and access to the rocky coastline that borders the land.
Sunrise at Dunpark
Ishbel and Angus MacDonald own and manage the cottage and a friendly and helpful. All in all you have a great almost get a way from it all holiday home at an extremely reasonable price. I cannot recommend it highly enough.
From the cottage exploring the stunning Sleat peninsular is straightforward with a main road that runs the length of the peninsular. There is everything here from great restaurants, wildlife in the shape of otters and seals to spot, deer are quite common and there are great beaches where rockpools abound.
You could probably spend a week or so discovering all the nooks and crannies of Sleat but there are other amazing things to do and see within an hour or so in the car.
On top of the incredible scenery to discover there is also the art trails to explore. Skye is home to some supremely talented artists and photographers. We have visited many of them and they have all been very welcoming and open about their work and influences.
Be sure to visit photographers Russell Sherwood, Tim Wilcock and Alan Campbell for some inspiration. Artists such as John Bathgate and Diane Mackie have some beautiful work to see and purchase in their galleries.
Here are just a few of my other recommendations:
Ellishadder Art Cafe
We all fell in love with this little cafe in the North East of the Island. It is owned and run by the amazingly friendly and talented Stuart and Maggie Quigley. Stuart is a very talented artist and Maggie cooks delicious vegetarian food – if you are a died in the wool meat eater don’t let this put you off. One visit to the cafe almost turned me vegetarian the food is that good. Save room for some fantastic desserts too! Maggie is also a weaver and both Stuart and Maggie’s work is for sale at the cafe.
The oldest bakery on the Island. It is also a cafe too serving simple but delicious meals. Their scones are to die for and the best that we have ever tasted – we always ensure that we leave with a couple of bags full. The owners are also really friendly and make you feel welcome.
The Quiraing is a geological phenomenon with towering spires of rock thrusting from the earth in a myriad of different shapes and sizes. It really has to be seen to be believed. The views from all areas is sublime and worth the effort to get here.
Set in beautiful gardens this is similar to Eilean Donan Castle (see below) and again well kept with excellent facilities. The history of the castle is fascinating and there is plenty to keep the children occupied.
Close to Uig this is not the most straightforward place to find. Ask a local and they will give you directions. It is all worth the effort though when you get there. The landscape is otherworldly and you have the feeling that you have stepped onto another planet. Unusual rock formations abound with plenty to explore. It is easy to imagine a settlement of fairies living there.
Eilean Donan Castle
Okay, this is not on the Island but a short 20 minute drive from the Kyle of Lochalsh. Of all the castles we have visited this one is easily the best. Why? For a start it has been beautifully restored with an eye for detail unusual, in my experience. The guides are extremely knowledgable and helpful and went out of their way to ensure our visit was interesting and interactive. The views from the castle are also spectacular. It is no wonder that the location has been used in so many blockbusters – Highlander being the obvious one.
Neist Point Lighthouse
Not for the faint hearted or the unfit. The steps down to the lighthouse seem easy but coming back is a real challenge. It is more than worth it though with some stunning views of the coastline and of course the lighthouse itself. A short walk from the small carpark affords a magnificent view of Neist Point too.
There are many, many other places I can recommend including the MacDonald visitor centre near Armadale, Kilt Rock, Coral Beach near Dunvegan and Elgol to name but a few but visiting but one of the pleasures of Skye is getting out and exploring the many nooks and crannies of an Island steeped in history.
Whenever we have been to Skye we never want to go home and try and think of ways of us setting up home there at some point. It is the kind of place that captures your heart and inspires yours soul. We could not imagine not making an annual pilgrimage to Skye to visit old favourites and discover new.