Thursday, April 9, 2009

A day of discovery

Even though the morning is wet (and the tide the highest it has been since we got here), we decide to spend the day taking a drive around the island of Skye. And it is another of those "Oh, wow!" kinda days.

From Heron Cottage we head north toward Portree 20 miles away. The roads in Scotland are terrible and those on the island are no better than on the mainland. In fact, once you turn off the main road you may as well be on a goat track (and believe me, with the number of goats on the island, there are plenty of these!) Most of the off main roads are single lane tracks (that is how they are signposted) with passing areas. We have become very adept at judging the distance to oncoming cars and determining whether we can make it to the next passing area, or if we would need to reverse back if we go further. Still, it is a way of life here and everyone keeps their cool and sense of humour.

I am amazed at the amount of volcanic landscape. Although I know that most islands are formed through volcanic activity, I did not expect to see so many plugs, craters, crater rims let alone the scree slopes that are all around us. The majority of the central mountains (Cuillin Ranges) have slopes from 45 to 75 degrees! Every time it rains (which is often), you see yet another 'waterfall' coursing down the mountainside. It only needs to be dry for a couple of hours and these disappear again! But there are some that are more permanent and they can be very spectacular.

The landscape is ever changing with the weather and you have to see the way the clouds hide and then reveal the peaks to believe it. Although we are on an island, it feels more like you are living on a coastal mainland. Guess that comes with the size of the island and the fact that there is this very impressive mountain range that runs down the centre of the island. The coastal areas are very rugged - while I had expected this of the west coast, the ruggedness of the east coast is something of a surprise. But oh so beautiful. Lots of bays - some sheltered and others very exposed and copping a pounding today, coastal flat areas that are lush and green supporting countless sheep and goats as well as some cattle, barren and boggy moors across the top of the island where the wind howls with a horrible sound. When we turn at the northern most point (Staffin Island) and head down the east coast of the island you look across the water to other smaller islands and if it were not for the gale, you could think you were in the Whitsundays - only the vegetation is different!

But it takes us much of the morning to get to Portree for the first time. We take a figure eight route through the centre of the island to places such as Bracadale where we saw the Dun Mor with the more ruinous and smaller Dun Beag Broch behind it and Dunvegan with its castle. There were the Standing Stones at Kilmarie and Big Angus, a huge standing stone at Kilmuir. There are the Duntulm castle ruins (why on earth anyone would feel the need to build a castle here is beyond us) and an arrowhead fortfication that is now down to its base just north of Uig. The Coast Guard have a huge ship moored in the relatively calm Staffin Bay. Just south of Staffin there is the Kilt Rock that comes into full beauty in sun after rain (or so it says) and the Mealt Falls. We have to keep moving to get back to Heron Cottage in time to get ready for dinner.

We are booked in to The Creelers for dinner again tonight and have pre-warned Ann and David that we will be ordering their 2 course Bouillabaise. But as we did not have lunch today, we are starving and opt for a starter as well!
Smoked Venison (Thin slices of oak-smoked delicacy served with redcurrant jelly and green salad) Michael
Squat Lobster cocktail (Served witha spicy Marie-Rose sauce on a frsh green salad) Maria
Bouillabaise - Broth served as soup for entree then the fish and seafood are served as a main course. Both courses are accompanied with garlic mayonnaise (Aioli) and garlic toast. The main course is also served with baby new potatoes. Made from an origianl Marseillais recipe.
Seafood include seabass, monkfish, sea bream, red snapper plus mussels, prawns and especially for Maria some squat lobster.
Although we really did not need it (and Maria paid for it all night!) we ordered more of Ann's Creme Brulee - jsut because it is so decadently smooth, rich and light. mmmmm

So back to the cottage to upload photos and begin the packing process as tomorrow we leave Heron Cottage for Lochinver in the north.

No comments: