I still had a big smile on my face when I woke up this morning and was probably smiling the whole time I was asleep. The first thought that crossed my mind was how lucky I felt to be where I was at that very moment. Curious what adventures the day had in store, I stepped out into the crisp air and saw a sight that made me wonder if I was still dreaming.
It was bright and sunny and even more picturesque than the night before. Because of the clearer weather, I could see more mountains farther in the distance, and the sea was a deep blue, reflecting the sky, sun, mountains, and clouds.
After an hearty breakfast of sausage and eggs, I went down to the travel center to discuss my plans for the next couple of days with the clerk. He told me it was going to be very difficult for me to get around without a car due to the crazy bus schedules on Skye that do not connect very well. He said I should memorize the timetable as best as I could because there were only going to be certain ways to get around.
The receptionist at the Kyle Hotel booked me in another of their hotels in Broadford, which is a village about 10 miles onto the isle. I then caught a bus and made my journey over the Skye Bridge onto the Isle of Skye.
After a brief stop in Kyleakin on the other side of the bridge, I made my way over to Broadford to check into my hotel. This 10-mile ride was one I will hold dear for the rest of my life. It was my first experience on my favorite place in the entire world. The scenery was absolutely gorgeous, as I knew it would be for the remainder of the trip.
After arriving in Broadford, I dropped my bag off at the Dunollie Hotel because it was too early to check in. The receptionist then helped me make more sense of the bus timetable to figure out how I was going to be able to get where I wanted to go and back the same day. We came up with a plan and I set off to catch a bus that was to arrive in 45 minutes up to Uig, my destination for the first day, which was a Citylink bus coming from Glasgow.
After waiting over an hour for the bus I needed to take, I never saw it, and I was there 20 minutes early. As to what happened to this bus, I have no clue, but this definitely threw a monkey wrench in my plans for the day. I was determined I was not going to let this get in my way of doing the things I wanted to do, however, so I took another bus to Portree where I could eventually make a connection to Uig. However, I wasn’t sure how I was going to get back to Broadford.
On the bus ride to Portree, we twisted through neon green mountain ranges, some with large waterfalls cascading down into winding streams. On this bus trip I continued to examine the bus timetables and a new plan took shape. It was going to be impossible for me to get back down to Broadford that evening and have the amount of time I would need in Uig to hike to the Fairy Glen, which was what I had planned on doing that first day. I also noticed it was going to be near to impossible to make it to Dunvegan and back the next day as well, as there were only three buses going back and forth between Portree and Dunvegan. The only way to Dunvegan was through Portree, and there wasn’t a bus that could get me to Portree from Broadford in time for that first bus that I needed to be able to spend the day in Dunvegan. I decided I needed to stay the night in Portree instead, but the problem was my luggage was at the hotel in Broadford. I know this sounds confusing, and believe me, it was.
Portree is the largest town on the Isle of Skye and is the central hub on the isle for all the buses. All the towns on the Isle of Skye are tiny, so it makes this make this wee harbor town look enormous in comparison. After getting off the bus, I had about an hour and a half before my bus to Uig and I had some errands to do. First off, I located the post office to use the phone book and get the number for the Dunollie Hotel in Broadford. I then located a phone box and called them to see if it would be OK to cancel my reservation for that night and leave my luggage there. The receptionist playfully said, “I told you not to get lost.” She said canceling would not be a problem and she would keep my luggage safe in her office.
I then found a bed and breakfast called the Tongadale Hotel for only 30 pounds right next to the bus stop in the town square. I booked a room and did some exploring around town before my bus was to arrive. It was bright and sunny outside, and then, all of a sudden, rain started pouring down with wind violently whipping around. I pulled out my umbrella and the wind turned it inside out while almost ripping it out of my hand. My flimsy umbrella was not designed for this kind of punishment, so I had to seek cover under a doorway. After about five minutes, it was bright and sunny again, and everyone continued on about their business like it was perfectly normal.
This is one of the more peculiar occurrences on Skye. There is both rain and sunshine every day. That is why there are so many rainbows on the isle, which could be one reason people throughout history have believed it to be such a magical place. It is interesting to see a monsoon going on a few feet away from crisp sunshine.
Eventually I got on the bus to Uig, which was a breathtakingly beautiful journey as expected. On the bus I noticed a guy with an American accent and asked him where he was from. He turned out to be a high school history teacher from Michigan named Jaime who was also traveling Skye solo. He had also arrived on Skye that day and was just riding the bus around to look at the scenery. After I told him about my plan to hike to the Fairy Glen, he decided to tag along for the journey.
The bus driver asked me where I was planning on going in Uig, and when I told him I was going to the Fairy Glen, he smiled and said he would drop me off at the road leading up to it, which wasn’t a normal stop but would save me some of the walk. The Fairy Glen is about a two-mile hike from Uig. After he let Jaime and me out, he told us to follow the wee road a bit and we would come right to it.
There are no signs leading to the Fairy Glen so it’s best to know the route there beforehand. Jaime and I walked up the road a while and asked a lady if we were going in the right direction. She smiled—this seemed to be a trend every time I mentioned the Fairy Glen—and told us to follow the road a wee bit more until we reached a gate, which would take us to the upper part of the glen. After taking some pictures we realized we were standing right next to a gate, so we were thinking that it couldn’t be the gate we needed or she would have just said, “Go through that gate.”
After walking a long way, we began to think we should have gone through that first gate because we weren’t seeing any more gates. We then saw some people walking toward us with huge smiles on their faces. We asked them if we were headed in the right direction and they said to keep walking and we would see something more beautiful than anything we had ever seen. With my experience on Skye thus far, picturing something more gorgeous than the scenery already surrounding me was near to impossible.
After walking farther down the road, we began to see more people walking back, and like the other people we had seen earlier, they were grinning ear-to-ear. We asked how much farther it was, and they said we were almost there and would absolutely know when we had arrived. Oh boy, were they correct.
We turned a corner and there it was. Strange looking rock formations that looked to be carved from supernatural forces, vivid green rolling hills, waterfalls, and lush vegetation abound, the Fairy Glen is the kind of place that most people only see in their thoughts and dreams, never in real life. I can honestly say that I would not have been the least bit surprised to see some pixies fluttering out of a tree, or a little brownie poking its bushy head around the corner. Or even for that matter, a hobbit, because this place reminded me of The Shire from Tolkien’s Middle-earth. I completely understand why people throughout history believed this to be a major gathering place of the island’s supernatural “wee folk.”
Just wandering around was a surreal experience while the tranquility of the glen overloaded the senses. When I said this was the most captivating place I had ever seen, Jaime agreed and said he had been all over the world and nothing could compare. The blissful looks on everyone’s faces walking around the glen were priceless as well. Everyone was in an ethereal state of fascination. The Fairy Glen had cast its spell of enchantment on us all.
In the middle of the glen was a huge rock formation called the Fairy Castle with a little trail twisting up to the top. Though I am not a big fan of heights, and there were steep drop-offs on both sides with the wind blowing hard, my state of serenity overrode these feelings and I climbed to the top where I could see almost the entire glen. Man, it was worth it.
After hanging out in the glen for a while, Jaime and I eventually began the walk back to Uig. Our bus was to pick us up at the police station bus stop in a couple hours, and we had no clue where it was, so we wanted to make sure we had enough time to walk back and find it. On the way we asked an old couple if they knew where the police station was. The look of horror on their faces was hilarious, as they obviously thought there was some kind of trouble, until we told them we were trying to find the police station because the bus stop was there. They gave us a ride down to Uig, but we couldn’t find it, so we got out at the pier to ask for directions.
There we asked another lady where the police station was and got the same concerned look again, then realized maybe we should frame our question a different way. After she gave us directions we found the Isle of Skye Brewery and drank some Skye ale while waiting for the bus to arrive. There was another bus that showed up earlier at the pier that wasn’t on my bus timetable, and they gave us a ride back down to Portree an hour early.
When back at Portree I felt the need to eat some fish to keep with the vibe of the fishing village. I had some locally caught fish and chips fried to perfection. I then set out to check out the Portree nightlife and went on a pub crawl throughout the town. It was a Friday night, and Portree was hopping.
The one thing that I had completely forgotten about was my wee midge buddies. I had not seen them all day. However, when the sun started to set, it was as if someone sounded a midge horn and they came out in a swarm, particularly close to the harbor. They were even getting into some of the pubs, so I proceeded further inland away from the harbor and met back up with Jaime. Many locals seemed eager to talk to us because we were the only Americans.
I asked several people was if the isle ever gets normal to them because many who live in beautiful places start to become desensitized after being there a while. I just can’t imagine the Isle of Skye ever becoming “commonplace.” They said they love living there and take drives around the isle all the time to look at the scenery in the summer, but that it is a very different place to be in the winter because the weather is very harsh and cold.
My first day on the Isle of Skye was amazing. The greatest thing about it, though, was that I knew I had another day on the isle the next day. I was glad I had decided to come a day early, and that I had decided to ditch my luggage in Broadford, because I would not have been able to do everything I wanted if I wouldn’t have.