When the Sun Shines on the Misty Isle: A photoessay

The Isle of Skye is the largest island in the Inner Hebrides. The island’s peninsula radiates from a mountainous centre dominated by the Cuillins, the bare rocky edges of which provides some of the most dramatic scenery in Scotland.

It has been suggested that the island’s name comes from its winged shape (skitis in Celtic). It was also referred to by the Norse as Skuy (misty isle). Its poetic name in Gaelic translates to Island of the Mist, and on an average day, as it is throughout most of the year, Skye rests beneath a layer of mist.


Kyleakin
June 8, 2016
21:00

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I arrive at Saucy Mary’s Lodge, meet my roommates and end up having dinner with them on the floor. Later, I join them on the ‘walk’ that somehow needs at least 10 women.

The midges are out and abundant and they are absolutely awful. Still, we flash our bras to the sea. I learn they’re all from a group tour. We visit the pub and spend the evening listening to how their tour guide had been making stories up and how he got them all fooled.

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The Skye Bridge at Sunset, Kyleakin.

Kyleakin
June 9, 2016
9:15

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I wanted to leave early, unfortunately (and fortunately too as I got extra hours of sleep), the first and only bus to Elgol departs at 9:30 and it was late. I am learning the art of small talk in Scotland. It’s so easy here and at the same time so difficult because Scottish accent has always been almost impossible to get for me. I talk to a man from Inverness waiting for his bus. His sister is running the Half Marathon on Saturday. I was getting worried as to whether the bus was coming or not but it came after all. Throughout the 40-minute drive to Elgol, there’s just me and one other passenger. So Skye.

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The empty landscape of Skye

Elgol
11:00

Elgol is a village on the shores of Loch Scavaig with a population of 150, majority of which speak Gaelic. It’s the perfect vantage point for the Black Cuillin. Due to the area’s scenic beauty, most of the properties here are holiday homes and are not occupied year-round.

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Boat trips to Loch Coruisk and the Small Isles depart at Elgol Harbour
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The Black Cuillin across
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Elgol

It was a fine day, one of the finest for Skye I’d say. The sea was a mirror surface, the sky almost entirely cloudless, and the midges only in the shade. IMG_0065.CR2

I wanted to go up the Sgurr na Stri but as I had a half marathon two days away, didn’t want to kill my legs with the long hike all the way from Sligachan so I decided to cheat and take one of the boats from Elgol.

It was a short boat trip as the sea was so calm, and along the way we listened to stories about the surrounding islands and their wee population.

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The Isle of Soay, permanent population: 1

 

The Isle of Soay was bought by author Gavin Maxwell who then established a factory to process shark oil from basking sharks. It was unsuccessful and was closed within 3 years. Most of the residents were resettled to Mull.

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Seals basking in the summer sun

We got to see some of the wildlife too: seals and seabirds and eagles and gigantic jellyfish gliding so beautifully just beneath the water surface.

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The boat stops by the mouth of the Scavaig River (also known as Coruisk River), which at just a few hundred meters long, is one of the shortest in the UK. Only one other river may be shorter.

Loch Coruisk is an inland freshwater loch that lies at the foothills of the Black Cuillin. It can be reached either by a 7-8 mile hike from Sligachan, a long hike from Elgol involving The Bad Step, or a short boat trip from Elgol to the mouth of the River Scavaig.

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Loch Coruisk and the Cuillin

The Cuillin (Black Cuillin to distinguish it from the smaller hills found across Sligachan) is a range of rocky mountains on the Isle of Skye. Its summits are bare rock, jagged and with steep cliffs and deep cut gullies, and they are absolutely beautiful.

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“Rarely human eye has known
A scene so stern as that dread lake,
With its dark ledge of barren stone…”

Sir Walter Scott

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The shores of Loch Coruisk

According to local lore, the loch is home to a kelpie. Kelpies are space-shifting water spirits that inhabit the lochs and pools of Scotland. They are usually described as horses that can take the form of humans.

I wanted to hike up the Sgurr na Stri all the way to Sligachan but having decided there was a fine line between adventure and stupidity, decided to leave it for another time. I was empty-handed: alone with 1 protein bar, no map, and no mobile connectivity.

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The boat back managed to arrive at just after 14:00 and running all the way up the hill to the bus stop, I managed to run after the bus, slam my hand against its rear and the driver pulled up. I was the only passenger to Broadford.

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The Red Cuillin

I wanted to go to Portree as I had ample time and daylight left but then I would have only a few hours to be there as the last bus out was at 17:40. This is the reality of public transport in Skye and the reason a car is definitely handy. Life moves endearingly slow here and transport is run by three different companies: the local Stagecoach, the Highland Citylink, and the school buses.

I spent a few minutes at a café in Broadford and managed to sneak in a much-needed grocery too while waiting for the bus that would take me back to Kyleakin. It had been a perfect day, and it wasn’t even over yet. I hadn’t wished for summer. My first encounter with Skye taught me to not expect anything from the weather, and yet it was such a sunny day that I got dark without having realised it. Yes, I got a tan in Scotland. 

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Broadford, Isle of Skye