After finishing our breakfast, we leave Portree early; we want to see a lot of things today. It is chilly and a faint mist hovers over the island.
Eilean Donan, Applecross peninsula
We try to record this mist on pictures, but that is quite difficult, we notice, even with our new digital camera. The name Skye is derived from the old Norwegian word for cloud (skuy) and in Gaelic the name of the island is Eilean a Cheo, Island of Mist.
Just before Kyleakin and the Skye Bridge, we turn off to drive over the mountains towards Kylerhea. The road is fantastic with many steep parts and a splendid scenery. There goes a ferry from Kylerhea to Glenelg, on the mainland of Scotland. Maybe we take that ferry another time, today we have other plans.
The castle-mania of Teije leads us also to the village Kyleakin, where this ruin of an old fort can be seen, Castle Moil. Legends say a Norman princess was the first to collect toll here; she would lay a chain across the river when ships didn't want to pay. Toll is now collected on the Skye Bridge (£ 4,70 for a car in the low season). There is a connection between this place and the Normans: in 1266 Hakon VI came by on his way to defeat, not at the hands of the Scots, but by bad weather, a turning point in Scottish history.
Back on the Scottish mainland, we first drive to the Eilean Donan Castle, which we have visited earlier, in 2000. The castle was originally build in 1230 to defend the area against the Normans and lies strategically between 3 lochs: loch Alsh, Long and Duich.
In the 18th century the castle was blowed up, but was rebuild in the beginning of the 20th century. Still, it looks like a real medieval castle. Because of its beautiful location it is used in several movies (Highlander, Braveheart). Here a few pictures; more information and pictures on our castle webpage.
Several rooms in the castle have been redecorated and give clear information (in 8 languages) about the castle, its history and the reconstruction of it in the 20th century. To the right you see Elisabeth give a reprimand to the kitchen staff (by the way, it is not permitted to take pictures inside...). One can easily spend an hour or two inside this castle.
We continue our way to Plockton, the picturesque village near the westcoast. Palms grow there thanks to the warm Gulf Stream coming from Mexico. The village has desolate mountains as a background and an outlook over Loch Carron with its many small islands.
There is quite a lot of wind and not really a pleasant temperature, but in the summer this is a delightful place to relax.
We make a short walk through the village and have a snack in the Haven Hotel. The environment of Plockton has a lot of vegetation, because of the climate which makes this place a bit warmer than the other parts of Scotland.
And on we went, to the north, along the mountainous coast of loch Carron. From our descriptions in the several Scotland travelogues, you will probably have noticed that we really love the westcoast of Scotland, especially in the Highlands.
On the far side of loch Carron we drive past the ruins of Strome Castle, but it is not possible to walk about the grounds because of collapsing danger.We now have arrived on the Applecross peninsula and we decide to tour around it. We take the northern route: before Shieldaig we turn left, towards Fearnmore, then to the south, until Applecross and then through de Bealach-Na-Ba. We thought it would take an hour or so, but it takes us two hours. The roads are very narrow and steep, sometimes even chilling. But it is really worthwhile, the panoramic views are superb, especially on the northern part of the peninsula.
We have driven on a lot of beautiful (and exciting) roads the last few days, but this is absolutely the best route, a real adventure.
From the west coast we have a nice view at Raasay and, behind it, the northern part of Skye. In a straight line we are not very far from our starting point. In the meantime the sky has turned blue and the temperature is rising.
After our journeys in the past years, Elisabeth is already quite used to deep ravines next to the road. But neither of us is prepared for the Bealach-Na-Ba, Pass of the Cattle. It is the highest road in Scotland and rises till 625 meters height. We come from Applecross and the road to the top sometimes has an inclination of 20%, a single track road full of sharp turns.
From the top, the road goes right down for some kilometers. It is impossible to drive slow, but the road is only a single track, so you have to be very careful. The hillside next to the road goes right down. We are glad to drive on the right side of the road, on the inside. Next time we must take this road the other way around, going uphill on this part.
Halfway down, we see a flock of reindeers. We make a quick stop to take a picture with Elisabeth's camera. People told us later there are a lot of reindeer living here and we thought they only live in Scandinavia. So we consider it as a foretaste for our next trip (when we are heading for Scandinavia, this summer).It is late in the afternoon when we have finished our tour on this beautiful peninsula and want to go to Beauly without any more delays. Although the distance isn't that great (a bit more than 100 kilometers), it takes much more time because of the single tracks roads and all the traffic. Probably a lot of people are coming from their work or from Inverness, rushing home. All the way we have to brake, stop, go on and brake again. About half past eight we finally arrive at Beauly and are welcomed by Iain and Cathy, the owners of the hotel. We consider them as good friends after the first time we visited their hotel in 2000.
Elisabeth doesn't feel quite well and goes to bed early; Teije stays for some pleasant hours in the pub. At last, we are at home again. And, moreover, we have had a wonderful day.
Travel through Europe and Africa
with Elisabeth and Teije