Discovering the magic in the Scottish Highlands
A three-day itinerary in the Isle of Skye and the Highlands
One stormy evening, a little bit before I moved to Scotland, I was browsing the web for some inspiration on what to visit first in Scotland. I quickly came across a place called Isle of Skye, an island coming out from a fantasy novel, a destination that many tourists skip, but the dramatic and diverse landscape was enough to fall in love in the first sight. All was set, and I flied to the medieval city of Edinburgh, where all the adventure begins.
The weather was rather warm and dry, a factor that helps enjoying Scotland as much as possible. We met our driver and the trip started heading north, planning to reach Loch Ness by early afternoon. The touch of the sun in combination with the soothing and calm voice of the driver, who was narrating local legends made me soon fall asleep. I woke up after a while, noticing that the landscape had changed. We were inside the Highlands! We were crossing the Cairngorms National park, a mountainous pristine area, where the golden sunbeams reflected on the slopes made the scenery look like an artistic painting. After some more driving, we finally reached the point from where our cruise in Loch Ness started.
Our destination was the Urquhart castle, a fortress overlooking the Loch that had experienced a lot of conflicts for about 500 years. Now, only a few parts of the castle remain in a good condition.
After a stroll around the castle area we met again our driver to continue the journey.
Scotland hides always a pleasant surprise for the travelers, so after an hour on the road we reached a Loch so picturesque that we couldn't help but stop to admire it.
Breathing the crisp air helped us recharging, as we were reaching the Isle of Skye. We arrived at our accommodation later that evening at the village of Kyleakin. After admiring the last glimpse of sun for the day, we got to our rooms, preparing for the next day, full of Skye discovery.
We started early next morning for our trip around the island.Passing from slopes full of local cows (coos) we stopped at many magical places, from rivers and waterfalls to rocky beaches and wild fields. The scenery was changing every few minutes and amazed by what we were experiencing, we couldn't stop taking photos. We drove through some harsh narrow roads to finally reach a local distillery which is producing the famous Talisker whiskey. It was the first time that I was tasting such a strong, particular liquid, spicy and smokey and slightly burning my throat when swallowing. A last quick walk around the tiny port of the village and off we went to our way to Portree.
This small town is the capital of Skye and you can get around withing minutes, so after a quick bite we continued. This time we were heading to Quiraing, one of the most spectacular landscapes I have ever seen. As soon as we arrived, I jumped off the coach and started hiking up to enjoy the view. Every step would reveal a new magical sight and the good weather contributed in the whole experience.
Finally, we headed back to Kyleakin for some local beer and another incredible sunset.
The next and final day at Skye the weather had become more moody, saying its goodbye. But the journey was not over yet. The first stop of the day was the famous Eilean Donan castle, situated in a small island at the intersection between three Lochs, and we got in to explore it. As it is one of the popular Scottish attractions, it was a bit more crowded than what I got used to the previous days, but the tranquility of the surroundings helped us to feel more relaxed.
And once again, we got in the coach to continue to our next and final major stop: Glencoe, the most scenic glen (valley) of the whole Scotland. For many kilometers we were gazing astounded to the beautiful mountains surrounding us, until we stop at the side of the road to start our hike. The cloudy sky and the slight fog created a cinematic and dramatic view, as we started walking on the uneven terrain. The view compensated for this tiring hike, although I did't make it completely to the top. I wanted just to stay at this plateau for a while, admiring what a great artist nature can be and taking pictures to remember it forever. Descending was hard enough as well due to the wet and slippery soil. We got in and drove towards Edinburgh, stopping twice for some food or pictures in the between.
Maybe our journey was over, maybe the weather became dark and depressing, but we were all full of experiences and beautiful moments. For sure this is a route that I strongly recommend to anyone visiting Scotland, as you will get a real Scottish experience and you will be lucky enough to admire some of the best scenery in the whole Europe.