Taking a wander around Portree, immersing yourself in the constant bustling energy of the place as travellers come and go, it is impossible not to relish the mouth-watering prospect of imminently taking in Scotland at its naturally dramatic best.
Visitors are either brimming with anticipation or still glowing in the awe of those who have seen something remarkable. Portree is Skye’s ‘capital’ and, with SYHA’s Portree Youth Hostel conveniently located in the very heart of the town, it serves as the ideal base for visitors to make their plans for wider exploration of the island. With its picturesque little harbour it is in itself a desirable destination but with the prospect of so much in the near vicinity, it’s time to hit the road.
Trotternish is the peninsula of north Skye and offers an unmatched playground for lovers of the outdoors. Wholly scenic and with only the odd sporadic settlement to break up the seemingly inhospitable terrain, its reputation as one of the UK’s most impressive jewels is highly merited.
Walkers have a giddying amount of choice on where to plant their boots but some do stand out as amongst the most spectacular in this part of the world. Taking the sound advice of the youth hostel’s incredibly helpful local experts one hike is head, shoulders and pinnacles above all others. The menacing Old Man of Storr may not appear welcoming to visitors however you’ll be well advised not to let him put you off. He’s a grumpy one but he’ll come around. Thrusting jagged daggers at the skyline it is a backdrop that has made numerous appearances in the movies as directors have sought out real-world filming locations that offer moody drama with a scowl. But for all its menace, The Storr (excluding the near-unassailable pinnacle of course) is a fairly straightforward hike and will be richly rewarded with endless magnificent views throughout.
Working your way up the eastern coastline with its cliff faces and views reaching as far as the Scottish mainland another naturally spectacular highlight is Lealt Gorge where an impressive waterfall rules supreme. The Lealt Falls are tucked away on the road to Staffin and it is worth a stop at the small car park for a nosey. Take the short pathed walkway up to the coastline and, peering over the edge, you will spot the ruins of an old factory that processed diatomite (a clay-like substance used in dynamite production) that was mined in these parts. Continuing the theme another endlessly popular spot is the climactic Kilt Rock. Seemingly spewing out Skye’s excess water into the Sound of Raasay, it is a waterfall of volcanic proportions and the remarkable basalt cliffs further underline the superb natural power of the island.
By now undoubtedly set for a breather between packed itineraries, staying at Portree Youth Hostel provides you with an impressive array of new facilities that make comfort and convenience a priority. Weather-beaten and ravenous, it is a welcome sight. With many an international backpacker adventure under my belt, there is something curiously comforting about getting back into a communal cooking area and making new friends over the pepper shaker. Intercontinental chattering about football, food, travel and, most commonly, whisky prevail and make for a warm atmosphere amongst just about as diverse a group of folks as you could imagine.
Then there is The Quiraing. It even sounds epic does it not? Skye really does not do subtle. Whether walking, cycling or just driving past this particular wonder you are certain to experience some of the most memorable views you will ever be witness to. It may even have you reaching for a Talisker to top it all off. Taking the minor road from Staffin to Uig that crosses through Trotternish, prepare to be exposed to a diverse array of landscapes, with the jewel in the crown being that magnificent image of the looming and sullen Quiraing. Top tip – get there at the start or end of the day to beat the coaches and tourist crowds. Having these views to yourself will be one of your most treasured Skye memories.
With all of this drama and emotionally-charged travel destination hopping, you’d be forgiven for thinking you were suddenly turning into an extra on a remake of Braveheart. Fear not – for Trotternish has the perfect antidote. The Fairy Glen has to be one of the most surreal and mystical landscapes in the world. Lusciously green little mounds protrude up amidst the gentler hills near Uig on the west coast. Five minutes here and you’ll fully expect to see cartoon characters or elves dancing around merrily - this is a headscratcher of a spot that is well worth an hour or two of exploration. Just don’t be surprised if you find yourself starting to uncontrollably skip between the mini conical peaks in a state of glee.
The Fairy Glen
There you have it – from a smouldering Jon Snow to a giddy Laa-Laa from the Teletubbies in the blink of an eye. Where else can you find so many ways of challenging your state of mind than the Isle of Skye?
Keep an eye out for part two of Neil's Skye adventures...coming soon!
Biography for Neil Robertson
Neil Robertson is a travel writer, blogger and itinerary planner specialising in his home country of Scotland. Continuously working with some of the top brands in the Scottish tourism industry he is also a member of the Scotlanders blogging collaboration that tour the country picking out the best bits for our visitors. Follow his Scotland travel blog - locomotionscotland.co.uk - and join him on social media to keep up with his travels.