Skye, Fort William
We had almost a full day of travelling to get to our next destination. First, we travelled south by rail from Thurso to Inverness. We had an hour between trains in Inverness so Donna and I went to a store we missed when there before – Leakey’s Second-hand Bookshop. It was piled high with books – both floors. We found some possible books but we thought the prices were a bit high. Well, back to the train station without any new reading material for another train west to Kyle of Lochalsh and then onto the Isle of Skye. The train trip west from Inverness was very scenic and we were glued to the window as the hills and lochs passed by.
There was plenty of wildlife along the tracks such as hares, deer, a few bucks and a few Highland
Cows. On all our train trips, the lambs in the fields were very cute and entertained us when they ran back to their mothers as our 2 car train came by.
When we got to Kyle of Lochalsh, we were to take a local bus to our B&B in Broadford on the Isle of Skye. Well, we arrived in late afternoon and after some discussion with a very helpful local, we found out the next bus would be in several hours and not at the time the bus schedule said it would be. We were not the only tourists fooled by the confusing bus schedule. It’s too bad we needed a friendly local person to interpret it for us. Another family hoping to catch the bus with us had a very expensive taxi trip to their B&B. Lucky for us, we had such a nice B&B host that she came and picked us up. She wasn’t too far away.
For our first full day on Skye, we went off Skye to see the Eileen Donan Castle on one of the elusive local buses. At least this buses this day showed up as per the schedule. The Eileen Donan Castle is advertised as Scotland’s most romantic castle with both ancient and modern history. It was very picturesque on a salt water loch. We also walked through the teeny town of Dornie by the castle and visited the few shops in the town.
Our second day on Skye, we joined an organized tour of North Skye. It was a very small group – 4 of us plus the entertaining local guide. We stopped for awhile at the Man of Storr where Donna and I were energetic enough to hike up to the foot of the “Old Man”. The “Old Man” is a large pinnacle of rock that can be seen for miles around.
Then north to Lealt where we saw some pretty waterfalls and the remainder of diatomite sheds used to dry the diatomite before being transported to the rest of the world. After viewing Kilt Rock, we stopped for a quick lunch in the very Gaelic town of Staffen. The rest of the tour included Quiraing (more towering rocks) and more beautiful scenery. We visited the Skye Museum of Island Life where we explored croft cottages and learned about the sad history of the croft people. We definitely needed more time here. The Fairy Glen was a wonderful and perhaps magical glen hidden in some hills. I could imagine fairies dancing around at night when all the people have left. We didn’t get to see the Fairy Ponds on the island. I hear they are cute and interesting, too.
The Scots have their own way of busking. At the lookout for Kilt Rock, there was a piper with his bagpipes. This wasn’t the only place we say this. We also saw many pipers busking in Edinburgh.
On another day, we took one of the elusive buses to Portree and back. Just after we arrived, we watched a very low cloud snake out from between some islands, creep over the loch and than proceed on to the Island and disappear behind Portree. Very neat! If you are ever in Portree, be sure to check out both sides of the map in the square. It kept us entertained for at least 30 minutes. They employed someone with a very good sense of humour to do a map of Skye and Portree. Some good entertainment while waiting for the bus.
I just have to share the panoramic photo of our view each morning at breakfast.
From our B&B, we took the bus to the ferry that took us to Maillag. We were lucky to have good weather for the ferry crossing. We had some time in Maillag before our train south so we visited Maillag’s museum. As Maillag wasn’t very big we didn’t get to do much walking around in the town before we boarded the train to Fort William. The train took the same route as the famous Jacobite Train and went over the Glenfinnan Viaduct made famous in the Harry Potter films. After we did the train route with Scott Rail, we decided not to spend the extra money to take the Jacobite Train because we would have seen the same thing – beautiful as it was. The train ride gave us good views of the locks and the Caledonian Canal.
Fort William is a bigger and nicer town than I expected. Here we visited the West Highland Museum – it’s free and very good. It was a beautiful and sunny day so we walked along the water to Carpach and Banavie where the Caledonian Canal begins (or ends). Carpach is on the Atlantic side of Scotland and is exactly the opposite end of the Caledonian Canal from Inverness (on the North Sea side). Banavie is the town where Neptune’s Staircase is. The Staircase is a bunch of locks in quick succession so that it looks like a staircase.
Because Ben Nevis is between Bonavie and Fort William, we had plenty of great views of the famous “Ben” – the tallest mountain in the British Isles.