Having spoken to many people about their trips to the famous Scottish island, no one bar myself and Miss Canada has been brave enough to travel to and around the Isle of Skye by public transport. Cool points to us!
It was the end of April when I came across a train ticket deal that seemed too good to be true: a mere £20 for return tickets from Edinburgh to Kyle of Lochalsh that’s just across the water from Skye (with our Young Person’s Railcard discount). Frantically, I got in touch with all my friends to see who was free to go in the middle of June.
And so it was that Miss Canada and I found ourselves boarding the 6:30 am train to Stirling, the 7:30 am connection to Inverness and later train to Kyle of Lochalsh. On the last leg of our journey, we were joined by a group of teenage girls who asked us if we’d mind if they played some music. Expecting them to whip out their iPods I wasn’t best pleased but grunted “OK” nonetheless, only to be surprised when they started playing live Scottish folk music instead. As it turned out they were on their way to the National Centre of Excellence in Traditional Music in Plockton. It was the highlight of our journey that day as we sped through the Highlands to the sounds of violins and a flute.
Once we’d arrived safely at our destination, we had a few hours to kill until our bus so we stopped off for a snack at Kyle of Lochalsh’s surprisingly international deli: Buth Bheag. This gave us the energy for the next leg of the journey which was crossing the bridge to the island. It’s a beautiful walk and, fortunately, at this point it was sunny and clear so we had fine views across the water.
Kyleakin is the village closest to the bridge on the other side, and from there we caught the Citylink bus to Sligachan, our final destination for the day. A tiny settlement at the foot of the Cuillin mountains, it is home to an old inn, and Sligachan Bunkhouse, our dwelling for the night.
After an evening walk along the local mountain trail and a very good night’s sleep, we set off on the 8 mile walk to Carbost, the home of Talisker Distillery. We managed the hike and arrived on time for a delicious seafood lunch at The Old Inn right on the very shore of Loch Harport where we were served by a lovely Hungarian who liked Skye so much it was his second season working there.
We’d heard the Talisker Distillery tour is a must so we sauntered along after lunch and sipped on our complimentary wee drams which were much appreciated after a few hours hiking in the wind. The guide took us through the whole process of making the renowned whiskey that has seen a drop in production this season due to the lack of rain needed to feed the local springs! Fortunately, they have quite a few casks of 50 year old Talisker to crack open to make up for the loss if need be…
Our bus (one of two a day) to Portree, the island’s “capital” arrived right on time. Unsurprisingly, we were the only passengers. Once there we checked into Bayfield Bacpackers, our home for the night where we got chatting to our roommates from Canada and Switzerland. Most people staying at the hostel had arrived with tour groups organised by Rabbie’s and Haggis Adventures, both very well known tour operators who run near-daily trips from Glasgow and Edinburgh. Everyone recommended eating at Cafe Arriba so we went there for afternoon tea and weren’t disappointed. They have a fantastic, international menu that changes every day.
Day 3 of our adventure led us to Quirang which some people might recognise as the setting for the opening scenes of Prometheus. It’s a stunning rock formation near the island’s northernmost tip where you can get to by bus from Portree’s central square. We got to know our bus driver well as he circles the Trotternish part of the island three times a day, all three of which we joined him for that day.
After our windy walk across Quirang, we decided to head over to Uig, Skye’s port that connects it to places like Talbert and Lochmaddy on the Outer Hebrides. Uig isn’t the most hopping of places but it is home to a lovely cafe where we whiled away the hours drinking mugs of extremely cheap hot drinks.
Back in Portree we headed out for a long walk along the bay, and had a seafood dinner in one of the many harbour-side restaurants. We were upset our trip had almost come to an end. That night we had new roommates from the US and Germany. In general, the island was flooded with Dutch and German tourists, most travelling by camper van and all willing to share their stories and recommendations.
On Sunday morning it was time to leave, and we hopped on the morning Citylink to Glasgow but got off in Kyleakin to walk across the bridge again. It was a lovely way to bid farewell to the Isle of Skye but I know I’ll be back.
Don’t hesitate to visit the island even if you don’t have access to a car. As long as you’re a keen hiker (which you should be if you want to visit Skye), you’ll be fine with public transport. Long live the Traveline Scotland website for providing up-to-date information!
(P.S. I do realise I’ve committed a terrible blogger crime by neglecting my blog for over a month. Life just got in the way this time.)