Skye and Goodbye to UK

So The Isle of Skye was in front of us. And so was the first night we would spend on the island. We were looking for cover from the wind and rain.

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That was clearly a mistake. The small biting flies, that we later learned were called midges, gladly populated calm and covered places too. And they like to invite their friends to the parties as well. We were covered in them. Literally. And those animals, they feed on insect repellents.

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Seals, Eagles and Tourists. We survived the rain and the bugs somewhat sane. We referred to our small book of hikes, and there was described a nice beach walk, going through a wildlife spotting area. We did not get to the hike, we got stuck to a small cabin with a nice man and binoculars. there were dozens of seals in the water, fishing. The man was also expecting a White Taled Sea Eagle to make an appearance. Allegedly there should have also been a lot of otters around.

We had a nice chat about the local wildlife and sheep herding with the man in the hut and witnessed immense joy when the eagle finally appeared, suddenly there was loads of people armed with binoculars and cameras with huge lenses. Apparently it was the event of the day. It was easy to spend half a day there, looking at the playful seals and the eagle. Finally we drove off to check out our new hoods. The coastal views of Skye are beautiful. The landscape there is rough and sharp, creating a strong contrast to the greenery and roundness of the hilltops.

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The Storm. It ended up being rather late when we finally got the idea of finding a place to stay. Tent was not really an option, since there was going to be winds up to 100 km/h passing by. We started searching for B&B’s. Very popular name for a B&B over there seems to be No Vacancies. It was getting late, and we passed more and more places that did not even answer the door. And the wind was picking up, so much that our car was feeling it too.

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We started to be desperate after returning to our car from yet another door. But all of a sudden, there was a car turning to the yard, a lady stepping out and asking if we were looking for a place to stay. She said that she might have something and ran away for a moment. When she returned, she was holding the keys for the tiniest hut you could imagine. It had a mattress, a kettle and electricity. She was even a bit ashamed to show it to us.

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That hut, it was more than we had dared to hope for. And it was cheap! I could have hugged the lady, she really did safe us from a horrible night. We slept comfortably, listening to the raging wind outside, at times it sounded like some of our hut was taking off. We did end up reserving the hut for a second night as well. If you are on the move in Isle of Skye I warmly recommend you to drive just a bit north from Uig and stop by the White Wave Adventure center. The people are wonderful there!

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The following day was windy and rainy and sunny and many things in between.

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We did not do too much hiking thanks to the weather. It was rather much nicer to stay inside the car and stop for photos every now and then. Though we did happen to pass by the Staffin Bay during low tide, so of course we needed to go search for the Dinosaur foot prints.

Ridges, Pools and Beaches. The next destination was The Fairy Pools at the Glen Brittle. The Pools are beautiful thing to see, as long as you can handle being surrounded by people. It really is amazing how much tourists come to those places.

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We quickly got off of the main trail and started to look for more breathing space up from the ridges surrounding the glen. The view is great from up there. You can see all the water glistening on the surrounding ground and there is nobody there. We went off trail, which is much more fun than staying on well walked paths.

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The ridge walk we topped off with a nice stroll around the coast, spotting some owls and finding some Polish company in a wild camping spot. We shared some whisky, traveling tips and jokes.

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Now there is a small pin on Poland in our “map of future travels”. We still need to get that map though.

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The coasts offered us plenty of fun for the next day. We went exploring old ruined villages on one of the peninsulas.

Those show really the power of sheep. Back in the day, they simply just threw people out of their homes, shipped them to Nova Scotia and herded sheep in the old village lands.

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The whole island breathes history. You can see the age of the mountains there, they really look prehistorical. That is confirmed by the dinosaur prints on the rocks of Staffin bay.


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Meeting Friends. We had planned to meet my Armenian friends from Finland who happened to be visiting Scotland at the same time. We picked a crossroads on the island to meet at.In the meanwhile we had found and tested a perfect camping spot at the seaside with no midgets and a lot of playing lambs and roadblocking cows.

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We were early at the point de rendezvous and Armenians were late. So we decided to climb up to a ridge while we waited. Ridges are something you get hooked to. And the valleys do look much nicer when you climb on top of them.

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We already had learned that the trails drawn on the map are not always the same thing as the trails in the real life. Especially suspicious it is when the trail in the map is a straight line. Since it is very common in Scotland to hike off trail, the trails on the map are often nonexistent. You just stand under the top you want to reach, and climb there. Simple. Or so you think until the first swamp you meet.

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The other part of the trailish thing is there.

Our friends arrived and we all drove back to our camping spot through a herd of cows having their lunch at the road and followed some sheep who were clearly singing “Vamos a la playa!” when they ran to the shoreline, after raiding an old cemetery.

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We had last seen the Armenians in February, right before I left from Finland. So there was some chatting to do. A lot had happened in both ends. We shared beers, food and a campfire in the sunset, looked at the sea and ran to the hills.

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I Can See Ben Nevis From Here! I had found a nice looking ridge walk for us climbing 3 mountaintops and hopefully showing us a nice overview of Skye. We had luck. The day was clear and sunny with no wind what so ever. We started on walking from the village Luib up the side of the Glas Bheinn Mhor. A humble little round hill.

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That was our first top on our climb towards Grabh Bheinn. The thing about that walk was that when ever you went up, you came back down at least half of the way before ascending to the next top. So we descended from Glas Bheinn Mhor, down in between it and the Belig, nice looking steep and green thing.

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In that shallow point came our first moment of thinking. There was no clear route up, only gravel and boulders. That took some map reading, route planning and high hopes. but we got up. None of us had no idea how to get down, but we were up. And the view. Clear skies allowed us to see far. Dozens of mountain tops, including Ben Nevis, and the sea all around us! The wind was still, and so was the sea, some small islands looked like they were floating in the sky. Beautiful.

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The Raven On Top. So we got our breaths back and started to figure out how to get down on the other side of the peak. The surface was steep and rocky and we were off trailing. We had no clue if we actually could get down that way or should we return to the at least as difficult descent behind us.  At this point it is good to mention that one of us has a fear of heights and a flu.

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We made our way down, sliding, scrambling and half running. We dropped down about 350 meters only to find a rocky and steep climb of bit more than 400 meters in front of us, to the peak of Grabh Bheinn.

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It was again a bit of a question mark whether or not we would be able to get up, not that there were too many options. So we set off, hands to the ground and scrambling. Circling boulders and trying to keep the correct direction, which is surprisingly difficult when you are ascending steeply and unable to have a decent overall view on where you are. We found the starting of the narrow, narrow ridge, narrow I’m telling you! And were happy there really was no wind, or mist or anything. Since the ground was falling over 200 meters on each side, right next to us.

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We were rewarded on the top of the mountain. The view, it continued to be unbelievable. And the feeling you get, when you have reached the goal you saw all the way from the starting point. The peak really was a peak; a tiny area where we all just fit on to. We enjoyed the sunshine, the view and some snacks before starting the final descent.

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Then we got a visitor. A raven passed by, noticed us and came to sit on a rock close to us. Curious thing he was, trying to figure out who we were and what on earth were we doing up there, in his domain. We had some bird friendly cookies that we started to crumble for the raven. We did manage to lure him closer and closer. Such a beautiful animal he was, as black as black can be, he clearly was disappointed when we started to leave.

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Whales, Napping. We left the raven and started looking for a way down. there was a big boulder in front of us and it was not clear on which side it was actually possible to get pass it. After a moment of careful map reading, narrow strips of land you could trust to step on and stones you could hug for extra support, we reached the steep ridge covered in gravel and stones. So it was again the matter of just sliding down. Looking back to where we came, I was quite proud of myself and Waffle and my friends.

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Look carefully, you’ll find the Armenians.

We finally got down, back to the road and started walking to the cars alongside the beach. We saw something moving on the water, and then a cloud of mist rising up. There were whales swimming around and a man filming a documentary about them. We went closer, got to know, that the whales were actually a part of the group that had stranded close by a few days earlier. They were sleeping and waiting for their family in a calm bay. What an ending they provided for the day!

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The Storr. We drove to the cliffs, close to Staffin and found a spot to throw out the tents and a bottle of whisky. I think we all slept quite nicely after such a day of walking. Next day, our last day, we were going to head for the Old Man of Storr.

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The must-see thing on the Isle of Skye. So there we were alongside all the other tourists. When we reached the Old Man the lighting decided to be almost perfect, the green color of the grass was beautiful and the sheep looked at their best. We planted ourselves for a lunch on top of a hill, looking at the stone. It was the last day on the island for Waffle and me. We did not really feel like returning home.

We said our goodbyes over a glass of beer, took a final look at the whales, who were still napping in the bay, and left the island. It was a long long drive. We stopped somewhere close to Carlisle for the night. And drove the next day the whole way down to Dover, through France and back home.

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What we noticed, was that 3 weeks is not enough to see Scotland; we will need to return, we miss the mountains. I would also drown you into our pictures from there; but that would not be smart. So if you want to see more of them just visit our Flickr. 

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Scotland – Part Two

I left you at the bothy the last time. So this post is about to start from there as well. We had spent a nice night inside the warm cabin, listening to the rain pouring down on the scouts outside.  We decided to wait the rain out before walking to our car, have a slow morning and then just start driving up north again. It was nice, sitting with small fire burning in the fireplace and just listening to the sounds of an old house. That meant mainly rats.

On the move again. The walk back to the car was surprisingly heavy. Not that it was very long, or had many climbs to it. Just that when you get yourself into a warm and nice place you kinda get lazy. And when you after that try to tell to your legs that they should transport you to somewhere, they might not fully agree. We finally managed to get to the car ( after a lot of “It must be after that corner! No, it is not. Now! Now we are there! Nope, not yet.. Maybe there? Meh, no.”) and were immensely happy.

 

Started off driving to a post card. And then into another post card. After the corner yet another post card. The landscapes are rather amazing over there. Driving forwards more than 3 km on one go, without stopping for photos proved nearly impossible. We got all the way up to a beautiful little town of Oban. We camped somewhere close by, with a double rainbow, descent population of tiny biting flies and chilly temperatures. Which convinced us to take a hotel again the next night

 

Forts and Bens and Glens. So we arrived in Fort William, which seems to be something like the hiking Mecca. Probably because the West Highland Way passes right through the city.

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We were on the search for a place to stay, and found a lovely little hostel right at the foot of Ben Nevis, with an amazing view and extremely nice owner.  Just a hint, for finding nice places to stay cheaply; go further away from the center.

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This was the view from our bedroom window!

Achintee Farm is the name to remember here.

BTW, a man in a kilt walking through storm. That is a sight.

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A Hostel. So we stayed with an American couple in the hostel, looking at sheep blown around by the stormy wind outside. In those situations you find an immense amount of gratitude. You are happy you do not have to be outside in a tent in that weather. You are happy about a bed you can sleep in and the warmth that surrounds you and that you are actually dry.

It is a good moment to spread all your maps around and plan like crazy. We decided not to climb the Ben Nevis next to us thanks to the heavy rain fall. Instead we did find a nice path starting from the Glen Nevis and going over a few ridges and peaks and crossing a nice waterfall.

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For the rainy day Waffle and I headed towards the Glens that were close by. First stop was Glen Coe, which is incredibly beautiful.

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Full of tourists, yes, but still beautiful. I do think a wet and cloudy day was perfect for spending in there.

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 The character of the Glen and surrounding moors is somehow accentuated with the low hanging clouds that hug the peaks and droop down in the bottoms of the valleys.

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Glen Duror. We also drove through Glen Etive, searching for a spot to camp for the next night.

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A Bridge, they say.

The camping over there did not happen. It was looking rainy, and we did know about a Bothy quite close by. So we drove to Glen Duror, packed our backpacks and started walking through a forest to the bothy. Waffle noticed that his smokes were left in the car. It was also raining. Waffle was not too happy, especially after we lost the trail.

We did reach the bothy. It was great! Empty and peaceful, looking down to the glen. All the dead wood in the forest was wet though, soaked to be exact. The hopes of getting a nice fire going were diminishing.

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But we proofed, that if you just put enough effort into it, and keep trying and trying, you will eventually succeed. We ended up having a really nice evening and even the view got unbelievably beautiful, when the clouds moved out and the light of the setting sun found us and the mist that rose from the woods around us.

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We made food, enjoyed ourselves and went to bed. Only to wake up couple of moments later to the sound of plastic being scraped across the floor. It was a culinaristic mouse. It had found our empty pots of chocolate mousse. Those pots were licked so clean you won’t believe it.

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Falling a sleep in that bothy, with the soft light of our fireplace and a few candles, next to my own Waffle. I would return there anytime.

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Back to the glen. The next day came, all sunny and nice. and we returned to the Glen Nevis. Plan was to cross the waterfall, climb to the Mamores, which stand right next to Ben Nevis. We had just heard that there were a search going on. A man had gone missing on that exact trail a few days ago and still not found. We were feeling safe, all those helicopters, police dogs and ambulances around.

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That hike ended shortly. Apparently nice sunny weather after a rainy day, makes the snow melt rapidly filling up the waterfall pretty high.

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We could not cross it, not with dry feet and neither of us was feeling too much like going through the ice cold water bare foot. Yes, we do like some comfort during our hikes. So we returned and drove to Glen Coe again, to see the thing in the sun.

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That night we camped close to Kinlochleven, next to a loch, with a view to mountains. We met a lovely Belgian couple, who were spending their time driving through Scotland with a camper van.

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We were the first Belgians they had seen the whole trip. So there was a lot of talking going on over a slight language barrier, which made things pretty funny.(They were French speaking, Waffle is Flemish and I only work with Finnish or English.)

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Road, road. It was time to head for our last destination. Isle of Skye. So we packed the camp into our car, moved on, slowly, taking photos after every turn and were excited. The landscapes again. The landscapes. You pass so many glens, mountains and lakes in a journey of couple of hundred kilometers.

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Apparently you really do need these things over in Scotland.

We finally reached Dornie. The village next to the bridge leading to Skye. The wind had completely died after a few stormy days, when they had closed bridges and ships had refused to sail. It was somehow scary even, something was brewing out in the sea for sure.

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The final verse. I am not gonna let you with us to Skye. Not yet. That will be the final part of my Scotland postings. I do hope you have enjoyed the reading so far. More is coming, I promise. Slowly but I try to beat my keyboard as fast as possible.

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