Friends, it was magical. To be out on the open road, uncertainty flung away for a few days, like an old t-shirt with a scratchy tag. All that mattered was the vista around the next bend, the next long walk, and the next blast of sea air to blow the cobwebs of worry away.
Like everyone else, we spent all spring and most of the summer despairing of when we’d ever be able to get more than a mile or two away from home. That seemed easier than watching our livelihoods dry up and our solid plans turn into blancmange. Then we reached a point where we noticed more and more people venturing out on holidays, our anniversary was around the corner, and it seemed like it would be OK go on a short road trip within the UK (spoiler alert – everything was totally fine). And once we made our decision, choosing a destination was easy.
We’d made it to the Scottish Highlands a couple of times before as part of larger trips to Glasgow and Edinburgh, but never quite to the Isle of Skye. On one trip we based ourselves in Fort William for a couple of nights, and focused on scenic day trips. Two of these jaunts took us almost to Skye – one day we drove to Mallaig, where you can catch the ferry to Skye, and on the other day we made it to Kyle of Localsh, near the bridge to Skye, but without a place to stay on the island itself, Skye remained a maddening bit of unfinished business for us. Everyone told us: ‘Oh, you simply must go to Skye!’
Yes. We know.
This time, we booked a room at Sconser Lodge. It seemed nice enough on TripAdvisor, but it was an absolute stunner in person. No, I’ll go even further. It is quite possibly my favourite night away from home, ever. Our room was spacious and comfortable, with a beautiful view of their verdant front lawn and an impressive mountain towering from across the road. Nonetheless, our hosts apologised that they weren’t able to give us one of their rooms with a sea-loch view (I had told them about celebrating our wedding anniversary). Our room was beautiful, and we were very happy in it, so I can’t even imagine how nice their other rooms must be!
If the Isle of Skye is just a name to you, a quick Google Images search will soon put you right. This place is heaven for photographers. You’ve got stunning landscapes, moody weather, and plenty of sheep, goats and cattle to liven things up. Or, just look at this:
Food and Drink
We had typical Scottish weather for our late August visit – temperatures that made us glad we wore layers and packed raincoats, with a keen nip to the air that justified eating heartily at every meal. My idea of heaven.
Seumas’ Bar is across the road from the Sligachan Old Bridge (a must-see to tick off your list) and the trailhead for the Sgurr na Stri hiking area. Excellent burger and great, friendly service. Huge portions. If, like us, you’re heading to Skye from Glencoe and you’re taking the bridge, you’ll arrive just in time for lunch. And you’ll be glad you did.
Sconser Lodge – Not only a wonderful place to sleep, but a gorgeous dining room overlooking the loch. I asked if we could have our dinner by the fireplace in the bar. Wonderful meal. Peat-smoked salmon as a starter, and a beautiful steak. Complimentary prosecco to help us celebrate. Too full for dessert, but lingered with some whisky. They mixed some Canadian tunes into their otherwise traditional Scottish playlist in our honour.
Breakfast was just as nice. Simple, but everything cooked perfectly and generous portions.
Antlers Bar and Grill is on the ground floor of The Portree Hotel, right in the centre of town. Go there after a long, uphill walk, like The Old Man at Storr, and ignore your calorie count for the day, if not the week.
We have vowed to return for a longer visit, because we only managed a few of the must-sees and must-do’s. We walked to the Fairy Pools, saw the Old Bridge at Sligachan, the Kilt Rock and Mealt Falls viewpoint, and the highlight of our trip was walking up Storr. We really only scratched the surface and we used these two helpful websites when planning our limited time:
I’m not sure what happens if you manage to have 13 experiences. Seems like 12 is the limit!
Good to Know
To put it delicately, you’re going to need to pee sometimes while you’re on Skye. It’s best handled whenever you have the chance, and before you embark on one of the island’s famous walks, which do have parking, but nothing else.
Portree has free public toilets right on the main road in the city centre – best to make a note of where they are before you visit. I was impressed by how clean they were kept, and it’s such a good idea. It made all of the ‘toilets for customers only’ signs a lot less unfriendly, and these Covid-19 times, it makes even more sense. I wouldn’t dream of asking to use the loo in an establishment I’m not a customer/tracked-and-traced in. You’ll find that everything you want to see is a reasonably short drive from Portree, and you will end up there throughout your time there, if you’re not actually staying in the town itself.
Which you won’t be, because you’ll be staying at Sconser Lodge. Honestly. When have I ever led you astray?