Photographing the Isle of Skye, Scotland (part 3)
If you missed our previous part of Skye experience, read it here.
The weather remained amazingly beautiful during our stay, perfect to hike another high point of Skye, the Quirang. You need to give yourself several hours for this walk. Firstly, weather can turn bad here quickly, and you may have a bit of hard time finding your way in the upper part of this sometimes challenging hike.
Secondly, if weather is good – you will want, like us, to make frequent stops and enjoy panoramic views, bizarre rock formations of the Prison (to the top of which you can get by taking one of the side paths), the Table with its surreal, flat top, and the Needle, which can offer a bit of a challenge to less experienced hikers. No, you don’t climb the Needle, this fascinating pinnacle is made up of terribly loose rocks. But you can get up next to it and enjoy more fantastic views.)
Another scenic trip worth taking is Elgol. It takes a long drive, mostly using single-lane, narrow roads. Views from the road are spectacular, and you will also see one of many Scottish wind farms – huge wind power generator stations, blending with landscape. Elgol opens to the Cuillins, highest mountain ridge on Skye. It is a destination for experienced climbers, but on a clear day you can have a look at the Cuillins from the shore in Elgol, or – if you have a bit extra time – you can take a boat tour getting deep inside the loch, to enjoy these mountains from a closer distance.
Unfortunately, when we arrived to Elgol, Skye had it’s “Eilean a’ Cheo” (Misty Isle) face on, and most mountains were covered by a thick fog. Still, it was beautiful, and the road there is very scenic…
Being already on the west side makes it easier to drive to perhaps the most unusual place on Skye – a remote, lone “coral beach”. It is worth the ride down the narrow road leading through moors and glens. After a short hike from the road’s end, you find yourself walking along the shore, full of dark, rough basalt rocks.
Nothing prepares you for that amazing view – just behind the next hill you will step down to something more proper for a Caribbean paradise – a small bay full of beautiful coral sand! You can see beautiful, light-blue water, sea shells and other beachcombers’ treasures. Enchanting, almost surreal, and amazingly out of place. A couple hundred yards of Caribbean paradise, nested among huge black volcanic rocks amidst a stark northern environment. It’s hard to believe you don’t see real coral.
It is all made up of pieces of dried, calcified and sun-bleached algae, known as maerl. On your way back look out to see the famous Dunvegan castle, the oldest continually inhabited castle in Scotland.
While driving along the shore, you will also see some small lighthouses here and there, which reminded us of another interesting story: In 1963, two of Skye’s area lighthouse cottages, built by the Stevensons – in Ornsay and Kyleakin on the island of Eilean Ban – were sold to Gavin Maxwell, an author and naturalist. Maxwell’s enormously successful book “Ring of bright water,” tells the story of his friendship with an otter, set on the island. The otter, captured in Iraq, was a gift from Wilfred Thesiger, one of the greatest explorers and travel writers. They travelled together to the marshlands of southern Iraq, a trip that was later captured in their books. Eilean Ban is now a wildlife sanctuary and a Maxwell’s museum.
As we decided to take a return bus back to Glasgow, this tiny island of Eilean Ban was the last place we saw on Skye from our window before reaching the mainland.
It is hard to believe we had spent only a few days here. It felt like several weeks, packed with constant joy of exploring and photographing breath-taking, beautiful places.
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Commentary: Margaret Gajek and Derek Galon
Photographs: Derek Galon (please respect copyright)