I am aware that a number of the readers of this blog are thinking about taking
a holiday on this wonderful island, so I thought I would spend a little time to
give you my take of how you might get here. The mode of transport for the first part of your
journey will obviously depend on where you are coming from, but as you get
closer to Skye, your options become rather more limited.
Being an island, Skye is not surprisingly completely surrounded by water, so
historically, all arrivals were by boat. Ferries crossed back and forth from
Kyle of Lochalsh, Mallaig and Glenelg, and a steamer service operated from
Oban, visiting the many piers dotted round the coast of Skye.
Today, boats are not completely confined to history. Getting ‘Over
the Sea to Skye’ (a line made famous in the words of the well known ‘speed bonnie
boat’ Skye Boat Song) still has to happen today. A regular ferry service still
operates from Mallaig to Armadale, and a summer only ferry plies between
Glenelg and Kylerhea. There are even cruise ships which moor off Portree Bay
every now and then, and
deposit their passengers for a couple of hours ashore. I wonder how many of the cruising passengers even know on which island they have been deposited?
There is no airport on Skye, so you can’t fly here. The
nearest airport is Inverness
. There are no
railways on Skye, so you can’t come all the way by train. The nearest station
is Kyle of Lochalsh. Having arrived at Inverness or Kyle of Lochalsh, the vast
majority of visitors coming by plane or train then hire a car and continue by
road over the sea via the Skye
, which connects
Kyle of Lochalsh and Kyleakin.
You can also get here by coach, either service buses from
Inverness or Glasgow,
or coach tours from all over the place. It’s not my idea of fun to be bounced
round the island squashed into in a bus load of strangers driven by the
ex-pupil of a Formula One driver, who will cheerfully drop you off outside the most expensive
gift shops, but plenty of people seem to do it. Recently, there has been an upsurge
in numbers of mini-coach tours, usually driven by a long-haired lad in a kilt,
and carrying camera-toting oriental-looking youngsters who wear designer shoes
and coats quite unsuited to squelching about the popular tourist attractions at
which they are disgorged to take their snaps.
Some people even arrive on bicycles. From their body
language, I get the distinct impression that they had no idea just how windy or
hilly it is here. They toil along on overloaded bikes, usually with at least
one in the party trailing half a mile or more behind. I’ve never seen a touring
cyclist with a grin on their face…
Motorcyclists are fond of Skye. Skye is rather less fond of
some motorcyclists - especially those who race around in packs, at speeds far
greater than the law or any sense of self-preservation allows, producing deafening
volumes of sheep-scaring noise. I don’t think they come to see the scenery.
Quite a lot of people come in camper vans… I’m not a fan of
camper vans, so to avoid offending anyone, will say no more on the subject.
Which leaves us with the car. Skye is full of hire cars in
summer. They are mostly driven by foreigners, and are easy to spot. The cars
are brand new and shiny (Skye residents generally drive older, grimier vehicles) and are driven erratically and slowly, either wandering onto the
verge or across the centre line from time to time as the driver is distracted
by the view or a glimpse of some unexpected wildlife. Meet a hire car on a
single track road and panic sets in. Selecting reverse gear is the driver’s first
challenge, but then how to actually make backwards progress would appear to be a skill which
is not taught to pupil drivers in overseas countries.
And some people drive here in their own cars. It's a long way, isn't it?
So, to sum up – there are lots of fun ways to get to Skye, though maybe some are a bit more fun than others. But no matter how you get
here, you are more than likely to enjoy the experience, and having been here
once, many, many visitors come back again (and again, and again).
Hope to see you soon!