Sunday 27 October 2013

Is Skye Closed for Winter?

We received a very nice review on our cottage-booking website this week from a couple who had just got home from a stay at Aird View. They had had a good holiday, but commented on a number of problems they had encountered with end-of-season businesses. It made me wonder - how do we let potential visitors know that Skye is still here in winter, but not all the tourist facilities are as operating as they might be in the summer?

So, for a start, I'll say it here...

The scenery is here all year. In winter, the waterfalls are bigger and better. The roads are quieter (In fact, some days, seeing another moving vehicle can be a novelty...). On a clear night, the sky is just amazing - you really do have to see it to believe it. It rains even more in winter than in summer. There are no midges in winter.

But... most of the paid-for tourist attractions close for the winter. Those that say they stay open all year might close if the weather is bad, or the owner gets bored and decides to go home early. Don't make a long journey to see somewhere without checking beforehand that what you want to see will be open and fully operational. Some of the eating places close for winter too. Those that stay open are unlikely to be taking orders after about 8.30pm - there's no point keeping a kitchen going and a waitress sitting-about for just one or two late-eaters.

So... should you visit Skye in winter? That depends a lot on what you are coming here for.

Eating out? Castles? Museums? Galleries?  Boat trips? Shopping? Visitor attractions? .... Probably no (though some of the above are available all year).

Or... Peace and quiet? A restful and restorative break?  Walking? Wildlife? Fresh clean air? An escape from the hustle and bustle?... then definitely YES. Do come. Enjoy life as it used to be, Just be sure to pack some food supplies, waterproofs, a couple of woolly jumpers, a good book or two and a torch, and you'll have a wonderful time.

Maybe see you soon???

Wednesday 23 October 2013

The Season on Skye

It is definitely autumn now.  The moors have turned to gold, and mist swirls over the hilltops. We are enjoying some delightfully mild temperatures though, so getting out and about is no hardship. This is Glen Brittle, a couple of days ago...

It seems many Skye visitors are lingering to enjoy the autumn. We have never before seen so many visitors on the island so late in the year. The visitor season seemed slow to start - April was quiet - but there are certainly plenty of people still here in late October, and we have bookings at Loch View into the middle of November. That's definitely a 'first'.

Sue and I had made our plans to go south at what we thought would be the end of the season. So Sue is in Kent now (leaving me to the unexpected ironing mountains again). She sent me this photograph taken from the train on the way from Kyle of Lochalsh to Inverness. I think that is Eilean Lagach, with Plockton on the far shore....

We also have my sister, Sue and her husband John visiting Skye this week. They are staying at Loch View, but called here at the Barn the other day, just before Sue set off south. They have travelled this time in a 40 year-old Triumph GT6 which John has recently restored. So here is my Sue and me, with John and Sue's GT6 at The Barn...

Monday 7 October 2013

A New Toy

It's an ebay bargain - upwards of ten years old, but has seen little use and has been well looked after. I haven't owned an SLR camera since my 35mm film days, so once I have got my head round all the buttons and menus, I am hoping that some of my photography may take on a slightly more creative slant. But I won't be lugging this monster onto the hills - my trusty little Canon compact will continue to fill that role. I'll post some pictures from it once I have found out how to turn it on...

...update... took it out with me for yesterday evening's doggie walk. Certainly not the best weather, and facing a steep learning curve with the camera... goodness me, they can certainly pack a lot of technology into a small space, can't they!!

However - even though it was a dull evening, I am pleasantly surprised by the results of my first few of shots with the new toy - each taken on completely different settings.
Dunvegan Castle car park - we take a path from here into the woods.
Cupar knows the way!
It was getting quite dark by the time we came out from the trees.... 
... so I started playing - click on this to see it full-size. I will admit to a tweak or two in Photoshop with this one!

Sunday 6 October 2013

How to get to Skye

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 Bridge, 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!