Friday 23 February 2018

Skye Roads

When Skye was first populated by humans, the sensible residents stayed close to the shores and travelled about by boat. Simple paths were sufficient to get between the scattered farmsteads and crofts in a township.

Time moved on, and the need for wheeled transport became greater – though it was well into the 20th century before coastal ‘puffer’ boats ceased to visit piers around the island bringing in supplies and taking out produce.

However, rough tracks were built around the shores and over the moors to connect the various coastal communities, and as over time some of the communities grew larger, better surfaced roads were constructed. Many of the older tracks have now disappeared back into the moor. Single track roads are still the only way of getting to the far-flung tips of the island.

Almost gone - a disused gated track leads onto the moor. 
By the middle of the 20th century, Skye had a widespread network of roads, both inland, and around the coast. However, all the roads were single-track, and barely able to cope with local traffic, let alone the cars belonging to the increasing numbers of visitors. It was from the 1960s to the early 2000s that saw significant improvement, with the start of the reconstruction and realignment of many of the single track roads to create two-way modern highways to connect the largest settlements of Broadford, Portree, Dunvegan, Armadale and Uig.

Typical single track road - roads like this provide access to the far tips of Skye.
Good for dog-walking in winter when they are very quiet..
Re-alignment of the single track roads when two-way roads were built
has left sections of old road like this all over the island.
A modern Skye main road
The Skye Bridge opened in 1995, providing a fixed-link from the mainland at Kyle of Lochalsh. Originally a toll bridge, it became free to cross from December 2004.

Today, Skye’s roads are suffering again. A slight increase in the island’s population has led to an increase in building and renovation works, meaning heavy lorries are plying the single track roads more suited to horse and cart. Plus - a continued increase in tourism means that all the roads are busier, especially in summer. For the most part, the main roads don’t go to the most popular tourist destinations, so again many of the old, single-track roads are carrying far more traffic than was ever envisaged.

Add to that, a general lack of maintenance over the years, leading to blocked drainage ditches and cracks in the road surface going unattended, then it has only taken one winter of harsh weather (we’ve had a lot of snow and rain this year) and many of the roads have returned to being little better than rutted and pot-holed cart tracks.

Weather damage this winter is extensive, and is costing £millions to repair.

Saturday 17 February 2018

The End Of An Era

Sue and I bought Rowan Cottage way back in 2005, some two years before I retired from teaching and we reinvented ourselves and found a new life on Skye. Rowan was the first property we bought on the island, and our first venture into holiday-letting. We soon added Aird View as our second rental property, and somehow managed to let them both while we still lived and worked in Kent. Without a doubt - we were greatly aided by Andrea and Ian. They lived on Skye and ran a small B&B.  We met them when we first came to visit Skye, and Andrea took on the task of our weekly turn-rounds while Ian did occasional 'rescue trips' when some minor disaster had happened in a cottage while a visitor was staying.

A little bit of Aird View, and a little bit of its view...!
We sold Aird View in 2013, when we bought Summer Cottage - which stands much closer to our home at Roskhill. But we have kept going with Rowan over the years in spite of the 60+ mile return trip to visit the cottage for turn-rounds and maintenance.

But now, we have agreed that it is time to slow down a little, and reduce our workload - so Rowan Cottage is for sale. It has been on the market since last autumn, and has attracted a scattering of viewings. Now, it seems we may have a buyer. We have accepted a 'verbal offer' from a young couple, and are awaiting the arrival of their formal offer, which will then begin the achingly slow legal process of selling a property.

And what will we do next...??? More news to follow...!

Rowan Cottage 

Rowan's fabulous view

Tuesday 6 February 2018

Does it Snow on Skye?

Quick answer - yes.

Slightly longer answer - snow at low levels during winter is not that common - maybe one year in three we see 1cm or so at sea level, and it doesn't stay more than a few days. About one year in ten we get a bit more snow, and it can last a bit longer. But there is no 'normal'.

Here's a couple of photos of today's snow at Roskhill...

View from my study window...
View from upstairs window
Just along the road...brrr..
On the hills, snow appears every winter. The Cuillin and Trotternish Ridge can be white, or white-topped for long periods between November to March. The hills then become VERY scenic, but there will still be times in winter when there is no snow there at all.

Here's just a few scenic Skye snowy photos from our archive...

The Cuillin over Loch Caroy from Harlosh

The old bridge at Sligachan -
This is the only time I have ever seen the river completely frozen over.
Christmas Eve, December 2010
One of Sue's pictures - I have to admit, I don't recognise where this was taken!
Loch Fada, December 2010

Friday 2 February 2018

My Little Weakness...

OK - well, maybe just one of my little weaknesses...

Since a small boy, I have been rather a lot of a car-nut. The living room floor was a constant foot-trap, with my Dinky toys lined up along the edges of the carpet. As a teenager, I became an avid reader of Autocar magazine, and occasionally The Motor. At age 16, I bought my first car, and passed my driving test in it, just 12 weeks after my 17th birthday.

Some 50 years later, a significant number of motor vehicles (and a couple of bikes) have passed through my hands - saloons, estates, 2-seaters, convertibles, hatchbacks and vans - some bought new, some pretty old.

Today, we have three cars in our household. Sue has a very pretty Peugeot 208 GT-Line, which we bought new/pre-registered a few months ago. It's a cracking little car to drive, though I don't get behind the wheel very often.

My 'everyday' drive is my 2011 Land Rover Freelander2, also bought a few months ago, and providing me with a very much nicer driving environment than I have lived with for the last twelve years, when I have driven a van as my everyday transport. I have to add here that the Freelie proved itself to be an astonishingly capable vehicle in the snowy-icy weather we have had recently.

My 'toy' is Puss - my fabulous 2007 Jaguar XK Coupe. What a car! Supremely smooth, cossetingly comfortable, but with the potential to be furiously fast!

Here are the fleet - all photographed today...

Sue's very shiny Pug at Roskhill

Puss and her Freelie Friend at Summer Cott.
(Note the pretty sky...)!