Wednesday 18 April 2018

Skye vs South – Some Differences

To us, Skye is just ‘Skye’. We love the place for everything that it is, and have done since we first set foot on this magical land. But it is most certainly a very different land to the one we left behind in south east England when we moved here some ten years ago. However, we’ve never felt homesick for the south, and today, only notice the differences when we make trips over the border on our visits to friends and family.

So – what’s different? Short answer – ‘everything’. Longer answer… ermmm...

Kent, SE England

Isle of Skye, NW Scotland

Landscape;  No-where is flat. There are no fields of growing crops here, no hedges and very few big deciduous trees.

Views;  From almost everywhere, you can see for miles. There’s a sea-view round every corner (or a mountain view) (or both).

Colour;  Winter is brown. Early spring is brown. Late spring and summer are a riot of colourful wild flowers amid the lush greens of the grasses. Autumn is gloriously golden.

The Air;  Fresh, clean, invigorating.

Light;  Daylight goes on for a very long time every day in mid-June, but a grey gloom descends throughout December. Often, the low sun casts its rays over the (usually brown) landscape to illuminate the shapes of the land and the colours of the vegetation in a way much appreciated by artists and photographers.

Sounds;  Mostly, it’s simply silent. Or you may hear the burbling of a burn. However... during a storm, you will be aware of much howling, wailing and whooshing as the wind does its best to find a way into your roof or through the gaps in your windows. You need to get good at sleeping through storms...

Smells;  The sea, sheep and cattle - not exhaust fumes.

Wildlife;  Seals bob about offshore, while rare white tailed eagles and marsh harriers may be spotted in the sky. Brown hares and three different species of deer and are common, and pine martens are here too. We seldom spot a hedgehog or a fox though.

People;  There’s definitely a Skye-look – I wonder if we have inherited it yet…?  It is friendly, welcoming, relaxed, peaceful, comfortable and happy.

Shops;  There aren't many here.

Traffic;  Even in peak tourist season, we don’t experience traffic jams. In winter, one can frequently drive several miles without seeing any other vehicle.

Gardens;  We don’t really have gardens – just a moss-choked bit of a lawn and a few scraggy shrubs. It’s too wet/cold/windy here for garden flowers which are popular in the south.

Which brings us to… The Weather;  You don’t know anything about the weather until you have lived on the west coast of the Highlands for a few years… I’ll have to break this down into categories…

Wind;  We get a lot of wind. It is very seldom calm. 40mph winds are frequent. Gales of 50 – 60mph occur several times every year. 70 – 80mph storms are not uncommon.

Rain;  We get a lot of rain. Rain does not ‘fall down’ here – it comes at you horizontally. The rain drops are not drops at all, they are tiny needles that sting if they happen to strike any unprotected skin. Skye rain can penetrate most waterproof clothing within minutes.

Drizzle;  Much the same as ‘Rain’ above, except the needles are very much smaller, so don’t sting as much, however, Skye drizzle can penetrate all waterproof clothing within seconds.

Snow;  We don’t get much snow (except on the hills). This surprises many people.

Temperatures; It is quite unusual to see winter night time temperature fall below about -2C. It is quite unusual to see summer maximums above about 18C. Of course - we are talking weather here, so exceptions, in summer and winter, can and do happen.

This is not an exhaustive list. I could go on and on, but I am sure you have the idea. We wouldn't move back to the south east of England for all the tea in China. Could you cope with living here?

Tuesday 3 April 2018

They're Back...Again !

There's no arguing that Skye is a stunningly beautiful place. The scenery has been used as the location for a number of recent big-budget films. And with snow on the hills and bright spring sunshine... it's just 'wow!' Today, I watched the TV, bemused, as it was announced that Skye is the only place in the UK where dinosaur footprints can be found. So - OK,  it really is not too surprising that many people travel from all corners of the globe to visit our lovely and fascinating island. Of course - Sue and I chose to make Skye our home because we wanted to become part of the network providing self-catering accommodation for visitors. We expected to be able to let our holiday cottages here rather more easily than if we had set up our business in a more remote and little-visited corner of the country.

Skye dinosaur footprint.
The prints are on a tidal shore, and often hidden by sand or seaweed.
I'll bet not many visitors ever find them
So - we must try not to moan when our winter silence is suddenly disturbed by the distant sound of passing traffic, and the Co-op car park is rather more crowded than we have become used to in the past few months. We know the places to avoid in summer, and certainly know any number of places we can go that very few visitors ever discover.

Dunvegan village
I swear the camper vans get bigger every year..
But we may have to alter our dog-walking routines a bit. In winter, we can happily walk on the verges of our local 'main' road, where we are likely to see fewer than half a dozen cars in a two-mile walk. However - this evening, I was jumping out of the road every few seconds as another scenery-gazing visitor in a brand new rental car whooshed past far too close to us. The visitors seem not to offer pedestrians the courtesy of slowing, or giving a bit of space.

No worries - we can adapt. We have our 'secret spots'...!

Located about one mile from The Storr - which is one of Skye's most-visited natural features.
Here, on a beautiful day in mid-summer 2014, I walked all day without seeing another person.