This post continues the story of our trip to Scotland. As the last week was purely vacation, feel free to skip this post if you’re only interested in my work-related content. (And if you like the travelog stuff, feel free to check out these posts from our big trip of a couple of years ago.)
While on Skye we stayed in an apartment near Sconser. Skye is actually a lot bigger than you expect – with a lot of single-lane roads with passing places – so it was nice to be staying relatively close to the ways onto the island (whether by bridge or ferry).
Here’s a snap I took on our second morning on Skye, showing the nearby view.
For our only full day on Skye we had a few things we wanted to see. My main wish was to visit the Talisker distillery, while we also wanted to visit Dunvegan Castle and the lighthouse at Neist Point.
As we left the apartment in Sconser it was drizzling slightly (on and off). But this did mean some nice, moody views of the bridge at Sligachan:
By the time we approached the distillery the weather had improved, and we found a Highland cow grazing in a field with a lovely view.
Being one of my favourite single malts, I simply had to tour the Talisker distillery while on Skye.
By the time we arrived there it was late morning, and found the only tours with spaces available were at 1pm and 4pm. We snapped up the last two spaces on the 1pm tour.
As Talisker is part of Diageo – the same group as Oban and a number of the Islay single malts – its tour was structured in a similar way to the one we’d seen just a few days before. It was interesting to appreciate the differences, though: Talisker uses a mixture of malts – half dried naturally and half with peat – which gives it some smokiness, but not as much as the Islay whiskies. It also has an odd number of stills, which is rare: typically you have an even number as most whiskies are double-distilled. Talisker stopped being triple-distilled back in 1928, which means they now had a backup still in case they need it.
Here’s an image that shows the whole distillation process, in case anyone is interested:
From there we headed up to Dunvegan. The castle itself was closed for the winter, but we drove a bit further around the coast and had a late picnic lunch overlooking it.
From Dunvegan we took roads of gradually decreasing width to get to Neist Point.
It was quite a walk down to the point itself, but it was well worth it, especially to be there approaching dusk.
This was the westmost point of Skye. Interestingly it’s further west than Dublin!
It was lovely seeing the lighthouse illuminated by the evening sun.
After this we headed back to Sconser. We’d wanted to take the long, more scenic way back, but we’d had enough of the single-lane roads by this point, especially as we’d rented a 9-seater Mercedes Benz Vito bus. So we headed back on the larger roads, and stopped at the pub closest to our bungalow (a couple of miles down the road just next to the Sligachan bridge).
The following morning we decided to head back up to Portree for breakfast: it’s Skye’s main settlement, so it seemed worth the visit, just to see what it was like. From there we had a lot of driving to get through, though, as we’d booked a night’s stay in Aberfeldy.
Just after leaving Skye – by bridge, this time – we stopped off to take some snaps of Eilean Donan Castle.
The onward drive took us close enough to Loch Noss that we simply had to make the quick detour so our 10-year-old could check it for monsters. (No, she didn’t find any.)
We then drove onwards towards Aberfeldy: at Roy Bridge we decided to backtrack to Fort William to pick up some diesel, as we didn’t have enough to get us through the Cairngorms to Dalwhinnie. Filling stations are few and far between in this part of the world.
When we eventually arrived in Dalwhinnie it was time to stretch our legs at the conveniently located distillery (ahem). It’s a beautiful one – I’m very glad we stopped there. It’s not one of my favourite whiskies – and it’s also part of Diageo – so we didn’t do the tour, but I did try a wee taste of Lizzie’s Dram, which was very nice.
The drive onwards through to Aberfeldy was absolutely stunning. We chose the scenic route, which was a lot shorter but ended up taking us quite a bit longer because we couldn’t resist stopping to meet horses and look at old bridges.
We visited the village for dinner and again in the morning. On the way back to the van, we decided to pop into a local park. It turned out to be the beginning of an incredible walk through the Birks of Aberfeldy, made famous in a song lyric written by Robert Burns.
The walk is a 90-minute (or so) circular path. Contrary to the wisdom shared on TripAdvisor (mainly because we didn’t expect to be doing the walk, and so hadn’t done any preparation or research), we walked up the righthand side – which was mostly slopes, not stairs – and walked down the lefthand side – which was the opposite. It actually didn’t matter much, other than the fact we kept crossing people walking the other way.
The view from the top was amazing.
But the best bit was the various waterfalls you could see as you walked to the left of the river. The main falls were impressive, but the ones to the side were even more beautiful, to me at least.
We eventually made it back down to the side of the river. As seems quite common in Scotland, the trees and rocks were often covered in moss, making a wonderful faerie-like effect.
Once we got back on the road, we had a nice drive through Perthshire but then hit both traffic and bad weather for the remainder of the journey back to Edinburgh. It really was the only patch of miserable weather we had during our stay in Scotland – not at all bad for a 2-week stretch in October.
But as it was our last day in Scotland, we decided to climb up to Arthur’s Seat to burn off some of the cooked Scottish breakfasts and gain a stunning view over the fine city of Edinburgh.
The flight home was interesting. I’d been warned by the EasyJet app that our flight had been delayed, with a projected arrival time of 21:27. Our last train home was at 21:47, so this meant looking into alternative plans (renting cars, getting a hotel room, or taking the 23:30 bus). In the end – amazingly – the flight landed just 5 minutes later than the original plan, at 21:00. Fantastic! Unfortunately, as we got closer to passport control in Geneva airport, we realised that in our haste we’d somehow left our passports on the plane. (They had been in one of our bags, but must have fallen out.)
We spoke to the local staff, who called through to EasyJet… if the plane had been parked at a normal gate it would, of course, have been much easier, but in this case we’d been transferred by bus. We waited with increasing apprehension until on the stroke of 21:30 a man appeared with our passports. We rushed through passport control, picked up our suitcase and got to the last train with 10 full minutes to spare. Unbelievable!
This was clearly worth a quick celebration on the train. :-)
I’m really happy we were able to spend these two weeks getting to know Scotland better. Everyone had a great time, and it’s a holiday we’re all going to remember for years to come. And I’m personally now really motivated to head back there to visit Islay, hopefully sometime in the coming year.