For my last trip with IFSA-Butler we traveled to the Isle of Skye. Skye is an island in the northwest of Scotland, up in the Highlands, and one of the most spectacular places nature lovers could see. Skye has inspired artists and writers and has been a filming location for many movies and programs; in fact, the Black Cuillin Mountains are said to be J.R.R. Tolkien’s inspiration for Mordor.
We left bright and early in the morning with sleep dust from the sand man still caught in our eyes. In preparation for my two weeks of travel after Skye, I practiced packing lightly. Our first stop of the trip was the ever scenic ASDA in Perth. We had 10 minutes to run and grab snacks for the weekend and an opportunity to get lunch. Think of ASDA like a Walmart, a little bit of everything and the kitchen sink is in there. Then we got our first taste of nature when we stopped at The Hermitage. A short woodland walk through the forest and along the River Brann takes you too waterfall. You can climb on rocks for a great view, you can enter a hall with a viewing balcony for a great view, you can walk over the bridge for a great view, you can slide and duck beneath trees to stand under the bridge for a great view, you can climb a Douglas Fir for a great view of the waterfall. There was no bad view (I did not climb a tree though). The drive to the Isle of Skye is long, so a lot of the stops were rather short. The next stop was at Pitlochry for lunch and for toilets. Then we went to the IFSA favorite, Leault Farms. Last semester when we went to Inverness we stopped here to watch a sheep herding display and play with puppies, and this time did not disappoint. We saw the dogs round up the sheep and the shepherd sheer a sheep, but because it was spring we got to hold the new baby lambs (5 days old) and play with the puppies again.
There will never be a time when I will not want to spend a day around baby animals. This was our last stop before we crossed Skye Bridge to reach the Isle of Skye.
We were split into two groups for dinner those who didn’t go on a three mile to run Skye Bridge ate first and the other ate an hour later. After dinner I went with a group of friends to explore the small town we were staying in. Off topic note: the hotel we were staying in had housed Kanye West and his crew a few days before our arrival. We walked along the rock beach where I picked up some seashells and went up to Castle Moil. Legend tells that Castle Moil was built by a Norse princess ‘Saucy Mary’, who married a MacKinnon chief. She is famous for having stretched a chain across the loch and levied tolls on ships sailing through the narrows. To hike up the hill to reach Castle Moil you have to walk around the harbor and beware of the tides. You then climb up rocks to reach the top. There is a bench and seating area and the floor of the ruins is lower than the land so stepping down into them protects you from the wind. From the castle you have a great view of Skye Bridge and the mainland. After this we went to the local pub to listen to the band playing, the local bluegrass/folk band Iron Middon (not metal music). A group of older gentlemen made up the band and it was good. They really got into it and some of the locals began to swing and dance a jig. One guy even grabbed a metal box, sat next to the playing band, and joined in on the song. It was lively and pleasant, and we stayed out later than we should have for needing to wake up at 7am the next morning.
The next our schedule stated us with visiting Armadale Castle. Armadale Castle is a ruined county house and former home to Clan MacDonald. Here they have trails, a surprisingly informative museum (they had way more information than I expected and it wasn’t all on the clan), great views, and ruins. My favorite part was probably the views and the museum (I cannot resist a good museum). After we played musical buses as we split up into the groups we would be in for the afternoon. It was split by who was going on the bus tour and who was going to hike up the Old Man of Storr. As we drove to the site the weather turned to ‘liquid sunshine’ and we could only pray for good weather on our hike. Before the hike we stopped in Portree for lunch where my friends and I grabbed fish and chips. We ate on the rocks overlooking the harbor, where surprisingly the seagulls were well behaved and didn’t attack us.
The Legend of the Old Man of Storr
There once was an old man and woman who were very in love and happy. Every day after work they would climb to the top of this mountain and tell each other stories of the day they had. One day after many years of climbing this mountain the woman looked to her husband and told him, “Dear, this will be my last time on this mountain. I will never walk up it again; my hip just hurts too much.” Then the faerys appeared. They loved the stories the old man and woman told everyday so they asked the couple if they would like to have the ability to be up on the mountain and enjoying the view forever. The couple couldn’t believe their good fortune and agreed immediately. Before the man’s eyes his wife was turned into a rock. The man was angry and began berating the faerys, the faerys being the good folk they are decided to reunite them and turned him into a rock too. And there they stand at the top of the mountain to this day.
The hike up the Old Man of Storr was difficult. At one point it got so steep and there was only lose dirt that some people stopped and decided that they were high enough. I rammed my hiking boots in the dirt to gain purchase with every step and crawled my way to the top, using my momentum to take me there. At the top the ground was no longer visible. It was a different world. Snow covered the round and blew furiously from the sky, with flakes battering our exposed faces. In a single file we followed the guide back down the mountain, so that we would make it safely.
We were almost done with our trip. All that was left was to visit the river that grants eternal beauty. It all started with a story like many things do. To unite the two warring clans on the island, Mary McCloud, the most beautiful girl on the island was on her way to marry Donald MacDonald, the strongest man on the island. Traveling with her was her guard Alistair, her dog Scottie, and her horse Dobby. At the bridge that connects the land of the two clans Mary fell into the rocks by the river. When she gets up her face is no longer recognizable, but they have to continue to the wedding. Alistair throws the veil over Mary’s face and they continue on. Once the vows were read and MacDonald lifted the veil he was outraged at what he saw beneath. Under the veil was a monster. A swollen and bruised face with an eye hanging out of its socket and blood dripping. He took one look and stepped back and cried foul. He had been promised the most beautiful girl on the island and this was what the McClouds present him with. He pulls out his dagger and grabs Alistair and stabs one of his eyes out. Then with a fork out of his boot he stabs Dobby’s eye and with a spoon from his other boot, for good measure, he digs out Scottie’s eye. The entire hall had broken out into chaos, and Mary and her group escaped in the melee. When they reached the bridge where all of her misfortunes began Mary broke down into tears. On hearing her sobbing the king of the faerys, Elvan, appeared. “What is wrong Mary?” he asked. Mary kept sobbing and he couldn’t understand her, but he could see that her face was not as glorious as it was before. “Mary,” he said, “If you put your face into the river for seven seconds, no more and no less, you will be granted eternal beauty.” Mary didn’t hear him through her tears so he demonstrated with Scottie. For seven seconds, no more and no less, Scottie’s face was held under the water and when he came out Scottie looked like a cute puppy again. He then took Dobby and for seven seconds, no more and no less, Dobby’s face was held under the water and when he came up he looked like a grand stallion. Finally the king of faery took Alistair’s face and held it under the water for seven seconds, no more and no less, and when he came up he was gorgeous, the most handsome man on the island. Mary by this point had stopped crying and taken notice. For seven seconds, no more and no less, and when she came up she looked exactly as she once did, for Mary truly had been the most beautiful girl on the island. With one look upon Alistair’s face she was in love. All four run off together to the mountains and live happily ever after.
The water in the river is COLD. The guide stuck his face in three times while he told this story, by the fourth time he told us that we got the idea. When it was our turn he said that if we liked what we saw then the magic of the river worked and to give it a try. I am fine with how I look and decided not to get on my stomach and put my face in water worthy of a polar bear plunge.
The next day we headed back to Edinburgh with the same stops as last semester at Loch Ness and Glencoe.
Helpful Hint: If you are not using Wi-Fi or data abroad out your phone on airplane mode and lower the brightness level to save battery.