Monday, July 20, 2009

Isle of Skye

We left early in the morning after a British Breakfast (eggs, toast, bacon (which is more like ham) grilled tomato and mushroom, and cereal of choice. Another feature of the British Breakfast is the practice of toast bits (they fry small pieces of toast in butter --- and many also always have baked beans and 'sausage; which is really more like our wieners than sausage. They also serve "black sausage" which is a blood sausage. I really do not like the taste or the texture either one!

We drove mostly on the M1 which mean that we could sail along at 70 most of the time. There were two construction zones that really slowed us down, however! and by lunch we were off on the A86 heading into Scotland --- past Glen Coe. As the day wore on we stopped to eat lunch at a shop along the side of the road. We were looking for a pub (pub food is usually cheaper than restaurant food), or a tea room....what we found was the Scottish version of fast food.

The rain was pouring from the sky and we ventured in ....there was a queue of travelers. A menu written in chalk on a black board and you ordered your food, paid for it, and received a number. Then a waiter brought the food out and called the number. Kathy ordered 1/2 a small range chicken baked, and we both ordered a salad. The salad consisted of three piles of vegetables. 1) shredded carrots, 2) shredded red cabbage, 3) spring greens. I had the creamy Caesar dressing --- the salad was O.K., but clearly these people prefer a sort of slaw type salad. The chicken we shared and it was tasty with rosemary as the primary seasoning. We had trouble understanding the dialect, and they had trouble understanding ours!

We went in and sat at a table which we shared with a young British couple with two children. The room was an outdoor room, but it was covered over like a tent to keep the rain out. At one end there was a large wood burning stove to keep the place warm --- and yes it was blazing! Kathy, who seems to have a different temperature setting thought it was comfortable out today, but as for me--- I was cold! We finished eating and got back on the road.

We stopped in Fort William about two hours south of the Isle of Skye. It was spitting rain and very misty, and it was nearly 4:30 p.m. We found a family run motel -- owned by the Clan McDuff -- It was very reasonable at 75 pounds for the night -- clean and very modern for this part of the world...Breakfast was served at 8:00 and we started the day with some new additions to the things that we'd not had before. Oak Biscuits are one traditional Scottish breakfast food --- that are sort of like a cookie, but not sweet or short enough to be a cookie. They are a bit bland and crunchy --- I also sampled some Scottish porridge which is pretty much like Irish oatmeal only a bit runnier with no salt or sugar when you add that it is tasty and filling.

We drove for nearly two hours before we reached the bridge for the Isle of Sky. The bridge itself stirred a great deal of controversy apparently because of its size and height. We were expecting something very long and spectacular, thought the bridge was tall, it was not particularly wide, certainly no wider than the one spanning the Mississippi at Memphis! It does dominate the landscape, but it is not particularly outstanding.

The landscape made up for the bridge. It sweeps away and upward into mountains that seem very old, rugged in a rounded sort of way. They are stark, covered with huge boulders of ancient origin. They are worn and one had a tree growing right out of its heart, a testament to the amount of rain that must fall here. For a tree to take route in rock there must be almost daily rainfall. There are streaks of white running down the mountain sides which turn out to be streams of rushing water which leap and drop over the rocks until they converge at the base of the mountain in a rushing stream. The road lies out before us wide enough for two cars to pass, and marked with lines in the center as well as on the sides! Tour buses passed us with guides explaining the ancient origins and other interesting points along the way.

The sky was alternately gray and white mist. It brought occasional downpours which the windscreen (windshield) wipers can not keep up with, but it soon stopped and I followed the curving road to the goal. At times I flew along at 60 miles per hour but then the road would narrow and the rains came and the side of the road provides no support, so I wouold slow to 40 and edge along. There are turnouts along this spiraling road that allow you vistas that carry with them an other-earthly sense. It is so different from any landscape I can recall. It makes me feel like Green Valley Utah --- almost as though you might be on another planet entirely.

There are bikers and walkers along the roadside and on the paths along the face of the mountains. Pools of still water now and again reflect the sky and land in an erie illusion-- lending the sense the land and sky are one. Once we crossed the bridge there were more cottages, sheep and cattle. The cattle look like a cross between a yak and a Texas Longhorn! They are the strangest cattle I have ever seen. Their heads are large resembling bison, and they are a bit larger than an ordinary cow. Sheep wander onto the roadway for their appear to be no fences here. Periodically we come to sheep crossing signs.

Once again villages increase in frequency. Many of these homes look as though they were built recently, though they are painstakingly copies of older homes. It is strange that for miles prior to the bridge to Skye there was little or no development, and now that we have crossed over there are villages and farms.

We drove all the way to the tip before we stopped at a pub for lunch. There were not many places to eat in this small town which was the point for catching the fairy over to the Hebrides. I decided on a burger, since a backed potato with just plain butter was nearly 5 pounds! After a good and filling lunch we headed back the way we had come. We stopped at an old castle not long after we left the Isle, but unfortunately it was not accessible. We also made a quick stop at a grocery where we picked up food for the evening meal.

Chilled but in awe of Scotland, we were happy to return to the Clan McDuff for the night!

1 comment:

Ellen said...

So glad you finally got to post again. I was beginning to worry a bit. Sounds like you are still having the time of your life. Can't wait to see you when you return. I've saved all your posts in a Word document.
Love, Ellen