Escape from Lockdown: Our Trip to the Mystic Isle of Skye (Part I)

When lockdown in Scotland ended, Anya and I were ready to dive into the deep end of our newfound freedom, so we hopped in the car for a quick trip to the Isle of Skye. For those who don’t know, Skye is a Scottish island known for its dramatic landscapes, including fresh springs, cliffs, mountains and rock formations. I’d seen thousands of pictures of Skye on Instagram, and I was soon to discover that the photos didn’t do it justice.

We left Glasgow at about 8 a.m. on the first day after lockdown. We had hoped that there wouldn’t be many travellers out and about so soon after lockdown, especially on a Monday. Intermittent rain was forecasted for our drive, but that was to be expected for Scottish springtime. Besides, the rain could dampen the ground but not our spirits.

Oban

Our first stop was Oban, a quaint resort town on the Firth of Lorn. It’s got a lovely harbour and fun shops, and it’s situated near stunning coastline and mountains. There, we met one of Anya’s schoolmates for a hot beverage (deluxe hot chocolate at Roxy’s Coffee & Tea House). I was kind of a third wheel, but I love meeting new people, and it had been hard to do so during lockdown.

Soon we were on the road again. The drive twisted and curved through the Scottish countryside, the rain spitting on the windshield. As we crossed the Ballachulish Bridge, the clouds revealed the surrounding hilltops, and the sun illuminated the turquoise waters of Lochs Linnhe and Leven.

Fort William

In the afternoon, we made a pitstop in Fort William, known as the gateway to the UK’s highest peak, Ben Nevis which I’ve yet to summit. Unfortunately, we were on somewhat of a tight schedule, so there wasn’t time for a proper hillwalk. Well, I didn’t realise just how tight the schedule was until we got to Glenfinnan.

Glenfinnan

It was there where the Jacobite rising began. Bonnie Prince Charlie met with Scottish clans at Glenfinnan before pursuing his claim to the British throne. On the shore of Loch Shiel, there stands a monument in his honour.

Just across the road is the Glenfinnan Viaduct which carries ScotRail trains and—in the summer—the Jacobite steam train. You may recognise Glenfinnan and the viaduct from Harry Potter films. The scenery was used as the backdrop for Hogwarts and as the location for the Black Lake in The Prisoner of Azkaban and The Half-Blood Prince.

There’s a lovely wee hill from which you get fantastic views of Loch Shiel and the viaduct. On a past visit, I had ventured up a nearby hill to get an even better vantage point. I told Anya I was going to return to that spot and dashed away. I didn’t remember it taking as long as it did, but I eventually got to the hilltop. Despite having been there before, I was still blown away by the panoramic views of the Scottish landscape. Tones of olive green, rust and butterscotch paint the hills.

As I was taking my last photo, Anya called me, telling me that we had to leave in ten minutes to get to our ferry on time. She hadn’t realised how far I’d gone, and I didn’t realise how little time we had. I shoved my phone in my pocket and set off down the hill. There was a clear footpath for about ten metres until it suddenly met a rockface. It was steep, so I looked for another way down. To the right was another steep decline but dotted with trees. It seemed to be the shortest route, so I started to reach for branches and trunks to help myself down, but I soon realised that it was far too steep and the trees were too far apart. I slipped a couple times before deciding to doubleback and find a safer path. Eventually, I returned to the main footpath and soared down to the carpark where Anya was waiting anxiously.

It was 5:21 p.m. Check-in for the ferry was at 5:55 p.m., and the GPS said we were 35 minutes away. The important things to note here are that Anya is a relatively new driver and unfamiliar with the winding Highland roads. Also, the rain had picked up.

I jumped into the car and away we went. I felt so bad for delaying us and did my best to assuage Anya’s stress, telling her how I’d been late to ferry check-ins before without any problems. Besides, the ferry wasn’t set to depart until 6:10 p.m. It was nonetheless a stressful 35 minutes. We arrived at 6:01 p.m. and were immediately directed onto the ferry. Honestly, it was a close call. Had we gotten stuck behind a slow lorry, we wouldn’t have made it, and I wouldn’t be alive to tell the tale (because Anya would’ve thrown me into the sea).

The Ferry

We arrived at the ferry terminal during a fleeting moment of sunshine. A rainbow stretched over Mallaig but quickly disappeared as we pulled away. Behind us, the mainland was shrouded in low hanging clouds. In front of us, the shore of South Skye was obscured by rainfall which soon reached us. I stood out on deck for almost the whole 45-minute ride. I love being on the water, and I don’t mind the wind and rain. Even as my cheeks grew numb, I smiled.

The Airbnb

The Airbnb wasn’t far from the port. We drove through the wee villages of Armadale and Ardvasar before arriving at our destination: a self-catering hut. We had chosen this Airbnb for its reasonable rates and charming cottage core design, and it had everything we needed: a bathroom with a toilet, sink and shower; a kitchenette with a stovetop, microwave toaster oven and sink; a large bed; an electric stove and a dining table with chairs. I must also mention that the host had a friendly and playful dog named Wallace to whom I grew very attached over the two-day stay.

Ardvasar

The village was small and mostly comprised of family homes and bed-and-breakfasts, but there were a couple of nearby sites to explore, and our host had handwritten a list of them. Even though we were quite tired, we ventured down to the local fairy glen which led out to a cosy beach from which we could see the hills on the mainland. It was a peaceful spot, perfect for the end of the day.

We went to bed early, knowing that we had a full itinerary for the following day, and what a day it would turn out to be…

Stay tuned for Part Two of Escape from Lockdown: Our Trip to the Mystic Isle of Skye!

Thank you!

This week I’m thanking Kathi of Watch Me See, a blogger who gives great advice on what to see and do in Scotland and how to do so ethically. She’s my go-to resource when it comes to wild camping in Scotland and even has a guide for it. I highly recommend checking out the blog and following her on Instagram (@watchmesee). Her content is really informative and showcases the best of Scotland.

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