Europe

Isle of Skye – Castle Ruins and Blackouts

It started out as a fairly lazy day…delicious breakfast cooked by our gracious hosts, and then we crawled back in bed. Yep, a decadent nap was taken…it was very rainy and windy out and the bed was so cozy…this trip is all about doing what we want to do, which at that precise point in time was go back to sleep.

When we finally roused ourselves out of bed, we hopped back in the car to explore the southern half of the island. We depart the next day out of Armadale, via ferry to Mallaig, so we thought it would be a good idea to check out the ferry terminal and grab our tickets in advance. We took a wrong turn, and ended up in Kyleakin. 20140417-215208.jpgThe castle, which is now in ruin, was supposedly built by a Norse princess, known by the rather swarthy name of Saucy Mary.

About 8 miles outside of Armadale, we passed a sign that said the next ferry was cancelled. We have a fairly tight train connection on the mainland and Mallaig is not very accessible by car, so this was a little concerning. The gentleman at the ferry terminal was very non-committal about the status of our ferry. We asked if he thought it would be cancelled and he shrugged, and said “let me check the weather.” He poked around on the ancient computer while we eagerly awaited our fate. After a couple of minutes passed, he looked up, seemingly surprised that we were still standing there. “The internet is out, but it’s supposed to get better tomorrow” I though it would be rude to point out that there were 17 sea kayakers visible just outside the waiting room window, and if they could manage it, I would imagine a ferry should have no problem. “Well,” I said “we have a 10:10am train in Mallaig, do you think we will be okay?” He made a face, “Oh, well…” Shrug. He finally found the weather forecast and declared that it was looking better. “We have a sign,” he said, “if it says cancelled, don’t come any further.” Fan-freaking-tastic advice. We had a gloriously sunny two days on Skye, but it had turned ugly, windy and rainy outside…, perfect English ice-cream weather, but I had visions of us being stuck here for a couple more days, all our future travel and accommodation plans for the nest week down the toilet.

Since it was out of our hands, we decided to squeeze all the possible fun out of Armadale. We visited the Clan Donald grounds, on which stands the ruin of the Donald’s castle. It was built circa 1830, but in 1965 it was emptied of it’s contents and left to ruin. Now it’s missing all it’s glass and covered in vines, much like Sleeping Beauty’s palace or Rapunzel’s tower. 20140417-215336.jpg20140417-215344.jpgThe old laundry building is also in ruins in the gardens…and seeing as there wasn’t much else to do, we mucked about. 20140417-215444.jpg20140417-215451.jpgWe officially did everything there was to do in Armadale in a couple of hours, which included our ferry interchange, the castle, buying a coffee and mooching around Ragamuffin (a lovely store full of hand knitted and crafted clothes.) Having been promised ‘a half-kilometer stretch of golden sands’ and puffin spotting, we were determined to push on down another single track road to the end of the island. So far, these roads had wound over wide hills with a fair bit of land on either side. This road, however, was clinging onto the cliff for dear life. The puffin plan was promptly abandoned.

We set off back to Broadford, but after studying the map, we noticed that there was a minor road that crossed the island to the far south-west coast. Feeling emboldened, we took the plunge and got off the main road. The single track road was curvy and tiny, but at least it was not about to fall into the seas. We did encounter some 20% grade hills, which were a bit ass-clenchy, especially when it’s pissing it down with rain. However, it all turned out to be worth it when we approached Tokavaig and found the ruins of Dunscaith Castle. 20140417-215556.jpgWe hiked across the marshes to the shoreline, climbed across stack of slimy rocks, and got firmly stuck in the mud but we finally reached the outcropping of rock the castle is perched on.20140417-215654.jpg20140417-215702.jpgThe pictures don’t do it justice as the tide was rapidly approaching and we were in a race against time to get back. It was definitely a ‘Scottish Highland moment’ when we triumphantly reached the top with wet feet, red faces and wind-swept hair and looked out to the sea.

How could we have topped this adventure, you may ask? The answer is a 7:30 showing of Captain America in the island capital of Portree (40 miles away.) John was not to be dissuaded by the gustly rain and tiny roads, so we set off again. The first half of the movie is really good. We don’t know what happened during the second half as the power went out. In fact, it went out for the entire Highlands. Now, the Isle of Skye is not what you might call a well-lit place to begin with, so when you take away the ambient light from the houses and businesses, it’s pitch black. 40 miles away, over several mountain ranges, was our BnB. At this point, we had no idea the extent of the power outage, but as we drove back through the wind and rain, it became clear that the entire island was out of commission. It’s a very eerie feeling when your headlights are the only source of light for miles and miles, and all they are doing is throwing 8 feet of light in front of you, into the blinding rain and sharp curves. We made our zombie apocalypse jokes until it became too creepy and then it was a very quiet ride back. John was spending every ounce of energy on keeping the car pointed the right way, and I was burning an impressive amount of calories focusing on keeping my foot off the invisible break and remaining firmly glued to my seat via muscles in my butt-cheeks I never knew existed.

We made it home safely, although with a couple of extra grey hairs. Angela and Derek had the fire going and the house lit up with candles. They have a gas stove, so they boiled the kettle and we enjoyed a well-earned cup of tea. We leave Skye tomorrow (if we are in the Ferry God’s favor) and take the scenic train ride down to Glasgow, where we will meet an old friend of mine that I haven’t seen in over 10 years. I am so glad we came to Skye, it surpassed all our expectations!

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