Sophia Chang shares her advice on Highland travel — from getting there to where you should eat. 


 

If I hadn’t been so terrified of my mother driving off the road, I would’ve been gaping at the stunning scenery. The bumpy, single-track road through the Isle of Skye dipped around stunning sea cliff,, draped lovingly along velvet mountains, and wound through emerald pastures of content ewes. North of Skye’s capital, Portree, civilization ceases, and you are led to a land ruled by earth and water, by nature in her purest dominion. Phone service drops. Tourist hordes fade into the distance. Life slows down. Instead of counting by hours, by days, we began to count by seconds, by minutes. The days I spent on the Isle of Skye were the longest days I have ever lived, but they were, by far, the most magical.

On Arrival

Arriving to Skye is relatively straightforward. Follow the A87 from Inverness towards A87.

Continue on the A87 past Kyle of Lochalsh (watch out for the Eilean Donan on your left!) until you cross the bridge to Skye. Follow the A87 up past Portree and merge onto the A855. Signal may drop off somewhere past Portree, so be sure to download an off-line map if you’re planning on using a GPS.

On Sleeping

Follow the A855 up past Staffin to the very northern Trotternish peninsula of Skye, and be greeted by an emerald green land: small white crofters’ cottages dot the landscape mottled by cattle grids, and sheep, not human crossings, become the primary concern for accident. Towering mountains line the inaccessible island center, while the coastal road hugs the sea, twisting in a demented acrobatic maneuver.

At the very end of the A855, just before the road loops back around the peninsula to retreat back to Uig, there’s a little road marked simply as “Shulista.” Follow it around the old red phone booth to Shulista Croft, a little, self-sustainable croft and B&B run by a kind couple named Adam and Sally (who hail from Fife!). Trade in your wi-fi addiction and some cash, and you can spend some nights in their beautiful wigwams that Adam has carved lovingly from hand, looking over the incredible Quiraing mountain range.

On Eating

Breakfast: Single Track Café

Down the road (which Adam and Sally will happily point you to), there is a small café located in Kilmaluag run by two warm and welcoming ladies whose talents for caffeine-making outshine Costa. Be sure to sample their delicious homemade cakes (I personally recommend the carrot), drink their custom brewed coffee, and soak in the views of their turf house and Staffin Bay, where there are often whale sightings.

Lunch: Ellishadder Art Café

Halfway down the A855 between Portree and Kilmaluag, there is a small café at the turn-off towards Ellishadder (the road isn’t marked particularly well, especially if it’s foggy, so look for the Skye Dinosaur Museum at the road entrance). Come in from the cold for a bit and sample their delicious potato scones, homemade teas, and hot soups. A particularly good treat if you’re all rosy-cheeked from a hike up to the Old Man of Storr.

Dinner: Scorrybreac Restaurant

Break out your pocketbooks and welcome yourself back to civilization, ladies and gents! After a day (hopefully) spent outdoors and exploring Skye’s wild nature, enjoy a dinner at this Michelin starred restaurant in Portree. Head chef and proprietor Calum Munro, 29, is fresh back from two years working as head chef at Parisian restaurant C’est Mon Plaisir. Munro is back to the basics serving traditional Scottish fare, but with some of the freshest ingredients Skye has to offer.

On Doing

Old Man of Storr (2.5-5 hours)

Jurassic Park fans, be prepared for your wildest dreams turned-reality. Skye is a prehistoric land, and there’s no better place than Storr to get that very sense of it. From the hike you can see gorgeous lochs, the Atlantic Ocean, and other gorgeous surrounding mountains. Typical Scottish weather almost stopped us: the cold wet rain soaked us through as we ascended into the clouds.

Hordes of tourists awaited at the bottom, but as we followed the trail up, there were less and less to be found. The gentle incline makes way to a semi-vertical dirt path. The money shot is quite a hike up, and with the blustery Scottish winds, should you decide to attempt it, make sure you are properly dressed for the occasion.

Kilt Rock (15-20 minutes)

Easy access by car, but a very worthwhile sight, Kilt Rock is a gorgeous cliff that happens to look like a kilt! However, what is even more beautiful is the waterfall running into the sea from the vantage point. Great place for a photo op.

Fairy Pools (2-5 hours)

The Fairy Pools lie at the heart of the Black Cuillin mountain range that runs along the Southern back of Skye. Passing Sligachan, continue onto the road to Glen Brittle, and there is a turn-off to the right along with a small gravel parking lot. After heavy rains, the trail is sometimes inaccessible as the river is quite fast moving, so it is best to go after a dry spell (well, as dry as Scotland can possibly get, which is not very). The water is cold, but if you’re up to it, you can go for a dip in the world famous pools. It’s probably as cold as the North Sea, so if you fancy some Pier dips, you’ll probably be up for some swimming here.

Talisker Distillery (1-3 hours)

After your blisteringly cold swim in the Fairy Pools, warm up in the most Scottish way possible—with whiskey! This world renowned distillery (seriously, they were featured on Sixty Minutes) does whiskey tastings, distillery tours, and more. Sample a bit, buy a few bottles, please don’t drink and drive though…

 

In your time at St Andrews, make sure you take a trip up to the Isle of Skye. It’s rugged, untamed, and quite possibly one of the coolest places in the world to visit. Rent a car: the public bus is an inconsistent nuisance at best, and at worst, could leave you stranded for hours in the cold. While I do not discount that Mediterranean islands have a charm unto themselves, Skye is a gem, and while bikini weather is almost an impossibility on Skye, the island makes up for it in a thousand other ways.

 

Sophia Chang

Featured Image: Old Man Of Storr, Isle Of Skype