Monday, February 25, 2013

Isle of Skye Weekend

Disclaimer: This will most likely be a pretty long post. Sorry!

This weekend was jam-packed full of fun. It was extremely exhausting and I'm still sore but I got to see tons of beautiful places so it was worth it. The International Society associated with Glasgow University holds trips every weekend. Becca and I usually opt out of these in favor of the trips with Gary and Student Tours Scotland since they aren't as expensive. This trip, however, we just couldn't pass up. Gary doesn't do overnight tours and we really wanted to go to the Isle of Skye so we chalked up the 60 pounds and got tickets to go. The price was pretty steep all up front but considering everything we did it was extremely reasonable. A round trip bus ticket to Skye is about 40 pounds so our trip was a steal.

We started off the weekend bright and early on Saturday morning. We had to be on the bus by 7:45 to leave at 8. Skye is about a 6 hour drive if you don't stop but the first day of the trip had several stops planned so we needed to get going. We got on the bus and headed north towards our first stop, Luss. Becca and I had already been to Luss and it was only a 20 or so minute break so we went down to the beach to look at some ducks for a while then wandered to a little shop for about 10 minutes. There was the cutest little old man there and I just wanted to hug him, but I refrained.

Loch Tulla
We then boarded the bus again and headed off to Loch Tulla. This is just a little viewpoint to stop at and take some pictures. The area around the Loch was absolutely gorgeous but it was really cold and windy so we only stayed to take pictures for a little while. Then we were back on the road again to make our way to Glencoe. Glencoe is famous for the MacDonald massacre of 1692. There has been a rivalry between the MacDonalds and Campbells for a very long time and this was one unfortunate incident to have arisen from that. Our bus driver was a Campbell so the story he told is slightly different from the common story, which we learned about in this song. Our group leader and bus driver were a little obsessed with a certain CD of 25 famous Scottish Songs so we listened to Massacre of Glencoe and The Bonnie Banks of Loch Lomond a few dozen times. Anyway, we stopped in Glencoe for about a half an hour to take pictures and take in one of the most iconic landscapes in Scotland. It was absolutely breathtaking.

Our next stop was Fort William for lunch and exploring. We were given an hour and a half to eat and walk around. Becca and I grouped up with a girl we had met at the beginning of the semester named Megan and decided to go to McDonald's. There weren't that many choices for food so we decided it was probably our best choice for time and price wise. I had packed a sandwich so I got some fries and a drink. The ketchup over here is a little weird. Its a lot runnier than American ketchup so that was strange but manageable. After we finished lunch the tree of us walked towards the water and stumbled on the remnants of the fort that the town was named for. We explored a little, walking down to the sand, took some pictures, then headed back to the bus.

The next stop was another view point above a loch. This loch, however is really special for having an uncanny resemblance to a map of Scotland. Its called Loch Garry and it is set in some very pretty mountains. This was a short stop and we were back on the bus again. From the strangely shaped loch we were off to the most photographed castle in all of Scotland: Eilean Donan Castle. You've probably seen it either on postcards or calendars and it lives up to its reputation. It was spectacular. Unfortunately the gift shop and restrooms were closed and we couldn't go into the castle but I got some great pictures from just walking around it. Then we were off again to actually cross the bridge into Skye. We safely made it to the island and headed to our hostel in Broadford. Since we were such a big group and Skye is not very heavily populated we were split into two hostels by bus, the other bus was in Portree. We chose our rooming situation, got to the hostel, set up our beds then headed into the town to look around and get some snacks for the bus the next day (and later that night). Everything in the town was pretty much closed so we just got our snacks and headed back. The three of us wandered down to the kitchen to see if our group leader needed help cooking dinner since she was preparing it for 50 people. She obviously did and we did the most we could. Dinner was delicious. After dinner Becca, Megan, and I teamed up with another girl named Marie to play some pictionary. We played for a while then headed back to our room. We were absolutely exhausted and the three of us fell asleep buy 10:30, I know it sounds pathetic. But we had to be up pretty early the next day.

We got up around 7:30, got some breakfast, collected our things, turned in our bedding, and boarded the bus for another long day. Sunday was all about exploring the Isle of Skye and we had 6 stops planned and had to leave the last one no later than 1:45 in order to make it back to Glasgow on time so we were on a tight schedule. The first stop was a couple of bridges, the older one was no longer in use but was beautifully crafted. The mountainous landscape was not bad either. We then headed to Old Man Storr and the Trotternish Peninsula. Old Man Storr is a very famous rock formation in Skye and it looks like its balancing precariously at the top of the mountain. This stop required some hiking up a pretty substantial hill and the ground conditions were less than ideal. It was either ice or mud the whole way up so it made the journey pretty interesting. After making it a good way up the hill we stopped to take pictures of the sea and of the huge rocky mountain. We didn't have time or the right footwear to make it all the way up to Old Man Storr but we got some great views as we were driving through the area. Getting back down the mountain was even more interesting. I did fall once, and it was painful but I recovered with poise and managed to not get too much mud on me. This stop took longer than anticipated because of the ground conditions so the next two stops were a little rushed.

Mealt Falls and Kilt Rock
The next two stops both involved waterfalls and gorgeous ocean views. The first is called Mealt Falls, also known as Wedding Veil Falls because of the way the mist is carried out to sea. It is also pretty uncommon because of the fact that it falls directly into the sea and not into a river or loch. At this stop there is also a rock called Kilt Rock because the way the basalt formed resembles the pleats of a kilt. The second stop is the location of Lealt Falls. Here we met a nice Scottish gentleman who has taken to sitting in the same spot every Sunday simply because they don't do anything else on Sundays. He generously sat for probably 30 pictures as people posed with him. We then got back on the bus and headed off to our last stop before the drive back.

Our last stop was in Portree, the largest town on Skye. This isn't really saying much since the entire town was about 5 streets big. It is also the location of the only secondary school (Portree High School) on the entire island. Unfortunately, since it was a Sunday almost everything was closed but we did enjoy walking around and looking at the shops, wishing a couple of them were open. We grabbed an easy lunch and ate while walking around before getting back on the bus at 1:45 sharp in order to leave on time. We had a 6 hour ride ahead of us and it was essential to be back on time because of the bus' contract. On the drive back to Glasgow we enjoyed listening to the Scottish CD, especially the Loch Lomond song. It became a sort of anthem for the bus and we all sang it together at least three times. We did take a 45 minute break in Fort William on the drive back but that's because the law requires bus drivers to have a break during long journeys. It was a great opportunity to go to the bathroom and stretch after being cramped for so long.

Overall the weekend was great. I wish we could have spent some extra time in a couple of places but we did get to see tons of things so it was a compromise. I would advise going on this trip to anyone else thinking of coming to the university but personally I would stick with Gary and STS for any other weekend day trips just because they're smaller and more personal but the ISOC trips are great for packing in a lot of stuff in a short period of time if that's more your style.

1 comment:

  1. Supergreat blog. I would like to see a few pictures of you friends and class mates. Also of Gary. Remember, if you get the chance to talk to some of the older folks (my age and younger like Grammie) you will be surprised how they will love to talk to you and tell you about the wonders of Scotland etc. Love you and please keep the blogs coming.