Did you know that real estate prices in the Isle of Skye have skyrocketed in recent times and hotels/homestays have six month long waiting periods? That is what our charming driver-cum-guide Sean Connery had to say when a fellow tourist asked him ‘how has tourism helped locals’.
As is always the case, there are pros and cons to this situation.
Search Isle of Skye+tourist+tax and you will come across several articles1 that showcase this issue – while increased footfall does bring in money, it affects the harmony of a place that is not equipped to handle the rush.
These articles and discussions make me chipper about the decision – rather my parents’ insistence – that I travel towards the end of summer which means end of holiday season and that too with a tour company that handled every detail. All I had to do was enjoy myself.
And that brings me back to the other interesting places one must see when in the Isle of Skye.
Fairy Glenn, Uig
Most globetrotters who visit Skye head towards the Fairy Pools to see the colourful waterfalls. But rather than visit the awfully crowded pools, Sean took us to the less known hence less crowded Fairy Glen, an otherworldly place near Uig. With little hills and a wild array of colourful flowers growing amid the lush green slopes, I wondered when Tinkerbell would pop out from behind a tree. I even walked in the footsteps of a giant man and wondered over the stone formations at the foot of the slopes. Perhaps the magical people meet there each night for some hot chocolate and scary stories? Sit atop one of the hills and let the magical peace embrace you. But do be careful of the slippery paths and the sheep poop. I returned to the bus with scraped palms, a painful butt and bruised dignity after sliding off some rocks.
Three Sisters of Glen Coe
You might miss the Three Sisters of Glen Coe unless they are shown to you but you cannot miss Bidean nam Bian, the massive mountain. The Three Sisters are among the most prominent ridges of the mountain. I lost a bit of my heart to these sisters, their wild splendour impressing me as the waters of Loch Lubnaig gently touched the pebbled banks. This is where you will realise that there is beauty in the silence of nature.
Cuith Raing and midges
To be honest, I remember the Cuith Raing (Quiraing) more for my first encounter with the Highland midges rather than the stunning visuals. Imagine marvelling at the sweeping sights before you, oohing and aahing while posing for photographs before a swarm of tiny flying objects descends on you, sending you scampering for cover. Luckily, I did manage to sneak in some photos and a good Ayurvedic insect repellent worked wonders. I proudly returned free of midge bites.
Loch Ness / Fort Augustus
We also made a mandatory stop at Loch Ness and joined several others in the hunt for Nessie but rather than finding the sea monster, I almost left behind my brand new jacket at one of the restaurants there! This is what happens when you are too busy enjoying the view from the corner table. The thought of having to survive the rest of my trip without the jacket is still horrifying! Brrrrr….
Though considering news reports2 perhaps if I’d stuck around Nessie just might have played peek-a-boo with me!
We were lucky to enjoy good weather through the trip and were elated to see the sparkling waters of the loch during a lunch stop at Fort Augustus.
Avid movie goers will definitely recognise the castle that appeared in a James Bond film. And for Hindi movie buffs, watch the title track of Rani Mukerji’s second movie and you will recognise this as the backdrop. Ridiculously gorgeous, this is one place where you will not mind spending some precious bucks to enter. And enter you must. How else will you see the restored grandeur? The best – and creepiest – part is the kitchen that has lifelike figures and almost real fake food (this made me really hungry), recreating what would have been a pre-dinner bustling kitchen. Photography inside the castle is prohibited.
Rolling hills and clouds like powder puffs touching the peaks of mountains, massive water bodies and the play of light, this is the view as you drive up to the Isle of Skye. Lambs skipping onto paths, wild deer looking at you wide-eyed and bunches of heather flowers growing on roadsides will keep you marvelling at nature even as bundles of peat left in the vast farms will have you sit up to ask questions.
One could almost imagine a scene out of an English classic as described by our driver, who seems to have experience of sitting around peat fires for some story telling. “It (peat) makes a lovely fire. It’s so nice and cosy and gives out a soft glow, creating a perfect warm environment. It does not crackle or sparkle and is the best kind of story telling fire,” he shared. How I wish I could return yet again to the land of the Scots to experience this too.
Oops… did I say Sean Connery? I meant Sean Gordon.
1 Is Skye reaching the limit for tourists? http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-scotland-40874488
Tourist tax suggested for Isle of Skye http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-scotland-highlands-islands-40774850
2 Nessie sightings on rise: American tourist ninth person this YEAR to spot ‘Loch Ness Monster’ poking out water https://www.mirror.co.uk/news/weird-news/loch-ness-monster-spotted-poking-11556572
Photos: Rapti Bhaumick