Its winter in Ahmedabad, India, and the minimum temperature has been hovering between 10°C-16°C. Huddled at my desk, feet tucked in thick socks, I shivered and bemoaned the ruthless cold during a telephone conversation with my best friend. Imagine my indignation when she burst into laughter rather than express sympathy over my frozen toes!
“Rapti, if you are shivering in this excuse for a winter, how on earth did you survive the Scottish Highlands,” she questioned.
But you see, at the Isle of Skye in Scotland, while my teeth chattered in the bone-chilling cold, my face was frozen into a big grin and my brain churned out poetic lines about death-beauty-nature; all of this inspired by the sight before me. This was at Neist Point, the extreme west of Isle of Skye, Scotland.
The hour spent at Neist Point had been the coldest I’d ever been!
So cold that I eventually took to plugging my ears with earphones and covering my face with my muffler. Who cares about fashion! My nose was more important! Of course, this was also where I felt the need to ‘share’ immediately so I started recording my mumbling thoughts on the phone. Mumblings like, “This view is like a picture postcard come alive. All those amazing photographs we cut out of calendars and get framed, this is one of them and I am watching this! If the world were to come to an end, then this is where I would want to be.” #philosophical #poeticthoughts
Mind you, decoding the recording took me almost 20 minutes as most of what I said had been swept away by the wind.
Updated July 2020; this article was first published on the blog in January 2018.
Note: The wind in the Highlands can knock a giant off its feet. So be careful!
Lame jokes aside, the hike at Neist Point was one of the several glorious experiences that marked the 3-day tour to Isle of Skye that I booked with the Rabbie’s tour company. This tour set off from Edinburgh at an early hour of day 1, took the group of 16 to Portree in the Isle of Skye and then some prominent spots around on days 2 and 3, before returning to Edinburgh by the evening of day 3.
The specialty of this tour was the bus driver-cum-guide. We were driven by the charming and intelligent Sean Gordon. A former history teacher (if I remember right) and now the owner of the farm on Aberdeenshire, Sean was a gold mine of information. While I did lose track of monarchy politics, his storytelling abilities were top-notch and inspiring. The most beautiful part of the journey to/ through the Isle of Skye is the beautiful landscape, the innumerable tales and the visual proofs of history that stand proud against a glorious backdrop.
So without further ado, here is a list of highlights of my 3-day tour in two parts…
Portree and charming little towns
According to Wikipedia, Portree is the largest town of Isle of Skye in the Inner Hebrides of Scotland. The statement is at once strange and enchanting. Why? Because I finished strolling through the town within an hour, I noted a limited number of restaurants serving food and was unable to visit any of the ‘town attractions’ as everything would shut shop between 5 pm-6 pm which would be when we returned from our sightseeing.
But I did spend a solid hour, two days in a row, absorbing the awe-inspiring scenery that is the Portree Harbour. This town’s heart lies in the harbour that is surrounded by cliffs. Designed by Thomas Telford, a famous Scottish civil engineer, Portree or Port Righ means ‘king’s port’.
The town has three prominent inns – The Caledonian, off the main square, The Lower Deck and The Caluchllin Inn. The town has several seafood restaurants that you MUST eat at; simply the best seafood in all of Scotland. Most of them are small cozy spaces with limited seating so I recommend getting a reservation. There seemed to be some gift shops too but I did not get a chance to pop into these.
Point to ponder: Is quaint and cute mandatory for towns in the Scottish Highlands? We took ‘comfort breaks’ and ‘food breaks’ in towns like Pitlochry and Fort William and they were small, charming and well, quaint and cute!
The walk to and from 1909 dated Neist Point Lighthouse gave me a new appreciation for the weather and my lungs. The former because in the hour and a half that I spent at this location, nature unleashed whipping rain, bone-chilling gales and a sun harsh enough to dry you off. #gloriousnature
And I mention lungs because while the walk down to the lighthouse is a breeze, the climb back is strenuous. There is just one path that takes you from the car park to the lighthouse. It begins behind a battered shed at the car park. Take a few steps and you will see the beginning of a concrete path with a handrail, a path that is steep and slippery after rains. Not recommended for those with vertigo or knee issues. The path often breaks off into smaller ways leading to the cliff edges. But remember the winds I mentioned? You don’t want to be blown off the edge, land in the water and be shark fodder. #freeadvice
That the Neist Point is very majestic is an understatement. Words fall short when trying to describe the astounding range of colour palette that meet your eye as you stand at the cliff, looking out into the horizon, dumbstruck by the purples-blues-greens-yellows. I challenge any artist to be able to replicate the richness of the hues that are seen here. With sheep dotting the hues of green, the Neist Point is a picture postcard and nothing can capture the glory that can be seen by your eyes. A walk around the lighthouse is much recommended – the stone building is a beacon in the vast landscape and cuts a striking picture, making it one of the most recognisable visuals of the Isle of Skye too.
But keep your eyes open for the sheep shit. Or you will sound like me when I squealed into my phone, “This is a place out of my dreams only that you can walk here. I can almost imagine all the gods and goddesses meeting here, floating around the massive skies in their chariots and on clouds, whipping out their godly colour palettes to add that most beautiful shade of blue to the waters or that intense purple to the mountain top…yuckyuckyuckyuck! Why there sheep shit everywhere!”