When I got to the entrance of the isle, the sun was almost fully set, so I did the drive from Kyle of Lochlash to Uig in pitch black…it was 4:30pm. As if the roads here aren’t terrifying enough – think two-way highways only wide enough for one car, winding, in the mountains, and oh yeah, on the opposite side of the road than I’m used to, PLUS pelting rains – I had to do it totally in the dark. And Scottish drivers are relentless. They care not about any of the aforementioned obstacles, and apparently do not appreciate people with any regard for their lives, aka cautious drivers.
It was all worth it once I made it to my hostel though. Talk about cozy! I was so afraid that being in such a remote place, I would be there all by myself, but imagine my surprise as I enter, and the place is full of travelers lounging on couches by the fire, cooking communal dinner in the kitchen, and checking social media in the dining room. It was all I’d hoped it would be! An incredible oasis in a sea of darkness, and rain. I found the place on airbnb, and knew from photos that I would be sharing a room with others, assigned to a cute little curtained bunk. However, upon check-in, I was told that I would be the only one in my room. I also was extremely pleased with the bathroom situation since I knew I’d have to share that too, and as I’ve talked about many times before, I am NOT a public pooper, and this is actually something that prevents me from traveling to certain places sometimes. The situation here though is that one side of the hall is for the bunk rooms, and the other side is all bathrooms. Each bathroom stall is like a private bathroom, so even though they’re technically public and shared, it’s basically like having your own. Love.
In the kitchen there are spaces in the refrigerator and on the cabinet for shared food, or food left by other travelers after they’ve moved on. Thanks previous traveler for my delicious porridge this morning!
I immediately dumped my bags and joined everyone else in the common room, on a couch right by the fire. Since it was only 5:30, I had plenty of time to drink tea, write, read, and generally do whatever I wanted as the rain beat down. It was perfect.
This morning I allowed myself to sleep in until 8 because the sun doesn’t even rise until 9. I had gotten some info from the desk girl the night before, so I had a plan and set off for some sights along the northeastern edge of the island. I wasn’t even out of Uig yet, and I already felt like I’d made a wrong turn because it appeared as if I was going the wrong way down a one-way street. Nope. I quickly realized that one lane, two-way roads are more common here than not, and had to get over in the tiny “passing zones” multiple times to let the native Scots go past me and do their thing because I was so terrified of running head-on into an oncoming vehicle.
I think that throughout this entire day I let out more, “Oh my word!” “Holy shit!” “Wow!” and “Seriously?!”s than I’ve ever said in my life combined. Out loud. To myself. Guys, this place is seriously magical. Like I’ve never been anywhere so magical in my life. The landscapes are just so intense, and stunning, and come up out of nowhere! I feel like this is exactly how I’ve always imagined Iceland to look, and actually, at my second stop, there was a sign explaining how the rock formations were the same you would find in Iceland.
Anyway, I started out driving through the Quiraing Mountains to get to Staffin Bay. Both were beyond words, and left me in complete awe of the beauty that can be found in this world. From there I headed south to the Old Man of Storr mountains. I had decided on doing a hike there that I was informed would take at least 40 minutes each way – I took a little longer at 45. It was 3.5km straight up a mountain! There were so many times during that hike that I wanted to hug my trainer for kicking my ass this past year. Several times I looked up and saw the tiny specks of humans at the peak, and almost gave up because it just seemed like too much work, plus the wind was SO. EFFING. STRONG! I put all my working out to use though and made my muscles work for me! I made my way up that mountain, and was so happy that I did. The views were incredible, and I feel like the lighting was so perfect. It was one of those moments that I was super proud of myself because I just knew I wouldn’t be able to make it, and then I did, and I was the only single person on that mountain! I did it, and I did it all by myself. Girl power!
Once I’d looked around a while and took some photos, and did some dancing (like actual dancing…I needed some good clips for my video!), I ran down the mountain. Like I literally ran like a crazy person. I don’t know why, but I had the sudden urge to run, so I did, like a little mountain goat, bounding from rock to rock, with people laughing at me as I passed them by. What I sight I must have been, shiny black leggings and snow boots, hood up, but hair flying out all crazy in the extreme winds, face dripping with sweat, grinning like an idiot, bounding down the mountain. It was exhilarating.
Portree was a cute little town not far from there, and I was super hungry after all that work, so I went to the cafe there, aptly named “The Cafe.” I took a seat in a booth and ordered, but then there was a crazy rush of people, and I offered to move to a 2 person table, so a family of 3 could sit at the booth. Oh the madness that caused!
Soon after I was at my new table, which was right by the front window, I looked up to see a guy grinning and waving at me and pointing at the empty seat across from me. He walked in, and in a thick Scottish accent, asked if he could buy me a tea or coffee. I politely declined, but a few seconds later he asked again, as though he had never asked in the first place. I decided to go ahead and let him sit down with me and buy me a coffee. His name was Angus and he was from the town. He was also either super drunk, or on drugs. During the conversation he asked me, no less than 7 times each, what my name was, where I was from, what I did for a living, and “what are your ambitions?” He told me that he had a lot of “be happy ambitions” and I told him those sounded good, and I would have those too.
Each time I told him I was a Spanish teacher he would tell me the story of his Spanish love, Inmaculada de Conde from Gran Canaria, Spain. When the waitress brought out his food, knowing that I did not know this man, and that he was on something, tried to get him to sit at another table, but he refused and told her to leave us alone. After I finally got tired of repeating myself so much, I told Angus I would have to leave him, and went to the grocery store. But lo and behold, there too was Angus, who re-introduced himself to me, completely unaware of the fact that we had just sat and talked together in the cafe. So strange, that Angus.
It was already 1:45 at this time, and I knew the sun would set around 4, and didn’t want to drive in the dark again, so I decided to head back to Uig to see the Fairy Glen I’d heard so much about, and which happens to be super close to my hostel, and to stop at Skye brewing company. Apparently Skye is closed until January 3rd though – just my luck. The Fairy Glen was pretty cool though! I was unsure at first because the road I had turned on wasn’t that spectacular, but then it rose out of nowhere, and it did indeed look like a place where fairies would live. It was just a beautiful, tucked away, weird little string of hills and rock formations, with insane waterfalls in the distance.
I got back to the hostel right as the sun was setting around 4, picked out my spot by the fire, and spent the next 6 hours reading, writing, and dreaming. At first I was kind of bummed about how early the sun sets here because it’s that much less time to see cool stuff, but I’ve decided that it’s actually kind of perfect, and I am treasuring these lazy hours as much as I am the incredible sights I’m taking in during daylight.
I’m so insanely happy that I got ditched for Christmas and had to come up with my own solo plans. This has just been the most perfect past few days, and has been exactly what my soul needed.