Day Five: Mallaig to Dunvegan -- Kilt Rock, Dinosaurs, and Fairies
Another fantastic breakfast to start our day, and then we checked out of The Moorings and headed down the street to the Calmac Ferry terminal. These are simpler ferries than the Alaska Marine Ferry system -- you drive on, cram your vehicle in between all manner of buses, RVs, and lorries, then climb the steps to the deck. There is no covered seating area (except the toilet LOL) and, actually, very little seating at all. It was drizzling so we pulled up our hoods and watched as the mainland slipped away and Skye came into view. We kept hearing our car alarm going off and realized that the bus behind us was nudging our bumper with every swell.
Unbelievably, the same loud American Tourista family from the pub last night was also aboard. Thankfully, we just ran into the adult son, and not Momma Sequin. Son regaled us with tales of their visit the previous week to Ireland, how many accidents they got into while driving, and (in his opinion, not mine!) how unfriendly both the Irish and Scots are. And people wonder why Europeans dislike Americans.
We decided to make a counter-clockwise loop around the Isle of Skye. 50 miles long, Skye is the largest of the Hebrides and probably the easiest and quickest to access. Our first stop, just north of Portree, was be the Old Mann of Storr, a distinctive pinnacle rock formation. Continuing on the east coast with its dramatic cliffs, next was Kilt Rock. These vertical basalt columns rise up at the shoreline and resemble the pleats of a kilt.
Just beyond Kilt Rock is the Staffin beach with its remarkable dinosaur tracks in the rocks along the water's edge. http://www.theskyeguide.com/see-and-do-mainmenu-35/27-natural-wonders/174-dinosaurs-at-staffin
Circling around the top of Skye, we head south to the Skye Museum of Island Life. Perched on a windswept bluff overlooking the Little Minch Sea, the buildings have rocks placed in the thatch netting to keep the roof on. Here we saw the material culture -- everyday stuff -- of the island folk, including a clever chair made from bent tree branches (see below).
We ended our travel for the day at Dunvegan Castle. The castle has been continuously occupied by the same family for over 800 years and is the ancestral home of the clan MacLeod. Interestingly, quite a few castles in Scotland are still controlled by the family and are not part of Historic Scotland or the National Trust properties. We purchased memberships in both, and did save quite a bit on admission, except at these family-run castles, where they charge their own admission fees, and generally do not allow photographs inside.
The tattered but famous Fairy Flag resides at Dunvegan Castle along with other clan heirlooms. After a visit through the castle, we strolled the gardens. These gardens had a more "wild" feel to them, like one would expect from such a wild and remote location.
In the town of Dunvegan, we checked in at the Atholl House B&B. The property was up for sale and it was apparent that running the place was taking its toll on the proprietors, an elderly couple. There were a few problems with the toilet ("ach, lass, ye need to give it a vigorous floosh!"). Donald sent us to a great pub called the Old School, where we enjoyed a lovely early dinner. http://www.oldschoolrestaurant.co.uk/