Today, come along with us as we follow Rick Steves’ (henceforth: RS) self-guided driving tour of Skye’s Trotternish Peninsula from his “Snapshot Scotland” (Kindle edition). RS gives this tour a minimum of about two hours, but with three kids and no particular hurry, we made this our day out. And while RS starts the trip in Portree, we ended it there, with a late lunch.
Starting out from Dunvegan, we made our first target the small port of Uig (OO-eeg, or, as the kids pronounce it OOOOOOOOooooOOoooeeeeeeeeeeeeeeEEeeeeeeeeeeeeEEEeeeeeeeeeeeeeg).
RS describes Uig as “unremarkable” and that seems a bit uncharitable. What it lacks in tourist attractions it makes up for by being in a gorgeous location in a gorgeous, isolated place. And it is amazing that this is a big village, for the Isle of Skye — there’s even a cash machine! — and Uig is the island’s major ferry port for the Outer Hebrides. More facts RS couldn’t be bothered to tell you: nearby is an ancient stone with Pictish markings, as well as a Viking fort and viking cemetery. Which we did not visit, but still. Oh, and its terrifying roads are well-paved:
Those are one-lane roads, which carry cars in two directions. I passed a bus here. It was exciting. Because I lived.
After Uig, we wound through a less well-paved one-track road toward Kilmuir and the Skye Museum of Island Life. Imagine living your whole life in a traditional croft like this:
Also? The body of water you’re looking over in the distance is Loch Snizort. So imagine living in a one or two roomed thatched croft and having to talk about Loch Snizort without laughing your whole life. The kids are still talking about the house with two bedrooms — one for mom and dad, the other for the 12 siblings. No photography inside the buildings, or I’d show you the disturbing mannequins of an old man and woman sitting by the peat fire. At least, I hope they were mannequins, not actors, or mummies.
This was a very worthwhile museum, with lots of detail from local historians. Random items like Flora MacDonald’s egg cup (not kidding) reside next to hundreds of old postcards, next to lovingly detailed descriptions of traditional island basket weaving, smithing, agriculture, fishing, and even partying — the famous Highland Ceilidh (kay-lee). But forget your credit cards — cash only for the entry fee or anything in the museum store. RS failed to mention this important point, but disaster was averted with a rummage through the glove compartment for change.
An easy walk up from the museum is Kilmuir Cemetery and the monument to Flora MacDonald:
After driving through a nearly abandoned island, it was a shock to jostle up against a heaving group of tourists to the cemetery who disgorged themselves from a large yellow “Haggis Adventures” bus, snapped photos, trampled grass, then ran off to the toilets. We had fun playing treasure-hunter in the graveyard, finding the grave slab of “king” Aonghas na Geoithe – Angus of the Winds:
… and the resting place of Charles MacArthur, last hereditary piper to Clan MacDonald (from up the road at Duntlum Castle, now a ruin):
The marker was commissioned by the son, who died without paying the stonemason — who then quit work mid-writing. And this cross, which I just liked:
There are other interesting stones in the graveyard, both famous or simply cool, as well as amazing views over (hur hur hur) Loch Snizort and the countryside.
From there, we hit the road again, past ruminating sheep:
And a stop to look at the Outer Hebrides:
There’s a rainbow shooting down from the clouds, can you see it?
We didn’t stop at Duntlum Castle, noted in the RS tour as an early MacDonald foothold on Skye. I might have been able to fight my way to a clear spot to park along the side of the road (maybe) but when I realized the only access to the site was walking over cliffs, the picture of my children all jumping to their deaths — just for kicks — was too strong in my mind. (You think I’m being silly, but the castle was supposedly abandoned when the clan chief’s baby fell out a castle window to his death. My irrational phobias are based in history.) We drove on. But we goggled from the car — it is hugely dramatic.
We drove round the tip of the peninsula, past the Quiraing ridge, oooo-ing and aaaa-ing all the way, and stopped at Kilt rock to see the dramatic waterfall —
This shot shows a bit more of the waterfall than the one I shared yesterday — check out how clear the water is, below! I know the rock shaped like a kilt is supposed to be the attraction, but I like the waterfall best.
The road turned into (even more of) a roller coaster after this, and with the kids getting hungry we just waved at the Old Man of Storr quickly and drove on — my son caught the best photos of the old man, who he was disappointed to find was not an Optimus Prime-sized man created of living rock. The rest of the drive in to Portree was, frankly, a bit boring, although peeks of the Isle of Raasay made it more interesting.
Portree is the largest village on the island, with a pretty harbor:
lined with colorful buildings:
Lunch was at the uninspiring Royal Hotel’s Well Plaid restaurant, where — apparently — Bonnie Prince Charles and Flora MacDonald had their last meeting. No wonder things turned out so badly for them both. The tourist information centre was equally uninspired — possibly why they recommended the Royal as a good place for a family to eat. Later we walked past some great-looking seafood places by the pier, and Cafe Arriba near the tourist shops — RS doesn’t even list the Royal in his guide, which I should have taken as a hint.
After eating and a bit of a walk about, we headed back home to enjoy the gardens near our cottage. All told, we spent about five hours on our tour of the Trotternish peninsula, and could have spent several hours more. The RS driving tour is pretty good for the highlights, but a little extra digging before you go will give you dozens of other sites to stop and enjoy along to way.