The Highlands and The Isle of the Skye

 

The good thing about having the flexibility when traveling is you get to pick ideas and recommendations. If possible, you make changes as you wish. You get to explore places that would surprise you. You welcome experiences that you didn’t even think of. And, you take all these unbelievably blissful memories that even after time had passed, it still is one of your favorites.

The Isle of the Skye in Scotland is one of my them… And I almost didn’t make it up there!

Scotland was a potential destination that I took with me out of a conversation with a Filipina backpacker. It was probably just a 5-minute story from our endless chitchat that day.

Edinburgh, Scotland

Who would have thought that the 5-minute story would make me consider it as a destination-ender on a daily basis for the rest of my trip?

However, upon arriving in London a month later, I hesitated. I procrastinated.

I feared the colder temperature that I was not familiar of.

I feared not really knowing where to go and how to go around on my own.

It took a friend to push me to buy another layer of coat and a roommate who told me that her “trip to the Isle of the Skye was the best part of her travels.” (She highly recommended to go with Macbackpackers).

And so, I took all the encouragement and recommendations and made my trip to Scotland.

The next thing I knew, I hopped on the overnight bus to Edinburgh, breezed that morning’s free walking tour right after, and went to the Highlands, up to the Isle of the Skye the following day!

Not a chance to blink!

Bus has taken off. Welcome to the Scottish Highlands!

Mountain view with a 1st day of snowfall prediction

The rest of the trip I literally had sore eyes! I just had to say it. (I slept the night before the Skye with contact lenses on. Not so smart, even if you’re too tired).

Nevertheless, the whole experience was vividly blissful!

We went to explore the Highlands for the next couple of days.

At the Loch Ness (fresh water lake located at the Highlands where the “monster Nessie” is said to be at).

We passed by snow-capped mountains, quaint towns, ruins and saw the details of the unbelievable landscape of the Highlands.

The pain of wearing my contact lenses with my red-shot eyes, whether both or just one at a time was totally worth it. I cannot NOT SEE anything!

Road trip view of snow-capped mountains and lakes, Highlands

Road trip view of snow-capped mountains and lakes, Highlands

Road trip view of snow-capped mountains and lakes, Highlands

Portree, the largest town at the Isle of the Skye

Portree, the largest town at the Isle of the Skye

Dunkeld Cathedral, partly in ruins but is still in use today

Old Inverlochy Castle in the Highlands

So much places filled up our palettes…

from battlefields, to castles, to breathtaking views.

Stirling Castle

Road trip view

River Tay by the Dunkeld Cathedral

Mountains surrounding the Dunkeld Cathedral

A meet and greet with the Highland Cattles.

A close up of the Highland Cattle

If that was not enough…

there were stories of monster and fairies, clan wars, and legends of love that surround every destination we went to.

The Kelpies (A 30m horse-head sculpture. Kelpies are said to be mythological shape-shifting water spirits)

Faerie Glen, a place believed to be the home of fairies

Land slips at Faerie Glen

View from the top of Faerie Glen

Even with the tales of unfortunate events…

what’s left behind today displays the exact opposite.

Glencoe and its mountains. Tales of clan massacres surround Glencoe and apparently was one of the Game of Thrones’ writer’s inspiration.

Mountains of Glencoe.

Robert the Bruce at the Site of the Bannockburn Battle (First War of Scottish Independence)

The surrounding area of the Bannockburn Battle Site

The surrounding area of the Bannockburn Battle Site

And the things that we did along were momentous in their own right.

We took sightseeing to the next level by taking part in Scottish myths and legends.

There was a drink from the fountain of youth at the River Sligachan.

While taking in the view: The Cuillin (Mountain) and River Sligachan (on the rightmost part, where the people are!)

Braving the cold at the Loch Ness: Taking a dip at the eternally-5°C cold water. (Back story was, our tour guide encourage us to jump in. None of us were going to do it until he said “you’re the only group who didn’t go.” That was it and off we (some of us) went!)

And a walk to the heartbroken Old Man of Storr as the snow started to fall.

Paid respect to the fairies at Faerie Glen in Uig: We had curse-less, whistle-less, and no-hand-in-the-pockets walk at Faerie Glen to prevent the fairies from getting angry. Apparently, something bad might happen if you do any of it!

Brave and respectful kids at Faerie Glen

There was so much to take in and as much as I know how nature’s beauty could be, I had never been truly surprised with its magnificence until that day!

It was magical!

Found myself at the most surreal, breath taking, jaw-dropping landscape EVER: Quiraing!

Had a glimpse of the five sisters of Kintail, the Cuillin, and some other snow-capped mountain ranges.

Cliffs of Kilt Rock

Somewhere behind me is a river that rushes to the cliffs of Kilt Rock and drop by Mealt Falls

Cliffs of Kilt Rock and it’s majestic Mealt waterfalls.

Took in the cliffs of Kilt Rock and it’s majestic Mealt waterfalls.

Ever-changing natural landslips, pools, and mystical mists at Quiraing.

Ever-moving landslips of Quiraing by the Staffin Bay.

And, how can we miss the castles?

So near yet so far, Urquhart Castle by the Loch Ness

A glimpse of Eilean Donan Castle across the lake (Loch Long)

A picture of perfection: Eilean Donan Castle by dusk

Inspected the Game of Thrones’ Winterfell Castle which is actually the Doune Castle.

Inside the Doune Castle

View from inside the Doune Castle

And most importantly…

…for the first time ever, I experienced the taste of snow.

What a luck!

It was mid-fall and yet, the first day of snow arrived! The feeling of surprised happiness after dreading, fearing it for a long time was for no reason at all.

One day, I will come back to Scotland and bring my loved ones. We will explore it on autumn and come back to see it on spring too. We will do it more slowly see it as much as we want, with all the time that we have. If we get lucky, we might see the Aurora too and I can’t wait for that to happen.


A lot of films and stories had been taken in the Scottish Highlands. As our guide pointed the train of Harry Potter, as we wandered at Faerie Glen and Quiraing, and as we walked inside the castle Game of Thrones, the feeling was just so epic and surreal that it shouldn’t be a wonder why these tales of legends and mysteries have been filmed here.


Some Useful Information

Itinerary Highlights:

Quiraing, Kilt Rock, Faerie Glen, Glencoe, Five sisters of Kintail, Old Man of Storr, Loch Ness, Doune Castle, Eilean Donan Castle, Portree Town, Kyleakin Village, Sligachan River, The Cuillin

How to go around the Scottish Highlands and the Isle of the Skye:

  1. By car – best way to explore if sharing with a few people. You can visit at your own pace and follow your own itinerary.
  2. With a tour – I went with Macbackpackers, as it was highly recommended by a roommate (the one who said, “the Isle of the Skye made her trip”). It’s affordable and the group I had were mostly like-minded individuals. Perhaps because the tour was “created for independent travelers between 18 and 40.” 
    The Macbackpackers 3-day Isle of the Skye tour is at £129 (check their website).

Where to stay:

  1. In Edinburgh, I stayed with Castle Rock Hostel – £14/night (dorm)
  2. In the Skye, we stayed at Kyleakin at Lochbuie Guesthouse – £18 to 20/night (dorm)

Traveling between London and Edinburgh:

I took the National Express Bus. You can buy a London-Edinburgh round trip for voucher (£40) when you book your tour with Macbackpackers.

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I hope this blog has inspired the travelbug in you and…

When you go to Scotland, don’t miss the Isle of the Skye!

Morning view at the village of Kyleakin, where we stayed for the nights in the Skye


 

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