Scotland: Skye hooked

Heavy rain, no wind and poor visibility on our way to Skye, we were glad we’d taken the photos the day before at Rona. Dropping the mooring lines we left on high tide and motored along the Sound of Raasay. The peaks of Skye were obscured under low cloud, unlike the previously clear day. Blue Heeler putted into Portree harbour and we found a good anchoring spot away from the mooring area. We dropped anchor in 8m of mud and kelp, making sure to put up the anchor ball to identify our vessel was anchored not moored. Anchoring is free, but moorings are £10 per night payable to an honesty box at the RNLI.

Portree, Skye

Since I hadn’t washed clothes since Kirkwall, I decided to check out the only self-serve laundrette on Skye located next to the brightly yellow painted hostel. Returning the next day while the rain continued to pour down, I arrived just after opening time of 11am to find that of the five machines, two were broken and three were already busy. So I had to wait 45 minutes until my turn. No matter. I walked through town, bought a Scottish flag to replace mine that exploded in the strong winds and poked around the souvenir stores.

Ally and Kathy, Portree, Skye

On our voyages around the world we sometimes meet up with other sailors, but rarely do we meet up with friends from our former land-lubbing lives. I learnt to sail on Port Phillip Bay from 2007 to 2010 aboard a 36′ Beneteau First “Allegresse“. At Skye we met up with skipper Kathy and first-mate Alan from Melbourne – quite a surprise.

We joined them on a couple of day trips around Skye and the weather was perfect. One afternoon we got together at the pub with friends Brian and Chris of ‘Coruisk’ who had eventually managed to leave the windy Orkney isles and head south. It was good to see them again too!

Kyle of Lochalsh

The Kyle of Lochalsh is around 19nm east of Portree. Motoring south of Raasay we then navigated north of Scalpay passing under the 24m Skye Bridge at later in the afternoon. There are small pontoons at Kyle with a ‘donation’ of £2 per metre can be paid online or directly with the friendly pontoon manager. A Co-op supermarket is located conveniently up on the hill, and overlooking the harbour is a community centre which offers showers, toilets and laundry facilities that are better than Portree. Water is available at the pontoon but we had no electricity during our stay as they’d only just put the pontoon together for the summer season.

Kyle of Lochalsh pontoon with Skye Bridge in the background

The next day Kathy and Alan picked us up at around 10.30am for a drive around the mainland. We drove to Plockton where we walked around the small waterfront village, stopping to chat to a local man who was potting about in his veggie garden. He had a good sense of humour and was happy to see a few Aussies visiting his small village, apparently made famous by the series ‘Hamish McBeth’.

Lunch at Uig

The tourist traffic was quite relaxed with ‘passing places’ dotted along the roads to allow vehicles to pass safely. Hikers can be seen on various routes around the rugged hills and forests, and we even stopped to photograph a handsome deer. Our trip took us through Strathcarron and Lochcarron, Kishorn with views across to the hills of Applecross, then up to Shieldaig and finally Torridon where we stopped for a picnic lunch. The road to Kinlochewe gave us excellent views of Beinn Eighe. On the road to Achnasheen we stopped at a roadside cafe opposite Loch a’Chroisg for a coffee and piece of tasty whisky loaf as we sat in the afternoon sunshine.

The following day Alan drove us to the west coast of Skye to Dunvegan, the largest town on the west coast. Before this we visited the lighthouse at Neist Point, Milovaig, plus the unique white Coral Beach south of the island of Isay, near Claigan. The day was beautifully sunny and clear and so picturesque. I took lots of photos, way too many in fact. Once again we stopped for a picnic lunch, seating ourselves amongst the heather and thistles with views of Dunvegan Castle.

The Cuillins

The drive back with the Cuillin mountains to the south was spectacular. We said our farewells to Kathy and Alan – we had a great time exploring Skye and beyond with them.

We planned to leave the following day, making good use of the calm weather. On the high tide we would ride the ebb through the Kylerhea and head around the Sound of Sleat to the south coast to enter the magnificant Loch Scavaig and Loch Coruisk with views of the Cuillins.

It won’t be long before the sou’wester blows in…

Photo by Alan Richardson

About blueheelerhr39

Sailing the world aboard Blue Heeler
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