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Highlands and low valleys in the Isle of Skye, Scotland

Posted by Yvonne Gordon at 01:42 on Thursday 05 June 2014

Yvonne Gordon takes a Rabbies tour to the Isle of Skye in Scotland

Dramatic scenery in the Scottish Highlands. Photo by Yvonne GordonDramatic scenery in the Scottish Highlands. Photo by Yvonne Gordon“Will we see sheep?” a male voice from the back of the bus asks. “We’ve been in Scotland for six days and we haven’t seen any.”

We’re ten minutes into a three-day tour in Scotland and as we leave Glasgow, our driver-guide Murray is telling us about some of the city’s important buildings like the City Chambers and St Vincent Street Church. He asks if we’ve any questions and he is asked about sheep.

“Yes, you’ll see lots,” he assures us, and continues the stories, telling us about Scotland’s turbulent history, of kings, queens and battles, as we hit the motorway out of the city. Just 15 minutes later, an excited voice shouts “sheep!” as we pass a field full of the 'wee beasties' as they say in Scotland.

Murray, the eco-friendly Rabbies guide, picks up rubbish at beauty spots along the way. Photo by Yvonne GordonMurray, the eco-friendly Rabbies guide, picks up rubbish at beauty spots along the way. Photo by Yvonne GordonI’ve joined 12 others for a three-day Rabbies minibus tour of the Isle of Skye and The Highlands and Murray, a kilt-clad Scotsman, has us riveted from the start with interesting information, bringing us up to speed with everything from ancient history to the demise of the shipping industry, the forthcoming Commonwealth Games and where the secret whisky bond warehouses are.

Half an hour out of the city and we’re already driving through Loch Lomond And The Trossachs National Park. The motorway has given way to a lake-side road lined with trees. The bluebells are out and new season bracken ferns are just starting to unfurl. Road signs warn of deer on the road.

As we go further into the Highlands, the scenery opens out; roadside trees thin away, replaced with expanses of brown peat bog. There are hills and mountains to each side of the road now, some black and some brown, many with white patches of snow on their peaks, as if puddles have dripped off the low clouds and frozen onto the hills. Murray tells us to look out for red deer.

At Loch Tulla, we stop to admire the panoramic vistas of mountains, lakes, bogs and forests. We hear folklore stories as we drive through Glencoe and Fort William, meeting the Great Glen which runs along the geological fault line which bisects the Highlands.

Eilean Donan castle. Photo by Yvonne GordonEilean Donan castle. Photo by Yvonne GordonIt’s early afternoon when we turn off for the Isle of Skye, stopping on the way at Eilean Donan Castle, which is set on a small island. The castle dates back to the 13th century and the inside has been restored, so we get to roam around the kitchens, bedrooms and banqueting halls, for an idea of castle life. As Scottish castles go, it's pretty impressive.

Quiraing, Isle of Skye, Scotland. Photo by Yvonne GordonQuiraing, Isle of Skye, Scotland. Photo by Yvonne GordonBack on the road, a
 sign warns of  ‘feral goats for two miles’. The sheep-hunting Canadians find it rather amusing but soon enough, we pass five highland goats, sitting like a group of elders on a rocky outcrop overlooking the road. They have long hair, long straight curly horns and their pointy beards give them an air of wisdom. 

Once we get onto Skye, an island which has been accessible by a landbridge since 1995, we’re on narrow road through smooth-sided valleys and peat bogs. The road is lined with silver birch and rowan trees. The scenery gets more dramatic; mountains higher, valleys lower and longer, with waterfalls running down hills. We're between the Cuillin mountain range and the sea, as the road climbs and the clouds get lower. Then it’s downhill towards Portree, and our first glimpse of the Old Man.

The second day of the tour is spent on the Isle of Skye and our first photo stop is at The Old Man Of Storr, an outstanding rock pinnacle on the side of a hill, visible for miles. It’s a popular hiking spot. After lots of photos, we carry on, as Murray drives us around the island, stopping at viewpoints, passing lakes and mountains.

Yvonne Gordon with Highland Cows on the Isle of SkyeYvonne Gordon with Highland Cows on the Isle of SkyeWhen we come to the single track road to Quiraing, there’s a steep incline, with bumpy hills, ridges and furrows on the way up. There are sheep on the road, sharp turns and signs for falling rock, but as we drive up, the most interesting landscape unfolds. Created by a landslip on the Trotternish Ridge, Quiraing has a set of otherworldly rock formations, with rocky cliffs and columns, interspersed with green slopes and ridges in different shapes.

Later we travel to the east of Skye, to Neist Point lighthouse and the cliffs. We also visit the Faerie Glen, exploring the miniature green hills and rock formations and hearing strange stories of the wee folk. On the last day, we leave Skye on the turntable ferry which makes a short crossing Kylerhea to Glenelg,

Neist Point Lighthouse, Isle of Skye, Scotland. Photo by Yvonne GordonNeist Point Lighthouse, Isle of Skye, Scotland. Photo by Yvonne GordonWe drive back to Glasgow via a short stop at Dalwhinnie Distillery and we stop at Lough Ness for a boat trip on the lake. I always imagined Loch Ness would be bleak and grey, but has calm blue water set among lush green forests, and even though we don’t see any monsters, we spot wild deer and goats on the hillside.

Turntable ferry from Kylerhea to Glenelg. Photo by Yvonne GordonTurntable ferry from Kylerhea to Glenelg. Photo by Yvonne GordonIt’s a fun three days, and thanks to Murray, we learn all about Scotland, the landscapes, history and stories. And we all go home with photos of sheep and lambs - as well as of long-haired Highland Cows, Highland Goats, wild deer, horses, a buzzard, rabbits, herons and eagles.

Getting there: Isle of Skye 3 Day Tour with Rabbies costs from £109 per person, departing from Glasgow or Edinburgh. Optional extras include a visit to Eilean Donan Castle and a boat trip on Loch Ness with www.cruiselochness.com.

This article was written by Yvonne Gordon

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