Just a quick update to say this weekend Mike got the steering set up again so now we have a wheel that turns the rudder. He’s such a smart man. Now he needs to do some kind of fancy thing with the transmission so we’ll know where forward and reverse are located. It’s coming along, folks.
When we last left our tale, we were heading toward the Isle of Skye in a late winter snowstorm having just found out our ferry sailing had been cancelled. We had been automatically rescheduled for the sailing the following morning and were determined to keep the gods from stealing our happiness. Get yourself a hot beverage (with a shot or two included) and let’s continue the story.
We arrived on the Isle of Skye and it was just as wild and wonderful as I had been led to believe. Truly I could spend months there and be content it is so beautiful and has so much to offer in terms of archaeological sites. I was really keen to see some Iron and Bronze age sites and apparently these are common as dirt on the Isle of Skye. We saw exactly one of these, sort of. More on that later. I know you can’t wait to hear it. Try to contain your excitement.
Since we had a complete change of plans, we needed a place to stay for the night. No problem, said my well-connected Claire. We would get to Uig (reminder: You-Ig) and find an internet cafe and sit and have tea and she would find us a place by using her trusty computer. There are loads of bed and breakfast places around. Coolio. Really, the new ways with all these electronic gadgets are so much more convenient than the old ways of using a big phone book and a pocket full of change. Sounded like a good plan to me. I am such a sucker sometimes.
Uig has one road to call its own. It goes to the ferry landing. Also, apparently most things are not even open until spring. In certain parts of Scotland, they go into hibernation during the winter, not that I really blame them. Hotels close down. Services become scarce. And there is no internet anywhere to be found. No open cafe, no nothing. And no cell phone service, either. Just like the old days! We passed through town, noticing many interesting looking bed and breakfast places, all with ‘no vacancy’ signs hanging up. I believe this to be lie. What they should actually say is ‘closed’ because it’s winter.
Again throwing ourselves on the mercy of the Scots, we pulled into the charming Uig Hotel, just across the street from a cool looking old stone tower overlooking the sea. The wind was so fierce we couldn’t open the huge wooden door to the hotel but we got the attention of the owner inside, got out of the weather, and explained our situation. Really, I can only imagine how pitiful we looked, like something the cat dragged in and tossed around a bit. They had battened down their hatches to the storm and were fully booked for the night, since we weren’t the only displaced ferry travelers. Hotel owner Anne sat us down in front of a roaring coal fire, put a pot of tea in front of us, and went to discuss our situation with her husband. They decided to open up a back building of the hotel that they called ‘The Lodge’. It wasn’t generally open until spring, but since we were in need…We took it, sight unseen.
Claire settled down with a pot of tea and her book by the fire but I had been sitting all day and wanted a walk. I had discovered that there was a ‘fairy glen’ (I am not making that up) on the road just next to the hotel and decided I would see that during a lull in the rain. And it was totally worth it! I communed with the sheep and took in the vistas, climbing to the top of a rock hill (with the help of a few native fairies) for a better view and a small sense of achievement for the day. By the time I returned to the hotel Claire had received an additional text informing us that the ferry had been cancelled for the following day, sealing our fate. We would not see the standing stones on this trip, and I was pretty bummed out about that. Score one for the gods who said ‘no’.
And yet, I found that it was okay because the Isle of Skye is fantastic. What would I see, besides looming stones, on the Isle of Lewis that they didn’t have here? Probably not much. We changed plans. We would buy a map the next morning and set out to spend a day exploring that part of the island, then drive up to Inverness to spend the night. I had a lovely bath in the tub at the hotel and we read books and turned in early, exhausted from a day of battle.
The following day the wind was even stronger, if that can be believed. As we drove down the road, the car shook and shuddered with it and I was glad that the roads were not icy. The weather did make for spectacular water action as waves crashed against the rock lined shores. Determined to see some ancient ruins, I had circled a few things on the map including an iron age subterranean structure and a fossilized dinosaur footprint. There was also an interesting sounding castle ruin overlooking the sea. Be still my heart! It would be a good day. We pulled up and parked next to the sheep field that housed Iron Age ruin (called a ‘souterrain’) , read the sign, and decided it sounded interesting enough to walk across the field and take a look.
This was an underground storage facility accessed by a narrow tunnel and a tiny door. Claire is in love with tiny doors and small spaces so even she felt like braving the wind and rain to get to this place. The sheep moved away from us, their baleful stares following us as we minced across the field, hoping to step on tufts of grass above the water line. There is a reason why sheep are okay out in the mud and rain and people are not. And that reason is footwear. Washington clay has nothing on muddy Scottish sheep fields. By the time we got to the souterrain, we were anxious to get back to the car and on higher ground with better drainage.
And don’t even think for a minute that we got to explore that ruin. It was filled with several inches of water. So even if we’d had the audacity to duckwalk our way through the little tunnel (which I don’t, by they way, because I positively loathe small underground spaces) we would have been up to our arses in water and mud. No. Thanks. But by God I saw that ruin on the outside and no one can say I didn’t! I was laughing as I got back into the car. Claire wasn’t, but I was. Definitely. Onward to the castle. The wind was fierce. It was a day to feel alive!
Like all worthy castles, our destination was at the top of a bluff of rocks. The wind was at least 60 miles per hour with gusts up to 70 or so according to the nice man at the Uig ferry station (where I went to get my refund). We sat in the car for a minute and thought about this and frankly, we decided neither of us wanted to die on that particular day, so climbing around on rocks overlooking the sea in that kind of wind was probably not the wisest idea. We would not explore the castle. Insert sad frowny face here.
However, I did want to just take a small peek at it and try to get a photo. Getting out of the car, I was very careful to hold onto the door handle lest the wind gust strongly. Which it did. Very strongly. It ripped the door out of my hand and flung me to the ground like so much litter. I wobbled onto my back in the middle of the road, legs waving insect-like in the air. I distinctly remember thinking ‘I’m falling. Better just go with it and roll’. So I did. And thus rolling from bottom to shoulder, enabled my entire right side to become soaked, if not bruised. I felt strongly that flinging me to the ground was a dirty way to play and that there should be some sort of rule about this kind of thing. Alas, the gods play by their own rules, and they make them up as they go along. I remember playing with kids like that. I didn’t like them very much.
One would think that by now we’d had enough and cried ‘uncle’. But one would be wrong because I had exactly one day on the Isle of Skye and who knows if I would ever get back. My plans for standing stones, castles, and iron age ruins may have been thwarted, but there was still a fossilized dinosaur footprint to see and I will go a very long way to see fossils of any kind. Just ask my kids. They will tell you. Onward through the maelstrom. The footprint was off the beaten track and in the lee of the land, therefore protected from the wind. In fact, it felt almost windless. An interpretive sign showed where to find the footprint and explained that it could easily be found at low tide.
If you have shouted ‘hurrah!’ for that, please stop shouting now, although I do appreciate the effort on my behalf. The tide was coming in, and was already covering the rock with the footprint visible. I did not see it. By this time I didn’t actually expect I would. However, not to be completely vexed, I was able to explore the pebbly beach and collect a few stones for people back home. Some of the rocks had small pockets of crystals in them, and some were covered with pyrite! I was in heaven what with rocks, a bit of sunshine for a few minutes, and no wind to speak of. We need to take these small graces from the heavens when they are offered, and be grateful.
I would like to say that as we drove away from the island everything resolved itself and the sun began to shine on this trip but that would be a complete lie. We passed Urquhart Castle ruin on Loch Ness. It was closed. Access denied. We pulled into Inverness and Claire did find a dandy little hotel that had a room available. There was a huge party of revelers with Mardi Gras masks on, loudly partying their way into taxis just underneath our window. I found St. Andrew’s church on the river. Closed. On a Sunday. Claire found the little store that she had shopped in on another trip and wanted to return to. Also closed, even though every indication was that they were open on Sundays, even the sign on their door. Nope. Those gods ruled Inverness. Whatever. I enjoyed the beautiful historic buildings and just walking with Claire along the river.
We decided it was time to start for home in Dunfermline. Our Google said it was a three hour tour. Google is not from Scotland. Google is completely unaware that roads to not travel a straight shot, nor does Google plan on my missing a turn at a roundabout. Sure, Siri will reroute us, but Siri doesn’t care much about whether that route is through high mountain passes with even more snow. So our three hour tour ended up being about twice that long, especially after a stop to see a castle ruin on the Glenlivit estate. It was only 8 miles off the road. How could I pass it by?
By the time we pulled onto the M90 for the last leg of the journey, it was pitch dark and pouring rain and I just wanted to get home safely. I was tired, and visibility sucked. We garnered our forces and persevered, getting home with only mild bruising on my hip and not a scratch on the car. Ok, perhaps the car doors didn’t close as easily as they should have after the wind whipped them around a bit, but you couldn’t tell this by looking. I do not consider that as ‘counting’ against us.
In spite of our little rumbles with the gods, we had a great time and saw so many beautiful and cool things that I was filled to the brim with happiness. Final score? Truthfully, I forgot to keep score. I withdrew from the battle and just had fun. For the record, I consider this a win.
A few more photos because I have about 500 of them.