Isle of Skye

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Skye accomodation & summary

We stayed in a rented cottage in Carbost, on the Isle of Skye. At £315 for a whole week this was good value and the accomodation itself was very good, with great views across the garden and Loch Harport. Carbost is a charming small village and home to the Talisker whisky distillery. It has one pub (The Old Inn), a surprisingly well stocked small shop, a bunk house (which is popular with walkers)and a post office. From Carbost to Broadford takes around 30 minutes and Carbost to Portree is around 45 minutes (by car).

Highland Cow on the Isle of Skye

Overall Skye is a fantastic island for anyone wanting to get away from city life and experience some fantastically accessible scenery. In many respects we were lucky to enjoy a week of unbroken sunshine; if the weather had been worse we'd have enjoyed it less. The Isle of Skye is a hugely spread out island, which you need a car to explore (the bus service is very infrequent). For the serious walkers The Cuilins are a huge attraction, but for the less serious there is much on offer. We enjoyed the fresh air, quality food and beautiful scenery of the Isle of Skye.

Eating out on Skye

The Old Inn at Carbost is a charming pub with pool table, dart board, outside seats overlooking Loch Harport and a local gentleman playing his guitar on Friday nights. Unfortunately bookings are only taken for groups of four or more. Portree houses Langoustines at £5.50 for starter were a bargain - huge and delicious. Fish and chips (£9) from the specials board were good, but could have been bettered with mushy peas. The Old Inn's burgers are another firm favourite. It's no wonder The Old Inn is a hugely popular pub (helped by the bunk house opposite). A good place to enjoy lunch, dinner or both.

Portree has no shortage of pubs and we deliberated a little before choosing The Isles Inn. Fortunately we were pleased with our choice. The Isle Inn doesn't do small portions and my steak pie was humongous, tasty and served with thick handcut chips. The bannoffee pie for dessert let the meal down slightly, but The Isle Inn's mains provided great value and solid, hearty pub food. The tower of haggis, neeps and tatties, and, the fish and chips were all going down well with the overseas tourists packing this pub.

Our biggest culinary disappointment came at Creelers. Despite unanaminous praise, at the time of our visit, on TripAdvisor we found the restaurant somewhat stuck in the past. Most of the fish was served in creamy or alcohol based sauces, which takes the attention away from what should be the star of the show: the fish itself. Service was lacklustre too - needing a reminder to deliver our jug of water and we received no bread. Creelers is located in Broadford (a place where the Co-Op supermarket rather humourously spells it Broardford!) and has a simple, but charming interior. The owner's art-work, which I really liked, hangs on the walls. Mussels for starter were run of the mill and my £16.50 halibut for main was drowned in Creeler's signature alcohol based sauce which had filmed over by the time it reached my table. The lobster tails were no saviour. The salmon steak fared better and the lime cheesecake was rather good. Ultimately Creelers is a run of the mill fish restaurant and nothing to get excited about - we much preferred the simply cooked langoustines of The Old Inn.

The bar at the Sligachan Hotel provided our first nourishment on Skye. The bar was closing at 7pm for a private function and food would only be served in the quite expensive restaurant area of the main hotel after this. We quickly found some cash (as the card machine had broken) and placed our order. The Sligachan is nicely located, but the food was average - my scampi and chips at just under £10 was ok, but the venison burger was well overcooked. The highlight of the Sligachan was a catch up of the day's football scores on Setanta TV and an introduction to The Cuillins brewery output - a few pints of Pinnacle; a fine amber ale.

Highland Cow on the Isle of Skye

Our dining highlight came at the renowned Three Chimneys, where it's three courses for £55 or the very popular tasting menu for £70. We chose the three courses and were dazzled by starters of superbly fresh and simply served langoustines, and, a dressed crab, which was the perfect choice for such a hot day. My lamb loin was nothing short of sensational, almost as sensational as the lamb haggis it was served with. Apparently haggis served this way would have been the norm back in the day - though I was relieved somewhat to clarify the menu didn't literally mean "its own haggis"! We both chose chocolate brownie souffle for dessert which was (yes you guessed it) faultlessly cooked, although it could have been larger. The Three Chimneys is fantastically located and while it's slightly annoying for the driver if you're not staying at the Three Chimneys or nearby, a visit there is a genuinely special experience. Just across the car park is a separate bar area and the Three Chimneys bedrooms. We relaxed here and watched the spectacular sunset, while enjoying a few drams of Talisker 18 year old whisky. A telescope is provided for guests to spy on the seals. I expected The Three Chimneys bar area to be a little more traditional, dark and with a log fire. Not so - it's modern, light and airy. The Three Chimneys has a massive reputation to uphold and judging by our visit its more than capable.

An unexpected delight came on the drive back to Carbost, down yet another single track road. Over 50 sheep and their lambs were crowded around the roadside fast asleep, which provided a beautiful and slightly humorous sight.

Walks on Skye

Highland Cow on the Isle of Skye

Our first walk was the approx. 10 mile round-trip from Carbost to Talisker Bay. Until the last couple of miles or so it’s walking along roads, past lots of green countryside and sheep. Many prefer to drive their cars most of the way and park up, before walking the final mile or so. Talisker Bay’s Beach is one of the most stunning I have ever seen - its sand is black and gold, which creates fantastic patterns along the whole of the beach. A huge waterfall is to the right of the beach and the sand is reached by scrambling over large stones. Fair views of South Uist across the water are provided. Talisker Bay beach is worth the effort, purely to experience the beauty of the black and gold sand.

It’s a short but fairly steep walk to the Old Man of Storr. This is the most popular walk on the Isle of Skye and its easy to imagine how busy this walk will be in peak season. The Old Man of Storr is a weirdly shaped rock pinnacle, which sits atop ‘The Sanctuary’. We took some sandwiches and ate them while sat on some of the loose rock. This is the iconic walk on the Isle of Skye, so it’s worth doing for that reason alone.

We never completed the full length of The Quiraing due to time limitations after tackling The Old Man of Storr earlier in the day. However, The Quiraing really is a spectacular walk, which runs high along the strange formation of rocks. Out of all the walks we enjoyed on Skye I enjoyed the views and feeling of being out in the open the most when walking along The Quiraing. Reaching the small car park at the start of this walk involves a dizzying ascent - so we were grateful the roads were empty!

Highland Cow on the Isle of Skye

The walk around Glenbrittle Wood at just over 10 miles was the longest of our week on Skye. This is a circular route, which winds through forestry tracks and offers excellent panoramic views of the imposing Cuillin. The route pleasantly takes in Loch Eynort and some waterfalls. This 4.5 hour walk was worth it for the great views of The Cuillin and I can imagine it would be unmissable in Autumn.

Portree is the largest town on the Isle of Skye and the Portree circular walk is rightfully popular with tourists and locals alike. This short walk (under 2 miles) has a good balance between coastal and inland walking, with an equally good mix of steep climbing and easy flat terrain. There's a bridge over a river at the end of this walk, which provides an unmissable opportunity to rekindle childhood memories with a game of “Pooh sticks”.

Tourist attractions on Skye

We visited Loch Coruisk via boat from Elgol. The car drive to Elgol, while offering some superb scenery, isn’t for the inexperienced driver. The single track roads and steep descent toward the end made this a nail-biting experience in parts! We’d deliberated over one of the more expensive ‘AquaXplore’ trips to Canna, Rum, Soay or Eigg (which should have guaranteed sight of the beautiful puffins). We took the cheaper option though and settled on the Bella Jane boat trip to Loch Coruisk, which cost £20 return. The boat journey there and back was hugely enjoyable and the young lad training to be skipper proved to be a good audio guide; we also saw lots of seals bathing on the rocks and the unfortunate sight of a old lady sunbathing naked on the rocks! I don’t think she expected a boat to pass!

We were given 1.5 hours ashore to explore Loch Coruisk, which is spectacularly set in the heart of The Cuilin. The wind was fierce, but our brisk walk was terrific, even though we only had time to explore one side of The Loch and return via the same route. Our enjoyment was helped by the secludedness of Loch Coruisk - apart from a few campers and fellow boat-trippers the loch was deserted.

No trip to Skye would be complete without a trip to the Talisker Distillery. However, Talisker is no different to most other Scottish distilleries in that it's now brewery owned and much of the early and latter stages of whisky production are done off-site. Booking the tours in advance is advisable, as they are popular throughout the day. A dram in the visitor's reception gets the tour started, before heading to view the malted barley. Unfortunately the washbacks were being cleaned when we visited, so we were unable to enter that particular room - it's really luck of the draw how much of the Talisker distillery you experience on your tour. The wash still and spirit safe were the most interesting parts, all helped by a guide who was good at their job.