We spent our first night on Skye in a large layby on the side of the road to Dunvegan. The view over the valley and across to the Cuillins was wonderful and, aside from a couple of boy racers with holes in their exhaust pipes roaring by, it turned out to be a quiet place to sleep. Before we went to bed we felt a little anxious about camping wild, especially as we were very visible to any passing traffic and we were also on a slight slope so our heads were lower than our feet… only once we got into bed you understand. We needn’t have worried at all. We were fast asleep in minutes and woke again nine hours later to the sound of sheep bumping into the side of the van. Poppy and Boo, unusually for them, didn’t utter a sound. Perhaps they were stunned into silence by the strange baaing and bumping from the sheep that seemed to think we were going to feed them. They soon scarpered when I took the dogs out for their first walk of the day.
Next stop was breakfast in a car park beside a sea loch. There was another motorhome already in the car park and it looked like it had been there all night. I watched with some envy when they opened their door and a very well behaved dog climbed out, took itself for a walk, did its business well away from anywhere someone could step in it and then returned to lie quietly beside the door. If we did that, Poppy would be halfway to Inverness chasing rabbits and Boo would be outside crying to be let back in.
We were still far too early to go to our caravan site by Edinbane in the north of the island so we stopped again beside the site of an ancient Broch. These ruins are of small castle in high places to watch over the land and were built in a position to see potential invaders long before they arrived. We clambered up the hill with dogs firmly on leads, as the field was full of grazing sheep and lambs. They took not the slightest bit of notice of us as we puffed and panted our way up, not helped at all by Poppy running circles on her lead desperate to play with them.
I have an admission to make. I’m really not big on history. It’s probably a shocking admission for someone who has studied social sciences but most of the time I can’t be bothered to visit ancient monuments and read all that worthy stuff they put on plaques. It was a pleasant surprise to find this particular monument quite interesting – you could still see the layout of the building with its rather clever double walls to keep the heat in, even though it was built more than two thousand years ago. Nevertheless I was glad to trot back down the hill to the van and have a mug of coffee and read my book for a bit. To be strictly honest, ‘trot down the hill’ is a bit of poetic license. It was more of a sideways shuffle punctuated by calls to one another to be careful, as the hill was scattered with bits of Broch and lumps of sheep shit. A fall over one or into the other would have rather spoiled our day.
Still too early to go to the campsite we stop again in the village of Dunvegan, which is home to the place we stayed on our last visit to Skye with our pals Derek and Mary. On that occasion the weather was dire and they were in tents. All I can remember of it is the van being full of wet people and wet coats for days on end. This time the place was bathed in sunshine and tourists and locals were strolling around calling greetings to one another and sitting outside cafés drinking coffee and eating cakes. We’re not eating cakes at the moment as we’ve committed ourselves to return home lighter than we left so we looked the other way and sighed a bit. We attempted to help the local economy by going into the village shop for a few essentials but our £3.80 on plain yogurt and some hummus can’t have helped much. Sorry folks. I would rather have spent a tenner on coffee and cake but there it is.
Finally we rolled into the Camping & Caravan Club (C&CC) site at Edinbane just before the official arrival time. We diverted briefly to the Edinbane Inn to check its whereabouts and distance from the site. This was to facilitate our main reason for being at this end of the island. Shirley’s pal and former colleague John Wilson was to be playing that night at the inn with a band of traditional Scots’ musicians. We were really excited about the gig and alarmed at the same time. The Inn is only about a mile and a half from the site but it is on the other side of a fairly steep hill. We’d imagined cycling there but as the van laboured up the hill we had second thoughts. We’ll have to walk it.
As I’ve said before, the C&CC is more laid back than the other club and we found the wardens to be easy going and friendly, despite the fact that this was a bank holiday and head office had overbooked them. We were given one of the last remaining pitches with a loch view and left to chill in the sunshine with a parting offer to call us a taxi if we didn’t think we could face the walk back to the Inn that evening. It’s only the end of May but it isn’t getting dark this far north until about 11 p.m. so we’re not at all concerned and at about 8 p.m. we set off wearing clean t-shirts, a liberal cocktail of midge repellent and a smile.
I may not be hot on history but I’m super big on music and the evening was a total treat – up there with the best of the trip. All the musicians were first class, the music exciting in a kind of fusion of Scots tunes with tantalising hints of African rhythms played by John with his hands a blur on his own design Bodhran and a Djembi.
The first set was so good that we settled down happily to enjoy the rest of the evening, confident it would be superb. Nothing prepared us for the cherry on the cake – Rowan, a young local man, slipped quietly into the band and began playing Borders Pipes with such speed and accuracy that we were captivated. To add to the pleasure of the evening we shared our table with a lovely Australian couple, over here on a long tour. In between sets we chatted about our respective journeys and got on like old friends.
It was well after 11 p.m. when we walked back up the hill and watched the last of the sunlight slide over the horizon. Tunes and sounds were buzzing around inside our heads and we felt truly blessed. Thank you John and the Isle of Skye. It’s been fabulous.
Discovering something new
They say that travel broadens the mind. I’ve discovered that it also teaches us new things about one another. Specifically, I have learned that Shirley is accident-prone, something I honestly had no idea about this until this trip. Right enough I’ve become accustomed over the years to the sound of bumps and bangs followed by a few muttered expletives but this trip has raised my awareness to a whole new level.
Let me give you an example. This van has lots of very clever automatic features. It has an electric step that folds back in under the van at the very moment you turn the engine on. It doesn’t do the reverse – the step doesn’t go out when you turn the engine off, presumably because you could potentially knee cap an innocent passerby or knock a cyclist off his bike. Shirley hasn’t got the hang of this at all and twice now has stepped out of the van onto a step that isn’t there. This is made worse by the fact that for some reason she gets out of the van backwards so she has no way of seeing the lack of step until it’s too late. From inside the van, all I see is her stepping out into fresh air, her head disappearing far too fast for comfort followed by a stream of four letter words.
Lying in bed last night I broached the subject of referring to this on the blog and we ended up in tears of laughter. This is one of the many reasons I love her – we can laugh ’til we cry most days and it makes everything alright… except perhaps the bruises on her poor shins.