Over the Sea; the Skye’s the Limit.

The nautical womb-like clamor of Portree Harbor lulls us to sleep tonight, double-paned window slung wide open even through the downpour that threatens to wash the cobbles right off the thin lane below our quaint, pink Georgian guest house. A massive amalgamated fleet of colorful boats bobs in the dark basin of water here, this delightful little town that feels like the heart of Skye, on the eastern side of the island. Anchor chain clangs against fiberglass hull and sail line meets yard arm with a repetitive and soothing peal. Black waves lap at the concrete boat slip and ripple back under the lights of the bed and breakfasts high above us on the hill. This is the quintessential Scottish town, and we’ve had the perfect weather and the perfect evening tonight to conjure every conventional notion of what should be happening on a weather-beaten visit to such a place.

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Skye itself is quite massive; the looming peaks of the Black Cuillins and the harsh glacial coastline that separates it into three main promontories made it difficult for Evan and I to explore much more than a cursory amount of Trotternish, the most easterly ‘wing’ of An t-Eilean Sgitheanach –The Winged Island. A short late-afternoon drive north from Portree took us to a most amazing hike through the ancient pine forest of Storr, carefully stepping past clumps of beige mushrooms, enormous subterranean rabbit warrens, and up a rocky mountainside that must have been a vision of God to the visiting Norsemen of the latter-1st millennium. The Old Man of Storr is a gargantuan pillar of rock that stands 150 meters over the forest and the sharply ascending trail below, staring out to sea as if looking for lost ancestors to find him again. A Viking treasure horde was found at its base in 1890; the Old Man must have been a recognizable marker for intermittent visitations from non-native scavengers. From behind, it eerily looks like a tall figure in a very long cloak, but we never got close enough to see his features due to the wet conditions and damaging erosion on the trail. If we were better prepared, maybe, but not this time.

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Farther northward were windy roads through moor and field, streaks of rain interspersed with rolling white mist coming from every direction. Droves of sheep were herded across the one-lane tracks in front of us as the end of the day approached, near little communities of three and four whitewashed farmsteads in semi-social clusters, stark against the vivid greens of burgeoning grass and warm browns of late summer ferns. The strange combination of volcanic and glacial geological formations that created the clearly pleated and striated Kilt Rock were a wonder to look upon, and the coastline stretched endlessly beyond it in both directions, conveying utter peace and complete turmoil at the same time. We knew there were tons more to see, but it was getting dark and we were low on petrol, so it was back to Portree for a wander and a cup of tea. Falling in love with Café Arriba was easy, and this is a place where I would spend many hours should I decide to return for an extended stay. Young, cheerful waitresses took good care of us as we looked out over the harbor and nursed dark ales brewed right on the island. The food was hearty and satisfying, and we took some time for a logistical wander through our maps over more tea and something sweet. Evan and I talked about our pasts, remembered how we met and the things we’ve been through, and how thankful we have this leisure time – how thankful we are to be here with each other.

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I like Portree very much. Amidst the torrents of rain, winding streets along the moss-walled harborside, chill northern wind making a mockery of hair and flapping clothing, we fell victim to the town’s charm, and it was easy to want to stay. Mountains rise above it on one side, water lovingly protects it on the other. A lattice of friendly shops and pubs, boat-ridden quays, terraced drives that rise and fall with the swell and sweep of the land, and perhaps no right angles whatsoever anywhere either on building or road. It’s an outpost and a respite, and I hope to come back soon and just visit with the town. There doesn’t have to always be a plan when a destination like this is on the itinerary. And this is one small place on a very large island, severe and gentle, open yet mysterious – very much a part of Scotland and perhaps even moreso very much its own little nation. Over the sea, stretching to the skye.

Beyond the lochs of the blood of the children of men,
beyond the frailty of plain and the labour of the mountain,
beyond poverty, consumption, fever agony,
beyond hardship, wrong, tyranny, distress,
beyond misery, despair, hatred, treachery
beyond guilt and defilement; watchful
heroic, the Cuillin is seen
rising on the other side of sorrow.

-Sorely Maclean

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22 Responses to “Over the Sea; the Skye’s the Limit.”

  1. anonymouseth Says:
    October 11th, 2006 at 4:58 pm

    portree was rather nice, as was cafe arriba (although very busy when we were visiting)
    anyone gagging for more pix of skye can get a few here…
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/thalamus/sets/808278/ <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/gingiber/sets/810271/” target=”_blank”>http://www.flickr.com/photos/gingiber/sets/810271/

  2. FunkyPlaid Says:
    October 13th, 2006 at 6:16 am

    The differences between our cameras (and skill) is explicit. I love those shots.
    I think the thing with Arriba is trying to time a visit during a gale. 🙂

  3. zotz Says:
    October 11th, 2006 at 6:17 pm

    I managed to have dinner at Arriba with my folks this year, after failing last year. My dad's family's from Trotternish (Kilmuir, just north of Uig) as I never tire of telling people.
    Glad you had a good time. It's a wonderful place. I put a couple of things up about our walk on the Storr last summer. Lara, Seth, Sandy and Martin may have done so too.

  4. FunkyPlaid Says:
    October 13th, 2006 at 6:19 am

    I read them when you posted, and I just read them again. A rousing account, filled with the wit and entertainment value I've come to expect from your filter.
    Go again, so I can hear more! 🙂

  5. zotz Says:
    October 13th, 2006 at 6:40 am

    I still need to finish writing up this year's visit. I think I posted the Islay part of the trip, but the rest is still half-finished.
    Bad Graham. No biscuit.

  6. dichroicynosure Says:
    October 11th, 2006 at 10:06 pm

    I love the sensitivity you display towards places in general, one gets the feeling that you take in everything, you appreciated everything, you haven't let anything slip past. Sky sounds fascinating! A Viking horde near the old man–ohhh yeah, now we're talkn'! The grass upon the hill, o that colour, how we need to replicate that in the States, we simply don't make that colour.
    chill northern wind making a mockery of hair and flapping clothing This image made me recall the wind in Scarborough while I was on a hill overlooking the sea. I felt like I could have flown away. And those cliffs! Like the cliffs of Moher! What a daunting drop into that tangle of swelling sea!
    I have to appreciate your friend's total picturesque quality. All men should be dressing that way.
    Tis a pity you have to leave. You are so alive and in love with that place. Even seeing you in profile made me recognise that glint of bliss.

  7. FunkyPlaid Says:
    October 13th, 2006 at 6:45 am

    Some say I cling too tenaciously to the detail, not allowing myself enjoyment of the meta-experience, but I thank you for this complimentary observation.
    No, we certainly don't make that color. 🙂
    Evan is a sharp dresser, indeed. He fits the part, appropriated even before his time in London.
    You can't miss my passion for this country. The good news is that this trip has cemented future plans in a clearer way than before. More as it comes, surely to be explored here on these pages.

  8. eskimolimon Says:
    October 11th, 2006 at 10:08 pm

    *Sigh*

  9. FunkyPlaid Says:
    October 13th, 2006 at 6:20 am

    Mm-hmm.

  10. angledge Says:
    October 12th, 2006 at 11:25 am

    Evan looks great! And it sounds like you've been having a great time, just as I hoped you would. Safe travels on Saturday, sweetheart, & don't forget to wave when you cross the East Coast!

  11. FunkyPlaid Says:
    October 13th, 2006 at 6:22 am

    People are-a-asking after you, so expect to be dragged this way, if necessary, in the near future. Lit a candle for Sarah at St. Giles today and thought of you and our adventures here.
    Montrose says 'allo. 🙂

  12. dangerine Says:
    October 12th, 2006 at 5:03 pm

    amazing photos
    beautiful enough to paint
    offtopic, why do i keep thinking of your name when i hear the band name "in gowan ring"?

  13. FunkyPlaid Says:
    October 13th, 2006 at 6:40 am

    If I could paint, I wouldn't take pictures; leaving it up to you.
    IGR: don't know the connection, other than the fact they played at my house earlier in the year. Just got a mail from B'ee today, funny enough; we're trying to set up another show for wintertime. Stay tuned – you'll be more than welcome to attend.

  14. dangerine Says:
    October 13th, 2006 at 9:32 am

    that's what i thought. thanks. are you planning to have them play at your home, again?

  15. FunkyPlaid Says:
    October 15th, 2006 at 8:02 am

    Yes, as I mentioned above, most likely in wintertime. You'll certainly see the details here when it comes to light.

  16. winterbadger Says:
    October 15th, 2006 at 8:54 am

    Skye is a beautiful place; visiting it was one of the things that convinced me I wanted to live in Scotland. Not in a "I need to be in this special place *all* the time, and thus make it be not special for me any more" way. More in a "it would really be nice if I could come and visit this beautiful island without having to fly 3,000 miles" sort of a way. 😉

  17. FunkyPlaid Says:
    October 15th, 2006 at 9:14 am

    And why shouldn't you want to be in a special place *all* the time? How could any familiarity possibly truncate that beauty?
    🙂

  18. winterbadger Says:
    October 15th, 2006 at 9:26 am

    Oh, call it the distant influence of my Calvinist New England grandmother: I fear that if I get to enjoy something all the time, then I won't appreciate it properly.

  19. FunkyPlaid Says:
    October 15th, 2006 at 9:32 am

    Yes, I hear you on this. I think the remedy is remembering to bring along your new set of eyes each time so this fear never comes to fruition. Harder than it sounds, no doubt.
    But it's good! Calvinism was absolutely rampant throughout Scotland. You'll be in good company! 🙂

  20. anonymouseth Says:
    October 15th, 2006 at 9:57 am

    i'm butting in here, but do you two know each other ? or is your comment here just due to a kinda american-blogger-in-scotland vibe ?
    i don't mean to be nosy, but it's just odd that we finally get rid of one funky yooessanian and give some property advice to another badgery one, only to find them together in the corner getting misty eyed about skye.
    you'll be telling me that you know a nutty SCA girl called kaija, next…
    🙂

  21. FunkyPlaid Says:
    October 15th, 2006 at 10:10 am

    Never met, Seth. You and I both responded to his last post on <lj user="edinburgers">, is all. But he seems to be a nice chap, so go easy on 'im, eh?
    Yooessanian, ha!
    you'll be telling me that you know a nutty SCA girl called kaija, next…
    Don't know her, but slept with her once. 😉

  22. winterbadger Says:
    October 15th, 2006 at 12:56 pm

    We don't know each other; I just figure anyone who shared a flat with <lj user="pisica"> is probably good people, so I wandered over to see what his LJ was like. And low and behold he had some pictures of a place that I've visited several times and am dearly fond of.
    I don't know a nutty SCA girls called kaija (that I'm aware of), but I did collect a door prize from a lovely young woman at a feis at the Sabhal Mor Ostaig, came home to the States and journalled about it, only to find a comment from her on the posting and discover she's an American whose parents teach at the college right down the road from me. 🙂 The world is a very small place, sometimes. 🙂

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