Visit the Scottish Highlands from Inverness…
If you’ve been having recurring dreams about prowling around in the deep dark mist hanging over glassy mysterious lochs and losing yourself to the wilderness of the majestic Highlands of Scotland, you’ve been fantasising about the Isle of Skye. If there is a heaven on earth for incorrigible nomadic souls and obsessive nature hikers, this is it. But 1,656 square kilometres of the largest island of the Inner Hebrides archipelago, sprawled over the western edge of the British Isle also makes an idyllic destination for hopeless romantics. Every millisecond spent traversing this melodramatic landscape, (which has a name derived from a Norse word meaning ‘cloud island’’), will leave you yearning for more. Or content like never before. Either way, a journey through the Isle of Skye, will burn into your memory like a never-to-be-forgotten, life-altering event. Leaving every cell alive with pure ecstasy and every nerve tingling with awe. Ready up. Here it comes!
Googling may steal the tiniest credit for getting you here, but the train ride from Edinburgh is the real teaser campaign. Reality bites…in the best way imaginable. Eyeballs stay hooked to the storybook scene painted with golden-brown moors, rushing rivers, thick forests and panoramic mountains, till you disembark at Inverness, the cultural capital of the Scottish Highlands. ‘Slice of solitude’ is the phrase that best describes the compact-sized quaint old town with cobbled streets and Victorian-era marketplaces. Tree-lined walkways along a glittering blue river are the perfect backdrop for a lovely 18th-century Church and a stately fortress perched on a hill.
Soak in luxury
You can hear the hush of exclusivity in the crunching of the gravelled grounds as you enter the gated complex of Ness Walk. The first glimpse of the elegant mansion, nestled lovingly within the generous shade of tall trees, is more than tempting. Soft glass doors slide apart welcoming you into an intimately impressive space. It is quite an effort pulling yourself away from the inviting fireplace and cosy armchairs of the lavish living area. Quiet corridors sporting sophisticated dark walls and large picture windows overlooking vast gardens add to the classy appeal. Every corner of the room drips with careful attention to detail, especially the room service door hangs. Ness Walk is the boutique hotel you always wanted to escape to, to experience a perfect blend of privacy, luxury and homeliness. As you would expect, the fine dining at Torrish, is immaculate. Gorge over the fluffy, crisp omelette served with hashbrown topping at breakfast. Satiation guaranteed.
Drink in the warm glow of the rising sun as you drive along the perimeter of Loch Ness, watching the iconic mist rise from the glassy surface of that humongous freshwater body, which holds more water than all the lakes in England and Wales combined. Believe in Nessie or not, this is the moment for conversations of lurking monsters (or giant eels). This is also the ideal spot for ruin lovers to gloat over almost-hidden views of the historic Urquhart Castle, imagine bloody battles and trace out gunpowder-scarred walls. And if fairytale castles are your preferred poison, also stop to admire the stony beauty of Eilean Donan Castle (featured as the Scottish headquarters of MI6 in the Bond movie, ’The World is Not Enough’). Mirrored in the ripple-free, brilliant blue weedy waters, at the meeting point of Loch Alsh, Loch Duich, and Loch Long, the legacy of the reconstructed medieval castle speaks to you wordlessly. From saints, Viking intruders and Spanish invaders to millions of visitors, its allure stays unblemished till today.
Surrender to loftiness
The actual melodrama begins as you cross the Skye Bridge. Is it the sheer scale of the heather-clad velvety moors stretching till infinity that demands stunned silence or have you just been reduced to non-existence? Vast, barren, remote, in all shades of brown, from caramel to hazel to copper and sepia, the majestic Munros tower everywhere…on the right, on the left, ahead and behind you, surrounding you, enveloping you with their grace and might. Named after Sir Hugh T Munro, who surveyed and catalogued 282 of them in 1891, 12 of the toughest ones to climb have a home here in the Isle of Skye. Conquer their heights and surrender to their scale, it works both ways. So who’s up for some serious Munro-bagging?
A sudden flash of blue in the expansiveness of the brown landscape takes your breath away. Cobalt blue streams find their way over the grasslands, riddled with rocks that add character. They run unbridled along the road with infectious energy, adding life to the endless stillness. Sapphire blue lochs glinting in the sunlight, almost luminous against the mellowness of the Munros, they hold your gaze till they disappear from the line of sight. Indigo, lapis lazuli, cerulean…get those blues, any day!
Sample a taste of life in Portree, the capital of the Isle of Skye. Laze over a lunch of fish soup, gossip with locals at the curio shops, loiter in the small square, taste homemade ice-cream in town streets, and just wander around without an agenda. Then head to a vantage point for photogenic views of a compact-sized bay speckled with sailboats and a row of multi-coloured houses facing the sea. It just wouldn’t be the same scene without the one clad in candy pink paint.
There’s an obligatory trail from Portree around the Trotternish peninsula leading to a jagged cliff labelled the Old Man of Storr. Like a giant stalagmite, or a pointy, sharp knife planted firmly into the ground, it rises towards the skies, proclaiming its aloofness in the remote wilderness that is spread around for miles. And this is the most iconic silhouette in the Isle of Skye that graces all the glossy travel brochures. Just one of the famous presentations of nature in the “Theatre of Geology” called Trotternish.
Recover from sea-stroke
There’s a surprise in store across a fenced uphill walk. A hidden gorge with roaring water. And a vertical cliff edge to give you serious sea-stroke! Walking paths for over-indulgent coast gaping. Wind-blown hair, neck-craning and jaw-dropping blend into one highly awestruck expression. You’re taking deep breaths of fresh breeze and gorging on wide-angle visions of limitlessness. Till the watch reminds you that its time to move on. From the journey back to Inverness, to when your head hits the pillow that night, the images of the untamed coastline, wind-whipped peninsulas, insurmountable Cuillin hills and the seal-rich lochs, stay in your mind’s eye, reminding you of an eternal enigma that is the Isle of Skye.
Our luxury accommodation in Inverness was generously hosted by Ness Walk, a 19th- century mansion reborn as a boutique luxury retreat. All opinions are my own.
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