Relaxing Lochside in the central Highlands (with whisky, of course!)

A few weeks back I published a post on whisky tasting on the Isle of Skye. And in that post I mentioned the Scottish distilleries’ penchant for being the most this or the only that. Well today I introduce to you, dear reader, Scotland’s smallest distillery, Edradour.

When we left the Isle of Skye on the Caledonian MacBrayne Ferry we were heading for the central Highlands to a holiday let we’d booked on Airbnb on the banks of Loch Tay.

Loch Tay is a freshwater loch between Scotland’s two largest national parks, Loch Lomond & The Trossachs and Cairgorms. It’s a long, narrow loch which lies alongside the A821.

We chose Loch Tay because of this:

And this:

Our holiday let itself was pretty sweet. It had 3 small double bedrooms, all of which had seriously tiny beds. We ended up using one of the bedrooms as a dressing room which worked out nicely. It also came with an archaic heating system we couldn’t figure out until the second night. But it had an only slightly leaky conservatory (view from above) and the kitchen was really nice…

… and there were views for days. Overcast, cloud filled views:

Raining in the distance views:

Even holy heck that’s quite a storm views:

Well, whatever the view, we weren’t going to just sit in our little house all day.

We had some whisky to taste!

The 45 minute drive to Edradour in Pitlochry took us through Kenmore, a quaint 16th century village at the foot of Loch Tay, just outside the Taymouth Castle Estate which is currently being converted into a luxury hotel, spa, and golf course with exclusive residences. Very fancy. When driving past it you can just about make out the castle in the distance. And since it wasn’t open for visitors when we were there, I turn to wikipedia once again:

On your way to Pitlochry from Loch Tay you’ll also find yourself driving through the small market town of Aberfeldy. This is where we did all of our shopping and stocking up. There’s a great little shop in town called Aberfeldy Farmfresh which has some yummy local finds. However, you’ll want to make a visit to the Co-operative a few doors down for your self-catering holiday basics.

Just outside the little town centre is a pretty big name in whisky: Dewars. Aberfeldy whisky is the main ingredient in Dewar’s blends, and I admit I was a little surprised to see a big sign which read: Dewar’s World of Whisky (yes, that’s what they call it). The name kind of makes it feel like it might be the Disneyland of distilleries (don’t you think?). But since we like our distilleries small, it was onward to Edradour!

Pitlochry is a small town far more geared to tourists than its nearby sister, Aberfeldy. We paid a visit to the delightful Auld Smiddy Inn after a quick wander around the quaint high street. Lovely pint at the Smiddy. Recommended.

And of course, there was plenty on offer in the way of Scottish wares, should you be interested, in Pitlochry.

The Scottish Shop next to Scotch Corner

But let’s not forget the reason for our visit. A delightful (and don’t they know it) distillery on the Edradour Burn.

The Edradour Burn runs right through the property

I recommend doing the whole enchilada: tour, tasting and a visit to the shop. You won’t be disappointed. Our tour guide was equal parts knowledgable and entertaining and kept a room of whisky novices and enthusiasts completely hooked.

After the tasting, of which we all got to go home with our own commemorative whisky glasses, he took us on a tour of the property, stopping to allow us to take photographs of its rich history, almost none of it I remember. I suppose that’s what its website is for.

And this blog? It’s for pictures. Hence the name.

Now, the reason that Edradour is the smallest distillery in Scotland goes way back in time to when Highlanders would make their own whisky in small, homemade stills. And when that became illegal, making your own booze at home, they decided to keep making whisky in the smallest legal stills allowed.

And although they may be the smallest, they make 25 blends of their own and have quite the storage facility. Loads of other distilleries store their barrels at Edradour as well as use Edradour in their blends.

We weren’t allowed to take photos in the still itself, however if you check out their website they have some videos you can watch.

Once your tour is over, they invite you to visit their newly renovated tasting room as well as the shop. The tasting room is fantastic. I wish I took more photographs of the space, but I was too busy trying out their wares.

Personally I found the Edradour whiskies to be too sweet, and the tasting room bartender equated their 10 year to Christmas Cake. I couldn’t find that flavor anywhere on the tasting wheel.

Your last stop at Edradour should be the shop.

If you are flying back to the states, each person over 21 can carry up to 1 liter of alcohol. And by carry I mean carefully pack the bottles in your checked baggage and hope that the airline baggage crew don’t break your precious cargo. Our 10 year got home safe and sound.

Even though we really wish we’d been able to take this little guy with us, too.

Alas, no expensive Islay whisky for us. That’s saved for our next trip. Islay here we come!

But first, to round out the end of our scorching summer road trip in Scotland… finally, some rain. Rain so thick you can’t even see the loch in the distance. One shopkeeper mused that it was the biggest storm they’d seen in years.

I bet they say that about all the storms.

The next morning we awoke to beautiful blue skies with fluffy clouds, the banks of Loch Tay reflected in its mirror like surface…

… Perfect conditions for a drive back to bonnie Leicestershire.

And although we’d originally planned on a couple of nights in Edinburgh, the call of a comfortable bed and warm meal at home was too strong.

As was a pasty at our nearest motorway services! Cheese and bacon, if you please. Nom nom.

The blue skies continued, following us all the way down the M74, M6 and then across Derbyshire.

Seven hours later we arrived in Gaddesby, ready for a deserving glass of wine in the garden, already planning our next trip before parking the car. Though nothing we choose could top a road trip around the Isle of Skye, surely.

What about Paris? There’s a cheap flight out of East Midlands on Tuesday…

Ferry Ride! or How I learned the ferry was faster than driving to the Isle of Skye

It was officially time for us to leave Skye, one of the most beautifully stunning islands on the planet, likely never to return despite our hopes otherwise. And since we drove on to the island, it seemed fitting for us to drive off as well…

… and onto a ferry boat.

Since we were staying close to the Armadale ferry terminal, it was super easy for us to check out early and be the first car in the queue for the morning ferry from Armadale to Mallaig.

Also, plenty of time for photos from the pier.

We sorted out our passage from the ticket office and explored the shops around the terminal.  You have to check in your car at least 20 minutes before sailing, so you’ll have time.

One way tickets for the ferry cost £9.40 for your car, £2.80 each for driver and passenger. Children are less, so check the Caledonian MacBrayne website (opens in a new tab) for more price info.

We also had loads of time to document the arrival of the first ferry from Mallaig.

Can I let you in on a secret? I think that I, like most people, consider oneself to be pretty well put together. I love travel, a really good meal, writing (of course), and I work in media which means I get to work in really fancy offices with exposed beams and glass walls, wearing high heels and being collaborative with creative people. It’s pretty cool. Some might even say that I am pretty cool.

Except when it comes to a few things. Airplanes. What is it about airplanes? I kind of geek out a bit whenever I drive down Vista Del Mar along Dockweiler Beach and the planes taking off from LAX scream overhead. Don’t even get me started about space shuttles. One day I may share my Endeavor photos with you. And aquariums. I turn into an 11 year old girl when faced with penguins and tropical fishtank lined hallways.

It seems I have a new thing to squee over. Ferry boats.

In my attempt to document our trip on the Caledonian MacBrayne Armadale to Mallaig Ferry, I took some pics and even a little video.

Lucky you!

I know many readers may not find this as fun as I do. But I currently live in Los Angeles. Sure, we have a lot of cars. Many, many lanes on the freeway. But one thing we don’t have are a lot of islands to take our cars on ferries to. And I must say there is something kind of satisfying about driving onto a boat. Or rather, being the passenger documenting driving onto a boat.

But first, the door.

Yep. It’s big, it’s green and it makes a lot of noise. I tried to get some video but it wasn’t very good. And by this point we’d given up on our time lapse camera. It worked once, so why jinx it?

So you drive in. You stop. You stay in your vehicles until they tell you to get out. It’s pretty simple.

Like all good ferry boat riders we went upstairs to see what we could see and watch the world go by, leaving our little hired motor keeping an eye on the green door.

Even though our last night on the Isle of Skye may have lacked a certain joie de vivre (i.e. sleep) I was really sad to see the shores of Sleat growing smaller by the minute.

Past the early morning calm waters of the loch you could see the Isle of Eigg, one of the Small Isles of the Inner Hebrides.

Eigg generates 100% of its own electricity, did you know that? I didn’t. It’s had quite the checkered history, that little island, with clan feuds, massacres and revenge, the perfect subject for a movie plot. Now it serves as a delightful stop on the CalMac Small Isles ferry route.

The ferry ride takes 30 minutes from Armadale to Mallaig, just enough time for a cup of tea whilst watching the sea birds fly by. Before you know it you’re back downstairs with your car, waiting for the door to come down.

And, maybe if you’re lucky, you have somewhere else in Scotland to be that afternoon.

Where would you go, if you had nowhere to be but here?

Sleat, Ardvasar and a secret hike

And so we finish the last day of our Isle of Skye adventure on the Sleat Peninsula. Sleat is well regarded as “the garden of Skye,” a badge they wear with pride. To this visitor, it was just as beautiful as the rest of the island. Just with more trees. I approve.

Shortly after arriving at our bed and breakfast, the host told us of a hike down to a secret cove where we might spot some otters. Otters, you say? I cannot say no to cute wildlife sightings. So off we went.

We were told to take a short stroll up the single track road, past farms and other vestiges of rural island life.

Then at a little sort of bridge, instead of crossing it, take the path just before it on the left.

Little bridge

It didn’t look like much at the start being heavily overgrown, however we followed it down and found the path into the leafy canyon below.

It was then we heard a waterfall, so I kept my eye out for the little otters that were known to frequent the stream.

The otters were behaving elusively, if one could behave as such, so we continued down the narrow path toward the secret cove.

A brief aside whilst we are walking down this Sleat garden path to the shores below. Upon arrival at our B&B we were quite excited. At this point in 2013, Homeleigh B&B was a small bungalow with two bed and breakfast rooms, and it turned out to our good fortune that the double bedded room was available. At the time of our visit, the proprietors were a lovely couple who were about to sell on. We didn’t think too much of it at the time as our heads were filled with notions of secret hikes to secret rocky beaches and secret otter sightings.

I bet they told that to all the guests.

Anyway, the path continued along the brooke and broke through the canopy to give us a sneak peek of our destination, complete with a view to the landscape across the loch.

And more path…

… revealed better views.

And as we peeked into the cascading waters, we thought we heard something. An exploring otter, perhaps?

Alas, scuppered again. One last look up over the ferns to the stream brought nothing but otter disappointment. (Get it? Go on, read those last two words again.)

Reaching the rocky beach was a treat. And really, that’s the best descriptor for it. It wasn’t a huge challenge considering the hike was all downhill (not looking forward to going back up) and very short. It wasn’t the most beautiful of evenings, the sky being lightly overcast which gave my photos an interesting glow around the rocks. But it couldn’t match the dramatic blue skies over Ullinish.

Yes, the beach was a treat. And it definitely looked like it was a popular hang out for the area youth.

In the town I grew up in we had a pond. And that pond had access roads we’d walk along, creating our own paths to the pond’s edge until we found the best place for our debaucherous pastimes of sitting by a bonfire drinking cheap beer and skipping stones. One summer we put up a rope swing, and henceforth that’s what the little campsite became known as: The Rope Swing.

It felt like we had a place of our own that no one knew about. Of course everybody knew about it, and on occasion the police would come to break up our revelry. As you do.

But that summer we felt invincible, as the kids who hang out on the secret cove of Ardvasar probably felt as they skipped stones and drank cheap beer amongst the rocky shore.

My partner scoped the beach for some excellent skipping stones whilst I scoped for ideal desktop background images.

And how excited was I to stumble upon proof of our otter friends.

Dinner, perhaps?

Speaking of, the evening was getting on and we spied a pub on our way in. Time to wrap up our nostalgic secret hike with the real reason why we are here:

Time to skip some stones!

 

Six! Well done. Off to the pub.

The Ardvasar Hotel is the only game in town. It’s the closest hotel to the ferry, about 15 minutes walk, easy for those who are not laden with hire car like we are. Part of me wishes I’d booked this little inn, seeing as we were having dinner and drinks there, it would have been ideal to just wander up to our room and say goodnight.

But instead we just took in the view, dining al fresco watching the skies clear to blue and the tide go out.

And of course, a little bit of Instagramming.

The cows came out at low tide, dining on some pretty tasty grasses as we dined on sausage and mash.

And finally! Some wildlife. The fierce pub cat we shall call Stan.

Saying goodnight to Stan, we walked back up the short hill to our bed and breakfast. I’d like to say that it was a relaxing evening in our comfortable en suite room, however, upon returning to the Homeleigh, our hosts informed us that we were not allowed to use the ceiling fan, nor the pedestal fan. You see, her sick mother (bless) was in the room below and she couldn’t sleep through the noise of the fans.

Now I can’t sleep without the noise of fans, and it was hot as balls (excuse my French) so we were at a moral standoff. The customer, they once said, is always right. So if we just put the fan on, would anyone really be the wiser? But we couldn’t be those people. You know, those people who can’t follow the rules. So wanting to be respectful for the ill mother in the room below us we did as asked.

We even tried to get some respite from heat by opening the window. Alas, it was broken and could not open! The cold showers helped, though.

Not to malign a small business, but it was miserable, and turned out to be the last time I stayed in a B&B. The experience was so terrible that I’m not really over it almost three years later.

At least I was still awake at the wee hours to take this photo out the broken window of the sun trying to set, the moon keeping me company in the illusion of night blue sky. Glass half full.

In the spirit of friendship, I have good news. The Homeleigh was indeed sold and has been taken over by another lovely couple. Recent tripadvisor research shows that the new owners are far more accomodating and have three rooms to let. No mothers to be seen. I would even consider staying again as long as I’m able to use one of the fans.

Now, who wants to take a ride on a ferry boat??

 

Driving around the Isle of Skye, or Yay! Our time lapse camera finally worked

 

Where was I? Oh yes.

In our last Isle of Skye adventure, we were having a picnic lunch on the hill overlooking the quaint fishing harbour of Elgol. The midges left us pretty much alone. They were probably more interested in our nearby dining friends.

Now back to the Road to Elgol. From Broadford it really isn’t that far, and you’ll be rewarded with some pretty stunning scenery. As well as some vestiges of normal, every day island life.

Oh hai.

We couldn’t help but notice that leaving Elgol gave even better views than driving to Elgol. So, you know, a few stops were warranted. As you do.

Like these, the Beinn na Caillich, or as the locals call them, The Beinn. They’re also known as the Hills of the Old Woman and also Red Hills to us mere non-Gaelic speaking mortals. You can definitely see why.

And below, here’s what The Beinn gets to look at every day. She sits right above Loch Slapin, the village of Torrin on its banks. You can click on this pic for the full effect.

Beinn na Caillich over Loch Slapin

This little bend in the Road to Elgol contains a double whammy. Not only are The Beinn on one side, but the other? The majestic Bla Bheinn, aka Blavin. These guys are not messing around.

(Below is another panorama – click and enjoy)

Loch Slapin with the overlooking Bla Bheinn
Loch Slapin with the Bla Bheinn holding court above

Now once you’ve filled up your memory card or received that annoying iPhone storage is full warning, go ahead and do what you need to do to make space because there’s some ruins in a few miles that need your camera’s full attention.

Cill Chriosd, or Christ’s Church, sits just past the eponymous Loch. The ruins are difficult to find on google maps, but you can’t miss it while driving. It kind of stands out.

Legend says that there has been some form of worship taking place here since the 7th century. The current ruins were probably originally constructed in the 16th century to replace a medieval church. Now it serves as a graveyard and snacking location for the local lawnmowers, as my photographs and video below show.

I’ve always been a fan of graveyards. They make excellent subjects for photographers and every stone is different, tells a story of the person or people buried below. The story this church’s yard told me were that there were quite a lot of MacLeods and MacKinnons laid to rest here.

There were also quite a few who had died abroad in wars or after emigrating, like Charles who moved to Australia. I’d like to think they finally found their way home.


Now back to the ruins.


Obviously these little guys are used to folk like me and my partner interrupting their grazing. They barely even gave me the light of day.

After all, they had some ruins to keep neat and tidy!

You’ve been such a great sport waiting around for me to finally deliver on my promise of a time lapse drive around the Isle of Skye. Before I embed my wee vid, let me explain a little of what you see.

We turned on the time lapse function on our little Canon point and shoot in Broadford after the drive down from Portree. The spot takes you down the Road to Elgol, then back and around south to the Sleat Peninsula and finishing at our little B&B in Ardvasar.

Now you may recall that so far in our five-day strong trip this little venture had not worked even once. Not in Loch Lommond & The Trossachs. Not in the gorgeous beyond words man-I-wish-we-recorded-every-single-second-of-the-Highlands. And not even when we passed over the Skye Bridge. So we weren’t very hopeful.

And when it finally worked, it only took about three years for me to get off my arse and put it to some inspiring kick-butt music for you to view.

Enjoy!

 

You may now pass.

I’ve got one word for you: Elgol

The Isle of Skye continues to surprise and delight. It has everything you need for a well-rounded holiday: awesome countryside walks, beautiful beaches, castles and wildlife, pubs with stunning views, and Elgol.

What’s an Elgol, you ask? Well it’s a village on the shores of Loch Scavaig towards the end of the Strathaird peninsula, of course!

Let me back track a little bit. So we’d just got back to the Ullinish Country Lodge, our 3-night home on the Isle of Skye realizing that we had to check out the next morning. And we were sad. We wanted to stay longer. With nowhere to be and no forward plan other than more Scotland, why not book ourselves one more night, maybe somewhere else on this delightful island?

We chose a small 2-room B&B near the ferry terminal at Armadale. But what to do, what to explore in the mean time?

Cue Elgol. Or rather, The Road to Elgol. I don’t know if this is a thing, like the Road to Hana on Maui or the Great Coast Road in Australia, but if not, why not. Skye needs to put this on one of its “Must-Do” lists and get on that marketing because it’s a beautiful single track road through stunning countryside, around Lochs and mountains and adorable little villages that, in the sunshine and 30c temps of the day, almost made me want to move there.

You might note that I use the words beautiful and stunning a lot. I’m not a fan of repetition of words while writing. Maybe instead I’ll replace them going forward with the word chicken.

We checked out pretty early from our lodge as we wanted to get on our way.

Sunset over Ullinish

Okay, not quite that early. The above panorama is from sunset the night before. These are the photos from the morning.

Oh hai!

Anyway, we set off for our day trip.

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The chicken countryside continued its shock and awe campaign as the chicken vistas came one after the other.

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Okay, maybe chicken doesn’t work. You’ll just have to put up with beautiful and stunning.

First on our day trip to our B&B near the ferry terminal? Portree, the largest village on the Isle and only a 30 minute single track drive away. Our plan was to have an early luncheon and walkabout in Portree, then drive The Road to Elgol where we’d see if we couldn’t grab ourselves a seat on one of the boat trips that went exploring the surrounding lochs.

Portree is, how do I say this nicely… it’s a town, really THE town. So it’s very busy, especially at the height of summer. I found it a little culture shocky having just come from the serene nature and beautiful vistas of Struan. I felt like I was an alien dropped in the middle of the real-life hustle and bustle of Portree. We had a quick lunch and a beer at the Bosville Hotel and stopped in the Co-Operative for provisions. And then left.

So that, dear reader, is all I have to say about Portree. I have nothing to show you, though. Because for some reason we did not snap (or keep!) any pics in Portree. Not a one. Not even of the popular harbour. I know, I’m a little sad for myself too. Luckily photographer Gernot Keller took care of that for us (courtesy of wikipedia).

But anyway, Elgol!

From Portree to Elgol was only just over an hour, not a bad little drive. We stopped in Broadford to get the time lapse camera set up, of which you’ll get to watch in a later post, I promise!

Until then, here’s some more info on Elgol.

And yes, more seal spotting! Have you ever wondered what the difference between seals and sea lions are? I know I have.

Sea Lions have ears.

Okay, it’s a little more than that. Seals move around on their bellies and have small flippers where as sea lions walk around on their larger flippers and are really, really loud. Seals are more chill, easy-going, hang out in a little U shapes on rocks. I like seals.

So when we got to Elgol we immediately got ourselves on one of the many boat trips into Loch Scavaig so we could spot some more. A seal a day, I say.

The Loch was fairly choppy, but the ride was quite comfortable. We were heading into this little inlet off Loch Scavaig that you can barely see unless you zoom in on google maps. Go on, try it. I’ll wait here.

My co-boaters weren’t all as excited as I was.

The Cuillin Mountains were not shy. Clear skies gave us incredible views.

Now in the next photo, I’ll have to give you a bit of context. So one other reason to take a boat trip into this little cove is that there is this crazy Lochside walk. This boat will ferry you out and drop you off so you can explore more on foot.

In the next photo, if you look at the upper part of the rock, starting just above the halfway point on the photo on the left you’ll see a line in the rock, as if it were carved there for such a purpose.

Yep, that’s the trail. And its name? The Bad Step.

No thank you! I much prefered looking at the rugged shoreline rock formations from the boat, cheers.

Check out the water line on the rocks, further proof of the lack of rain — them’s drought levels!

Either that or it’s the tide. Don’t listen to me, there’s like 20 photos to go. I’ll shut up for a bit.

You can barely see him, but there’s a wee seal swimming in the next photo that finally made the unhappy green shirted boy scramble to the edge of the boat vying for a view.

My life for a telephoto! Sadly my Olympus Pen only has a pancake lens. Makes travelling a hell of a lot easier and my day packs lighter.

But seals.

I can see why they like this little protected cove. The water is far calmer and except for the annoying boat or two, incredibly quiet.

Note the little building in the photograph above. That’s the Loch Coruisk Memorial Hut. Hiking enthusiasts are dropped off at a little metal dock on the shore for their day of fun in the Cuillin Hills surrounding Loch Coruisk which is just on the other side of those rocks on the left.

The hut itself was built as a memorial to two hikers who lost their lives on Ben Nevis in the 1950s. Apparently it has two rooms and can sleep up to nine, in case you fancy a relax after hiking the Bad Step.

Oh! And we spotted sea birds. I think this is a flock of black guilles, if you are into that kind of thing.

After checking out the seals and mountain views, we headed back to shore. Elgol Harbour was bustling!

Note the girls in wetsuits. Yes the water is that cold.

I highly recommend the Bella Jane for your Loch Scavaig seal stalking and hiking jaunt. They were super friendly and offer a bunch of services. We chose the £18pp 1.5hr Mini Return Trip which doesn’t allow a stop off to explore Loch Coruisk which suited us just fine.

We jumped back in the car for a trip up to the top of the hill for a picnic with our Portree Co-Operative finds. The flies weren’t nearly as bad by the shore. But the views, they were, yet again, stunning.

And that, my friends, is the delightful Elgol overlooking Loch Scavaig, with views of the Cuillin Range. I hope you enjoyed this little detour on our way to the Hottest B&B in Scotland. And I don’t mean that in a good way.

Say no more.

Never mind the Brexit, today’s all about Scotland

My phone blew up this morning over Britain leaving the European Union. Or rather, the referendum vote to leave. Like most Londoners, if you look at the map, I would also have voted to stay. As did Scotland. After all, they just voted two years ago to stay in the United Kingdom, and now the ungrateful Britons do this to them?

You know what I say, Scotland? Get thee to the beach!

If you are visiting Castle Dunvegan, you would be doing yourselves a disservice to not pop up to the beautiful little beach at the tip of the peninsula in Claigan aptly named Coral Beach. It’s just a 10 minute drive. We came across a family who walked from the castle – and being the good samaritans we are, we shoved the family of four in our rental and drove them back to the Dunvegan car park. After all, it was 30F and no shade. Living in Los Angeles, I know what that’s like. The sunburn alone…

Here’s how you get to Coral Beach.

From the Dunvegan Castle car park, take a right and keep going. The single track road will take you to, well, the end of the single track road. There’s a car park there. Shove your vehicle up against the hedges and be ready. There are flies a plenty ready to become your very best friend.

It’ll then be a nice 1 mile stroll to the beach. Takes about 25 minutes. In the hot, burning sun? Feels like forever. Don’t forget your water! Hydration is key.

Speaking of, there’s a little stream that needs crossing. I can imagine this being an issue if there has been recent rain.

Like most of the Isle of Skye, this is crofting land. Crofting, if you haven’t seen me define it for you before, dear reader, is the traditional social system in Scotland for farming. A croft is a farm. So on that croft you might find either cows or sheep. And on this out and back trail you may run in to either.

The sheep on this croft were smart. They found whatever shade they could, I imagine, in order to avoid the blinding sun. Which for us made a beautiful beach day and stunning clear blue skies almost unheard of in Scotland.

Turning back to look where we came from, you can see that the trail is really quite pronounced thanks to the sheep tracks. Loch Dunvegan in the background.

You come to the top of a little hill and voila – ahead you can see the beach as it sits at the mouth of Loch Dunvegan. The far island is Isay, one of many uninhabited islands off of the Isle of Skye.

In fact, right next to Isay is a small island called Clett. Apparently legend (and the BBC) has it that singer Donovan owned it and sold it off foot by foot to tourists. You couldn’t make any changes, couldn’t build, stay overnight or alter the island in any way. I imagine it’s a lot like owning a star.

Note the animal tracks. They also like going to the Coral Beaches.

A brief look back at the track and the tourists who decided to climb the hill. Better they stay there and not clutter the beach, I say.

There were a fair amount of people on the beach. Some who’d climbed up the rocky outcrop behind. Locally this outcrop is known as Ghrobain.

The little island out in the Loch in direct view of the beach is called Lampay. Only 150m or so offshore, it could be an ideal swim. Apparently at low tide a causeway is revealed so you can walk across.

I have this thing with sticking my toes in water. You may have seen me do this at Loch Lommond. The water there was pretty chilly. Here? Downright icey despite the afternoon sun.
Coral Beach-3

It even turned my toes blue!

Coral Beach-4

Jk.

Coral Beach-5

With the skies so blue reflecting in the sun drenched waters, you’d almost mistake this place for a tropical locale. Or perhaps more Mediterranean. Maybe even Spain.

Coral Beach-6

The Coral Beach gets its name for being made of coral. No, that’s not true. It’s actually made of little bleached skeletons of Red Coralline seaweed and bits of little colorful shells.

Coral Beach-7

A panoramic view almost shows how beautiful it is here. LA’s beaches wishes they were this stunning.

Coral Beach-8

Being so unbelievably hot for Scotland, we’d noticed a distinct lack of something incredibly important to hot weather.

Beer.

Where are the pubs?

You’re in the countryside. On an island. Off the Highlands. Of course there isn’t a pub on every corner, no local in which to bide your time. And to get to the nearest one? You have to drive. I didn’t rate our chances on single track roads against drunk drivers. Though oddly you never see a car in a ditch on the side of the road.

So we decided to chance it at the Stein Inn, the oldest Inn on the Isle of Skye, says its website. And I believe it. To get there is a 20-30 minute drive (depending on the sheep in the road) from Dunvegan Castle on the A850, then the delightfully tiny B886. Mind the cattle grates in the road.

The Stein Inn is quaintly perched on the shores of aptly named Loch Bay on the Waternish Peninsula. The B886 will drop you directly in front of the pub. Car park is behind.

Proof of the age of the Inn hung over the doorway. 1790, not too shabby.

The pub is a small, cozy wood paneled affair, everything you’d expect a pub in the far reaches of Scotland to be. And today, on this heat wave day of days, it was bloody hot. The publican was not happy, practically dripping in sweat, using bar towels to wipe down his face each chance he got. I doubt he’s usually this grumpy. Tolerance of heat is likely something Scotts don’t usually have in spades.

I knew there was only one tipple that could take away the woes of a summer day by the shore of Loch Bay.

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Glorious cool and refreshing lager. Stella, you charmer.

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This fair haired lass was taking a well deserved nap – I hope she was wearing sunscreen!

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If there were any doubts of the tropical nature of this quiet corner of Skye, this palm tree proved it.

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To give you an idea of where we now are, the hilly land jutting out across the bay is the Dunvegan Peninsula. Just over that hill? Claigan and the Coral Beach.

Kids play on the boat ramp, enjoying a cool off in the Loch.

You can barely see it, but there are a couple of seals out in the calm Loch enjoying the sun. And despite the grumble on the barkeep’s face, he had to have been enjoying it too.

Maybe just a little?

The road was long and full of photos

I just watched the most recent episode of Game of Thrones, and even though it may not be shot there, I’m pretty sure we are all thinking that north of the wall is modeled after Scotland.

Lucky for me and my travel companion, our trip north of the wall was lush, green and full of sunshine… and 30C temps.

So we just left Loch Lochy behind and followed the A82 as it turned west, heading for the Isle of Skye.

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Why the Isle of Skye, do you ask? I dare you to google it and not be wowed by the photographs, to be taken in by its beauty. It’s the largest of the Inner Hebrides islands, and it has everything you could want for your summer Scotland vacation: stunning scenery to tramp through, dramatic mountains to climb, castles to visit, beautiful beaches, wildlife to spot, whiskey to try, and pubs with views for days. Even just driving through it gives you something new to look at everywhere you turn.

And this passenger couldn’t wait to get there. I was pretty excited when we reached the Skye Bridge connecting the mainland to the island over Loch Alsh. My iPhone, however, took some shameful photographs.

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And as we put our hotel info into google for directions on the last leg of our journey, we realized that there was still another hour plus of driving. After six hours plus all the stops for the food and photo ops, I was definitely starting to feel the strain. So imagine how my legal driving license carrying partner felt.

Bless.

We were heading to the Ullinish Country Lodge on the western part of the island. I’d found the place when researching, and it looked idyllic. Rustic location, close to walks and not far from some of the sights we were hoping to see: Dunvegan Castle, the coral beaches and, of course, Talisker. It even has one of the highest rated restaurants on the island.

Oh, and the island. Just as beautiful as expected.

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You can always expect a place with daily rainfall to be this lush and green.

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There were little waterfalls everywhere. Some of them frequented by tour buses, of which we did not want to fight for the view.

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As we crossed the interior of the island, the sun still shining strong well after 7pm, we were late for our check in at the lodge. But when we arrived, I almost didn’t even want to get out of the car.

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We quickly checked in and were shown our room, the Harpoort. It was upstairs overlooking the car part, but beyond that… totally Instagram-worthy.

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It had views over Loch Harpoort to the Cuillin Mountains beyond. This was, by far, the best thing about the room: it’s views. The inn itself could use an update, as some of the furnishings seemed a bit tired and may not have been to my taste, but in this writer’s opinion the tariff fit the decor. Other than that, the room was comfortable save for the mattress which I found way to bouncy. I think I even woke myself up when I moved!

Having unpacked and freshened up, we dressed for dinner. This is something I was really looking forward too and is the real highlight of the Ullinish Country Lodge. Dinner and Breakfast are included, and they are delicious.

Your dinner will start with canapés and drinks in the lounge. I didn’t take photographs of any of this, because my priority was to relax and enjoy the pampering. But I did find this one from its website:

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It’s a cute, warm spot with a fireplace and leather sofas. I think my grandparents would have liked the decor a bit more than I, however it was a lovely room for a glass of sparkling wine before dinner. And we were treated like royalty. We chose to take our drinks outside to the patio so as to continue enjoying the view. Shortly thereafter we shuffled in to the dining room for our five course dinner.

I do wish I was into taking photos of my food then (I can’t stop myself now) because everything was so beautifully presented. I felt that my dressing up for dinner was worth it because dinner sure dressed up for me.

After dinner, the guests retired to the lounge for after dinner drinks and conversation. And, to bring this post back to its start, we met a delightful couple, parents to an actor who played a secondary character on Game of Thrones. I was impressed by their son’s chops. They were impressed I wore heels to dinner.

And with that, the sun started its descent, sinking behind the Cuillin’s peaks and softening the sky with its pastel glow.

One last photograph before I say goodnight.

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Goodnight!