Wednesday: Despite the huge thick 'blackout' curtain over the window/door, we were still aware of it getting light outside at around 4am. That's one thing about shutters back in Edinburgh - they don't let a peep of light through. As a result, my body clock went a wee bit wonky, seeing the light outside and thinking "ah, we're up!". It got better over the next couple of days, but that first morning felt very odd. Nonetheless, after a few hours of stop-start sleep and a supremely invigorating shower - after which a bog-standard electric shower feels just so feeble - it was breakfast time. And oh! What breakfast! Starting off with knee-tremblingly good freshly baked muffins, the main course is cooked to order. That first morning I had locally sourced smoked haddock with poached egg. Fresh and delicious, it was a fine way to start the day, all the while looking out at the clear blue sky and sea. Suitably stuffed and assured of a nice day out, on came the walking boots and off we went.
Walking along the main street in Broadford is always pleasant, even if there's a convoy of German motorcycles or great lorries laden down with timber roaring through it. Heading past the Co-op that morning, we were supremely tickled to see six mallards sat in the car park, resting in the disabled parking section for some curious reason - a couple of mornings later we saw them resting in the same place again, despite cars being parked on either side of them. A little further on, just over the bridge on the way to the post office, there's the start of the Marble Line footpath that can ultimately take four routes depending on how far you want to go, leading to Beinn Suardal, detailed here. It's well signposted by the Forestry Commission, though don't be surprised when part of the path requires walking on the road (the B8803, I think) - it's a single track road with very little traffic, and it's not long before the path signpost appears to lead you off the road and onto a well-surfaced path that gradually rises and turns, with the mighty Beinn na Caillich rising up majestically on your right.
It's incredibly peaceful out on this walk, the only sounds really coming from the breeze, the trickling of tiny streams running past and the odd mehh from the sheep grazing on the slopes you're walking along. There's not much sign of humans, which is always good, and the few houses you can see help you appreciate the sheer scale of the natural scenery around you. The detail on the nearby peaks is fascinating to look at, marveling at the shadows of clouds rolling over the surface, and made me look forward to the day I do some proper full-on hill-walking/climbing on Skye. We cheerfully wandered along for a couple of hours, turning back after a few kilometres.
Afterwards, we had a functional lunch at the Broadford Hotel bar and the Lass went giddy at her own personal heaven, eventually coming out with a faraway look in her eyes and a bag full of woolly stuff. By now, feet were starting to throb, conditioned as they've been to usually walking no longer than half an hour in one go, so it was back to Tigh an Dochais for a bit of reading and sketching. Soon enough, it was six o'clock - nosh!
Towards the end of our holiday in Broadford last year, we ate at a just-opened cafe/restaurant called the Harbour Restaurant, where they served a fantastic range of meat and veggie-friendly locally-sourced dishes that absolutely blew us away. Ever since we'd been looking forward to going back and hoping they'd still be open - after all, could somewhere so good, so reasonably priced, stay afloat? The answer, thankfully, is a resounding HELL YEAH. Even better, one year on, the Harbour Restaurant is now so popular that you need to book in advance for a table (phone them on 01471 822687) - and with good reason. The Lass has just written an excellent post about the Harbour Restaurant and anyone considering visiting Skye should definitely make sure they have at least one dinner there (we spent three of our four nights there this year, and would have gone for all four if it wasn't closed Mondays and Tuesdays). The service is excellent, the staff very friendly and happy to talk, and the food, well...
I started with the Smokey Roast Salmon, smoked by Isle of Skye Seafoods just down the road (also where the breakfast haddock came from). Fish suppers aside, I don't usually eat much fish, but this was delicious, smoked just right and a real treat on the taste buds. My main course was Highland Lamb cooked Tagine style with apricots, dates and mint, served with couscous and brown rice. The sauce was absolutely delicious, a bit like a good Hoi Sin sauce, hints of fruit and spice - just thinking about it now makes my mouth water! The rice complemented the sauce and lamb, the couscous given a subtle kick with pepper. It was filling without being stodgy and was one of the best meals I've had in ages, followed up with Baked Lemon Cheesecake and cream. It tasted wonderfully fresh, though certainly not sour, a lovely thick texture worth savouring. The icing on this culinary cake was the drinks list, featuring not just the usual Isle of Skye Brewery beers but also a few beers from the excellent Black Isle Brewery, regular visitors to the Edinburgh Farmers Market and responsible for some of the best bottled beer in Scotland. I went with their Heather Honey Beer each night at the Harbour, a refreshing and light beer that didn't overpower any of the flavours and was just the ticket for those hot sunny evenings.
are whole small lives
lived somewhere else... - Liz Lochhead
Saturday afternoon in Edinburgh in the middle of June. Looking out of the window from our living room, all I can see is a pale grey sky that can't be arsed and the old stained stones, gutters and chimneys of New Town buildings. Further away, behind a haze of drizzle, there's an even greyer modern building of metal and glass visible over the rooftops. There's not a hint of nature in sight (unless you count the rain spattering the windows), with grass, flowers and trees eschewed for concrete, slate and brick. No better time, then, to sit back and start reliving our holiday to Skye that was only a week ago but already feels more like a dream - the tedium and dreary annoyances of everyday life reasserted themselves so quickly on our return, as though to blot out all the fresh memories of light, peace and all-round happiness. Nuts to that! This, and the following posts, are my little way of keeping those memories fresh, and hopefully convince one or two of youse to make your own brief escape to that misty isle.
Tuesday: Woke up, all excited - first day of holiday! - and opened the bedroom shutters to see the sunny weather promised the night before, only to be confronted by multitudes of grey. Tsk! Nonetheless, we scampered our merry way over to Haymarket station, trying to avoid the commuting hordes pouring out of it. Settled down on the train, devouring a bacon roll and the Herald, I got my new sketchbook and the usual watercolour pencils out, ready to start sketching the passing countryside as soon as the sun comes out and gives the landscape some real colour again. Hours later, I'm still waiting - the cloud only breaks in the last half hour of the journey from Inverness to Kyle of Lochalsh, during which it practically vanished. By the time we reached the end of the line, the sky was blue with just a few streaks of cloud and sunshine was beaming down, sparkling off the sea and lighting the landscape up. The greens, blues, purples, ochres - compared to the overcast greys of Edinburgh that morning, it was almost like arriving in Technicolored Oz.
Our bedroom was equally stunning, again using a large floor-to-ceiling sliding glass door to great effect (you can see some of it here), leading out onto a nice terrace where you can sit, watch and listen to the sea - and with a breeze coming off the water, the midges aren't the bother they'd usually be. The terrace is shared with the other two guest rooms and Jess, the friendly and downright dippy B&B dog who, we were warned, would scamper into our room and run off with a shoe for chuckles given the chance. She was a great bundle of fun who quickly sussed me as a willing playchum and by the end of our stay would sit outside, waiting for me to come out and play 'fetch-and-then-pretend-to-give-the-toy-back-but-then-scamper-back-with-a-har-har-fooled-you-look' The nice big king-size bed has left our double at home feeling notably wee, while the en-suite bathroom was equally generous in size and features, with a good strength shower and nice deep bath - how perfectly sweet to have some complimentary lavender bubble bath from Highland Soaps!
With such a building (not to mention the superb customer service and ludicrously good breakfasts) you could be forgiven for expecting the nightly rates to be out-of-sight - after all, when the Burd first read about it in H&IS she assumed it would be prohibitively pricey for the likes of us. Nope! Instead, for a couple staying for four nights (like ourselves) it's just £30 each a night which, for the quality of service and accommodation you're getting, is a superb deal. It's clearly paying off, with the rooms booked up months in advance (so book early!) and return business guaranteed from the many satisfied customers as the visitors book attests - I know Stu & Andrea are heading back there this year, and the Lass & I wouldn't think of going anywhere else when summer 2008 rolls around.
Anyways, having settled down and spent ages gawping at the view, we had a lovely walk along the bay in the sunshine before dinner at Beinn na Caillaich cafe, named after the great peak that looms over Broadford. After that, back to Tigh an Dochais to admire the view as the sky slowly shifted colour - during which I did a bit of sketching - and listened to the very music that we've been playing over the last year while dreaming wistfully of the day we'd be back on Skye. While the sky stayed bright, the most recent Boards of Canada album, The Campfire Headphase, worked perfectly, particularly Satellite Anthem Icarus with it's gently rushing waves, and Peacock Tail which to my ears is the perfect sonic snapshot of Broadford, the echoed guitar like a lone bird flying across the bay. As the outdoors gradually darkened - slowly, it only really got dark around midnight - Bonnie Prince Billy's The Letting Go went on, a suitably hushed and sparse collection of music, especially the beautiful (and, again, echoing) Strange Form Of Life. Both sights and sounds were gentle, relaxing, soothing - for the first night of a holiday, I couldn't hope for more.