Even if the journey’s short, going on a ferry always makes me feel like I’m on my holidays. Stepping onto the CalMac ferry to Armadale from Mallaig came when I was actually on my holidays but it was a voyage into the unknown, a trip to a part of Scotland I had never been to before. Our focus was to explore but more immediately to find breakfast, which hadn’t been immediately apparent back in Mallaig. Armadale wouldn’t oblige, with it being easier to buy clothing than any scran. The ferry had only a vending machine with only a couple of chocolate bars. Eventually we succeeded in Broadford.
The road to Broadford was suitably pleasant with views back across to the mainland and curving coastlines carrying the car forward. The ferry across had been great, not too long at 45 minutes, and it was possible to see the broadest sweep of the landscape, from the Knoydart peninsula to Skye itself and to Wester Ross. The drive brought some of this into closer focus. We also passed the Gaelic college, Sabhal Mòr Ostaig, a place I had heard about and may well end up studying at one day.
After brunch in Broadford, we drove a little way further up Skye, the road becoming steadily more mountainous and dramatic as we went. I had asked to stop and take a picture towards Raasay, an island just off Skye which had captured my imagination years ago when I first started to read Sorley MacLean’s poetry. The best view didn’t come at Sconser, where the ferry runs to Raasay, but further up the road and even from Duirinish on the Kyle.
We stopped at Kyle of Lochalsh on the other side of the Skye Bridge. I thought briefly about the political struggles about that particular bridge, the tolls once levied to cross it, and about the campaigner Robbie the Pict, who I remembered the Queen’s private secretary used to refer to as ‘Mr Pict’ when responding to his letters on behalf of the monarch. The views from the bridge were glorious and they were quite evident from Kyle of Lochalsh too. The railway station was also interesting, at the pier from whence the Skye ferries used to leave.
A diversion to Plockton, a picture-postcard village, took us through Duirinish, which really tickled me. Not just for its wonderful Gaelic name but also the views across to Raasay and the free-range cows and sheep which roamed the sides of the road and occasionally the road itself. Signs did warn of this but it’s quite something to see Highland coos and sheep actually blocking traffic.
This part of our trip brought a lot of books to mind. Some people see the world through films or paintings. For me, very often, it’s books. Driving from Newtonmore towards Fort William the previous day, it was Nan Shepherd. On Skye, looking towards Raasay, it was Sorley MacLean. At Kyle of Lochalsh, it was thinking of Gavin Maxwell and his otters, who were just across across the way from there. Skye is a place with considerable tales tied to it and around it. I was just keen to be there, somewhere different, and I liked it. I wouldn’t move there but I got why it was popular and it was all the better to approach it by ferry, the best way to travel.