When traveling becomes more than just getting from A to B…..
With so many holiday plans to the continent and beyond looking unlikely this year, there’s a welcome increase in travelers to the Highlands and Islands of Scotland from the rest of the UK, especially the cities, and who can blame them, being cooped up has been a challenge for everyone but perhaps more so for city dwellers.
Understandably, many travelers don’t savor the prospect of a long drive, it takes at least 12 hours to drive from London to Skye, then once you’re over the bridge it can be another hour before reaching your destination – and Skye is not simply a destination, it’s an experience.
Without a car you’re forced to adopt a slower pace, only then can you really appreciate the landscape as it unfolds in front of you, better than a Netflix box set any day of the week…so what’s the best way to travel to Skye using public transport from the South?
We’ve imaginared a journey from Kings Cross Station London, taken by a city dweller as we come out of lockdown, with the final destination being Culnacnoc, a small village 6 miles beyond the Old Man Of Storr in North-East Skye.
The North-East of Skye feels other-worldly and could not be more removed from the city on any level! This is where the dinosaurs roamed, where legends were born, and where the land rises towards jagged cliffs of granite, jutting out of the sea thereby creating the most dramatic mountain scenery Scotland has to offer.
We hope this provides some food for thought….
Let the adventure begin……
6 AM ALARM
I awake to a 6 am alarm in my bijou Bethnal Green flat, which has been my world for the last 173 days consecutively, not that I’m counting. Then, I smile because today is different, this is my day of liberation, the day I have planned in my head, my reconnection with the outside world.
The 20-minute tube journey to Kings Cross is busier than anticipated, as is the iconic foyer in the station itself. I have a feeling of anticipation of the journey ahead, that I’ve seldom felt before. In my preceding 173 days of claustrophobic angst, I filled my head with dreams of wild swimming, beach fishing, ridge walking, and my newfound love of geology. After hours of Google searches, I found my most compatible staycation destination, the Noth-East of Skye was my death row meal for my newfound interests.
8 AM KINGS CROSS DEPARTURE BOARD
I look up to the departure board, the first leg of my adventure of the journey will take around 14 hours, with changes and car hire going to plan, ultimately arriving at my haven of choice, Chasing The Moon in Culnacnoc, at 10.45 pm. In my 31 years to date, I have traveled north of London, but never this far north and never in one day. My 173 days of house arrest changed all that, I have visualised and imagined the journey ahead, pulling out of the station and leaving my confinement behind, looking out at the open space ahead of me with a sense of relief and excitement.
8.30 AM KINGS CROSS TO EDINBURGH WAVERLEY
The train pulls out of Kings Cross at 8.30 am and is due into Edinburgh Waverley at 1.15 pm. It’s a beautiful day to travel, it feels liberating to be traveling at speed. The fields and changing landscapes are captivating, Durham looks majestic, Newcastle and the Tyne have a unique feel, then onto beautiful Berwick Upon Tweed and the spectacular coastal aftermath, this was clearly a small taster for the forthcoming jewels ahead.
Euphoria, the train is on time and trundles into the Scottish capital, at 1.15 pm. Waverley station is surrounded by history as it sits in the old town looking up at the castle steeped in atmosphere.
1.33 PM EDINBURGH WAVERLEY TO INVERNESS
On the next leg of the journey and from my box seat I cross the Forth Rail Bridge, another coastal route, each place gets more beautiful and idyllically set than the next, Perth, Pitlochry a game of thrones threshold. Mountains start to appear now casting shadows over the wildlife, nature, and harmony abound. As we pass the whiskey distillery at Dalwhinnie, past lochs and snow-covered mountains I realise the 3½ hour journey has flown by and we are about to arrive in the Highland capital of Inverness at 5 pm.
17.04 PM INVERNESS TO KYLES OF LOCHALSH
The 5.04 pm from Inverness to the Kyles of Lochalsh begins and the day is still breathtaking. The sun is dimming, the light and scenery on this part of the journey has to be experienced by the eye, words and plaudits make it seem predictable which I am guessing it never is.
The train is only 5 minutes late as we roll into the Kyles of Lochalsh and it feels noticeably “up North” as the freshness of the air hits me stepping off the train. Skye Car Hire delivers on their promise of having my rental car ready at the station, strangely I do not feel tired after the long journey, just anticipation as I set my Google map and head off over the Skye Bridge at just before 9 pm as the sun is setting.
9 PM KYLES OF LOCHALSH TO CULNACNOC
As Skye is an island, I am expecting island roads, so I start out cautiously. You need to be there, words and pictures are no substitute, Skye is not what you imagine in an island. It’s big, it has mountains, lochs, shores, cliffs, bridges, and towns. It has an aura created by the stretch of history. The combination of light, ever-changing landscapes around each and every corner leave you speechless.
As I head even further North, the beauty and my feeling of freedom seems to increase as I approach Portree, the main town, then just beyond Portree I see a neolithic plinth dominating the horizon and when I pass it 20 minutes later, my thoughts are transported into areas of parallel universe, 4th dimensions and other worlds, I have just passed the Old Man of Storr and would not be surprised if dinosaurs appeared on the horizon as they would have done 170 million years before.
10.30 PM ARRIVE AT FINAL DESTINATION
Only a short drive beyond Storr, I arrive at my final destination Chasing The Moon at 10.30 pm. By 10.45 pm I’ve got my cashmere socks on, looking out on uninterrupted views to the Isles of Rona and Raasay and the world feels good here. I have arranged to have a basket of food essentials left at the property, together with a bottle of wine and some cold beers. It’s 17 hours since I left London, and although tired, I reflect on the journey to get here, awestruck at the vastness of the wide-open spaces that are all around me now and I feel blessed and emotional to have landed in this magical place.
Skye is like a good whiskey, it should be savored and not knocked back in one go. It’s big, the largest of the Inner Hebridean Islands, and is 50 miles (80 KM) long. It has the most remarkable scenery, wildlife, walks, geology and history in Scotland and even if you stay a week it’s not enough. There is so much to explore, just do it…
TRAVELLING AROUND SKYE WITHOUT A CAR
Our traveler hired a car at the Kyles of Lochalsh, the town just before the Skye Bridge. There are no trains on Skye, so the Kyles is the last destination for the train and from there you can hire a car, arrange a door-to-door transfer or take the bus.
Our next blog will have lots of top tips for local car hire, buses, local taxis, and transfer information from the airport, and generally offer tips for all methods of travel to and around Skye. Local knowledge and advice can be invaluable to help you plan ahead and you should always plan ahead if traveling to Skye…in fact it’s worth bearing in mind that booking ahead post covid is essential for most parts of the Highlands, but please do not hesitate to contact us if you are looking for advice……