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Dreaming the Skye Bridge

UNITED KINGDOM | Tuesday, 3 June 2014 | Views [337]

The Skye Bridge

The Skye Bridge

One day I woke up from a dream where I was on the Skye bridge.

The last time I was in Scotland, about 20 years ago, there was no bridge and one had to cross from Kyle of Lochalsh to Kyleakin with the ferry.

I thought it would be a good idea to go see the bridge, and the isle of Skye again.

On a whim I decided it had to be a solo trip: on my own, wandering  through lochs and glen, to make my dream come true.

And so I arrived in Prestwick on May 3rd, boarded my rental car and started my adventure, on the wrong side of the road. For the first couple of days I serviced the roads up to Arrochar and beyond as a safety car: never exceeding 40 miles per hour every time I looked in the rear mirror there was a moderate and patient row of cars behind me.  In my defence I say that I used to pull over and let them pass.

My first stop was in Arrochar, and it took some time to get there. Of course I got lost around Glasgow, but found myself by chance not far from the Erskine Bridge, which later I understood is the better  way to reach Loch Lomond. There I met  the renowned Scottish kindness: pulling over to ask for directions, the man I asked told me: "wait just 5 minutes, I finish here and I’ll take you there”, and then he did so, leading me to the right road and providing me with a most accurate hand-drawn map to my destination.

Loch Lomond is wonderful, big, surrounded by hills and mountains and with hundreds of lovely paths to walk… but I must introduce here my travelling companion: the rain, which advised against walking on the lake shores.

Arrochar is a small nice village between Loch Lomond and Loch Long, which is famous because during WWII it was home to a submarine, especially torpedoes, testing station, now dismissed. The site was chosen because the Loch flows into the sea at Greenock, and also because it was very unlikely the enemy could spot the facilities, because of the usual heavy layer of clouds… The very kind owner of the B&B where I stayed told me about this, as well as about the recent plan to build a luxury hotel on the other side of the lake.

This was another encounter with Scottish kindness: they like to talk, telling tales and anecdotes about their place and their life, and making you feel home.

On the second day my plan was to reach the Isle of Skye, and see the bridge, at last!

I decided to go via Inveraray, pass through the Rest and be Thankful, and then head to Fort William on the A828, the road of the Sea-Lochs.

From Rest and be Thankful there’s a great view over the glens. Short after that I found 2 more travelling companions, besides the rain (and my map, and the guide): a couple of very young hithhickers from France. At first they were headed to Oban, but they ended up coming with me on Skye.

The road was peaceful and lovely, winding through woods and close to lochs. I’d have taken more pictures, if only there was some light.

I must say something here about Fort William: I’m deeply sorry, but I don’t like it. I’ve been there twice in 4 days and it never stopped raining for a minute. It was very windy, too. The mountains around are gorgeous and beautiful, Loch Linnhe is a big beauful loch, but the town… I can’t find anything nice to say about it.

No, wait, I liked the happy resting hiker statue. 

After Fort William it’s another pleasant road to the Skye Bridge. The landscape is more rugged, there are no longer woods and trees, and the mountains were still snow-capped when I drove there.

At Spean Bridge we went to see the Commando Memorial, fighting wind, rain and tourist buses.

A little before the Skye Bridge another disappointment was waiting for me: Eilean Donan Castle: maye because of the unforgiving rain, or the scaffolding, or the bleached colours, but the Castle looked sad and I didn’t even stop to take one of the most common pictures taken in Scotland.

After crossing the bridge everything changed.

Somebody says that because of the bridge Skye is no longer an island, but the feeling I got from my 2 days there is that Skye is remote, is far away, is distant, is different.  I couldn’t say the West Coast of Scotland is crowded, especially from the point of view of somebody living in a really crowded big city like me, but only when on Skye I really felt emptyness and solitude. Besides enormous beauty. Because Skye really is beautiful, inspiring, magical, moving; even though there were 8°, a wind so strong you had to oppose it and usually it rains, too.

On my full day on Skye I went to see the Old Man of Storr... well, “see” isn’t the correct word: better say that I reached a place where there was a big dark shape looking like a standing stone, whose summit was deeply covered in fog and clouds. Which I took to be the Old Man of Storr.

When walking up I felt very lonely and even a bit worried, not knowing exactly how far it was, but on the way back a couple of pullmans had arrived and the path was no longer solitary at all.

Then I went to see the Diatomite beach and the Kilt Rock Waterfall 

By that time I was an experienced driver on single tracks roads which are exciting and exhilarating,  and I had already had the proof that highlander do wear kilts.

Then I went to Uig via the single track, driving along cliffs, meadows, rocks, the sea, streams, fences, barren hills, sharp bends, and also a properly marked en-plein-air toilet.

In Uig I went to see the ferry to the Outer Hebrides, with Harris a powerful shape  just in front of me, and one day I want to go there, too.

Then I drove along a deserted and sunny road to Dunvegan castle: maybe because I finally saw the blue sky, maybe because of the sun, but it really looked wonderful to me, with amazing gardens full of flowers

The last day was the coming back day, via Fort William again and then Glencoe. This is another truly magnificent, striking and rugged area.

Some things I learned from this short trip: Scotland needs time, to allow the weather to change. And time to enjoy its many wonders. I also understood that I want to come back, and walk those beautiful walks on loch shores. And I really want to lose myself through glens and lochs, and streams and hills.

And I learned that travelling alone can be wonderful: you are seldom alone, because you are so open to the world. And being alone in such a remote place as the Isle of Skye is the occasion to get to know yourself better, rediscovering and redefining yourself.

And I think that there must be a meaning in that dream about the Skye bridge. A bridge is a symbol, a link from somewhere to some other place, a connection between people, a way to move distances closer.

A short rainy trip, mine was, but a very inspiring one.

Tags: inspiring, on the road, scotland, solo trip

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