If you look at the map from today’s activities you’ll notice that we did a mind-boggling amount of traveling. Once we hit London we won’t be driving too much but in Ireland and Scotland you sort of have to if you want to see the highlights of these countries.
The Isle of Skye wasn’t a high priority but why go to Scotland without visiting one of the most famous islands in the world? I am so glad we didn’t miss it because I think the landscape we saw today was the best I have ever seen. (Am I saying that every day? :/ It’s true!)
Ferry From Mallaig to Armadale (Isle of Skye)
After last night’s mishap with the ferry we drove to the docks in Mallaig at 6.45am to get our 7.30am ferry over to the Isle of Skye. Staying true to our trip so far things didn’t go quite as planned. There was so much fog hanging over the entire area that they had to delay the ferry until 9am. While we waited we charged our laptops and had a nice breakfast at a nearby cafe.
We didn’t feel too worried because our first stop was to Talisker Distillery, which did not open until 9.30am. When we finally boarded the ferry to Armadale the fog had cleared considerably. The ferry ride was only 20 minutes long so we just watched the sun glisten on the water from the decks. Two car alarms blared throughout the whole ride so it wasn’t as peaceful as it could have been but life isn’t like that is it?
As we edged closer to Armadale a thick blanket of fog wrapped around the island. Others muttered around us about not wanting to turn back. The captain obviously didn’t think it was as big of a problem though because they pushed forward until the island became visible and all the sudden we were docked on the Isle of Skye.
This distillery was a late addition to our plans but it was only 1 hour away from the Dunvegan castle that Addam and I both wanted to go to because it has ties to the old Scottish MacLeod clan. Talisker Distillery also has the unique honor of being the only whisky distillery on the Isle of Skye.
I called ahead of time while we were driving from the Arlington port to Talisker to reserve tickets. Without even paying they set aside two tickets under my name for a tour that we arrived for just 5 minutes before it was due to start. We did end up paying but if you ever want to go to Talisker check out this website. You can get free tickets to one of these distilleries. I had planned on doing this but there is no internet at all in this town. So I could not load my freebie. (FYI Cell signal is almost non existent for the 3 network on the Isle of Skye.)
After doing a couple whisky distilleries already I found myself zoning out of the tour guide’s speech. The process for making Scotch whisky is not too different from Irish Whisky. The only difference is the number of distillations the whisky goes through before it is bottled. Instead of listening to the talk I let my eyes roam over the equipment, noting the differences between distilleries and breweries.
Yet again we were not allowed to take photographs on this tour. (WHY?!) Unfortunately what you see here is just buildings and exhibits open to the public from the outside. Talisker’s white buildings reminded me of the Greek buildings. I guess that is apt given that Talisker is right in front of a loch, in a quaint little seaside town. The whisky even tastes a little salty!
Between Talisker and Dunvegan we passed through more mountains and lochs, which basically make up the Isle of Skye, or the Isle of Heaven as it should be called. It’s so beautiful. Seriously. Every time you turn a corner there’s another picture perfect moment that belongs on a postcard. My fingers hurt from snapping the camera so often.
Dunvegan Castle is only 1 hour north of Talisker so it was a perfect little drive to make another hot item on our list. This gorgeous castle is still functional and lived in by its family the MacLeod (Can you imagine living ins a castle? 😮 ) The oldest part of the castle was built during the medieval times and it has survived the potato famine and the Jacobite rebellion. Dunvegan was also used to film ‘Highlander’ a TV show based on the real family MacLeod – a favorite show of Addam’s dad Allen.
I loved that the castle was so well furnished because most of the castles we have visited so far are void of belongings or completely ruined altogether. (The exception being Culzean Castle.) You can use your imagination to make the place come to life a bit easier when there are portraits on the wall and furniture with personal effects to fill a room. But apparently if a castle is still being “lived in” it means you can’t take photos. 🙁 Yet again we were forced to turn our cameras off. To be honest this makes us spend a lot less time in a place. It’s great to see and hear, but capturing a memory with a camera is so important to me. Maybe that makes me a “millennial” but I’ll gladly wear that crown.
I asked Addam if he would buy me a castle but he said no.
Eilean Donan Castle
The last castle on our list was over the bridge back on mainland Scotland. So with a lot of sadness we said good bye to the Isle of Skye and drove another hour and a half to Eilean Donan the 13th century pinup castle of Scottish Castles. This magnificent castle has it all: it sits on the edge of a cliff, is surrounded by a loch, and still has a family to call it home.
I remember seeing photos of Eilean Donan from books of castles in my local library in Victoria, Australia. I could never have dreamed that I would one day visit this real life dream castle. The strange thing about all these castles it that reality and fantasy seem to blur. I begin to wonder if I’m living real life when I look at natural and man-made wonders.
The theme for the day was no pictures inside so again we could not take photos of the beautiful decor in the keep of Eilean Donan. We did take photos from the outside and before we entered the exhibits. On the inside there’s lots of family memorabilia of the clans Mackenzie and Macrae. There were also some very interesting relics from the Jacobite rising. I really wish I could have taken a photo of a lock of Bonnie Prince Charlie’s hair!
The castle itself was partially destroyed in a battle of the Jacobites with the English upon which is lay neglected for the next 200 years until Lt Colonel John Macrae-Gilstrap bought the island in 1911. He and his people did a great job restoring this unique castle to its full potential.
Camping Next To Loch Ness!
Driving back from Eilean Donan our GPS took us on the scenic route again and I drove with nerves on edge on tiny one-lane roads where the turns are sharp and blind while the speed limits are 100km/hr. (I drove about 30km/hr). There are small spots to pull over if you see someone coming and want to give them the right of way. A customary lift of the hand or finger is done to thank someone who does this. But there’s only one of these every half mile so if you’re turning a corner and someone is coming by you and there’s nowhere to pull over you have to hold you breath and hope you can get out of it without a scratch. I don’t know how you Scots do it!
We were lucky enough to get a camping spot right next to Loch Ness! It was a pretty and very large loch and the camping grounds weren’t too bad either. I’m starting to get used to camping but I have to admit I’m still very much a hotel kinda girl.
P.S.: It’s a bit difficult to write these lengthy blog posts while traveling so aggressively every day. But I’m afraid if I don’t write down my thoughts on the day that we lived our memories then they’ll fade away. I hope they’re interesting to others but primarily they are for me and Addam to look back on in the coming years.