Skye 2019: Part One
19 June 2019
After a massive 18 hour drive, broken only by a short sleep, dropping my daughter off in Glasgow, and a quick stop at Eilean Donan castle, I finally arrived in Skye and headed for the first stop on my list, Neist Point, inspired by the stunning photograph taken by Laurance Norah (which can be found in his Skye guide at www.findingtheuniverse.com).
I was really surprised to realise that after leaving Eilean Donan there was a huge 4 hour time difference until my arrival to the location. It certainly didn’t feel that long despite my tiredness, so I can only put it down to all the oooos and aahhhs that entered my newly awakened brain as I beheld the views that passed my eyes over that period! I did do one quick stop to take a look at the Blackhill Waterfall that a number of tourists were snapping at. There was an easy parking spot in a lay-by, but as its right on a tight bend, I had to make a quick snap decision to park up – now, NOW!!! I should say, this is not natural for my brain to do this, even less so for my body to actually respond accordingly…. so I was in mild shock for a bit before getting out of the van with the dog, not to mention heightened excitement at having actually acted on a spur of the moment decision! I apologise now to any driver that may have been behind me at that moment!!!
River and I (she was the Dog with me on these travels… a name which, in hindsight, proved to be ridiculously fitting) took a walk over to the falls to see what everyone was photographing. On seeing the waterfall looking even prettier, I decided to wander closer to see what the view was like close up. Possibly not the best decision I ever made… the ground proved to be heavily boggy, and my canvas shoes were soaked through in minutes. I did try an easier route, but ended up getting a bit stuck. River (white) also ended up looking black. I decided that maybe this wasn’t such a good idea, so snapped a single photo with my phone, and vowed to come back on a better day when I wasn’t aiming to be somewhere, and with wellies, and definitely with my full photographic kit. This waterfall is one worth photographing properly. As it goes the whole trip ended up about ‘getting places’ so, although I passed it a couple of other times, I never actually got the chance to do another stop. Next time!!
As I turned to leave I saw a group of 3 young men making their way over. One looked like he was being quite a bit cocky, as he jeered at his two friends who were being timid in their attempts at walking over. It wasn’t without some private amusement for myself, when I saw him slip and landed almost face first in the boggy mud, coating his clothes completely. His friends roared with laughter, and, funnily enough, the lad ceased his loud opinionated insults. Imagine that – oh hang on… didn’t one of his friends also have a phone up? …tee-hee…
After squelching back to the camper, getting my footwear changed, and River dried off, I continued both the drive and the oooos and aahhhs.
The road to Neist point (pronounced nEEst point) was a very long one. There are very few turn offs, villages or shops on the single lane road, but I liked all the passing points that I came across. These became very familiar to me as the days went on, and are highly efficient at keeping traffic moving everywhere on such confined roadways. As I got nearer to the end of my drive however, traffic seemed to come to a halt near a couple of buildings. As it slowly began to clear, one driver coming towards me, kindly lent out of his window, and let a few of us know that the problem was only due to the number of people leaving the point, and nothing serious. As I got to the place I was hoping to start, I could see there was plenty of parking, and a lot of cars parked up. Having no prior idea on what to expect up here, this pleased me immensely, as I had aimed at this being my stop for the night too. I was by now, far too tired to drive much more. I joined the parked cars and campers, and took River out for a good walk to stretch our scrunched up tired legs, and to have a look around to see what was what here.
The views were stunning. The sky wasn’t what I had hoped though – it was neither super dramatic nor looking like it might offer up a stunning sunset, but I knew I had several hours yet, so I wasn’t really worried just yet. I walked River around the top to see where I could set up later, and found some nice spots. Since we had plenty of time I thought I would take a walk down to the lighthouse itself, seeing see lots of people wandering around that area. It was a much further distance than I had originally thought… and it went up and down over two rather surprisingly steep hills. I may be out of shape, but I did manage these, albeit with some huffing and puffing, and plenty of pauses to catch my breath.
I got to the lighthouse itself, had a good wander around, and noticed where most of the photographers had gathered for their shots. After a short wander around the peninsular, I returned to the spot, and found they had all left, so snapped a couple with my phone. The walk had been very tiring, especially after such a long drive, and so little sleep, so rather than hike all the way back for my kit, I thought that I might come back for a sunrise shot. Where the sun would be setting behind the lighthouse I assumed it would rise in front of it… Hmmnn… nice idea in principle – maybe I should have considered a) the erratic Skye weather and b) actually checking! DUH!!! As it ended up, I still have no idea where the sun might rise – it rained all night and was still really cloudy the next morning!
My goal on this trip was to get out of my comfort zone. I was getting too fussy about only going out when the weather was clear, and it was leaving a lot of my photos fairly ‘pretty’, but lacking in any drama or emotion behind them for my taste. At the end of my trip I was very glad I did this, as the wet weather, cloudy moody skies, and erratic changes did me the world of good, forcing me to adapt to the changing conditions as each moment came up. Sitting by the lighthouse this evening however, I had no thoughts of the adventures to come, only the peace, and the beautiful position I was sitting in. I sat with River for quite some time before I finally decided that I should probably make my way back to the van to eat something ahead of my planned evening shoot.
After the long, even more exhausting, walk back, and a brief meal, I gathered my kit for the evening, and went to venture out. River was clearly having none of this however, and went to hide in her bed. No amount of coaxing would get her out, so I decided that she might be best left, to rest her poor short legs! I went to my chosen spot, and found several fellow photographers dotted along the cliff. Unfortunately the sky lacked a little, not offering any dramatic clouds, being mostly light to moderate by now, with a few patches of blue, and not being clear enough to allow for a super pretty sunset. The wind however was pretty full on.. and very cold! I found myself shivering in no time, but I stubbornly refused to go back for hat, scarf, gloves or a thicker layer – well I might miss something!! I also had to find ways of weighting the tripod down to help reduce the possibility of blurry shots. As the sun started setting, it was clear the sky had no intention of flaring into a gorgeous colour, and several photographers slowly started drifting away. I stood my ground, and stayed, as did a couple of others. One was unfortunately in my shot for most of my wait, so I ended up having to move position to miss him. As I did, the wind unexpectedly dropped for a few minutes, and the sun finally gave a lovely burst of golden light against the cliff face. This made me really happy, as suddenly the point came alive with warmth and colour, and I managed a few nice crisp shots. What I missed however (although my camera didn’t – yay!) was a tiny rainbow that, for a brief second or two, started to bloom out to sea. Although feeling only ‘OK’ with the final photos, this rainbow shot did prove to be the one I was most happy with. After that, it was to bed in readiness for the morning.
The rain hammered most of the night, and at 4am I decided that it really wasn’t worth trying to get a sunrise shot, as that definitely wasn’t going to happen here today! By 7 however, the rain eased to pretty much an occasional light drizzle so I decided that I really should get up and get down to the lighthouse regardless. Tired and mildly morning grumpy, I sorted myself out and hiked down to the spot with River. Brain hadn’t much engaged, but I was quite pleased with the shots in camera, as for the first time, I got a hint of the pleasure I would get by photographing clouds in my scenes.
Tourists started appearing by 8.30, but satisfied with my morning, I decided to head on back. On the way I found myself chatting with an older American Lady the whole way. She had her whole family here with her as they were celebrating her recovery from cancer with one of her dream trips, and had treated her to her ultimate wish… a night in a Scottish Castle. She was an absolute delight to talk to, and the walk back seemed no where near as hard as it had been the night before.
On the way she asked if I was with anyone. After I replied that no, it was just me and my dog, she stared for a second and declared ‘You are SO brave!’. This is the second time that someone had told me this in the field. I have to confess to some confusion, as I cant say I feel particularly brave just because gone away on my own. Several friends tell me ‘but you are…’ when I recall these stories. Although I feel somewhat amazed that this seems to be such a common opinion, it does make me feel really sad, that as a woman, the general consensus is that I should be feeling afraid to do this. I am pretty sure that very few men get told the same…