Midges and mountains and Scotland’s Skye


“I am being eaten alive!” cried Pippin. “Midgewater! There are more midges than water!”

“What do they live on when they can’t get hobbit?” asked Sam, scratching his neck.

Well, Master Gamgee, they live on me, for one — at least that day we went traipsing ’round Skye on a wet, windless, beautifully gloomy day. Multiple websites warned me of midges, but like many other bad stuff, you don’t really think midges will happen to you until they do. And besides it isn’t really fun going on a tour of Skye dressed like this:

And by "this" I mean the two sensible people coming up in full anti-midge protective gear.

And by “this” I mean the two sensible people coming up in full anti-midge protective gear, not the one in red. Though my sister paused less often for pictures so she didn’t get bitten as much.

Not that a swarm of midges covering your face is too fun, either, but…you know…when you think of going to see the Fairy Pools, you don’t really think: Oooh! I’m going to the Fairy Pools! I’m going to wear protective clothing and put a net over my face like a keeper of radioactive bees! (Though if you have thought that, I can tell you you’ve got your priorities straight and that I wish to emulate your sensibility in future. Or at least I will bring bug spray.)

According to Donald Nicolson, our guide, midges tend to congregate near bodies of water and they’re most active when there’s no wind. They don’t bother you when you’re walking but when you stop — to take photos, for instance — they instantly descend upon every exposed part of your body. I thought midges would be like mosquitoes — which we have a lot of in the Philippines, that’s why I thought I could handle midges easily — but they look more like flies and they bite more like fleas. And it wasn’t even the midge bites that bothered me so much; it was that they were all over my face and I nearly inhaled a few of them a couple of times! Inhaling midges = so not fun.

Still, all those midge bites and near inhalations were worth it. I’d gladly play midge meal again if it meant going back to views such as these:

The Cuillins of Sligachan

The Cuillins of Sligachan


Sligachan bridge


Mountains in Scotland that are over 3,000 feet are called Munros. There are 282 Munros and some people make it a mission to climb all of them — these people are called Munro baggers (a term that rolls off the tongue so satisfyingly, probably because it reminds me of Bungo Baggins). Anyway, I could be mistaken but I believe that ragged tooth-like structure in the last photo above is the Inaccessible Pinnacle (referred to fondly as the In-Pin or In Pinn) which is notorious among Munro baggers as the only Munro that needs to be ascended by rock climbing.

Sligachan, above, was our first stop (and my first encounter with midges). I’ll post in greater detail about some of the other stops later, but here’s a quick look.

The Fairy Pools

Fairy Pools

The Fairy Glen

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The Quiraing


Kilt Rock

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Lealt Falls

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Scotland_Skye_Tour_Lealt Falls_04

And the Old Man of Storr

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Sigh. Scotland. So worth a few midge bites.

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O flower of Scotland / When will we see / Your like again

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A Small-Town Girl’s Short Guide to Portnalong


Portnalong isn’t necessarily the first thing that comes to people’s minds when they think of visiting the Isle of Skye. There are no tourist attractions in Portnalong itself; the nearest is probably the Talisker Distillery in Carbost, about an hour’s walk away. There are only a few accommodations to choose from and the bus only comes by twice or thrice a day, except on Sundays, when it does not come by at all. But perhaps it’s for that very reason that Portnalong is, as the cliché goes, the perfect place to get away from it all.


How to get to Portnalong

From London or Edinburgh, take the train to Inverness. (If you’re coming from London, I highly recommend the Caledonian Sleeper.)

From Inverness, take the train to Kyle of Localsh.

From Kyle of Localsh, take the Scottish Citylink bus (915 or 916, the Glasgow to Uig route) and get off at Sligachan. Cross the road and wait for the white Murdo A MacDonald 608 bus (the Portree – Fiskavaig route) which will take you to Portnalong.

The Kyle of Localsh bus stop

The Kyle of Localsh bus stop

The Sligachan bus stop

The Sligachan bus stop

That’s the route we took when we visited Portnalong last September. There are other ways to get there, of course, depending on where you’re coming from. If you’re going by Fort William, you can take the train to Mallaig, the Caledonian MacBrayne ferry to Armadale, and then a bus to Portnalong. Whatever your situation, the best way to figure out routes and times is to use the Traveline Scotland planner.

What to do in Portnalong

Go on a trek uphill (just follow this route)…









What the ground looks like on these hills

What the ground looks like on these hills




…or downhill to the harbor (by following this route)…










…and back up…


…or just find a good nook for a book, read, let your mind wander, do nothing — it’s just as rewarding.

Where to stay in Portnalong

We stayed at the Skyewalker Hostel, which has been recognized by Hostelworld for several years now as the best in Scotland.

Scotland_Skye_Portnalong_Skyewalker Hostel 01

Hotels in Skye

Hotels in Inverness

Hotels in Scotland



Portnalong | © Small-Town Girls, Midnight Trains. All rights reserved. 


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