In Skye, in the middle of nowhere, is Portnalong.

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Portnalong_Cuilin Climb_01

15 September — In Skye, in the middle of nowhere, is Portnalong. The night before we arrived in Skye, we met a guy in a bar. He had grown up in Portnalong…and left as soon as he was able. “Don’t get me wrong,” he said. “I love Skye. It’s a very nice place. But you wouldn’t want to live there. There’s nothing to do there — you’ll see.”

Well, he was from Portnalong, and now that I’ve been here for two days, I do kind of see where he’s coming from. It isn’t necessarily a place you would want to live in all your life. From Skyewalker Hostel, where we are staying, more mountain peaks than houses are visible. There are only two buses a day — and none on Sundays — and if you have no car, you can either plan your trips around bus times, hitch a ride, or walk. And walk, and walk.

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So: probably not a very exciting place to live your entire life in, but a perfect place to visit and recharge in and spend your day staring at mountains. The Skyewalker Hostel, in particular, is perfect for something like a writer’s retreat. They have a wide lawn with picnic tables, surrounded by colorful vegetation, and a Solardome where you can stay during the night to stargaze. There is a great view of the mountains as well, and I actually spent the entire day today inside Skyewalker’s Solardome, alternating looking at the mountains, working on my laptop, and reading a book of Scottish myths and legends. Gray skies, moderate rain, chilly wind with periodic gusts, mists covering the peaks of the Cuillins, and there I was, comfortably warm, writing and reading all day, enjoying the elements without necessarily getting exposed to them and catching a cold in the process.

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But Portnalong offers more than a setting and excuse for indolence. Yesterday was sunny and after we checked in, my sister and I wasted no time going up the nearest mountain.

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If you know me, you know I’m not a mountain climber at all, but I was actually able to go all the way up to the peak with the help of my trusty pink Timberlands. (Seriously, pink seemed like such a good idea that time I was browsing Amazon.) Well, hey, pink they may be — practically screaming “don’t take me seriously — but they kept my feet dry during the climb. If you are planning to climb mountains here in the Isle of Skye too, trust me, wear thick waterproof shoes. Even after two straight days of sunshine, parts of the mountain were still muddy. And it always sounds so romantic, the idea of walking in purple heather — for those of us who haven’t got one shrub of heather in our countries, anyway — but they’re kind of thick and dense, so, yeah, thick waterproof shoes. Pink ones, if necessary.

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Apparently, in Scotland, there is such a thing as the freedom to roam. Basically, what that means is that people can buy land and own land but they can’t legally keep other people out of their land. And that’s a good thing because my sister and I climbed over three fences on our way to and from the nearest mountain peak (something I’m rather proud of!). Anyway, I suspect the fences were there to keep the sheep from wandering off, and at the second fence there was even the metal skeleton of a folding chair, leaning against a post, practically inviting us to use it to go over. So…yay for freedom to roam.

It was still broad daylight when we returned to the road so we decided to go find what the hostel owner called “the local beach” “just down the road.” I’m not sure if that’s what we found, exactly, but after a significant amount of walking — nothing like what I would describe as “just down the road” — we came across a sign that said “Portnalong Pier, 700 m.” There was a clear path this time, through tall grass laden with purple and yellow flowers, and though there were two gates, we didn’t have to go over them, as they could be opened rather easily. When we finally came to the coast, there was a metal foot bridge, under which a stream was finding its way to the sea. Further up the stream there were small pools of water — no, we didn’t jump in, we’re not crazy! It might have been sunny but it was cold — and it was a good, sort of secret place that we had all to ourselves.

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There might be nothing to do in Portnalong, but it’s a good sort of nothing, and if you’re ever in Skye, I would certainly recommend dropping by, or even staying a while.

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6 thoughts on “In Skye, in the middle of nowhere, is Portnalong.”

    • He he, Skye is gorgeous any day but sunny days are much more preferable! Just got home. Hugs to you and Don.

  • “… a perfect place to visit and recharge in and spend your day staring at mountains.”

    An excellent description of Skye (An t-Eilean Sgitheanach or Eilean a’ Cheò), where we have a second home. For anyone looking for a beach on Skye, there’s only one, and the “sand” isn’t really sand, it’s actually (very) tiny pieces of the shells of sea-creatures – and it’s as pink as… errrmmm… some Timberlands! You’ll find Coral Beach north of Dunvegan, at Clachaig, and it requires a reasonably long walk as well as a car!

    • As pink as some Timberlands eh? Gosh, I miss Skye. And Scotland in general. An Tigh Maiseach looks lovely. Maybe someday when this health crisis dies down. Stay healthy and happy, Robin and Jackie.

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