Leaving Fort William, the bus from Glasgow that dropped off a full load, only has myself and 4 other passengers on the winding road uo the West coast and over the sea to Skye.
We pass Spean Bridge on the A82 and the Commando Memorial in the Great Glen. During World War II the British Army started secretly training commandos, and the standards were high, and live ammunition used in exercises. We pass Ben Nevis and the scenery gets more stunning, with lochs, the sea, hillsides with hardy sheep, long haired horned Scottish cattle, some stags standing erect, eagles, rabbits and pheasants. This is near where General Wade marched against the Jacobites and sent Bonnie Prince Charlie, The Young Pretender, packing.
Invergarry, Shiel Bridge, Loch Duich, and past Eilean Donan castle on Loch Alsh near Dornie on the A87 and, lit up by floodlights at dusk. You have seen this castle on every Scottish calendar. We arrive at Kyle of Lochalsh, where the West Highland line terminates from Inverness. Now there is a magnificent hump back bridge to drive over the few hundred yards to Skye and the village of Kyleakin.
Until recently it cost over £6.00 each way but after a big protest campaign it is now toll free. Sitting behind me on the nearly empty bus is Rosemary Samios, who has just flown into Glasgow this day from Sydney NSW where her husband is an Australian parliamentarian. In Fort William I found a Scottish Independent Hostels guide and booked ahead. She informs me that she is the owner of the 65 bed hostel in Portree, the only town on Skye, 90 minutes away.where I have booked. www.hostel-scotland.co.uk. The 150 or so hostels charge around £12-£15.00 a night and are very comfortable, in great locations with bunk beds, free sheets,free hot drinks, hot showers, warm fires, T.V., kitchens, internet and great company with lots of travel tips from fellow guests.
Born on Skye, Rosemary emigrated to Australia with her husband. She returns often and once owned a small island. When the Old Post Office on The Green in Portree was sold off she and 5 others bought it. They renovated it and converted it into a hostel. The others eventuallywanted out and she is now the sole owner, and was returning to check on the latest painting and decorating.
Portree is in a stunning location with a busy harbour, great shops, pubs and the bus centre. The next morning I catch the bus to Uig, on Loch Snizort, and the ferry to Harris in The Outer Hebrides.The bus goes the long way round With the Isle of Raasay and the coast on my right side. Ben Dearg, The Storr, Loch Fada, Beb Edra to my left.
We stop at the Flora MacDonald museum and small thatched roof cottages telling the story of Skye life and crofters. Flora was the heroine that went over to the mainland and brought back Charles Edward Stewart, Bonnie Prince Charlie, with 6 volunteer boatmen and disguised him as Betty Burke. The Skye Boat Song, is an ode to that historic in the mid 1770's trip. She later emigrated to North Carolina for a while with her husband.
While waiting for the MV Hebrides ferry to Tarbert at the quayside in Uig, I drop in at The Skye Brewing Company shop 'Buth an Leanna'-in Gaelic. Since 1995 Angus MacRuary retired from teaching at Portree High School and with his wife Pam and 2 others started brewing. They have such beers as Red Cuillin, Black Cuillin, Young Pretender, Hebridean Gold, Sky Light, Oyster Stout, Lord of the Ales, www.skybrewery.co.uk