Epilogue: the last day on Skye - on to the Western Isles

Thursday 12/9/02 was to be our last day on Skye, and when we awoke at about 8:30 the sky was nothing but unbelievable blueblueblue. Following the trek plan, the taxi would be picking us up at about nine, but that hadn't already seemed a good idea the day before. One of the options, and probably the best one, would have been to just stay in lovely Duntulm the whole day, doing nothing, resting and letting the whole trek sink in, and then in the evening taking the bus to the ferry in Uig. Now, even before we set out on the whole journey, we had decided we'd want to visit at least one distillery. Since the only distillery in the far northwest and western isles is Talisker on Skye, this seemed the logical thing to do, Talisker being one of my favourite malts. And when a plan has been so firmly encrusted in your mind for so long, you like to stick to it. Especially if you've spent a couple of hours trying to figure out how on earth it would be possible to get there by taxi, do the tour, and get back to Uig in time. Talisker Distillery at CarbostIn the end, we had the taxi pick us up at about 10:30-11. The driver was cross-eyed, but an extremely nice chap and got us to Talisker in time (picture). We took the tour from 12 to 12:30, which was not too interesting (I already new in detail how whisky was made and the historic details we had to read for ourselves prior to the tour in the waiting room), after which we had to wait for the two o'clock bus in beautiful weather, thoroughly exhausted. On the bus from Carbost (Talisker distillery) to Portree we had the luck to see our second golden eagle though, and once in Portree we took the opportunity to buy postcards. Than some more waiting, followed by the bus to Uig, followed by some more waiting, because we'd taken one bus too early, not noticing the funny particularity that the arrival time of the next bus coincided strangely with the departure of the ferry minus 15 minutes - all of which roughly amounted to some 7 hours of travel just to get from Duntulm to Uig via Carbost, while the distance between start and end must be some 15km. One reason we'd left Duntulm was that after a week of walking, you feel the urge to move on, not to sit still; you're so used to getting up in the morning and taking in new impressions that the brain becomes addicted to stimulation.

Goodbye Skye in the evening redBut the deeper reason of this restlessness was that from Duntulm we had clearly seen the outline of the Outer Hebrides, and especially the hills of mysterious Harris, across the deceptively still waters of the Minch. These Western Isles were, according to various sources, something 'entirely different', so we were eager to get there. At six we said goodbye to Skye, lying between sea and sky in a reddish hue from the already setting sun (picture), thinking we might get back there, once we were exploring the mainland. We had come to know bits of the island quite thoroughly, but there's always more to explore.

But of course, the same goes for anywhere else - Harris, Lewis, Assynt, and Wester Ross - and we didn't get back there. We'd been close, when we were staying in Plockton, but the weather was a visualisation of deep depression and you don't want to spoil a perfect memory - and that's what it was. But we will be back, on the Cuillin ridges, by the shores of Loch Coruisk, doing the complete Trotternish Ridge, visiting the bleedin' Old Man, and finally, taking another course in splendid solitude in Sleat.

The end of the world

The weather was calm and as the ferry drew away from Skye, while I was trying to get a glimpse of Duntulm through the binoculars, we gradually got closer to Harris. The setting sun provided an additional touch of clichéd serenity to it all. The fact that it was setting behind the island, made it impossible to distinguish anything of the texture of it, or any of the inland features, and it was not until the ship was manoeuvering between all the little islets to Tarbert harbour that the true nature of the expression 'lunar landscape' dawned on us. The chill that had fallen was that of a warm day preparing for a clear cold night.

Punctual, we disembarked in Tarbert at about half past seven, with only food and shelter in mind. The tourist office had opened especially for the passengers of the second and last ferry, only to inform us that everything apart from an expensive restaurant was closed in the Harris 'capital', due to an extremely local church holiday. Everything, that is to say the two pubs available in the one street of Tarbert. Feeling more remote than ever, we paid duly for a simple meal and went to sleep in the Youth Hostel which, believe it or not, was mixed, like all YH's on the otherwise utterly religious Outer Hebrides. The day was done, Skye miles away, and the moon waiting to be explored.

Sunset over the Outer Hebrides

 

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weather on this day (midnight before the walk) : 850hPa temperature / pressure

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