Day 8: Ullapool then over the sea to Skye
We drove the coastal road on our route to Ullapool. The scenery was magnificent all day as we climbed further and further into the highlands.
We made a stop at the monument to the Highland Clearances called ‘The Immigrants’.
The clearances occured from 1750- 1886 after the Battle of Culloden. Bonnie Prince Charlie fled and the Jacobites were either dead, imprisoned or in hiding. The highlander way of life was coming to an end. There was a break up of the clan land tenure. Previously tenants paid rent in ways other than money (Labour, goods, fealty in their army) but now the Clan Chiefs became land owners and they decided rent should be paid in coin. When people couldn’t pay they moved them off the land and put something on it that would earn them money – sheep. Some volunteered to leave and migrated to Canada, Australia and the Carolinas. Those that did not go willingly were forced them to leave and were burnt out of their homes.
I love the monument as it shows the varying emotions of the family leaving – determination on the face of the man, trust in the face of the child, and an anxious, wistful look back from the woman clutching a bairn in her arms.
The other great migration of the Scottiah people occured after WW2 when Australia offered passage for ten pounds. 1/4 million left Scotland for Australia bringing their culture and place names where they settled eg Dunedin is Gallic for Edinburgh and even has the same street names and grid. These immigrants are known as ’10 pound poms’. Marie on the trip, was born here in Scotland and came out to Australia as a girl. She’s a ‘5 pound pom’!
We continued our journey passing Dunrobin Castle, the seat of clan Sutherland stopping in Lairg, the Crossroads of the North for morning tea. Harry scoffed his second scone with jam and cream since being in Scotland. I had a Viennese Stack which was really like a pile of yo-yo biscuits but better!
This route boasts some of the most magnificent scenery in Europe – wild mountains and lochs, foaming salmon rivers, rugged coastlines with mighty sea cliffs and secluded sandy bays, traditional crofts and large farms, small fishing villages and bustling towns.
Starting at the thriving fishing village of Ullapool, the 140 mile (224 km) route winds its way north through the magnificent mountain country of the Northern Highlands as it makes its way to the far north west corner of Scotland. We went the opposite direction and ended up in Ullapool.
The area is what’s known as a Geopark. UNESCO Global Geoparks are single, unified geographical areas where sites and landscapes of international geological significance are managed with a holistic concept of protection, education and sustainable development.
Another charming coastal harbour. Our guide Darren has been telling us from the beginning to save our fish and chips craving until we got here. They did not disappoint!
Would you believe we were in Westeros today? We even saw a boat to the Summer Isles that leaves from Ullapool and crossed the River Bran. GRRM certainly had lots of inspiration from Scottish landscapes and history!
We passed through Kyle of Lochalsh where the Bridge to Skye begins. The bridge was only built in 1995, so prior to the bridge there was a ferry. There’s only the one road in and out so sometimes traffic can be a bit of a mess. Darren played the Skye Boat Song as we crossed over. When the original was finished I put on the Outlander theme song version which is a haunting rendition with lyrics more apt to the storyline of the books. Both are beautiful.
The original lyrics:
“Speed bonnie boat like a bird on the wing Onward the sailors cry. Carry the lad that’s born to be king, Over the sea to Skye
Loud the wind howls, loud the waves roar, Thunderclaps rend the air, Baffled our foes, stand by the shore, Follow they will not dare
Speed bonnie boat like a bird on the wing, Onward the sailors cry. Carry the lad that’s born to be king, Over the sea to Skye
Many’s the lad fought on that day, Well the claymore did wield. When the night came, silently lain, Dead on Culloden field
Speed bonnie boat like a bird on the wing, Onward the sailors cry. Carry the lad that’s born to be king, Over the sea to Skye”
“Sing me a song of a lass that is gone. Say, could that lass be I?
Merry of soul she sailed on a day, Over the sea to Skye.
Billow and breeze, islands and seas, Mountains of rain and sun. All that was good, all that was fair. All that was me is gone
Sing me a song of a lass that is gone. Say, could that lass be I? Merry of soul she sailed on a day. Over the sea to Skye”
Only has an area of 80 x 35 miles and you are never more than 5 miles from the sea wherever you are due to the fact that the isle is made up of 7 peninsulas.
We took a drive in the rain from the second biggest town, Broadford to the ‘capital’ Portree. The geography is very similar to Iceland. Unfortunately it was finally raining on our parade and photos from the coach were not possible but it was rugged and wind swept and everything you’d imagine the highlands to be. Once again I had images of Jamie and Claire on horseback riding the vast open spaces.
We were taken out to a rock formation known as the Old Man of Storr (a Norse word) but the mists had rolled in so we had to wait patiently for a gap in the cloud to see it. Sure enough, the wind ensured that we got some lovely glimpses of the Old Man. I think the mist added a spooky feel to the pictures and made them more dramatic and interesting.
How Portree looked today (above) and how it looks on a sunny day (below)
Another thing farmed in the lochs are Whelks which are a kind of sea snail harvested for French dinner tables. Our guide described the taste as like sand and inner tube, or a gritty, salty squash ball. Apparently the French cook them in enough garlic that they don’t notice! They certainly look better in their shells.
Tallisker whiskey is distilled here in Skye so I gave that a go with dinner. It has a smokey flavour from the peat. I think the smokey ones are my favorite.
Early bed again as we are back to the lowlands tomorrow.