To be fair, I’m not entirely sure who in my family decided to call me Skye. I’ve had my own story for most of my life, but there are conflicting opinions and it seems to have been a universal decision (as it usually is). However, I am fairly certain it was my dad who chose to spell it after the Isle of Skye in Scotland. I’m glad he did, since it’s my favorite place in the world, but unfortuntely he had never been himself. Well, I’m happy to report that the situation has finally been rectified.
For the second time in my travels, I surprised my dad by showing up on his doorstep when he thought I was still in Thailand. It had been nearly 18 months since I had sent myself to him as a Christmas present.
To get to my dad, I actually had nearly 96 hours of travel! On May 2nd, I was in the Chinese village of Mae Salong in northern Thailand drinking tea. At 3 PM, I rode my motorcycle 5 hours back to Chiang Mai, and that night caught the bus for 9 hours down to Bangkok. I was able to rest for a few hours and get some work done at a cafe until the evening when I left for the airport to wait for my 5 AM flight. I flew 3 hours to Kuala Lumpur, and then another 14.5 hours to London. I then took the tube from Heathrow to Victoria station, walked to the coach station, and had a 9 hour overnight bus to Edinburgh. The next morning I had a couple hours to sit at a cafe and catch up some more, and then it was another 3-hour bus ride to Aberdeen, followed by a 2-hour bus ride to Banff, the small Scottish village where my dad has found a home to live in.
On the evening of May 5th, I knocked on my dad’s door. When he opened the door, he had absolutely no idea I was going to be there. Although he has many friends where he lives, he doesn’t get a lot of visitors at night in his town of 4000 people. He was thrilled to see me, and even more so when I announced I had plans to take him to the Isle of Skye.
The next morning we packed our bags and took a bus to Inverness, where I had a car reserved with Europcar (since I’ll never work with Easirent again). I had booked a little Fiat 500, but they were out of stock when I arrived. So we were upgraded to a Nissan XTrail (for a small fee). It was certainly much nicer to sleep in, but far too big for comfort, especially on the small streets of Scotland and the Isle of Skye.
First, I took my dad up to Clootie Well, a pilgrimage site where the bubbling spring is believed to have curative properties. My dad dutifully had his sip of the ice-cold water, but we’ll have to wait to see if he gets any younger.
Next was Rogie Falls, known as the Black Water Falls due to the black, opaque quality of the water which has being filtered through peat in the Scottish Highlands. Both Clootie Well and Rogie Falls were shown to me by Haggis Adventures, during my amazing week on the Hebridean Hopper.
Next, I took my dad along Loch Ness with a brief stop at Urquhart Castle. Another stop at Eileen Donan Castle, and one final one in Kyleakin to see the Skye Bridge. So many attractions to see in Scotland! Read about all my articles on Scotland.
Finally we made it to Portree, the “capital” of the Isle of Skye. I cooked my dad dinner at the Portree Independent Hostel, which unfortunately raised their price for day-use from £2 to £3 (how dare they!).
We slept comfortably in the car that night, and the next morning were ready to go at 9:30 in the main square for a tour with Tour Skye. Rob, the owner, actually gave my dad and I a private tour around the island, as the scheduled tour of the day went to several locations which my dad would be unable to hike at his age.
However, our tour did start off with the Fairy Pools, which brought my dad to his limits. He made it to the first pool, where I’ve jumped in several times (but not this time), and then we went back to the car. I ended up carrying him up the final hill on my back. It’s about time I got to return the favor to him for all the years I rode his shoulders on hikes in the US.
After that, we went to the Oyster Shed. Unfortunately my dad wasn’t too keen on the oysters (he tried them half a century ago in Singapore and wasn’t fond of them then), but he loved the rest of the sample platter I got him – langoustines, lobster, salmon and other fish.
We finished lunch off with a trip to the Talisker Distillery. Rob got my dad and I a dram of Talisker 57, a 57% whiskey which also signifies Talisker being located on the 57th parallel. My dad might not have had a lot to drink in the past few decades, but that didn’t stop him from downing is dram.
After that, we went up to Skyeskyns, the only manually-operated tanning facility in the world for a tour and a tea in their new yurt cafe. Not that I need any more reasons to move to the Isle of Skye, but I’d love to sit in that cafe a few days a week to work on my blog.
Our final two stops were Trumpan Church and St. Columba Isle, both of which you can read about in my blog post on the Isle of Skye.
For the second day on the island, I first took my dad to the Fairy Glen. This is my favorite spot in the world. It was slightly spoiled last year when I found a couple hundred people crowded around this small, magical location tucked away in the middle of the island. However, the morning with my dad couldn’t have been better. There were a whopping two other people when we arrived, and only six other people appeared in the half-hour or so that we stayed. The climb wasn’t too steep for my dad, although he didn’t make it to the top of castle Ewen.
Our next stop was the Quiraing where we took in the breathtaking view. My dad was starting to get a little disoriented from all the driving around the island, so we shortly moved on and had a quick bite at The Village Shop before returning to Portree.
For the afternoon, I drove up with my dad to The Old Man of Storr. The hike was out of the question for him, so he had a nap in the car while I jogged up to the top. It’s only slightly below the Fairy Glen as one of my favorite places in the world.
That evening, we were joined by Rob and his family for a fish and chips dinner at Stein Inn, the oldest tavern on the island. My dad was in bliss. I was keeping a perfect store on finding dishes he could enjoy without his teeth.
After dinner we hustled out to Neist Point, the western-most tip of the island. We tried to make it there for sunset, and we would have if it weren’t for the thick layer of clouds on the horizon. We missed it by just a couple minutes, but it was still beautiful. It was the final highlight on the island for my dad to see. I forgot to take the photos, but you can see them in the aforementioned posts. Here’s what my dad looked like by the end of the day. That’s what I called satisfied.
We spent a final night with Rob, and took off the next morning back to my dad’s home in Banff. I drove straight there, arriving in the middle of the afternoon. While my dad loved getting to explore the Isle of Skye with me, he was also happy to be back in the small village he now calls home.
Finally I had to say goodbye again to my dad. It’s the fourth time in two and a half years that we’ve parted, and it gets harder each time. But I couldn’t stay any longer. I had a press trip in Romania to get to, and a whole day of travel to get there.
Leaving my dad’s home on Thursday morning, I left myself plenty of time to get to the Inverness Airport. Unfortunately, I made a wrong-turn halfway there and was 30 km off my course before I noticed my mistake. Ironically, I hit a seagull when I took the wrong exit at a roundabout. It was the first road-kill of my life, but who will miss a seagull? I should have just taken the omen when it happened!
Somehow I was able to get back on course without losing too much time, but just before I got to the airport, I learned that there were no petrol (gas to you Americans) stations at the airport. I had to drive another 15 minutes to the city to fill up the car before returning it. I got the gas, high-tailed it to the airport and dropped off the car twenty minutes before my flight. When I entered the terminal, I heard them calling the final boarding call as I ran up to the security lines. Thank god I picked a really small airport to travel from. Five minutes and I was walking up the stairs to the plane. I certainly know how to cut it close!
I made a transfer at Luton to my Wizz Air flight to Bucharest, where I joined Experience Bucharest for a four day press trip. Stay tuned, as that story is coming next.
Some photos of my dad and I.