So, I’ll continue from where I left off. Abject terror, eh?
Well, we began the day not knowing quite what to do, so whilst I was in the shower, my partner decided to look for a place to go. She knows I like a bit of an adventure so she suggested a place called Spar Cave. She hadn’t found much information beyond it being a cave, with some pretty impressive flowstone inside. The cave had been ransacked of stalagmites and stalactites by Victorian visitors and so the place seemed to have quite a bit of history.
We set off off for a place called Glasnakille, near Elgol, and we only knew that it was on a road out of Broadford. It soon became apparent that it was the *only* road that went in that direction. Settlements were few and the moody Cuillen Hills gained dominance on the horizon as we neared our destination. I’m sure many of you have driven on a single track road before. They can be quite quaint, with their passing places for meeting vehicles, generally desolate landscapes and of course a few rogue sheep claiming the road for themselves. It was a novelty at first, but let me tell you now that this road was a long one, something of an endurance test. The further we drove, the more treacherous the road became. The quality dropped, the passing places were fewer and those that did exist were merely muddy drops off the side of the road. The winding nature of the road meant that every corner and hill became a lottery of whether we would rush headfirst into another vehicle coming our way. We slowed to about 20mph, taking each corner like a timid animal. Sure enough, we only ever came across someone driving the opposite direction on a blind summit (often with a cliff and the sea below us), even when they weren’t visible on the straighter stretches prior to the hills. This lent further credence to my idea that we really are all living in a computer simulation, and the machine running our simulation is only able to spawn other people in when we are’t looking at them (it’d be weird if they just dropped down in front of us, no?). Leaving that tangent behind, all I can say is that for the majority of this road we were verging on a heart attack at every turn. The locals drove fast, and there seemed to be far more of them than there were houses in this seemingly uninhabited land.
After about 40 minutes on this road, we came to Elgol. The road to Glasnakille looked even less safe, if you can imagine that. Despite remaining a single carriageway, it was somehow thinner. Not too far from either side of the road lay a drop into a low field, pond, or better yet, the sea. The hills weren’t just simple rises, these were epic drops. The kind of hill that you’re going to need first gear to get back up. God forbid you’re required to do a hill start on one. Fortunately, the Glasnakille road was much shorter, and we had soon left that rollercoaster and arrived in Glasnakille. Glasnakille is about four or five houses. Given the time it took to reach it, I can’t imagine any of these guys leave the house to go to work any day, much less brave the roads in the treacherous weather that is known to brace the lands. We parked up at a telephone box and the most amazing thing happened: I had 3G signal on my phone for the first time on Skye. We were at the very South of the Island, so perhaps we’d encroached on the mainland’s signal. It was here that we did a little more research (yeah, we should have done this before), and found that the Spar Cave was a sea cave! It was almost directly below us, down an interesting route to the sea. It turned out that the tide was in and the cave was inaccessible. More than a little deflated, we decided that we couldn’t wait 8hrs for the tide to recede, but were also slightly glad that we found out about the tide situation in this way, and not whilst we were in the cave, trapped for at least 12hrs!
Alas, this meant we had to make the journey back. We’d only just had our pulses settle at 60-80 after taking the road to get here, but back we got in the car and made our way onto the road again. Straightaway we hit the “first gear” hill, and sure enough, even in first it was a struggle to make any progress on the hill. The road was so gritty that tyres spun and slipped getting up the hill. Behind us the road swerved to the right as there was a small garden then a cliff (which wouldn’t take much crossing after building up so much speed should we slip backwards). Just as we were about to crest the peak of the hill, the shadow of a much larger vehicle blanketed the car: a fuel lorry. A fuel lorry?! I couldn’t believe one would be risking this road, but he seemed so used to it he didn’t quite notice us creeping up the hill and only just managed to stop in front of us, leaning over the edge after a sharp blow of the horn. Handbrake on and in first, we waited for him to reverse. He just sat there, before looking at us and then shaking his head. Presumably he didn’t feel reversing on flatter land was easier for him than it would be for us to fall back down the hill. I shook my head back at the driver, and it seemed as though we were at an impasse. Eventually, he relented and slowly backed up. With a clammy hand, the handbrake was released, and although we tried to press forwards, the car instead slipped one the gravel as the rev was to strong. We must have slipped back only a few metres before gaining grip again, though it felt like miles. With several expletives we managed to force our way back up onto the top of the road, the smell of burning clutch thick in the air.
The drive back to Broadford from there was silent. Every corner brought more panic, once again. I didn’t even take any photos at this point, as I was spending too much time clutching at various parts of the car. Arriving back in Broadford, we had a drink and calmed our nerves once again before deciding that a place with a name like “The Faery Pools” couldn’t be anything like as treacherous as Elgol and so we headed off in the direction of Glenbrittle Forest. This road was easy, fairly sedate and offered up some fantastic views of the mountains, rolling hills and the sea. We parked up, wrapped up, and set off on foot by a dodgy looking sign that claimed the fairy pools were in the direction of the eerie looking mountains in the distance.
The walk was fairly easy, albeit muddy. The pools were created by a river that flowed from the mountains. Even in this weather, the water was a brilliant blue, especially in the large pools that collected where the river changed direction. The closer we got to the mountains, the faster the river became, and the more river crossings we had to make by way of impromptu stepping stones. While the river and pools were meant to be the attraction here (and they were impressive), more astounding still were the mountains that surrounded the area. Chief among them was a pyramid like peak that took center stage, and was surround by a slightly taller semicircle of peaks. A large ridge ran down the middle of the triangular formation and it looked very much like a doorway to another world, as if reaching the source of the Faery Pools would take you somewhere magical.
As we neared the mountains, a thick mist swirled around us and covered the peaks. It almost seemed to be on cue, and so taken in were we by the magical nature of the area, that half expected something very weird to happen indeed. As it happens, it was only hail! Very large, freezing stones of hail. Pulling up our hoods and facing away from the wind to shield ourselves, we huddled for a good five minutes before the stinging chunks became a softer rainfall. We had been at the pools for a couple of hours at this point and decided that now was the time to turn back. It was the same route back to the car. As we traipsed back, we bumped into several groups of people, and none were dressed appropriately. I wonder if they looked at us in surprise in the same way we did them. Our walking boots and trousers, all-weather coats and hats compared to their converse and expensive looking jeans, a light hoody and no head wear. Perhaps though, they were locals and were just double hard!
So that was that day pretty much done and dusted. I had a very Scottish meal of cullen skink and haggis, and we then packed for the next day, which was a trip out of Skye and over to Ballachulish, near Glencoe.
I’ll come to that day later as I’ve just thought up (what I think is, at least) a brilliant ending to the book I’m putting together. It sent chills down my spine to think of it, and I believe that might be a good thing. I think the best part of my holiday was yet to come, so hopefully I’ll get time to write of it soon – the wondrous sights of Inchree Falls, the sheer disgust of the Ballachulish Hotel (don’t stay there), and the otherworldly, lonely brilliance of Glencoe’s Lost Valley!