A crisp and dewy day greeted us in our nestled spot on our lane to the beach. Gorse scratched against the lounge window in a gentle sea breeze while bracken tangled itself into the bike rack. We wandered down to the enclosed harbour-like shoreline clutching cups of tea, to witness yet more visual splendour of a flat-calm and crystal-clear sea with offshore islands floating in misted silhouette against the clearing sky. Sunlight illuminated the Bridge to Skye to our left in the distance, which – viewed from our angle – presented a seemingly ridiculous comic-book incline for the vehicles we could just about discern crawling to the summit.
Shunning breakfast, we eased ourselves gently from our roadside nest and set off down the road through the memorably and poetically-named Kyle of Lochalsh which looked worth exploring – but our sights were set on Skye so, with trepidation dissolving as we realised the Bridge wasn’t too much of a perpendicular challenge, we crossed it onto the Isle of Skye. Whilst the narrow stretch of water we thereby navigated technically created an island, it was clearly an extension of the mainland since the unfolding scenery didn’t stint as we merrily rolled along in search of a suitable location for breakfast -which we found in a remote cemetery car park.
Now, don’t get me wrong. It’s not as ghoulish as it sounds because clearly the Scots are great believers in the afterlife and bury their dead in very neat, very well-maintained, very ordered and very picturesque settings, almost as if to allow the spirits to continue to enjoy splendid views throughout the afterlife. This particular cemetery overlooked the tail-end of a sea loch and featured – to our slight concern – a prominent gravestone bearing brother Graham Paterson’s name, duly photographed for posterity.
We were surrounded by rolling hillside made even more verdant by the bright autumn sun climbing rapidly into a cloudless blue sky and warming the field of cows and calves that clearly bore witness to every human interment from miles around.
So to the imminent business of the day. A breakfast was conjured of black and white pudding with fried eggs and toast to sustain us – after which we engaged in conversation with a visiting dog-walking-local (who had originally come from Stafford so was hardly a native) who joined us in the van for a brief social introduction to the best spots on Skye for Eagle- and Otter-spotting – then off he went to photograph the rotting shell of an abandoned fishing boat languishing beside the loch and looking very artful in the low-angled sunlight. We waited for his departure then immediately followed suit and through second-hand creativity also acquired our own artistic portfolio of said boat.
Onwards into Skye, where we’d set ourselves a target of visiting the Talisker distillery. Thus we headed with expectation towards Talisker Bay – shown on our map to be on the west coast of the island – although sadly we soon discovered the distillery was clearly marked with brown signs in the disappointingly named hamlet of Carbost, several miles inland from its namesake bay.
Nevertheless, we paid our £8.00-each entry fee to join the 11:30 tour – most of which disappointingly exposed what a marvel of modern marketing malt whisky had become. Our guide quite casually outlined how they no longer retained any barley-maltings in-house, instead buying in pre-malted barley from virtually anywhere in the world where the price was right; therefore making anonymous and rootless clear grain alcohol with it (admittedly in giant copper vessels which implied old-fashioned techniques) then storing it in oak casks before these were then emptied into road tankers to be shipped to the mainland to a commercial bottling plant where demineralised water (procured again at lowest market price from he-knew-not-where) was added to the whisky (along with just “a few drops” of caramel to equalise the colour between batches) and thereby the whole process and the presumed and promoted value of the specific malt liquor whisky was literally diluted by the expediency of a highly competitive market and the creative discombobulation of marketeers who had been solely and wholly responsible for adding all the mystique, pedigree and j’ne sais quoi to a whisky which was being produced in a distillery dating back to 1962.
Even with a £5 voucher included in our ticket price, we cynically and sensibly decided to buy our souvenir bottle from Tesco’s when we got home thereby saving ourselves the value of about a quarter tank of diesel for the van.
Onward then on foot in glorious sunshine up the hill behind the distillery to the recommended and signposted “Oyster Shed” – an odd mix of DIY café and shellfish-processing-unit-with-sales-counter-nowhere-near-the-sea, where we purchased a cooked lobster and – because we could – two fresh oysters which we ate in the lean-to café tacked onto the side of the industrial unit labelled The Oyster Shed.
Back down the hill to the van and onwards now in search of a proper campsite, two of which we had previously earmarked on the island.
A quick stop for provisions at Dunvegan provided apple turnovers, fudge, potatoes and Sancerre to accompany our lobster, which was now nestled safely in the van fridge.
Without realising we’d arrived, we stumbled across Edinbane campsite to find a warm and efficient welcome, the usual high standards of layout, maintenance and cleanliness and where we were led to Plot 24, hardstanding-with-plug-in- thank-you-very-much, overlooking an unnamed twiddly bit of sea loch – an appendage to the much larger Loch Snizort which, to an English pair of eyes, was a giant bay on the top northwest edge of Skye. We plugged in; filled up and emptied out; put the chairs and tables out on our pitch in the sunshine and then sat in them for all of three minutes before deciding to follow the Warden’s advice and take our fishing rods along the coast to see if we could catch some Mackerel or Pollock.
Well, in the short space of time it took to walk between the campsite and the fishing spot (perhaps 15 minutes) the earlier-consumed oyster decided to make its presence felt, so while Leonie gallantly fished a rising tide, I gallantly puked into several rock-crevices, not really recovering my composure and ruining the remainder of the evening by feeling completely poorly until we headed up the ladder bedward (with bucket to hand!) and hoping that the worst had passed.