Destination: The magical Isle of Skye, a road trip through the Highlands of Scotland 2017

My wife (Yoon Kane) and I share an adventurous spirit acquired at a young age. We both speak multiple languages and spent our formative years in foreign countries moving from place to place. It’s no wonder we feel most at home when we’re together and embarking on new adventures seeking to quench our wanderlust. 

Yoon & Arben Kane

Yoon & Arben Kane

 

When we first heard about this place, our curiosity was piqued. Being consummate travelers, we were surprised we’ve never heard about this destination. How could this magical place called “The Isle of Skye” exist? Where? In Scotland? 

We both had business meetings in London that aligned with the July 4th holiday. The perfect opportunity to schedule a road trip to this mysterious place!

The short business stint in London contained its own surprise discovery when we met up for supper with our local English friends. Richmond was an area in London that gave us both a unique perspective on the residential aspects of this cosmopolitan city. The Thames river walk was delightfully serene; the ambiance and food choices along its shores enriched us with a sense of comfort and ease.

Thames river walk - Richmond, London

Thames river walk - Richmond, London

With our heart full of excitement and stomach full of fish and chips, we flew to Edinburgh to pick up our rental car and embarked on a road trip towards the western highlands of Scotland. It was my first time driving on the left side of the road, and as I confessed to Yoon (ahem, on the last day of our trip of course) - driving on the left side has been one of my biggest fears. Ever since I can remember, I’ve been terrified of the concept. It seems so...backwards and illogical. 

The thought of it would make me break out into a nervous sweat. In the past, I would gracefully avoid this kind of challenge by rationalizing my fatigue from having flown red eye to London and then waking up at the crack of dawn still jet- lagged. Well, lucky for me, I’m married to a razor sharp perceptive shrink who would be able to sniff out my avoidance like a hound dog. I decided to just suck it up and drive.

The Drive

Our first stop was an insider tip by two Scottish dinner compatriots during a dinner at The Gardner’s Cottage in Edinburgh. After talking to Yoon at length about his therapy experience and anti-depressants (the Scottish are more open and expressive after a couple of pints) they suggested we take a break at a shop named “The Green Wally.” Not only did it provide a very necessary bathroom break, it was the perfect opportunity to find rain gear for the upcoming trip. Yoon did mention that it had an uncanny resemblence to a southern restaurant chain called “Cracker Barrel.” Having spent most of my adult life in Hawaii and New York, I have no idea what she’s talking about. Once in awhile, she threatens to take me to a dinner there on one of our trips down south to visit her family. 

glencoe_drive.jpg

The drive through Glencoe, Fort Williams was an overwhelming sensory experience. We were so visually stimulated by the landscape that our eyes teared up - our senses were filled with the abundant rawness of the highland’s natural beauty. The reason I lived in Hawaii for such a long time was that it offered such a raw natural beauty - I was surprised to find myself deciding that Hawaii doesn’t compare anywhere close to the same level. This was by far the most beautiful place I have ever seen!

The Arrival

We decided to rest for the night at a small fishing village, Mallaig. We efficiently scoped out our first hike and dinner. Our expectations were low, primarily because the Scottish cuisine is not something that hits the foodie top chart list - especially with the blood pudding and haggis options. We stumbled into a Yelp rated (7 reviews) fish joint called “The Fishmarket Restaurant”. The shrimp was like nothing I have ever experienced! Mind you, I’ve spent 15 years consuming fresh seafood in Hawaii. The turbot and twice dived scallops were grilled simply but the flavor and texture were out of this world. We were stunned.

After such a fine meal and a day of travel, we passed out cold for the night. At the crack of dawn, we took the next ferry to Amadale, Isle of Skye. This was my first experience driving a car onto a boat. Exciting.

Instead of going to our hotel to drop off our bags, we decided to conquer our first 5.3-mile hike at Quiraing. We said "wow" so many times, at some point, we just stopped talking. We gawked, slack-jawed and stopped every 5 minutes to wipe the drool from of our mouths, rub our eyes and take a photo just to prove we weren’t dreaming. The pictures we took, while beautiful, did not do justice to the raw beauty of the spectacular landscape. The combination of ocean, lakes, hills, vegetation, clouds, smell and the sheep... #magic.

I will leave you with a clip from an email Yoon wrote to one of our friends about our trip. I hope this post helps to awaken your appetite for culture, nature and the unknown. The Isle of Skye certainly reawakened something in us. It’s one thing to read travel magazines and go to the top 10 bucket list destinations but to challenge your inner spirit by discovering a place that stimulates imagination and awakens a new kind of poetry for the world we live in...that’s truly magic.

In Yoon’s words:

The drive up to The Isle of Skye and our stay at the island was magical. The pictures do not do justice to the smells, sights and the peace we felt being there. The meat and seafood are amazingly fresh. Everything had a taste of sweet tender green to it as if the sea and land animals had integrated the earth into their being. I’ve never tasted shrimp, scallops and lamb so fresh and sweet. Each meal, I would close my eyes and chew as long as I could before swallowing and felt a wave of sadness when the meal ended. Each blade of grass bending in the wind were images pulled straight out of my dreams...