Heaven on Earth?

As impressed as I am with the man-made structures in Scotland, I am more impressed with the structures that man had no part in creating.  By no means am I exaggerating when I say that the Scotland may just be the most beautiful place I have ever seen. I have  ascended into the jungle mountains of Puerto Vallarta, swam in the crystal-clear Adriatic off the Croatian coast, and driven through the Alps of Central Europe. The Scottish landscape rivals them all. It is rugged. Untamed. Mighty. Mythical. Enchanted.

Map to IoS
A map of our route, for the adventurous souls who want to experience it themselves.

A weekend trip to the Isle of Skye provoked this revelation. En route to the island, the tour group stopped at Loch Lomond, Glencoe, and Eilean Donan Castle. Each short detour seemed to best the last.

Initially however, the perception that Scotland is a wet, dreary country was validated. Everything looked damp. Boulders gave off an oily sheen, and fresh, bright green moss had monopoly on the tree surfaces and forest floors.

On a pier at the village Luss, I tried to look across Loch Lomond to the other shore. But lingering mist allowed only minimal visibility. It was the perfect conditions for an aquatic creature to emerge from the depths and end our voyage prematurely!

Thankfully, no monster emerged. But as our trip continued the Sun made a rare appearance and we enjoyed pleasant weather the rest of the way to Skye.

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Loch Lomond. Or 50 shades of grey?

 

Glencoe was the next stop. We drove the same route James Bond drove in Skyfall and passed by the filming location for Hagrid’s hut in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. I did not see any fictional characters but what I did see was quite surreal.

The Three Sisters of Glencoe, three large adjacent mountains, are absolutely astounding. The peaks, lightly dusted with snow and poking holes into the low-hanging clouds, contrast beautifully with the deep hazel color of the valley. Their sheer vastness is so imposing, it is almost humbling. At this point in the weekend journey, I began to realize that there is something special about western Scotland. 20170304_11555720170304_120701

Our final stop before arriving on the Isle of Skye was Eilean Donan Castle. The 13th century island complex is the most photographed castle in Scotland. Considering the amount of photos I took, I believe it retained that distinction.

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Eilean Donan Castle.

We stayed the night at the Broadford, Skye’s second-largest settlement with a ridiculous population of 800! The sprawling seaside metropolis had one main street and a total of two pubs – one of which was closed. The road to our accommodation was not equipped with street-lights, which made for a laughably treacherous walk back after a night on the town.

Sheep must rival humans as the largest population in these parts. But that’s okay. Nature is more or less left to its own devices. And it flourishes under the lack of supervision.

 

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Loch Leathan from Old Man of Storr, Skye.
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River Sligachan and Cuillins mountain range, Skye.

 

If you can only visit one place in Scotland, Isle of Skye may be it. Edinburgh is city unlike any other, but this island is otherworldly. It is not out of a fairy-tale, or a fantasy novel because this place could never be imagined. My photographs sadly do not fully capture its splendor. You will just have to see it for yourself.

A friend asked me if it was “heaven” there. Well, it’s the closest I have ever been.

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