Scotland - Day 7: Part 1
Our last full day on Skye began with a hearty breakfast. I noticed on the menu an item that had been described to me by a dude named Ian who sat next to me on my connecting flight from Paris to Edinburgh. He was native Scot and spent a good deal of time describing the joys of Skye and one food item in particular. He said I should not miss the chance to take a boat from Portree to the island of Stornaway off the coast of Skye in the Hebrides for the sole purpose of having their famous delicacy, Stornaway Black Pudding. It was so tasty, apparently, that Ian's (his name) eyes glazed over, his hands started to shake, and he said rather enthusiastically, "it's orgasmic".
And, there it was, on page two of the breakfast menu, Stornaway Black Pudding. I asked Hazel if this was the "famous" SBP and she said "why yes it is!". I ordered the pudding.
Black pudding is a misleading description, it's not tapioca viscous, but rather comes served as a sausage-like patty. Hazel put the plate down in front of me and I saw two large black patties each resting on a round potato pancake. The color and texture and flavor are similar to haggis, minus the little white specks of barley. As long as you don't know the main ingredient of black pudding, congealed pig's blood, the average adventurous eater would probably find himself running to the bathroom with a Victorias Secret catalog to finish off what the pudding started. As for me, while I have to admit I found black pudding quite tasty, I had a hard time swallowing the idea of ingesting thickened pig's blood. Not bad, just, really different. This is not your average American-style sausage or pudding.
Tracey and I started the day with a stop at Edinbane Pottery, which was a mere 100 yards from the hotel. Edinbane Pottery is renowned the world over and is without a doubt Scotland's most famous pottery studio. It is owned and operated by one man, a native of Skye. He and his wife both potters, employ two seasonal understudies in their studio. Their work is exquisite and my wallet will testify to the quality of work they produce.
Our first stop that morning was Dunvegan Castle, in the town of Dunvegan, a short 15 minute drive away. The Castle is the ancestral stronghold of the McCleod Clan and after 800 years of continuous occupation it remains the home of the 29th Chief, John McCleod. It is a magnificent castle, but has retained little of it's early character due to significant renovation throughout the centuries.
The highlight of our stop at Dunvegan was a boat ride on Loch Dunvegan to see a local seal colony. We paid for a twenty minute ride out to see the seals. It was a beautiful day and thanks to my huge camera lens, our ride was extended an extra twenty minutes. The boat captain literally chased blue herons all around the loch so I could get my perfect picture. Cool.
From Dunvegan, we drove across the island to tour the Trotternish Peninsula. The first site of import was a famous geologic rock formation called the Old Man of Stor. It was partially obscured by a low hanging cloud. We drove on. We stopped at Kilt Rock, a waterfall plunging 2000 feet over a sheer cliff face into the Sound of Raasay. A little further up the road near Staffin was the first check on our list for the day. The Quirang.
The trail head to the Quirang was located at the top of a very windy and very wet pass a few miles from Staffin on a narrow one lane road. We parked the car and walked to the head of the trail. The Quirang was a 2.8 mile hike along the base of a sheer rock face resting far far above the valley floor. The view was spectacular. Staffin was off in the distance. Mountain peaks gave way to green rolling hills dotted with sheep and lakes and pastures stopping at the edge of the ocean. Our hike would take us along a perilously narrow muddy sheep trail. The wind was howling over the pass and mist was swirling as we started down the trail.
The hike wasn't terribly strenuous, but I would be hard pressed to say it was easy... which would explain why so few people were actually hiking. We hiked up and down gullies, across streams rushing down the mountainside, and past dozens of curious sheep. We had just climbed a gully and were in view of the Quirang when an eye-watering, noxious cloud blasted out of my arse. I immediately blamed a nearby sheep. Tracey staggered over to a rock to catch her balance. The visible ghost of black pudding returned with a vengeance. This putrid apparition would haunt us the rest of the day.
We finally reached what looked like the end of the trail, when I started up a final rock strewn incline. Step. Fart. Step. Fart. Gasping behind me, my teeny weensy hiking partner dug deep to make it up the last 100 yards. At the top of the climb, the Quirang came into full view above us, an odd assortment of basalt rock formations created by wind and rain. Okay, so maybe it was a bit anti-climatic, but at least, I can say I saw the Quirang... next, a 2.8 mile hike back to the car. This hike was really really fun, despite the mud, the mist, and the chill.. and really smelly sheep.
We made it back to the car just as the mist turned to a light rain and the howl kicked up to gale force winds.
Next stop, Duntulm Castle on the northern tip of the peninsula. This castle is a ruin abandoned around 1730 by the MacDonalds. It is said to be the birthplace of [bag]piping. Duntulm occupies a magnificent perch on top of a precarious point of rock. It's decaying walls don't give away much of the original state of this castle. Frankly, it looked really small and cramped.
We left the ruins of Duntulm around 4pm and headed south.