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Sunday August 23rd

Ring of Bright Water

semi-overcast 20 °C
View Europe 2009 on bryceb's travel map.

We left Portree and headed south over the Skye Bridge which connects the Isle of Skye to the mainland. We stopped off at Eilean Donan castle, considered by some to be the most beautiful castle in Scotland, and certainly one of the most recognisable. It is set at the meeting of three sea lochs, and is itself on a small island a short distance from the shore, connected by a stone bridge. It has been rebuilt many times over the centuries, and lay in ruins for many years before its latest rebuild early last century. We walked over the stone bridge and spent an hour or so exploring the castle. There are displays in many rooms, including a kitchen with gruesome models of various unfortunate animals being prepared for the day's menu.
We drove on to Shiel Bridge, and here I will digress to give you the background to our next excursion. In High School, we studied the book "Ring of Bright Water" by Gavin Maxwell.
(http://www.maxwellsociety.com/Biography/Artists.htm)
It is about a man with a love for otters, who spent 20 years living in a house on a remote bay on the west coast of Scotland with his otters. The house burnt down in 1968 and he then bought and lived on the island which is now directly under the Skye Bridge, and provides a base for one of its pillars. Anyway, I thought it would be interesting to try and locate the beautiful Sandaig Bay where he lived for so many years. So we left the main road at Shiel Bridge, and then followed a single lane road, up and over Mam Ratagan with great views of the Five Sisters of Kintail, til eventually we reached the village of Glenelg. Here we turned south til we reached the point on the road where the GPS indicated that we were close to the bay. I knew there was a walking track through the pine forest to the bay so we drove on a little further and there it was - closed! The sign didn't say why it was closed, but as it was a Forestry Commission pine forest, we assumed that it as because of logging operations. The forest had been planted after Gavin had left the area, and was now quite mature. So we backtracked a short distance to another gate, with a slightly more ambiguous sign, half suggesting that we could walk along this track if we were careful. Because it was a Sunday we figured there'd be no-one around anyway, so we took off, eventually walking through piles of cut logs and logging machinery, then back into the forest, down a steep boggy slope, eventually emerging from the forest onto the beach. It was just as described in the book, with a waterfall in the background, a rope bridge over the stream, the mound where the house was once situated, and an old cottage in the background. There was also the grave of Gavin Maxwell, and also a separate grave of one of his favourite otters. We stayed down there for about an hour; Dave and Margaret headed back before I did as I looked for the waterfall back in the dense and boggy forest. I walked one hour back to the car expecting to find the other two there but there was no-one, so after waiting a while I headed back into the forest. Eventually they appeared; they had decided to explore a side route but I was there wondering how I would report two missing walkers in this remote place.
We took the scenic road back (the only road) to Shiel Bridge, then took the main road East to Loch Ness where I saw the brightest rainbow I had ever seen, sitting over the Loch. We continued on past the Loch Ness Centre, now closed due to the lateness of the day, eventually arriving in Inverness.

Posted by bryceb 08:12 Archived in Scotland

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