Pam Burks: My Heart Belongs to ………. THE ISLE OF SKYE
Every holiday throughout my childhood, my family would squeeze into our wreck of a car and drive the 250 odd miles to our grandma’s home on the Isle of Skye – birthplace of my dad and his parents and their parents and so on.
Growing up in Edinburgh was brilliant, no question. I’d gangs of friends, played out all day, dodging cars and strange-looking men. I’d climb church roofs with killer drops, clamber to the top of great high oak trees, coming home only when it grew dark. So why did I long for Skye so much?
I’d have sleepless nights beforehand. Ached to get there.
The journey was horrendous, all five passengers taking turns with the sick bag. The roads were windy, bumpy, some of them mere dirt tracks, but as soon as we reached the Kyle of Lochalsh car ferry, I knew I was almost home.
I’d leave the car and breathe deeply, as we made the crossing, absorbing the sweet scent of the peat-burning fires emanating from chimneys of the whitewashed houses dotting the landscape.
We’d arrive at my grandma’s house, late at night. The beds would have been warmed with the stone hot water bottles, a fire would burn in the range. I’d crash out the minute my head hit the pillow and next morning, I’d squint open my eyes and know I was in heaven.
To me, the freedom here seemed even greater. There was only one family living nearby, but they had five kids, so with my three sisters, I’d eight ready-made playmates alongside all the chickens, cats, dogs, sheep and cows.
We’d fish for crabs, go on boat trips to empty the lobster creels and spend hours messing around in the rockpools. We’d wade through peat bogs, stand perilous close to crumbly clifftops and take dips in the cold North sea. Once I had to swim like crazy as a huge fin appeared ten feet from where I was bathing. Turned out to be a harmless basking shark.
I’d follow heather tracks for miles, knock on any door and the householders would usher me inside, clucking away about how they’d known my dad since he was a “wee bairn”.
Last year, I returned with some of my family. Part holiday, part research. I was afraid I’d be disappointed. Our childhood friends had moved away. Some had died. Our family croft and the house I knew as my second home had long since sold. There was now even a bridge to the mainland. Where was the romantic ideal of “over the sea to Skye”?
Wasn’t a great start. I found out that I booked in one of the busiest holiday periods on the island as the Highland Games had just finished. I expected hordes of people, crowded shops and tourist sights, with the capital Portree changed beyond recognition. I was worried we’d be bored.
How surprised I was.
We visited Dunvegan castle, drank in fabulous pubs, danced at ceilidhs (where I was flung around the dancefloor by kilted members of a Chicago Piper band).
We sailed the bay to see white-tailed sea eagles soaring high above us and seals playing in the water.
We walked around the magnificent Cuillin mountains and picnicked beside the Fairy Pools.
Yes there was a bridge, but the ferry still ran. Yes it was busy, but there weren’t the hordes of tourists I expected. Maybe because each passing place on the narrow roads, is its own beauty spot. The scenery was outstanding.
I travelled back as I’d arrived, via the ferry, but no sooner had the boat left shore than I was aching again to return, knowing that I was leaving my home.
My heart belongs there.
Oh wow, I’m still amazed by that shark. Thank you so much for sharing Pam
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