After a fab weekend in the Outer Hebrides, it was back to all day reception for my last full week at the hostel. With the clocks going back, darkness began to descend on the bay from 4.30pm, leaving little time for any adventures until my next three days off.
I’ve put together the highlights of weeks 5 and 6, as, during the hike to the Fairy Pools, I hurt my ankle and foot and did very little but rest up during my other two days off in my penultimate week.
Despite this mishap, Skye still offered some unexpected highlights in my final two weeks.
Hiking from Sligachan to the Fairy Pools
After 4 days of work, cabin fever had set in slightly, so on my first day off, I set my alarm early and caught the first bus from Uig at 7am.
Arriving into Portree, I just managed to catch the Glasgow bus that dropped me off at Sligachan, the starting point for my 2 1/2hr hike over to Glenbrittle forest and Skye’s famous Fairy Pools.
The morning started out with soft autumn light, the path following the Alt Dearg Mor river, peppered with waterfalls along the rocky path.
Rising up a little higher, the rain came. The icy, relentless Scottish rain that makes you swear and curse your decision to head to the hills in November. Why didn’t I just stay at the hostel?
As the rain continued, I found myself loudly singing Christmas carols, to raise my spirits, startling the sheep and grouse along the path. Soaked to the bone, with water squelching in my boots, I briefly sat behind a cairn to escape the wind and give myself a pep talk.
And then over the next hill, the forest and the series of waterfalls which make up the Fairy Pools came into view.
The rain let up slightly as I followed the path towards the falls, but lashed down again as soon as I approached them.
I was sad not to be able to spend time collecting photos, but to my delight, I found I was suddenly alone on the path, a path which is teeming with tourists in the summer.
Just me, and arresting natural beauty.
As I walked back to the road, I hoped it wouldn’t be too long before I could hitch a ride to somewhere, anyway. My luck came in, and I was picked up by Neela and G from Barcelona, touring Scotland in a camper van and by a stroke of luck, heading up towards Uig.
I hopped in the back and accidentally took them on the scenic route back via Dunvegan but we chatted about life, travels and how life is too short to be doing work you get no joy from.
And it’s those moments you treasure – despite the rain, and aching bones, you got through, you didn’t give up.
Full Scotish Breakfast
Unfortunately, the day after this, I woke up with a stiff ankle and foot. Much to my frustration, Saturday was spent resting and icing the injury.
Blue skies and sunshine welcomed Sunday and despite my ankle still being painful, I found a big stick and hobbled down the hill to jump on the only bus of the day, an hour south to Broadford.
En route we passed the Cullins which had a dusting of snow on its towering peaks. I devoured this a Scottish breakfast at Cafe Sia – it’s all protein to aid injury repair, right?
Hot chocolate and homemade cake at Single Track
On the very tip of the Trotternish Peninsula, in the hamlet of Kilmaluag stands Single Track, a cafe overlooking the Little Minch, the body of water which separates Skye from Harris.
Blending into the landscape, it’s easy to miss the triangular wooden structure with grass rooftops. The building of the owners neighbouring house was documented on Channel 4’s Grand Designs.
After a morning shift, I took the 20-minute bus ride north and enjoyed my ideal afternoon: Admiring the local art on the walls. A huge slice of homemade sticky ginger cake. A dark chocolate and muscovado hot chocolate with a hint of sea salt. Kinfolk magazine to thumb through.
As I was the only person in the cafe after an hour or so, I chatted to one of the ladies serving (not the owner) who shared her journey from Essex to Skye.
I love hearing how people have come to live in such wild and remote places, and what a positive change it can have. Ideas for my future?
Seeing the Northern Lights for the first time
I hitchhiked back from the cafe to the hostel with an Austrian/Australian couple, taking a break from studying artificial intelligence in London.
As the skies grew dark and I settled down in my usual spot by the woodfire to read, the hostel manager came through saying she had received a tipoff that the Northern Lights were faintly visible. Grabbing my thermals and camera, a small group of us gathered next to Bruce the bull sculpture in the hostel car park.
Sure enough, as our eyes adjusted, a dim green shimmer appeared on the horizon. My first Northern Lights experience. I set my camera up on a borrowed tripod and experimented.
Admittedly, this was the first time I had tried night photography and whilst they are not perfect, they captured what was a memorable evening.
Homemade Italian Lasagne and a team dinner
After an hour or so, the Northern Lights show faded, and to cap off a remarkable afternoon, my Italian co-worker had cooked lasagne for the whole team and we pushed two tables together and sat down to share a meal.
My final hike on Skye: The Quiraing
And so to my final day on Skye.
My ankle was still very sore, but I was still determined to make it to the Quirang, the strange rock formation caused by a landslide thousands of years ago.
Armed with a walking pole, and accompanied by a French workaway guy from the hostel, we walked up the hill behind Uig and eventually managed to hitch a ride with an Australian couple, running an online business in France who took us across the single track road to the start of the walk.
This was the one place all the guests had raved about on Skye and I had purposefully saved it until last. And wow, what a spectacle it was.
We made it out to ‘The Prison’, the clouds all the time rolling in and out and producing stunning November light.
The walk continues on a loop track, but I decided not to push on. As we turned back, the sun briefly shone, creating a magic, eerily like moment.
We were near alone on the path, which again in summer, is often packed. What an end to 6 amazing weeks on Skye.
9 Scottish Cheeses and 3 whiskies: a farewell to Skye
Of course, it wouldn’t be right to say farewell to Skye without a dram or 3 of Talisker Whisky, the only distillery on the island.
On my last evening, half the team and I headed down to the Uig Hotel and indulged in a cheeseboard of 9 Scottish cheeses and had a few cheeky drams until we got kicked out 11 and took the party back to the hostel where I vaguely recollect singing to bad 90’s pop music (red wine was involved, too) until someone suggested I head to bed so I wouldn’t miss my bus in the morning…
With a slightly hazy head the following morning, I bid my farewells to all the team at The Cowshed with a heavy heart, but with a sneaking suspicion, this wouldn’t be my last visit to such a special island.
For more on my workaway adventure on Skye: