We were looking for a perfect family holiday that gave us all that we usually expect to fulfil our spontaneous needs and this had us reaching for the Skye – the Isle of Skye!
Holidays for the HonieHouse don’t usually come in simple packages – they are usually the result of impulsive browsing and combining previous experiences that come from the challenge of entertaining a family with 3 children, of different ages, needs and abilities.
A born traveller with itchy feet that is HonieDaddy, is never deterred by terrain or inconvenience when it comes to our family. Left to his own devices, the kids would be road tripping day and night in the Canadian Rockies (wheelchair included). But HonieMummy takes hold of his ideas and pulls him back a bit, allowing for the consideration of toilet stops and mealtimes to be included, as well as limiting the daily drive (if possible).
Easter usually has us over the Atlantic Pond with lots of very exciting things to see and do. So it was something of a challenge for HD to think up a plan that would not only push his buttons, but let me give him free reign on the choice of destination and travel plans that allowed for my sanity while entertaining an almost 13 YO Daughter with raging hormones, almost 12 YO Step-son with Cerebral Palsy and a live wire of a 5 YO Daughter.
As much as I love our holidays in the US and Canada (I really do!), I could do without the having to re-pack for several designated spots that HD intends to see – which has to be done to minimise the travel time. Note to the diary of anyone wanting to do US/Canada – distance is the norm’ – if you want to see great things, you travel great distances to fit them in!!!! So road tripping and staying over at your daily destination is an advantage.
We are blessed with a Volvo XC90 that comes with a boot big enough for a wheelchair, 3 large cases and all of the paraffinalia that comes with children (that need to be wired into an electrically charged product for a reasonable length of time). It’s also very hand for the kind of roads HD likes to roller coaster on. The big bonus about the journey up to the Island of Skye is that the journey through the Lake District, Cumbria and then onto the Lowlands and Western Highlands of Scotland make it a picture perfect route to enjoy. Give the kids an iPod, Pad or tablet to play with and you have yourself a Cargument Free Zone!
So cutting to the chase – when HonieDaddy announced he’d like to return to Scotland this year, I was instantly won over with the line “in a cottage for the whole 2 weeks.”
The Isle of Skye has everything you could want for a family holiday: you are never 5 miles from a beach (that range from sandy, pebbly, rocky, dramatic and even coral – yes real coral), there are castles (ruins, very complete ones and ones that are still lived in), museums (lots of Celtic history and even a children’s toy one). There are lots of dramatic and easy going walks (wheelchair accessible and HD’s version of by hook or by crook accessibility). Whatever you choice be prepared to be stunned by the skylines, moorlands, mountain views, cliff drops and beach vistas.
Getting onto the island has never been easier as you can still travel by ferry from various locations, but now that there is no toll fee on the Skye Bridge, you can drive on with ease and take in the scenery as you travel there.
For dining out, you could not have landed yourself in a better place – Skye supplies most of the langoustines, prawns, mussels and other seafood to places you’d least expect …. think paella in Spain and it is likely to have come from the Sound of Sleat or the Kyle of Lochalsh. I don’t think I’ve ever tasted such good fish and chips as I did in many restaurants and family pubs we visited – the scampi is definitely not cooked from frozen, nor does it come in a basket. If fish is not your choice of pallet – there are meats such as Aberdeen Angus Steaks, Venison and Highland Lamb. One of HD’s favourite lunches was in an Art Cafe run by a lovely English Couple who ran their business from home, showing off their stunning paintings, hand woven rugs and some very nice aromatherapy products and it was totally fresh, organic and vegetarian. Thank you Stuart and Maggie for a very welcoming, inspiring and taste sensation of an afternoon.
We stayed in a lovely house that was big enough to comfortably sleep 6 (not including the cot that was available) and had all the kitchen appliances a family needs for a 2 week stay and plenty of room in and out for the children to play. The views were breathtaking, the shores of the Sound of Sleat at the end of the very long croft garden (two fences for children to negotiate, so very safe) and the house was comfortable, clean and the owners were close enough if we needed them (although they gave us complete privacy). The bonus for us is that it was all one level, so no stairs to encounter. Thank you Ishbel for your hospitality.
I could talk and talk about the whole 2 weeks, but thought it best to simply leave you with a list of ‘must see’ places to visit and a selection of photographs to entice you to claim this experience for yourself.
We thought that although the entire island is picture perfect, a huge part of us felt complete in choosing the Sleat Peninsula as our base to stay. Here you will find many of the following locations:
Dunvegan Castle – accessibility is awkward, but if you are able to negotiate the 15 steps (with help) to the main floor where all of the displays are, you will have an eye-opening, enchanting time whatever your age. The gardens are stunning and picture perfect. Photographic highlights are the gardens, coastline and the castle itself.
Skye’s Oldest Bakery (over 140 years old) – is in the town of Dunvegan and serves the tastiest and biggest scones I have ever seen. We made excuses to pass through Dunvegan (over 30 miles from our base in Ferrindonald, Sleat) 3 times! We can recommend all of the cakes as well as the Scotch pies and bacon or sausage barmcakes.
It was in the bakery we spotted a picture by Russell Sherwood of Skyescape Studios, who told us about all of the many Art Studios of the Skye Art Trails – we bought the picture! Ellishadder Art Cafe is also a visit worth making and is on the same route as …..
The Old Man of Storr – This one was a little bit difficult for us to get right up to with the wheelchair. HD would have done it if he could! But for miles around once you have left the island’s central town of Portree, you can see the Old Man, it’s unusual and almost impossible shape and size inviting you to take a closer look. You can also see this en-route to other locations in the Trotternish area.
Eilean Iarman and Camus Cross Bay boasts a beautiful bay, housing a handful of yachts and fishing boats and a delightful community of skilled residents that offer some great places to visit and eat out. Here you can taste and buy Gaelic whiskies and visit the Wool and Tweed Boutique (with silk and wool mixtures). There are two art studios: Heaven’s Ocean and An Talla Dearg (the latter are same owners as the Hotel). There is a remote lighthouse on the bay which is private and lived in, but still offers a great photo opportunity.
The Clan Donald Visitor Centre (the former home of the McDonald Clan) has some of the most awesome history and exhibits Scotland has to offer within this 20,000 acres estate, including visits to the museum, castle, visitor centre, gardens, children’s play area, various shops and large family restaurant tastefully decorated with all of the clan colours. It is totally accessible for wheelchairs and you could spend a whole day here, discovering new things, walking the gardens, entertaining the children, eating out and taking home some souvenirs to remember your visit by. The Legacy of the Clan Donald Trust is well worth investigating and there are quizzes for the children to take around with them.
A journey we never grew tired of whilst on the Sleat peninsula, was the trip around the loop road that takes you through the village of Ord and the crofting townships of Tokavaig, Tarskavaig, and Stonefield. This meandering journey gives superb views across Loch Eishort to the Cuillins beyond and there are castle ruins and fabulous beaches laden with shell fish in the rock pools. Be mindful of the frequent passing points and the fearless sheep taking a stroll as you drive.