The Outer Hebrides are an outrageously long way from Adelaide, and our first stop on the journey to discover Scotland is the historic island of Skye.
The Bloke and I are big music fans, especially of international folk and roots music. Last year friends of ours attended HebCelt, a Scottish celtic folk music festival in the Outer Hebrides so this year we tagged along when they went again, to discover Scotland and it’s music for ourselves.
The Outer Hebrides is not the easiest place to get to from the Adelaide Hills – in fact it’s well over 16,300 kms away, but our journey there was totally curated by our generous friends Ian and Ginny. Ian is a proud Scot and took the chance to show us the very best of his homeland.
We were chauffeured by him from their home in Dunkeld, just outside of Perth, across the breathtaking Highlands to Glenelg, where we crossed the Kyle Rhea straits on the last operating manual turntable ferry in the world. It carries just six cars at a time and is operated by a crew of three. The trip is brief, but the experience is unique and certainly a magical start to our Hebridean adventure.
Skye needs no introduction from me. It is the largest of the Inner Hebrides islands, having been the location for various novels and movies, and celebrated in history and song. As a teaser for the more remote islands of the Outer Hebrides it is perfect. It’s stunning natural beauty and ease of access from the mainland by ferry or bridge make it a popular spot for visitors, with tourism one of it’s main sources of income.
While there we visited Dunvegan Castle, the seat of Clan McLeod since the 13th century and believed to have been inhabited by a single family for the longer than any other house in Scotland. The castle is still home to the family, so visitors are moving through living, breathing history. Photos are not encouraged inside, but the stunning views of the house and gardens outside more than make up for that, offering plenty of snapping opportunities.
We only stayed on Skye for the one night, and were there for a definite purpose. Some months before (yes, months) Ian had booked us a table at the most famous restaurant in Scotland, The Three Chimneys.
Established by Eddie and Shirley Spear in 1984, The Three Chimneys is a showcase of Scottish food. The couple’s pride in Caledonian produce, culinary culture and food traditions helped them fulfil a dream to share all of this with the wider world. They received their first official recognition for this in 1990 when named as as Scottish Restaurant of the Year and have gone on to become an iconic Scottish destination experience.
We sat down to a glorious ‘Skye Land & Sea’ eight course degustation dinner which included wild rabbit, Dunvegan crab, local seafood, Soay lamb and Orbost Farm beef – of which I took not. one. single. picture.
I blame a combination of jet lag, excitement and being utterly over-awed at finally visiting a part of the world I’ve only ever read and dreamed of. You’ll have to take my word (along with Shirley’s OBE and high profile in the Scottish food industry) for the fact that this is a consummate international culinary experience and worth the trip to Skye on it’s own.
Replete with the best food Scotland has to offer we toddled off to our beds, for we had an early rise for the ferry from Uig to Tarbert, on the island of Harris in the Outer Hebrides, the next day.
Stay tuned for my next instalment where I really discover Scotland – and lose my heart.