Our Travel blog
Wednesday 18 May
One of the hazards of life spent roaming from site to site in Scotland is the risk of piped music in the shower blocks. In Glasgow where we first encountered it this wasn't too intrusive but here in Uig its just horrendous. Goodness knows what station its tuned to, I didn't wait long enough to find out. Today my ablution accompaniment was someone warbling on about how she "Wants a sexy guy..." Which is reasonable enough until you consider the alternative. No one seems to sing "I want a balding fatty with BO who lives with his mum..." (Plaitum, you can have that if you're reading this.)
It remind me of signs we've seen on our travels for butchers shops advertising 'Quality Meat' or sandwich shops declaring their wares as 'Fresh'. Call me Mr. Picky but the least I'd expect if I was eating meat was quality. I mean what's the alternative, 'Bob's Rancid steaks, get em' while the maggots are lovely and tender?' And frankly if the best you can do is advertise your sandwiches as fresh then I feel you are concentrating on a point I'd hitherto taken for granted. When purchasing a bread based lunch I look for tasty fillings, a bit of originality or at least cheap. I don't consider that 'Fresh' constitutes a selling point any more than, say, 'Contains Bread' or 'Now without shards of glass'.
In one small town we encountered a B&B advertising 'Colour TV'. How desperate do you need to be, how limited your other attractions, when colour TV is a selling point? Maybe the competitors all have monochrome TVs, or more likely, better accommodation to offer the weary traveller.
There. Now that's out of my system I can cheerfully report we spent the morning doing household chores of cleaning and washing before heading off for a maritime adventure of seal and puffin spotting aboard the SkyeXplorer. SkyeXplorer is a Mitchell 31 Mk 3. I mention this only because you might be a balding fatty with BO who lives with their mum and therefore appreciate this information in lieu of not having popular songs written about you. Anyway we turned up with our fellow passengers all clad, like us, in several layers of protection against the wind and spray. Standing on the pier a seagull did what they seem to do best and got me from above. An impressive shot but not one I appreciated. I cleaned up with a tissue, a fact I was reminded of much later when I inadvertently blew my nose on it!
We were greeted by a jovial Andi, our Captain, or Skipper or whatever. Sadly he didn't have a beard you could hide a penguin in or a wooden leg but in all other respects he seemed well versed in the ways of the ocean and took us on an extended tour over choppy seas to the Ascrib Islands. We saw, and here we are relying on his knowledge since we've established already my ornithological credentials are severely limited, Razor Bills, Shags, Puffins, an Oyster Catcher and a rare Northern Diver. Plus Common and Grey Seals which apparently aren't birds at all but furry bags of lard that eat fish. It was all very interesting.
The Islands sit mostly low in the water with the odd steep cliff of layered rock standing proud of the sea and scrub. One particular grassy cliff is home to the nesting puffin colony. They return here in April from about the age of 5 when they are ready to breed, and adopt the same spot each year. Andi informed us the oldest recorded Puffin is over 40 years old. They can only tell their age from when the individuals are trapped and ringed so no one knows how old it was when the ring was applied 40 years ago. Puffins are smaller than we expected and on water look like they should tip forward with their oversized beaks. On land they are as ungainly as any bird and in flight they are look like black and white flying bricks with wings beating faster than the eye can see. Only underwater do they truly look sleek and elegant. But most charmingly we learnt from Andi that the German for Puffin is Papageientaucher.
The journey back was particularly rough and of the 10 passengers only 4 of us braved the outside of the boat, where it was rather splashy. Well, it was most exhilarating. Alison especially sat there wearing sea spray and a huge grin. In other circumstances we've both been prone to sea sickness but today we had too much fun to notice.
After drying out and a late lunch we took a hike up to the Fairy Glen. This is an enchanting place a little way out of Uig of unusual cone shaped hills, valleys, pools and rock formations that have been featured in the fantasy film Stardust. It reminded us of something from Lord of the Rings or The Hobbit. Under the sinking May sun it was magical, with long shadows of irregular rocks cast over the vibrant green hills and valleys. Alison climbed the highest point, I stopped a little way short on wobbling legs, and from our vantage points we looked out over an alien landscape, a hidden glen in an already remote spot.
The wide Glen Uig in which it sits was a glacier that ran to Uig Bay. The basalt stacks, including the highest point of Castle Ewen that Alison climbed, were created by volcanic activity and exposed by weathering. The odd steps on the cones and hills are also the result of weathering in the exposed windy Glen. Even though it was created by geology rather than fairies its a lovely spot and the views of the sunset over the bay on the way back were spectacular. Lower down we walked through woodland with a path and facilities provided as a civic amenity by the Uig community, and although the pathway was well maintained the woods were left wild as a natural habitat. Perfect for an evening stroll.
Tomorrow we leave Skye for Inverness via Loch Ness.
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