The Sleat

Skuyö. A word that the Vikings bequeathed upon Skye as the ‘isle of clouds’. Wreathed in mist. Mystical. The Vikings must have been enchanted by it, you would think, when they invaded it towards the end of the 8th century.

On that isle of black and red Munros, jagged and gentle in parts, rising out of the land itself, an ancient land mired in bog and peat where purple heather thrives and turquoise fairy pools abound, the mist moves in fast. Even as you are exposed to the relentlessness of nature, under leaden skies when mist wraps itself around the peaks and hovers above the lochs, it is easy to be whisked into the kind of land that rests between the foxed pages of dusty tomes.

But the day on which we set off for the peninsula of Sleat (pronounced Slate), the sun was the willing fifth to our party of four. Serpentine A-roads skirted around lochs, the Munros dipped their feet into the waters, salmon farms with circular pens showed up alongside, then suddenly a grinding halt. A two-hour traffic jam, sandwiched between rows of cars, caravans and motorhomes.

Time for some banter with strangers. Nothing alleviates a dull situation better than a smidgen of humour. One of the friends demanded a wee, desperately. Desperate measures in this case meant rolling down into the loch, climbing the grassy slope by the road, or asking the owner of a motorhome to allow a stranger into his loo. There was really but one option if you think of it.

Eventually we were diverted. There had been a fatal accident earlier that morning. A motorcyclist had died. Reminders issued by life, of our mortality, from time to time.

‘His loss is our gain,’ observed one of our group. A chance remark referring to the longer and more scenic drive which we had embarked upon as a result of the diversion. Yet there it was. A remark that did weigh me down. Blinders in place, this is how we humans make our way towards happiness with single-minded determination – so focused that we cannot take a moment to feel the loss of a life.

By the time we reached the Sound of Sleat that flows between the isle and the mainland of Scotland, all Adi wanted was some shut-eye. It can get intensely tiring to chart those narrow roads when you are assisted by three ebullient co-passengers. He took us to the Armadale Castle, the erstwhile country home of the MacDonald clan, where he decided to sleep and get rid of us at the same time (calling it a bonus of sorts). We pottered around the castle.

I walked through a small portion of the 20,000-acre estate, exploring trails which lead into sun-dappled woods that are home to deer and skylarks and gannets and sea eagles. It was silent. Occasionally the chittering of birds yet the kind of silence where you can hear yourself think.

Sleat is the metaphorical lower claw of the isle radiating into the Sea of Hebrides and across the Sound you can see the peninsula of Knoydart on the mainland. There I stood outside the crumbling mock-style castle facade gazing upon the blue waters of the Sound, the hills rambling off unevenly across the horizon. The castle traces its history back to the 1790s when it was built yet it was abandoned by the clan later on. I wonder why. Makes the mind go places. I spent that early evening mooching around the estate on my own letting the mind travel as I came upon a part in its lush garden that made the heart thrill. A belt of daffodils. Sunny, yellow heads nodding away in the breeze that at once made me less forlorn.

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Salmon farms 
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Where travellers take time off to stare at the waters and reflect upon the vagaries of life.
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Crofts
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Lochs and the Cuillin

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The poetry of the Red Cuillin
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Dear Met Office, take that.

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Explorers
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Wild straggly beauty
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The crofting life
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The Sleat
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The Sound of Sleat
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Armadale Castle
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View from the castle of the Sound and Knoydart on the mainland
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The woods behind the castle

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Birches and more birches tower above you

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96 thoughts on “The Sleat

      1. It’s a form of land tenure which is used by only a tiny fraction of the population today. Owning a croft is not the same as owning a regular home because the use of the land is still regulated by the Crofting Acts. If you buy a croft, legally you won’t become a crofter, you’ll become the landlord of a vacant croft. This means you have certain responsibilities.

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  1. A bathroom, toilet, or a loo? 🙂

    I need to take a whiz
    And must go find a loo
    When suddenly,
    I came across a bathroom or two

    I need not take a bath
    But I really must go
    Point me to the toilet
    Before I overflow!

    Liked by 3 people

      1. Poet? Highly improbable! But I am fascinated by the many different terms we use for a washroom, bathroom, whatever…as we travelled through various parts of the world, I have always been fascinated by toilets and the many ways to flush them…including a mere hole in the ground (according to my wife) in which one was to balance over (Moscow train station).

        Liked by 2 people

      2. Cultural aspects and changes. Fascinating as you say. Holes in the ground…we have them in India too. A long time they were considered hygienic and excellent for the purpose of getting the bowels going 😉

        Liked by 2 people

  2. Such fascinating history and so fun to learn about new places and words such as “croft”, “Sleat”, “loo” and “Knoydart”. I am always discovering something new with your blogpost and enjoy the challenge of it immensely! Beautiful photos of the landscape – reminds me of the slanted hills near Crater Lake in Oregon. – Neek

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  3. The forecasting stone is hilarious. Who needs a weather person to keep us posted when we’ve got a hanging stone? The image of the sun dappled woods filled with overall silence and an occasional bird sat really well with me. I’m so enchanted by nature and wide open spaces.

    It’s strange to think in all this peace that tragedy does happen. You statement about the ever present pursuit of happiness really struck a chord. Someone was enjoying the same beauty one moment and gone the next. I can see why you were shaken. Life and death happens everywhere. We’ve got to make the most of the life part. Sleat looks like a beautiful place to go about that.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Life is such a constant effort at balancing it all out. The pursuit of happiness is a great thing but it is also okay to pause once in a while and take in our surroundings. But it does reinforce that entire carpe diem line of reasoning.

      You said it – nature is everything and more. 🙂 xx

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  4. Love the forecasting stone.
    Now those places are all very well in the summer. Winter is much bleaker.
    I spent several weeks on an island of the coast of Brittany in November…
    (Army “exercise”). Veeeery bleak. Sometimes you don’t know where the rain stops and the sea starts.
    Thank you for the trip.
    Brian

    Liked by 1 person

  5. A landscape to encourage reflection indeed. Interestingly, there has just been a piece on the news about increased tourist numbers having an environmental impact on the island. Sadly, the suggested solution was to increase infrastructure, rather than limit numbers. But I digress. There is something about this monumental landscape which inclines to melancholy…

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    1. Increasing tourist numbers on Skye… I am surprised given its remoteness. Someday I want to get to the Outer Hebrides isles. Oh I wonder when that will happen! But the sound of increasing infrastructure irks me. The charm of these isles is their remoteness and the fact that they are left quite alone except for a clutch of travellers!

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  6. You actually do more to fuel my interest in visiting Britain than the official tourism marketing office ever accomplished. I admit, the good weather you always seem to catch certainly helps in that. Loved the forecasting stone by the way!

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      1. I do not usually, you are right. But I decided to write on Skye in a series. Some random post maybe next, my love. I have not thought about it. I usually get up and go with the flow 😉

        Do you usually have a whole lot of posts in the wings waiting to be released day by day?

        Liked by 1 person

    1. That is strange! I wished you a wonderful birthday and said that gifts fall way behind feelings.

      All the best for your book and the pitches to the various networks. I was also a bit curious about if that is you smiling at us… 🙂

      Like

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