It was late afternoon by the time our little orange car reached the banks of Loch Alsh, in the upper west corner of Scotland. We had been driving already for four days, our journey beginning between the Gothic terraces which characterise Edinburgh’s city centre. I had just graduated, and the beautiful Scottish Highlands were to be the backdrop to my first taste of freedom. So far, we had browsed the timeworn bookstores of St Andrews, kayaked on Aviemore’s Loch Insh, and trekked through forests to discover the infamous, otherworldly Green Loch. But somehow, we knew that the best was yet to come.
From the bridge which connects mainland Scotland to the Isle of Skye, we still had roughly an hour to go before reaching the tiny waterside town of Uig, our destination for the next few nights. As we ventured north, the scenery around us morphed into endless stretches of rolling hills, interspersed with jagged rock faces, glimpses of the vast sea just visible from between the peaks and troughs. Wanting to truly experience the natural beauty of Skye, we decided to check in to a compact, wooden pod which overlooked the rustic bay.
It was mid-late June – the longest day of the year – and our decision to celebrate the Summer Solstice in the Scottish Highlands, so dripping with magic, was deliberate. Almost immediately after arriving, we jumped back into the car and headed further north still, toward Duntulm, which sits at the highest point of the island, facing the curve of the Outer Hebrides. Parking at the base of a tall hill, we began to climb, so steep we were forced to use our hands to scale the grassy verge. As we reached the peak, we turned around; ahead of us, the sun was just beginning to set, its rays bouncing from the soft waves of the North Sea. Around us, everything was bathed in a golden-orange glow, the grasses along the cliff face swaying with the gentle midsummer breeze. It was 10pm, and the sun had not yet finished its descent beyond the horizon.
We stayed like this until the sun had disappeared, but the light in the sky never quite seemed to dwindle, preparing for daylight to return just a few hours later. It was the best introduction we could have hoped for to the island, and to all it has to offer. The next day, when slicing through the freezing waters of the Fairy Pools and eating fish and chips along the shores of Portree, we saw the Isle of Skye through new eyes, bathed in that same golden light. At any time of year, the island is inconceivably magical, doused in legend and punctuated by spots of natural majesty – but, on that very first day of summer, the hills seemed to come alive, embodying the beauty of a place which has enchanted its visitors for centuries.
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