Skye isn't an easy place to visit without a car. Sure you can get there, by bus from the Kyle train station or by ferry from Mallaig; sure once you're there, you can take a variety of buses around the island (even if they don't run very frequently). The problem is, outside of the major villages on Skye, most of the drop-off points on the bus routes aren't really populated. There might be a single hotel there or a small cluster of houses, or there might be nothing at all - you can't get out at a bus stop and find a cafe for shelter because there aren't any. Most of these drop-off places are basically intended as useful spots for locals or as starting points for hiking.
So when I woke up on Tuesday morning and looked out the hostel lounge window at pouring rain and driving winds, I wasn't sure what to do. Was I really willing to take a bus to some remote pull-off, hike for hours through muddy and possibly impassable trails without being able to see anything and without any shelter, knowing that there's no way out except to wait 3 hours for the next bus back to Portree?
Apparently that's the limit of my adventurous spirit. Instead I went to a local cafe, Cafe Arriba, which has a window facing the harbor. I ordered a soy latte and a croissant with egg & locally smoked salmon (mmm), and sketched while warm and comfortable in my window seat.
Later the rain mostly stopped and I did the only available walk that would not leave me stranded should it turn unbearable again - a short turn around Scorry Breac head, starting from Portree town.
Along the way I passed this scene - the brass panel reads "BEWARE OF THE CAT."
While there was still cloud cover obscuring the tops of the hills, I did get some shots and then a sketch of Portree.
Further along the lovely but muddy walking trail, I came around to a beautiful scene that was very inspiring and sat down again to try to draw. Unfortunately, the rain started again in earnest, and so did the midges. With my ink barely adhering to the wet page and with biting insects swarming, I left this off early but still hope to finish it some day.
At the end of the walk, I hurried to catch the bus to the one interesting Isle of Skye tourism destination that doesn't require good visibility or a surcease from rain: the Talisker Distillery! I love scotch and Talisker is one of the most enjoyable, sweet and smoky and peaty. The distillery doesn't allow photography (something to do with fire danger from sparks), but they do allow sketching! I tried to keep my hand moving during the entire tour.
That was the last page of the Fabriano Venezia sketchbook that I'd started with sketches of airplanes! Lucky for me, as I waited for the one remaining bus back to Portree, rain was only intermittent and I managed to start up the next sketchbook (a square Hand Book) with a view of the distillery.
It was hard switching to the Hand Book. The Fabriano Venezia works particularly beautifully with Pentel Pocket Brush and also makes watercolors sing - the Hand Book gets a much more muted effect and the paper starts to fall apart fairly quickly when wet. Ah well. I'll make it work.
Here are some photos of the Talisker Distillery location, which was really quite striking.
I went back to Portree that night knowing I'd missed many amazing potential sketching locations that would have been available if the weather had been different, but that just cemented the feeling that I must come back to Skye another time with a full week to spend and arrange for transportation. Next time I'll do it right, and if the weather is ok for even half the time, it'll be very much worth the return.
That night I did laundry and fell asleep early, excited about the next day's ferry and rail journey to Glenfinnan.