Over the Sea to Skye

I am sufficiently young to recall when there were only ferries to Skye! My very first holiday minus parents was youth hostelling in Kyle with some pals. The images from my wee instamatic camera show evidence of rain but all I can remember was a brilliant sunny holiday: we only got as far as Broadford and Kyleakin on our bikes but who cares! Scotland in a nutshell, weather and all!

Now with the bridge there is a danger we cover Skye too quickly… selfies at viewpoints like feverish munro-baggers; not taking time to meet the folk and breathe the air. We are just back from a wonderful trip to Skye. We hung out with friends the first night, even going to the pub and had great chat with lots of local news. We were made very welcome. Carole also makes the minty highland energy booster for the great outdoors, Cuillin Mint Cake http://www.spanglefish.com/cuillinmint/

After dropping in on Edinbane Pottery (I cannot resist), we visited Nanette of Isle of Skye Sea Salt. Although she does not have a shop we met her in the beautifully restored byre, used for finishing and packing. From the photos you can see it has certainly been given a new lease of life.

There were also two Canadian writers so we all headed off to a secret location to see for ourselves the magic happening – Isle of Skye Sea Salt is 100% harvested from Loch Snizort and evapourates in polytunnels, using only the power of the sun’s rays, creating a delicious, unique and eco friendly product. With evidence of local salt production traced back centuries, this superb salt is also on Slow Food’s Ark of Taste.

Before saying goodbye her husband also showed us the beautiful and tranquil St Columba’s Island, almost a secret, by Skeabost, accessed by a wooden bridge. A burial ground and site of the Cathedral Church of the Bishop of the Isles from the 11th Century, much of the history of this peaceful place has yet to be unraveled. https://www.isleofskyeseasalt.co.uk

After a busy day scouting – avoiding some rather vicious potholes – we turned off down the stunning scenic (well tarmac-ed!) route to Waternish to stay and dine at The Stein Inn, the oldest inn on Skye, dating from 1790! https://www.stein-inn.co.uk Their suppers are informal and beautifully cooked – we tucked into seafood, steak and sticky toffee puddings whilst enjoying the glow from the log stove. After a peaceful night in one of their five rooms (they have a couple of self catering too) we tucked into a very fine breakfast including venison sausages and Scottish cheeses. There was also Golspie Mill http://www.golspiemill.co.uk porridge and Mallaig peat smoked kippers alongside a great choice of meats from their butcher. The views are stunning. Following a lovely catch up with Angus where we
chatted about local produce et al, we set off on our travels northwards, stopping briefly for a light lunch at the fun hip indy café and bookstore, The Sheiling, Uig, buying a couple of fascinating old books on crofting

Heading over the northern tip of Skye southwards, with more breathtaking views, we took the woodland drive to Flodigarry Hotel on Trotternish, where owners Paul and Bette have restored and transformed this famous hotel to its former glory, a wonderfully Jacobite inspired highland hunting lodge. Little did Flora Macdonald know, back in 1750, how famous her cottage, also here, would become!!

With Flodigarry’s Skye Restaurant where nature writes the menu, and Bar, the gleaming whitewashed wing of the building, there are ample places to try out their menus featuring local seafood, game and even a vegetarian menu too. The views to Flodigarry Island are stunning and the grounds are brimming with photo opportunities for weddings and celebrations. In the bar the sharp-eyed among you will spot a collage of vintage Dutch artefacts, a clue to Paul’s roots. Bette, his wife, is Executive Chef, leading an expert team in the kitchen. We tasted their wonderful Cullen Skink – deliciously smooth and very attractive too, as you can see. http://www.hotelintheskye.co.uk

Searching the highways and byways is always a joy, revisiting/finding gems …but also experiencing some lacklustre that will not be offered Membership…. nowhere on earth is perfect but there is an ample sufficiency of the ‘great stuff’ on Skye for you to savour!

One such place is Ullinish Lodge with 3AA Rosettes. Remarkably easy to find on another of the least potholed roads on Skye! Turn off at Sligachan or head south after Dunvegan and you will come upon the signpost. Legend has it its name may be from a Norse word for wolf’s head which aptly 
describes the peninsula where it rests, and the views all around are absolutely stunning, right over to the snow-capped Cuillin range. Sufficiently wild to encounter sea eagles and red grouse (and we did) yet very accessible so a great base for exploring Skye and indeed has welcomed visitors for over 300 years including Samuel Johnson and James Boswell, and now it is Pam and Brian Howard who will welcome you.

The rooms are all individually designed and gorgeous, many with hand carved wooden frames and all with en suites, crisp cotton bedding and woollen throws. At first glance the dining room has a classical feel with highly polished panelling and antique chairs. It also has a warmth and great charm, and the food served is faultless and modernist. We (and fellow diners) had selected our menu choices an hour earlier, a strategy I have no issue with as it reduces waste and enhances service. Head Chef David Smith creates exquisite dishes, beautifully balanced with a myriad of produce from Skye and artisan ingredients from the mainland. Tantalising canapés were followed by an amuse-bouche of oyster pannacotta followed by perfectly cooked hand dived scallops with celeriac, pear and parmesan. The Dornoch rump lamb with barley, Cavolo Nero and squash was melt-in-the-mouth tender and the Clava Brie with honey and sourdough, fun and delicious, not forgetting the lemon mousse and granita palate cleanser. The Yorkshire rhubarb with white chocolate was stunning and there
were dainty petit fours with coffee served in the lounge. Breakfast was also splendid and an opportunity to spoil myself with an eggs benedict! Brian and Pam are delightful hosts  and in addition to their Easter offers, click on their website to find offers for Special Spring Breaks from 1st April until 31st May 2018 http://www.theisleofskye.co.uk

Last but by no means least on our trip around Skye is Kinloch Lodge for a light lunch before heading homewards to Fife. We have known Claire and Godfrey, Lord Macdonald, for many years and now Kinloch is in the expert hands of their daughter Isabella, with Chef Marcello Tully responsible for earning them 3AA Rosettes and a Michelin Star. Marcello is supported by his wife, Claire, who is Kitchen Manager. We sampled their inviting Bar Menu whilst others in the dining room ate a leisurely lunch and ladies in the drawing room enjoyed afternoon tea! My warm roast beef sandwich and Bosse’s crème caramel dessert were both delicious and a super finale to our stay on Skye. https://kinloch-lodge.co.uk

Haste ye Back! 13th & 14th June are dates for your calendar for Skye Food & Drink Festival, including Scott Davies – The Three Chimneys, Lady Claire Macdonald – Kinloch Lodge, Calum Munro – Scorrybreac and Helen Vass – Patisserie Chef of the Year. http://skyefoodanddrinkfestival.com