We spent most of the day in the Isle of Skye. The weather was not exactly cooperative. It remained cool, overcast and incredibly windy but, as Steve the tour guide explained, if you wait for good weather in the Highlands, you'll spend a long time waiting. We drove through Portree, the capital of Skye, and up the western side of the Trotternish peninsula, one of three peninsulas on the northern half of the island. We turned right at Uig, which sits about two-thirds of the way up the peninsula and from which ferries run to the Outer Hebrides (islands north and west of Skye).
We headed up into the hills and stopped at Cuith-Raing, a grassy plateau that overlooks the eastern half of Trotternish. Steve explained that this particular peninsula was, until the 13th Century, used to hide the women, children and other valuables when the Viking raiders were spotted coming in from the east. Our brief time on Cuith-Raing suggested it may be the windiest spot on earth. I was concerned that the wind was going to carry away my wife and children, and possibly our tour bus. It was really quite something.
We came down the slope and drove down the eastern side of Trotternish, stopping at Kilt Rock (a rock formation which the wind and ocean have shaped over time to resemble the folds in a kilt). We drove past the Old Man of Storr, a famous rock formation. Given the mist that shrouded most of the mountains, it looked as though the old man was giving us the finger, undoubtedly angry about something cold soup.
Back into Portree and snacks for the kinder. Hot chocolate for Lauren which went entirely unconsumed, first because it was "too hot" and later because of some concern that it could not be consumed because Lauren's hair was in the way. Don't ask. Owen had the better part of a cookie, but declined to finish it as he did not want to "ruin his lunch." Translation: the cookie is mediocre and I look forward to a better dessert after I eat no more than the minimal amount of lunch required to obtain that dessert.
We finished with Skye and headed back onto the Scottish mainland, stopping for lunch at the Claunie Inn (pronounced Clooney, but no sign of George to be had), which sits at the west end of Glencoe, pretty much in the middle of nowhere. The food was good, cheese toastie for me and lentil soup and cappuccino (they don't do the skinny variety out there) for Keri.
We continued west and, with a brief stop to see some Highland cattle (which Keri is convinced have been bred by combining a regular cow and a goldendoodle), we ended up in Fort Augustus, which sits at the southern tip of Loch Ness. After spending a few minutes admiring the lake -- look, there's Loch Ness . . . -- most of our tour group went into a pre-arranged presentation in something called the Clansman Centre, a craft shop and history center focused on the Scottish clans. Our presenter, Ken, took us inside a room that has been built to resemble the interior of a Highland turf house. As he stood before us in his traditional Highland garb, Ken described in some detail the daily lives of the Highlanders, lives that did not change much between the 14th and 18th Centuries. Short version -- life was cold, really, really, dirty and quite unpleasant all around.
Then, the real show began. Ken asked for a male volunteer from the group to don the big kilt/great wrap, to, as he said, "dress like a man for the first time in his life." This, he explained was unlike the kilts worn today, which are not constructed too differently from skirts. The big kilts are five-plus meters of material in length, wrapped and folded in various ways, depending on the season and purpose.
Short bit of background. Keri told Steve the day before that she had read and was a fan of the Outlander series, which tell the story of a woman who travels back in time to 18th Century Scotland and falls in love with a clansman who is fighting in the Jacobite rebellion. That was all it took to convince Steve that I would make the perfect
mark volunteer to don the big kilt. It did not hurt, as well, that Lauren was almost giddy at the prospect of seeing her daddy in a kilt. Not one to disappoint the crowd, I agreed to do it, stripping down to my boxers (Ken refuses to put the great wrap over a pair of trousers). The experience was less painful that it could have been, I suppose. The kilt itself was kind of comfortable and it gave me a chance to show the group my legs. It also gave me a chance to make my children double over in laughter and to gain my wife's appreciation. I'd do a lot worse for those things.
We finished the day by checking into our bed & breakfast, a Drumnadrochit place called Springburn B&B. The proprietors, a slightly older couple, have an eight-year old boy named Jamie. Within moments of our arrival, he and Owen were kicking a soccer ball (Owen corrected me and says we need to call it a football in Europe) in the front yard. Minutes later, they were on a trampoline in the backyard. Somehow, we were able to pry Owen loose to get some dinner. When we got back around 9, Jamie was waiting, with an eager look that told me he had been driving his parents crazy the entire time we were gone. He and Owen were off again, and with the sun not going down here until well past 11, I could not use darkness as an excuse to force Owen to bed. I let Owen stay at it until about 1010, as I knew he so missed this kind of play. He paid for it this morning, but he will tell you it was well worth it.
Not a bad second day in the Highlands. Owen made a friend and I made my family happy with only a moderate amount of embarrassment. Now, I just need to track down every other member of our tour group and destroy their photos from the Big Kilt show . . . .