Saturday, June 11, 2011

Twentieth Word: halcyon

halcyon- 1540s,  in halcyon dayes (L. alcyonei dies, Gk. alkyonides hemerai)14 days of calm weather at the winter solstice, when a mythical bird (identified with the kingfisher) was said to breed in a nest floating on calm seas. From halcyon (n.), late 14c., from L. halcyon, from Gk. halkyon, variant (perhaps a misspelling) of alkyon "kingfisher"

This word is fitting for two reasons. One, the album by Deerhunter that we listened to a lot on our trip is called Halcyon Digest. Two, halcyon means happy, joyful, carefree. Welcome to Skye.

The Isle of Skye was beautiful. My impressions of it from GoogleMaps street view were that it was mildly hilly but this couldn't be further from reality. From Glen Coe through Glen Shiel and up to Kyle of Lochalsh the highlands kept growing and Skye burst up from the waters to tower over the horizon. The first thing that greeted us was the Cuillin range. Beautiful, red-tipped cones that wind around the southern portion of the island. We had beautiful weather for the drive up but rain welcomed us onto Skye. We took a one lane road from Broadford along the southern fringe of the Cuillins to Elgol, hardly a town, to view the craggy mountains beyond the bay. See facebook for pix.

The first day consisted of our drive up, the drive to Elgol and back, and winding our way through the rain to our wonderful hostel on the western coast. After dinner the weather cleared up and we drove to Talisker Bay. Gorgeous cliffs, lots of sheep, and salty sea air. and a waterfall :)

We expected rain the entire time we were on Skye but Wednesday morning I woke up early to glorious sun and warm weather. While the others slept in, I took a walk down the lane our hostel was on just to catch views of the peninsula we were on. Living in the city, with the constant din of traffic, sea gulls and drunks shouting,makes me appreciate walks like this. Stillness, the glassy waters of the bay, sheep munching on grass, walking down the middle of the road the only person awake.

Excited by the prospect of sunny weather, the four of us packed into our tiny 2-door and we drove off to Portree, the largest, um, village in Skye. We took in the scenery while listening to great music like Beirut, Fleet Foxes, and Mumford & Sons. Portree is a charming harbor town with great views of the Isle of Raasay. We got coffees and delicious and cheap baked goods and strolled around town. Tummies satisfied, we headed to the Old Man of Storr. I expected this rock formation to be one of those where you pull off the road into a car park and you lean against the railing to take pictures of the monolith beyond. Nope. We parked on the side of the road and took the 2 mile trail up and up and up through the woods until we came out at the base of the Storr. As Sarah's blog will attest, we said "only a little further" about five different times and wound up spending a good two hours pretending to be mountain goats. The views were beyond words. They were beyond my picture-taking abilities too. I kept being struck by how mountainous everything I could see was. I don't know why I expected the mountains to flatten out as you get further from Fort William.

We drove up to Kilt Rock and the Quirraing which is stunning in it's own right but we were all needing bathrooms and were tired out from our previous hike. We continued our drive around the northern tip of the Totternish peninsula and decided on heading back to the hostel for dinner and resting. We spent our evening playing cards and listening to the live folk music provided by our hostel owners and some guests. It made me miss Scotland already.

Thursday morning we headed through a dreary Skye to Dunvegan castle. We didn't go in- it was so cold and wet outside and at that point we were so sick of driving. We took a beautiful drive on our way back to the bridge to Skye and headed home. Alex managed driving a stick shift with his left hand and driving on the left side of the road very well. Don't tell the rental company but I tried my hand at it too and it wasn't too bad.

Scotland is plain gorgeous. That's it. I feel so blessed to have been to places like Hungary, Romania, and Scotland- places that people often overlook. As any of our guests can tell you, Scotland is wonderful. It's hard not to think about our time winding down here but I am so glad we went to Skye. I am trying to make this place as much my own as I can before we go. It's gotten under my skin and I don't think it will let me go without a fight (heck, I'll be fighting too!). So that's all for now. Enjoy the facebook pictures.

Say What?
So far as I've heard, "Gaelic" is pronounced ga-lik (a as in apple) when it's referring to Scottish Gaelic and it's pronounced gay-lik when it's referring to Irish Gaelic.

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