The Itinerary

The Itinerary

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

May 11, Orkney Islands to Isle of Skye

Monday, May 11- Day 97 - Orkney Islands to Isle of Skye

Another travel day! On to the Isle of Skye where we will spend four nights. Now just to get there is one piece.

Our long day has a leisurely start as our ferry to the mainland does not depart until 11:50AM and we don’t have to be in line until 11:15 or so. It is a beautiful morning and Dick is up to see the first ferry arrive.

We asked for breakfast at 9:00 and are pretty well packed and ready to load the car by that time. The hotel is quiet this morning with only one other couple at breakfast but there is a cruise ship in and they are expecting 90+ people for tea and scones in two waves starting at 10AM. We pay our bill and begin loading and the first bus load has descended by the time we are ready to roll. Dick talks with one of the men from the tour and finds out they are a Bristol to Bristol "Around the UK" cruise.

We have some time before we need to get in line for the ferry as we have a reservation. So, we drive out south of St. Margaret’s Hope to a high view point for a spectacular, clear view of Scapa Flow. Along the way we find a red telephone booth in the middle of nowhere; a remnant of pre-cell phone days though we have seen many through Scotland on this trip that still have actual phones in them as does this one. But this is just sitting out in the middle of nowhere at a crossroads.

Back at the ferry terminal we get in line and have a 20 minute wait before they come along to check us in or collect money if you have not already paid. Dick kills a little of the time visiting with a couple from Australia who had also been guests in the hotel and who had come over on the ferry with us last Friday. They live in Brisbane and are fun to talk to about the UK and Australia.
The ferry is packed so tight that Carolyn has to get out before Dick can move the car into its designated spot. They are making two lanes where there was only one on Friday. But, they get everybody on including two tour buses and two 18-wheelers. We sail a few minutes late and the ride is a little more choppy than Friday but no big deal and we arrive at the mainland port at 1PM.

The rain clouds are building fast by this time and Carolyn wants to visit Duncansby Head lighthouse and the cliffs, the most NE point on the mainland, before we leave the area. It is cold and windy and spitting rain but we make the two mile trip out a one lane road ("Watch for Lambs on Road"), take some photos and start our 225 mile drive to the Isle of Skye. We wonder why the GPS tells us this is going to take the better part of seven hours? We are about to find out!

The first part of our drive is down the same road (A62/9) as we were on Friday for roughly 100 miles. The traffic is heavier but the sun comes out and by 4:00PM we have done about half our trip. Piece of cake! Can’t possible take another four hours to do the last part.

Well, right off the bat the low tire light comes on, so we stop at a service station get some gas and have the tires checked. They are all normal, but Dick can’t get the light to go off!

We make a fast stop in Dingwall for groceries at the UK equivalent of a WalMart Superstore, Tesco. The selection at this one is much better than the one in Kirkwall but we still can’t find things we take for granted. Jack attributes the problem to the weird eating habits and tastes of Brits in general, like a pickle and cheese sandwich with chips (French fries) as a sandwich selection in the local cafĂ©. We buy two large heads of garlic to spice up the other food we buy. Most things are very sweet to our taste or are flavored more toward the Asian spices. Virtually all the available coffee is instant, aka "sudden," and Dick is so desperate that he actually buys a small jar of instant espresso! Wonder how that is going to work?

Leaving Dingwall with 125 miles to go, we head west and then southwest on the A890. The first part is a good road through pretty country that reminds us of Colorado or some places in British Columbia. But, weather is blowing in from the west and the road is deteriorating. Soon we are bucking a major head wind
, 50MPH with gusts to 70MPH are predicted, and see the tops of waves on lakes along the road being blown off into spray. Gas mileage drops from 50+ into the 30s. The road becomes one lane with "passing places." Now there are many one lane bridges with no way to see the other end of the bridge and it has started to rain and sleet. Nothing is sticking but driving is no fun and there is very little traffic with the exception of two cars behind us who must be local as they are antsy to pass. Finally, Dick lets them around and they disappear into the driving mist and slanting rain. Some of this route is through heavy, evergreen forest and even the bigger trees are swaying in the wind. We see some small limbs and such in the road and just hope we are not going to be blocked by a major tree fall and, more importantly, that we are not in the way when a big one does come down.

We finally make it back down to the coast and turn west toward the Skye Bridge on A87. The wind is still howling but we are on a more protected stretch of road until we reach the humpbacked Skye Bridge and we really feel the cross wind here. But, no harm, no foul and we are on the Isle of Skye with another 48 miles to go.

The first part is through a well populated stretch of road so going is slow, what with all the 30 and 40 MPH stretches. We finally break out of this and can move along at between 50-60 MPH toward Portree. Past Portree we are on a coast road on the east side of the island and are back into rain and high wind. The road also deteriorates to a one-lane road with "Passing Places." Slow but steady wins the race and we pull into our home for the next four nights shortly after 8PM. Sure enough, seven hours from the time we got off the ferry to do 225 miles. But, we did make a gas stop and a grocery stop so call it six hours. It may have been the worst 225 mile we have ever driven!
Our hostess meets us, runs down Dick’s hat which was snatched from his head by the wind, and invites us into our new home. We have done well with this one. It has: a utility room with washer, nice kitchen-dining-living area, two bed rooms and two baths and a patio with picnic table for use if it ever stops raining and blowing.

We settle in and fix drinks and a light supper of soup and garlic bread. By 10:30PM it has finally gotten dark, Jack is already tucked in and we head for bed ourselves.

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