Making the most of the cloudy but fine weather Alex decided we should have another road trip day and go around the top of the island from Uig skirting the Quairang and then going down the east side of the island through Staffin, past the Old Man of Storr and to Portree. We toyed with the idea of having lunch in Portree and going back to the Cafe Arriba to utilise their free wi-fi but the whole place was crawling with day trippers and after counting 8 coaches in the car park we made our escape without even getting out of the car.
Obliged to keep going we ended up in Broadford again (you guessed it - at the Co-op car park!) and we bought a sandwich and drink from the supermarket for lunch. Having driven so far south already we kept going to Kyleakin and took a short walk around the peninsula beyond the Skye Bridge. Having seen all there is to see of Kyleakin we decided to continue on to Elgol on the Strathaird peninsula. This was one of the few areas of Skye we had not yet seen and lies on the coast to the south-east; it's main claim to fame being (as we were to discover) it's stunning views of the Cuillin Hills.
The drive in itself was exciting as we were faced with some of the most winding and undulating single-track roads we had yet encountered anywhere in Scotland, compounded by the presence on these same roads of mobile morons who had obviously never read the Highway Code on how to use passing places on single track roads. Talk about hair-raising!
Having successfully made it as far as Elgol we were then faced with the most amazing scene that could have come straight out of Doc Martin, except not as sunny as Cornwall ;) The steep road wound down through a tiny village and over a single lane bridge to a small harbour; there were cows grazing in gardens and ambling up the middle of the road. The cows however were not nearly as much of a nuisance as the tourists wandering en masse up the road from one of the boat trips that leaves regularly from Elgol, completely oblivious to any cars trying to negotiate the steep hill out of town. There was only one small tour bus in the car park but it was more than enough! Fortunately they were departing as we arrived at the harbour.
Apart from the Misty Isle, Bella Jane and AquaXplore cruises to the small islands of Eigg, Rum, Canna and Soay that attract visitors, it seems that Elgol is one of the best places from which to see the Cuillin in all its glory. As we arrived in the afternoon the light was creating beautiful highlights on these impressive hills and it was no wonder that people were trudging out to the end of the beach to set up their cameras and capture the view. I had only my trusty Nikon and did the best I could.
This was a beach of a different calibre to Coral Beaches; this was shingle - huge pebbles that made walking treacherous - and we carefully made our way across it to get some shots of the stunning scenery across the bay.
We climbed the steep hill to the shop and cafe there; what an amazing little place, run by just one person who manages to heat and serve food (including table service outside and in), serve customers to the shop as well as the cafe and do this quite efficiently with a smile. No one minded a short wait as this capable lady juggled the different tasks required of her. I wonder how she copes on a busy weekend in high season?
Wandering back down the slope and across the wooden footbridge (downhill proving much easier than uphill!) we encountered two cows on their way up but they just plodded on up the road and paid us no mind.
That is Elgol in a nutshell; one steep road twisting down to a small harbour village, a scattering of houses, free-roaming cows, views of the Cuillin and Loch Scavaig, and lots of day-trippers/sightseers.
The trip back was to prove frustrating and fraught with incidents that left both myself and Alex shaking our heads at the abilities (or lack thereof) of people who actually get behind the wheel of a car.
After having already been stuck behind one car that first, blocked a passing place then, when obliged to reverse, made a dog's dinner of that and provided a few minutes of entertainment with her unbelievably inept driving skills. If the car had been any smaller it would have been a pedal car and she still drove it as if it was a bus. Our next encounter, once she was out of the way, was with a car which had already over taken us while we were in a passing place to give way to oncoming traffic. This should have set alarm bells ringing from the start! Anyway, the car (driven by a man this time, proving that stupidity isn't in any way sexist) drove steadfastly through a passing place when there was a car already on the road to which he should have given right of way. The result, of course was a stalemate. The two cars facing off on a single track road. Now, the silliest part of all was that there was 1. Room for the car to reverse up (we were behind but not bumper to bumper) 2. At least a metre of space on the road to the left of the car 3. Firm ground on the shoulder onto which the car could have moved to allow the oncoming car to squeeze past. Unbelievably, he did not of these. Instead he sat squarely in the road with a three-ring circus going on around him as the driver of the oncoming car got out and tried to show him where he could go (although perhaps he should have been telling him precisely where to go in this instance) in order to allow the other car to squeeze by. But no, the driver stayed resolutely where he was - blocking the road.
By now, there were two more cars stuck waiting to come up the hill, and cars were starting to bank up behind us. The back doors opened on the Astra station wagon ahead and there was much conversation and looking backward and forward but no actual movement in either direction. The man who was being blocked repeatedly tried to explain how the man needed to manoeuvre, gesturing and even standing on the shoulder to prove that it was not muddy or liable to suddenly subside.
Still no movement.
Finally, to break the stand-off, the three cars waiting to come up the hill one by one slowly reversed down the hill for perhaps 100 metres until there was just enough space for another car to pass and the Astra moved on.
I have never seen such an exhibition of stubborn, self-centred and dangerous driving in my life and the man either had absolutely no knowledge of single track roads or simply didn't give a damn. We followed him for a good way although he was way out in front and he did not yield once at any passing place but blithely (or rudely) sailed on through with every car on the road having to avoid him. Fortunately, even the sheep on the roadside had the sense to avoid him because did not adjust his speed when there were animals around but as we did not come across any road-kill in his wake I assume they saw him coming and wisely stayed out of the way!
We had just one more incident on the way back with a HGV who was of the mind of "I'm bigger than you and I'm not stopping for anyone" who forged through a passing place to almost squeeze us off the road, but against all odds we made it back onto the main road safely and turned for home.
With just one more day on Skye we're hoping the weather is kind enough for us to take another hike before we literally have to "take a hike" to our next destination.