Four take a mini break

Author’s note: this is my fourth attempt at this blog. Versions 1, 2 and 3 were beset (all when nearly finished) with unscheduled crashing and unsaved text. I will not lie – I cycled through wry grins, petulant sighs and ultimately quite a lot of swearing. However, I closed the lid on it firmly last night and resolved that “tomorrow would be another day”. And so here I am trying again, taking deep breaths and hitting the save icon on a regular basis. This is the last and final attempt. Whatever remains by the time I feel the need to break off and break out a G&T is going live……..

Due to the usual tip top family planning, we booked a week in Glenelg to fit around Lachlan’s work placements only to find that the chosen week clashed with one of Keith’s charity meetings. He stoically volunteered to stay home and join us later, after setting the world further to rights, and so Lachlan, Mum, Lyra and I and a completely unreasonable amount of luggage (you will be reassured to hear that the yoga mat never made it out of the carry case the entire week) were shoehorned into the mini to travel up as an advance party. We made really pretty excellent time, held up only by two large families of feral goats who decided to out-stare the oncoming traffic. What with the long curled horns, silky doom grey hair and downright sinister amber eyes we bottled it and waited patiently for them to pass. Alas there are no photographs as the one time the entire family was insistent I take a photo I was unable to convince the safety lock on my phone that I was not driving.

Despite the optimistic forecast it had been fairly chilly on the drive up. However, as soon as we started to climb Mam Ratagan the clouds rolled away and the sky cleared to a bright blue. A sunny stroll to the beach sharpened the appetite and we positively skipped to the pub for a drink in the beer garden, soaking up the last of the sun before dinner.

The next day was heralded in blue and gold. After interrogation over breakfast, Mum conceded she had never been to Skye and the need to correct that outrage settled the day’s activities. The Sound was looking-glass smooth when we reached the shore station and with the ferry still unloading on the far side there was plenty of time to stroll down the slipway and peer at the underwater forest of sea weed swaying gently to and fro. We sat companionably on the shore watching the scarlet boat chug across, slicing through the vibrant green reflections of the young trees on the far shore.

The drive across Skye from the ferry to the main road is a narrow, winding single track affair that loops and switchbacks up the slope before curving down towards Breakish. At the highest part of the road the hills fall away to either side leaving a breathtaking view down to the sea, the mountains and the smaller islands. I live in hope of a traffic hold up permitting me to hop out and take a picture one day. However, the Fountain males favour a “lightening tours” approach and so we sped relentlessly on. Our first stop was at Jan’s, a veritable treasure trove of a hardware shop just outside Portree. The mission was to replace the old kettle but in the face of such riches the magpies of the family faltered. We left with a kettle, boot laces, four banana split bowls (bargain!), a packet of dried pilchards (for healthy coats) and a selection of dog treats shaped like cup cakes. (The last items did not please. After doubtfully nibbling one Lyra fixed me with a disappointed stare, shaking her head over the deterioration in my baking skills, and kicked the leftovers under the sofa.)

Driving back to Broadford for lunch and a raid on the coop for barbecue supplies the road passed through a broad valley with hills to either side and the Cuillin in the distance. The lower slopes of the nearer hills were rust red and gold, clad in last year’s dried bracken and sun bleached grass, with the heather still dark and slumbering. A blue haze softened the saw tooth edges of the distant Black Cuillin. We seemed to sit in a wide quaich of some ancient metal under a sea of blue sky.

Broadford Coop must have one of the prettiest car parks in the world. We left mum and Lyra there watching the boats and Lachlan and I raided the aisles for anything that could be tossed in a salad, barbecued or contributed to a banana split. Duly loaded up, mindful of the ice cream we toyed with playing it safe and taking the bridge back. But the winding road beckoned and the ferry season ticket muttered sweet nothings. For once the Old Gods approved, banishing all caravans and we made the last ferry before everything turned to slurry. The banana splits were truly excellent.

The following day was driver’s day off. (I did volunteer but after covering myself in shame in the Sainsbury’s car park recently no one was minded to let me drive onto the ferry.) A stroll to the beach gave Lyra the chance to run around in and out of the water like a loon whilst the rest of us joyfully popped sea weed and peered in rock pools. In triumph I found three sea anemones making jazz hands (usually they are in tight little wine gum blobs). In the crevasses in the barnackled rocks were silvery fronds of lichen and shaggy cushions of sea thrift, prickled with tight pin heads of flower buds. All along the shore road whin was in bloom, softening the iodine tang of the sea with its gentle coconut scent. They had been burning the heather and bracken on the slope and along the top of the dyke were pale violets, oxalis and primroses, blinking shyly in the sun, shorn of their usual shade.

A trip to the Iron Age brochs proved a great success. One of my favourite books was The Stronghold by Mollie Hunter and an hour or so poking in and around the broths always takes me straight back to my childhood. Mum was very struck by the exceptionally fine stonework and Lyra is now mulling over a career in archaeology as a canine Lara Croft, having joyfully explored the inner staircases and all the best secret exits.

Most evenings on our solo stay included an amble along to the pub, chatting to the loose sheep and peering over the bridge to look for fish in the river on the way. (We spotted no fish but did find a cow contentedly paddling one evening.) Every step had the coils unwound a few notches more. Gentle pleasures.

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