A few more images from the rolls I shot out of the passenger window.
Portree is the first major port of refuge after arriving in that northernmost region of Scotland, the craggy, windswept landscape that constitutes the Isle of Skye. It is very beautiful and the two days we spent there, waking up each morning to long days of full sun, were idyllic.
Some weeks later, on a plane, I watched the opening scenes of Prometheus and recognized familiar scenery - a team of scientists emerges from tents dotting the hillside surrounding the Old Man of Storr and enter a cave to find evidence of Prometheus, the first society. Having been there myself, I buy it.
one of the most carelessly stunning places I've ever been
On the day we arrived in Portree, we arrived right as the sun began to set, the surrounding hills and tiny cars silhouetted against a quickly purpling evening sky.
It's a long drive north to the Isle of Skye (5-6 hours if you blow through the whole thing in one go), but time passes quickly due to the epic, sweeping scenery. It took us close to the full day to drive from Glasgow up to Portree, taking numerous pit stops along the way. A lot of folks' journeys north end around Glen Coe and the Three Sisters - picture the moody single-lane drive Bond takes to reach his childhood estate in Skyfall - but we were determined to push past. Wherever you end up you'll see stunning views; no way to avoid it in the Highlands, it seems.
All aboard the Hogwarts Express...
Across the way, Loch Shiel
"Memorial to an unknown highlander"
Pit stop in the village of Luss
We made a quick stop in the village of Luss, about an hour or two away from Glasgow en route to Glen Coe. It was the most romantic little village I've ever seen - full of rows of stone cottages overgrown with rosebushes.
roll after roll, out the window
I blew 2-3 rolls just shooting out the window at the changing scenery - frame after frame after frame after frame; the drive was absolutely lousy with cinematic imagery.
Glencoe & the Three Sisters
If you want to visit Islay I'm about to lay down some wisdom. Are you ready?
1) Book cabs in advance, for everything.
There are about 4-5 cabs total. Seriously, there are about 4 people driving, and we're talking high season. Book taxis in advance if you're going anywhere or plan to rent a car (but if you're good to drive, why are you even on Islay?). I'm going to give Carol's Cabs a shout for picking us up both days.
2) Book the Warehouse Tour at Lagavulin.
The tour is led by Ian Macarthur (of Parks & Recreation fame, a whisky legend in his own right) where he takes you through about 8 whiskies of different ages - 5 years, 10 years, the festival whisky, 16 years... etc. You get a generous pour of each (by generous, I mean it amounts to ~8 shots worth) and it's a really great bang for your buck, especially once you start getting into the aged whiskies which probably go for $30+ per glass in a normal bar. Don't spill! He is hilarious and tells great stories and ribs the tourists and basically, if you do a single tour do this one.
I didn't manage to snap any pictures of Laphroig but all that matters is that we accomplished our goal of hitting all three distilleries in a day. (Take that, advance planning!!!) By evening it began to drizzle and then pour, and the lack of taxis meant we were forced to walk the remaining mile or so back to Port Ellen in the deluge.
That moment when...
Your cab driver predicts the exact address of the Airbnb you are staying in because there are so few in Port Ellen.
3) Book your Airbnb or hotel a zillion years in advance.
The accommodations are as numerous as the taxis - which is to say, there are about 4 properties in Port Ellen, which is a popular spot to stay because there is a grocery store and it's right next to the walking path that will take you past Laphroig, Lagavulin and Ardbeg. Book well in advance, especially if you go in summer.
Shades of glasgow
The West End of Glasgow reminds me of Bed Stuy, or of a number of brownstone-lined walks in New York. Am I the only person ever to make this comparison? Rows of tightly packed, chimney topped, rectangular facades - visually, they're not too far off. Maybe all Western cities share some of the same DNA, in the end.
Stately and old, it struck me as significantly quieter than Edinburgh. In retrospect maybe it was the presence of foliage - it felt park-like, suburban. We didn't spend long here so we spent the day outside, strolling the West End, taking it in, still imagining we were in Harry Potter.
...Or rather Ashton Lane, another competitor in the "What location inspired Diagon Alley?" contest.