Numpty, comfy chairs and a rugby ball
In summer 2013 the kids and I spent another summer holiday in Kintail. The weather was glorious. We stayed in Sallachy on the shore of Loch Long in a house kindly lent to us by my recently retired boss. It had a log fire and some very old, very comfortable sofas and chairs, perfect for curling up on with a book. The house had no TV, no radio, no wifi and no 3G signal. Blissful solitude, with the rare exception of RAF Typhoons buzzing along the very narrow loch every few days. We spent our days exploring the loch, did a basket weaving lesson at the local community hall and drove to Applecross, Plockton, Sands & Skye.
I have lovely memories of drinking hot chocolate in a Yurt beside the Brochs at Glenelg before getting on the ferry, served by a lovely couple from a gypsy caravan, Ash at our side as always. We spent our evenings playing Fleeced (a wonderful board game based on Wallace & Gromit), Bananagrams, reading or playing pool in the nearest pub (a few miles away in Dornoch). We drove up with Numpty, a friend’s kayak, on the roof of the car and Numpty took all of us across the loch to explore the shore on the other side, as well as the island we could see from the house.
Ash wasn’t allowed on the furniture at home but Dog Daycare Centre in Gorebridge, where he had been going since he was a puppy, had some sofas and chairs that I’m sure he spent a lot of time on. We caught Ash sneaking up on the large, comfy chairs in the house in Sallachy, so when we went out we made sure to put things on the chairs to make sure he wouldn’t get up on them when we were out – newspapers, cushions, a rugby ball etc. When we came home one day, he was so comfy he didn’t hear us come in and take our boots off. When we walked into the living room he barely lifted his head from the chair… yes, the chair with the rugby ball on it. He hadn’t moved the rugby ball which was still exactly where we left it, but he was beautifully curled around it, barely registering we were home, clearly happy with himself that the rugby ball was still where we wanted it. Cheeky.
The elusive Fairy Pools and the 7 hour walk
A friend had told us about the Fairy Pools, a must visit place on Skye. We picked a hot summer day to visit and I packed some water, sandwiches and snacks to last us a couple of hours – all the guide books said it was no more than 2 hours plus swimming time. We parked at Glenbrittle car park, past the green forestry commission sign. We headed up past the car park following the path and saw the signs warning us of some forestry work ahead.
Big mistake. The Fairy Pools aren’t past the car park, they are back across the road on the way to the Cuillins. There was no mobile signal. I hadn’t brought an OS map as I hadn’t planned on going off-piste. We followed the forest track, waiting to find the river and pools. There was a bit of a burn that we passed regularly so we were confident we would find the pools around a corner. We followed the diversion past the forestry works – quiet and still because it was the weekend. We kept going, circling up the hill. We did find a ‘pool’ that Alasdair had a bit of a dip in because it was so hot. We ran out of snacks. We ran out of water. You can see the offending hill in the picture below – it isn’t even a mountain, more a rolling bump that really shouldn’t have taken us more than a couple of hours, but I have no idea how many times we circled it! As much of it is forested, it was difficult to get our bearings without a map.
We manfully kept going, round and round the circular track that seemed to be only very slowly climbing. When we ended up back in a place we had been a couple of hours before, I had to admit I didn’t know where we were going to two grumpy, thirsty, hungry teenagers. It didn’t occur to me that there was no one else on the hill so we may have been in the wrong place…! We finally got off the hill, back to the car and admitted defeat.
The actual Fairy Pools, August 2017
My partner suggested I re-create our Fairy Pools trip with Ash and the kids on one last road trip. Great idea. Amazingly both kids were available the following Sunday so we drove to Skye in the middle of the night, leaving Edinburgh just before 2am. This time we took my son’s car and shared the driving. No Numpty on the roof this time. We drove a couple of hours past Dalwhinnie and stopped for a sleep. I woke first and set off for another hour before stopping for another rest. When we woke up it was daylight and we only had 90 minutes to go before reaching Glen Brittle.
The weather forecast had been for rain all day so we packed waterproofs and boots. We arrived at the car park at around 0930 and got the last parking space. This time we walked across the road, in fact we couldn’t have missed it as we only had to follow the crowds. It was pretty busy. Where were all these people 3 years ago? The clouds were balancing on top of the Cuillins, the Inaccessible Pinnacle just visible. We followed the path and spent a glorious couple of hours looking at clear blue-green water, iron-ore tinged rocks and inviting waterfalls. Although it was summer it was only 17 degrees, a bit cold for a dip this time.
We kept Ash on the lead in case he disappeared to find sheep or eat rabbit poo. We had to let him off for the river crossings as it would have been too difficult to hold on to him while we were also trying to balance, and he couldn’t use the big stepping stones. He made it across without falling in, a bit wobbly but stayed with us. He was finding it difficult to balance on the uneven rocks on the path so we tried to let him walk on the soft peat and heather at the side of the path. Even so, a few times he lost his footing and almost fell.
We walked till we reached the sign that told us we had reached the end of the Fairy Pools. As we turned back, we saw the hill we spent a full day walking round and round in the other direction.
It was the most beautiful couple of hours with my 2 kids and my dog. I wish we had had the place to ourselves, but strangely there were no other dogs walking till we almost reached the car park on the way back. Ash is always admired and today was no exception. A few people probably wondered why we were making this heavily panting, gangly-legged old boy walk when he was clearly struggling but he had a smile on his face the whole time.
The great leap forward (almost)
When we got back to the car Ash had a slight uphill jump to make it into the boot of the car. There was a slightly muddy patch right behind the car and I tried to get him to take a run up to the boot so he might make it in one go. He gave it his best but 2 hours of walking had taken its toll and he launched himself towards the boot, landing right against the lip but not even getting a single paw in. Instead he seemed to balance on the edge for a second or two before falling comically on his side right into the muddy patch. I’ve never seen him fall without putting his legs out before, but he just didn’t seem to be able to move them quickly enough and he splatted right on his side. So we then had a 30+kg muddy and tired dog to haul into the car – good job my son was there to help him in.
Not a drop of rain fell while we were walking. A friend (Anne) told me later she had been to the Fairy Pools later that day and the rain lashed down. I’m glad our last long trip with him was dry and beautiful, couldn’t have been more perfect really.