By: Jacquelyn Voghel / Herald Foreign Correspondant
When I first began researching Scotland as a study abroad location, one of the first attractions that caught my eye was the Isle of Skye.
As I would come to learn, many other students and travelers in general place Skye on their “must-do” lists when they come to Scotland; virtually every tour company here offers a trip to the island, and these excursions fill up notoriously fast.
Fortunately, I secured a spot on a weekend trip through the Highlands and Skye shortly after I arrived in Scotland for the semester. Now that the trip has finally come and gone, I must say that Skye did not disappoint.
Skye is one of the largest islands in Scotland, although it has a population of just over 10,000. More than 2,000 of these residents live in Portree, the largest town on the island and the location of my hostel. As I learned on my tour, Skye is actually larger in area than Singapore, although with only a small fraction of the population size.
With such a small population spread over a relatively large area, it should come as no surprise that Skye’s main attractions are its stunning landscapes. The mountainous island features lochs, waterfalls, cliffs, and other gorgeous features that have attracted a range of visitors spanning from tourists to filmmakers. Understandably, during my time in Skye, I often felt as if had stepped into a fairytale setting.
My experience may differ somewhat from those who visit Skye in the summer–but perhaps partially due to my visit being a bit off-season, the island did not feel particularly “touristy” in spite of its popularity. While the more famous sites definitely see quite a few people walking about, driving around the island reveals sweeping stretches of seemingly untouched landscapes.
One of the most beautiful views I had on Skye came during a morning hike up a hill called The Storr, which provided fantastic views of of the rugged landscapes and surrounding water. Although I had the chance to see quite a few sights in Skye, I’m sure there are countless other beautiful settings on the island, and if anyone is interested in visiting Scotland, I would definitely recommend the location.
While Skye’s natural beauty is a huge draw, the unique Highland culture found on the island also provides an interesting experience. The Portree “downtown” area only has a couple streets and could be walked in a matter of minutes. From the outside, these streets seemed very quiet on a Saturday night, although the few pubs and restaurants that dotted the streets boasted a lively atmosphere, seemingly filled with a mixture of locals and tourists.
Because I went to Skye with a tour group, I had the chance to stop at several other Highland locations on the way there, including Glencoe, the Caledonian Forest, and Eilean Donan Castle. While time had to be limited at some locations, I feel the tour was probably the easiest way to see all of these different sights as a student. The organization that led the tour gave us a considerable amount of time to wander on our own at the places we visited, so it was generally a nice balance of freedom and structure.
Now that I am back in Edinburgh, the upcoming week will bring me back to reality. The deadline for one of my first major essays is coming up, and my next weekend is the only one in October where I do not have any travel plans. While I’d like to say it should be a good opportunity to get some rest, I’m not sure the “study” aspect of study abroad will permit that! The past few weeks have definitely been intense between school and traveling, although I can’t imagine the experience another way.