You heard of the the fairies when you were a kid, right? Not the ones from Disney tales who show up, sing bippety-boppity-boo, and grant wishes to princesses who then live happily ever after. I’m talking about the fairy folk, the dark and dangerous magical inhabitants who live just the other side of the world, who are vulnerable to cold iron and will wrap you in a web of magic and demand impossible obligations if you dare to enter an agreement with them.
Unless, of course, you know their true names. Yeah, those fairy folk, who live in faerie.
Reader, faerie is the Isle of Skye. A month later, as I write, this, I do not have the words or the ability to rightly describe the place. We were lucky enough to be there in early June, after the snow was gone and before the midges descend in their hellish, bitey hordes, so please don’t take our experience as gospel. But what I can tell you is that Skye is astounding.
We had decided to stay in Skye about a month before arriving in Scotland – our original plan was to visit Skye as a day drip from Strathpeffer, which would have been a two-plus hour drive each way. We rethought that after realizing that driving days like that are awful. I am very glad we did. Our drive was as gorgeous as gorgeous can be; it was like the Highlands were closing in on us with each mile we drove, with more craggy mountains and dark-blue lochs at every turn. We got to our little house in Kensaleyre without incident, and immediately headed out to see the Rha Waterfalls. They were pretty in a very quiet way.
Then we went to the Fairy Glen, and from there came the magic.
The glen is a wonderland of alien rocks and mysterious mounds, and you can wander to your hearts’ content on circular paths that lead everywhere. We let Fiona lead as she climbed hills and mounds and told stories about the fairies and kings who had lived there. I made it a point to myself to make no oaths to anyone or anything who might pop out from the hollows; I didn’t want to promise anything I wasn’t willing to give up.
The next day we drove up the other side of the peninsula to the Old Man of Storr, which is a strange basalt formation on the other side of the island. It was a much tougher hike than we thought it was going to be, so we left Fiona and Grandma at a little clearing while Julie and I made it a bit higher, to where we could see the Old Man himself separate from the other otherworldly basalt columns that surround him.
So you have the pictures, and you have my words. What you do not have – and cannot have unless you go – is the sheer magic of the place. It seems like every rock may hold a door to another world. The lochs are quiet and azure and clearly should contain creatures still unknown to us. The air smells wild, the wind seems to come from across the valley and from thousands of years ago.
Skye. Faerie. The border between them is thin and blurry. I’m glad we went, and a little part of me is glad we didn’t see any actual fairy folk; I don’t have much that I wish for, and what they might ask for in return is a little too precious.