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An ode to Skye

The Island that doesn't lose its magic

By Skye MacDonald

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Throughout my whole life, the Isle of Skye has been a place I have spent my Christmases, October breaks, and summers. Being fortunate enough to have an array of relatives on the West Coast Island, including grandparents with their large family home, it has been a place that has always felt special- a place of escapism and magic.

When I was born, my parents had as much adoration for Skye as I have grown to have, consequently naming me after the island- a privilege that hit me afresh this summer when spending six weeks with my grandparents on the north end of the island. Standing on a hill at twilight with wide skies stretching over the sea, the beauty of this hidden corner of the earth struck me again: it is a place that even when alone, you feel comforted by the presence of the surroundings. The height of the hills, the vastness of the sky, the crispness of the air: they all gather together and create an environment which I can only describe as ethereal. There were many times this summer where I found myself full of joy: a sort of joy that manifests physically through the beat of heart, when you just can’t quite believe that you as a tiny human are allowed to access such beauty.

Exploring new terrain this summer- finding hidden “fairy” pools, walking up into croft land where only cows and farmers have treaded, trekking through miles of heather and marshland-each place brought their own kind of stillness and magic. I think so often this magic was found in the quietness and simplicity of the places; being completely away from civilisation they are spots that urge you to think and to marvel, to ask questions of yourself and of life, to watch as creatures littler than yourself dance in the sky or crawl by your feet.

I have seen the island grow busier in recent years, as holiday makers come and tour around in their campervans, I have seen the “no vacancies” sign on every bed and breakfast you pass. I used to resent this: the roads getting busier, steep cliff side walks becoming so jam-packed with people it is hard to squeeze past; hills laced with walkers that look like ants from above. When I was younger it seemed like the change in the island happened so quickly: one year my family and I were entirely alone scrambling in the now famous Fairy Glen, to the next, arriving to find multiple Rabbies vans filing one by one into the tiny car park, with hundreds of tourists following. I remember saying angrily to my mum, “This is our place, they’re going to ruin it!”

But now, I understand why. I understand why people come to an Island which boasts so much majesty. I understand why, even in the tourist hotspots, people can find a retreat from their normal lives. I understand why, at the foot of the Cuillin’s, an overwhelming sense of “everything will be okay” hits you. Being on Skye for the past six weeks, I have found refuge in both the quietness of the hill in my back garden, as well as on the paths flooded with people. I think if I were to meet my younger self, I would pull her aside and say, “This is a place you can share, a place which you should let others enjoy”, and I would smile at the visitors, welcoming them, rather than thinking that any peace I had felt on the Island could be taken away.


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