The road to Elgol, the small village where my family lived going as far back as there are records to show it, has only one lane, winding and twisting with lochs on one side and steep hills on the other. On the rare occasion when I meet an oncoming driver, one of us pulls into one of the regularly spaced passing places to let the other get by. We greet each other with a nod and a wave, though this makes the process of juggling the rental car’s unfamiliar stick shift and parking brake just a little more complicated.
The Skye bridge and high-speed internet connected the island to the rest of the world, but Elgol remains one of the most remote places I’ve ever been.
I’m on a pilgrimage to visit the family landmarks – three miles outside of Elgol is the house where my grandfather and his nine brothers and sisters grew up, and just on the other side of Loch Slapin (the loch you can see in the picture) is a white house with green trim where my grandparents lived when I was small. We visited them when I was three years old, and my earliest memory is of standing on the hill above the house with my grandfather, looking down over the house and the loch.
The Isle of Skye casts a spell over me every time I visit. The bones of the earth are close to the surface here, and the beauty of the landscape is stark, barren, striking. Almost lunar in places – but with heather.
As I drive, I sink into the spirit of the place, feed on the age of it. My mind wanders, full of memories, full of the stories of my ancestors.
So when I turn the corner into Torrin, the damn cows take me by surprise.
The exact same thing happened the last time I visited. Eventually I’ll remember. The only thing to do is stop and wait for them to clear the road of their own volition.
And possibly take a photograph or two.
(September 8, 2010)