(This post is long overdue… I have been living in the North End for three weeks now. Yet each time I’ve tried to write about moving day something has happened, my computer crashes or the post won’t upload. Very frustrating but here’s one last try!)
After spending over 10 days hostelling and B&B-ing in Portree I was beginning to get weary of living out of bags, having limited kitchen access and needing to put on trousers to go to the bathroom.
Moving day couldn’t come soon enough.
Of course there was the added excitement of moving into my own place where I could wake up in the mornings and make friends with the new day by gazing out to the sea with a cup of tea. After all, Portree is lovely but I came here for the natural landscapes, not urban living.
So, just over a week ago, I stuffed my belongings back into their bags and hauled them into the car. On the way I stopped off for supplies and some flowers for my lovely landlady and then I was on the road.
Despite the postal address containing the line ‘Near Portree’, the house is a good 45 minute drive from Skye’s main town (or more, if the sheep have decided to park themselves on the road).
This distance was a big negative when I first started househunting. But then I made the journey… It’s probably one of the most spectacular routes I’ve ever driven.
It’s pretty much just a tour past the natural icons of Skye; The Old Man of Storr, Kilt Rock and the Quairang. The weather and the hour make it look completely different from one day to the next and driving this route has become one of my favourite parts of the day.
Back in the car I cranked up the music, put my sunglasses on and wound round the bends with the hills on one side and the ocean on the other. The sun was shining and the sea and sky were a vivid blue; much better than the grey drizzle of the previous day.
As I turned onto the little road up the house I had to stop.
Sitting on the middle of tarmac in front of me was a bright-eyed collie dog. As I braked to a halt it got up and turned, then looked back over it’s shoulder at me. I inched the car forward and it began to trot along ahead of me. After a short distance I halted again in case it wanted to get out of the road and go back past the car. It stopped too, sat down again and looked at me. I started again and so did the dog. I followed it with amusement, this curious dog seemed to be leading me home.
As I crawled the car along the track I glanced up the hill towards the house.
On the cloud-shaded landscape I saw my new home sitting in a little spotlight of sunshine. It looked as if someone had put a light on to show me where to go. It felt welcoming.
And so I followed my little canine guide up to the only sunny patch in the bay; it was a curiously charming start to life in the North End and I got a little feeling that this kind of thing isn’t unusual here.
The keys were in the door as I got to the house. I meandered through each room and tried to take it all in. This is the first place I’ve ever lived on my own; no family, no housemates, no boyfriend. Just me.
I could make this space mine. An Englishman’s home is his castle, or something like that…
I quickly noticed that Patsy had put a great deal of effort into preparing the place for her new tenant; the main bedroom was all made up with sheets and there were even fresh teatowels in the drawers and new pots and pans in the cupboards. But the thing that touched me the most was the main fireplace.
When I had first called about the house I had asked if there was the option to have a real fire, I had said that I know it’s a minor thing but that it’s important for me to have a fire to curl up in front of during the winter months. Patsy had agreed, saying that we all need our home comforts. Today I found the fireplace ready set with a bucket of coal, some long matches and even a couple of candles from the Isle of Skye Candle Co. Out in the utility room there was a further bucket of coal, kindling and firelighters.
The amount of care and attention that Patsy had put into making the house feel homely really touched me. It was my first taste of the kindness that a lot of people have up here. I knew that I’d made the right choice to choose this place to live.
Only having a small carful of bags meant that unpacking was unusually speedy.
I didn’t put everything away immediately though. You never know when the sun might be shining again so, after saying hello to Patsy and her husband Donald, I took the opportunity to go out and explore.
On my first visit I’d noticed a little rocky beach on the edge of the bay just a little further North of the house. I’d go and check that out.
It wasn’t quite as simple as I had expected, as I crossed the fields I realised that I needed to find my way down a vertical craggy rock face first. In the end I found a sheep path that ran along the cliff the zigzagged down a less precipitous part of the rock.
If in doubt always follow a sheep path; they may seem stupid but they’re good navigators. Just make sure it’s a sheep you’re following and not a mountain goat…
It was worth the effort. I picked my way over rockpools containing shells, fat ruby sea anemones and tiny darting fish. The only sounds were the lapping of the waves and the songbirds in the grass. It was like my own private beach.
I sat for a while and thought of how busy and stressed I’d been in the months before I came here. Now I have time to sit on a rock and do nothing but stare out to sea and enjoy the peace.
Of course, the peace here isn’t constant. Today is calm but I’ve been told about a fisherman who was washed off the rocks metres from where I sat. He was dragged out to sea and never seen again. It’s a tragic thing to happen but it doesn’t seem to be uncommon around here (I’ve heard other similar stories)
This isn’t a place to be underestimated.
Eventually I head back and begin to unpack into my new home. I couldn’t (still can’t) help but keep stopping to look out of the windows at the view.
As the sun began to set over the sea I pulled a chair over to the window and popped open the little bottle of champagne that I’d brought especially.
With a silent cheers I drank to my new home and wondered what adventures would lie ahead…
Be happy there, it’s so beautiful, I am loving your story.
Sent from my iPad
Thank you 🙂 x
Think I may join you in a glass of bubbly, cheers kate, loving the stories, needed a hanky after your post yesterday
I think you definitely should!
Thanks for your lovely comments (and sorry to make you need a hanky!)
Lovely photos, the rock pool pics are so full of colour and texture. Seems you are following a dream. Good luck!!
I found your blog when looking for real estate in the isle of Skye. I think your photos are wonderful and have really enjoyed reading about your journey.
I have been living in Australia for 15years, a mother of four, all of whom have left the nest, and I’m entertaining the thought of a major life change.
I’ve been trying to find a long term rental property. I only need a one bedroom cottage but there doesn’t seem to be any other than ‘holiday’ accommodation. I was wondering how you went about finding yours? And how much the rent is a month?
If you feel more comfortable emailing me that would be fine with me. I’m at email@example.com
Look forward to your reply.
Thanks for your message. May I ask how you found the blog?
Obviously everyone is in a different position but I would encourage anyone thinking of moving here to make the leap. I’m very happy here and haven’t got a single regret about the move.
It’s actually really hard to find non-holiday rental accommodation on Skye when you’re not here as properties get snapped up locally before they get a chance to go on the market, you’re not alone in having trouble.
As I’m sure you’ve read, I ended up waiting until I got here to find a place. It was risky but it definitely paid off for me (It’s a much bigger risk if you’re coming from Australia, of course!). Perhaps you could book into temp accommodation whilst you look.
I’d definitely recommend looking now though, as it’ll be harder to find places the closer it gets to summer season, especially with people coming in to work in the summer businesses.
If you’re going to try and find a place (either when you’re here or before) your best bet is putting an ad in the West Highland Free Press (they can be found online), it’s where I eventually found my place and it’s an integral part of the community. I got a lot of offers from that and once you’ve identified a place things seem to roll very quickly.
When I first came here a few people warned me that it might be hard to integrate into the community. But I’ve experienced nothing but kindness from the people here, the people of Skye are absolutely wonderful. I think that a willingness to get involved is appreciated (something that isn’t too hard when you move here on your own). Don’t expect only peace and quiet… there’s so much amazing stuff to do here, you wont get bored!
If you need any other advice just shout!
Hello Katie! Thanks so much for your reply. I actually don’t know how I found your blog…I thought it was whilst looking up real estate sites on Skye which lead me to reading about the little café at Kendrum…but I’m not sure. Really glad I did thought because even though we are decades apart in age…your kinda doing what I’ve been thinking about for a while now. Just one more thing…how much would a person expect to pay for a monthly rental property on Skye?…or rather on the northern tip of Skye…I haven’t been able to find any rental properties that aren’t ‘holiday’ rentals to get an idea. I don’t have any fears re ‘integrating’ have lived all over the world and have been fortunately blessed with an outgoing personality which has stood me in good sted when trying life in a new country. Its so great to hear that the locals are warm and friendly though…makes for a lovely experience! Have a great day! Merran x
Sounds like you should go for it! Or at least come over here for a trial period and see how it goes.
I’ll send you an email now to discuss finances 🙂
Katie! Thanks so much for your lovely long reply! Happy New Year!! Ok…so this is how I found you…I remembered that my fav show ‘Grand Designs’ did a house on Skye…so when I googled that I found a reference to this wonderful little cafe…your blog was found underneath …mmm well actually… I just checked to see if that was how I found you…you weren’t there! So now I’m not sure… but I am really glad I did, because your photos and your blog is wonderful and although I went to Skye when I was about your age there was very little that I had remembered until I started following your blog. There’s not a lot I love about the internet, but I must say this is one!
I have lived all over the world and never found integrating a problem as I have one of those annoying bubbly personalities that kinda gets under your skin lol…so that isn’t usually a problem…I guess I think about money and wonder if there would be any job opportunities…I can basically do anything…when you’ve lived as long as I have you tend to pick up a few pointers along life’s way. I was hoping that you might be able to give me an idea of how much a relatively basic little cottage would cost a month?
I have three daughters (and one son) you look quite like my eldest…who also loves your blog now! I think of her doing what you’re doing and know your mum must be so proud of you…I love the way you write and have quoted many bits from the blog to my girls…hoping some of your pearls of wisdom will stick! Yesterday I wrote to a couple of holiday cottage owners asking if any would be interested in giving me a longish monthly rental for less than a weekly “holiday’ rental…one wrote back so am hoping I may find something that way…but as you say worst case scenario is I could always just come, live somewhere temporarily and place an ad in the paper. Keep blogging, me and your mum are dying for the next instalment 🙂 !
Lovely to ‘meet’ you and if you ever come to Australia…you have somewhere to stay! Merran x
Oops, hello, sorry I’ve only just seen this message too.
That’s a very kind thing to say [about the blog], I’m chuffed!
The job opportunities are probably the trickiest thing to sort out here. There are jobs around if you know where to look but they’re often quite modest and most people here have two or three jobs at once. Perhaps, like properties, the best time to look for jobs is the spring when businesses begin to open up again for the tourists.
One thing you might want to consider with holiday rentals… When I got here I was looking at holiday rentals that were going cheap over the winter. In the end I didn’t choose one but I’m SO SO pleased because it means I can extend my stay through the summer (I had originally planned to leave in March). It’s worth thinking that you might want somewhere to settle a bit more (though of course there’s then furniture etc to consider).
Right, emailing now!