Skye

In the midst of examination gloom, a friend mentioned a little road trip adventure she was taking the following week. After a few conversations and some tentative plans, a merry band of four were soon zooming through the highlands in search of the spectacular Isle of Skye.

I came to the south of Skye with Trees For Life last year. We were mostly tree planting in the south of the island but spent a day off taking the ferry to loch Coruisk and then walking back to the fishing village of Elgol. This time we were staying in the very north of the island near the town of Uig, a place none of us could properly pronounce.


Quiraing
The Edinburgh second semester runs from January to May with only a few sparing weeks separating lectures and exam season. I spent my Easter 'break' this year studying Italian in Modena which elongated the desperation to finally reach the freedom of summer. With one exam left and a whole week to put some revision work in, it was an easy decision to rediscover this special place one more time.


Skye is one of the most incredible places to experience. Sparsely populated, it feels strangely peaceful to simply drive for miles along the winding Scottish coastline. We were there Friday - Tuesday and with the aid of Bel's powerful vehicle we wandered around the island from beaches to fairy pools to incredible walks along the coast.


Old Man of Storr
Walk from Neist Point
Neist Point
Neist point in the most westerly point of the island with a lighthouse pointing out towards the north Atlantic ocean. Amelia and I were walking around the deserted buildings that surround the lighthouse and found a Canon 5D just sitting on the floor. After we picked it up a bearded man turned the corner and reclaimed the camera before walking off again. Later we found out it belonged to Jared Chambers who was there with a group of photographers. Scroll down his instagram to May to see his work from Skye.








The Quiraing and Old Man of Storr are two areas on the north east side of the island, apparently they were formed through subsiding ground leaving these impressive rock formations behind.

Pembo, Meals, Bel, Povo





On the Sunday evening we jumped in the car and drove to an open area of fields that looked out over the west coast. Living in a city means it is often easy to miss such simple extraordinary things like a sunset. Everything was still apart from the wispy clouds that floated around the bay. The orange glow of the sun replicated itself onto the water before disappearing beyond the horizon. 

Portree



I'm 6 weeks through a 10 week internship based in London. I've spent the last few days in one of their Edinburgh offices. August brings the excitement of the fringe which is a far cry from any bleak 2am revision moments in May. When I arrived into the airport on Wednesday it still felt like home.

Exams were passed which means next year will be spent abroad in Italy. I will be studying philosophy at Sapienza, Universita di Roma. 

25 days till the big move...

Trees For Life - Skye

I needed to break things up, to do something different and to do something that will allow me to break out of the uni bubble that it is easy to get caught under. About 5 weeks ago I heard about an interesting charity called Trees For Life. Their mission is to replant the Caledonian forest that has been gradually removed from the Scottish landscape over the past 200 years.

If you have watched Brave you will get an idea of the kind of expansive and varied forests that Scotland used to enjoy. But much of the Ash, Aspen, Beech, Scottish Pine, Oak etc have been removed with less than one percent of the original forest remaining. Trees For Life aim to reintroduce this ecosystem and one of the ways they do this is by running a series of work weeks throughout the year where volunteers come and plant trees.

Myself and a friend applied for one of these weeks in the beautiful Isle of Skye, on the West coast of Scotland. We were joined by 8 other volunteers and we would spend 5 days working with Wednesday spent exploring the island. The incredible scenery in Skye surpassed my high expectations and it was a relief to escape the city landscape I had been living in for the previous 12 weeks.

Our 8 fellow volunteers were an eclectic group of people who allowed me to see into new ways of living that is far removed from my student life. I haven't turned into a tree hugging hippy over night but I was provoked by a more simplistic way of doing things. Edinburgh has pushed me away from this and it was powerful to see people in all walks of life with a different set of priorities.

This was the first time I had done work of this kind. While my sister's first reaction was that I had justified all the Christmas trees for the rest of her life, I was more intrigued by being surrounded by an environment that was foreign to anything I was familiar with. Not just the beautiful scenery, but the conversations I was having with the fellow volunteers and a depth of knowledge and skills into new areas that have real importance to the people I was working with.

Our priorities in life are reflected by what we do and who we are. By taking 20+ flights in the last 12 months, saving the planet for future generations is evidently less important than some of my other interests in life. When you spend a significant amount of time with people who have on principle not been on a plane for 8 years you  are forced to question why you do what you do. I guess I would justify it by saying that taking opportunities when they arise is key to who I am and this often leads me to hopping on a plane. Also, there is much we can learn and appreciate by going out of our normal environment. We can bring things back that will help and improve ourselves and the people around us and learn to value the things we are blessed with right now.


Removing some American Spruce
I gained a lot from Skye. The objective of the week was to plant trees and as a group, we planted 2,500 Birch and Willow trees over the first four days with the last day spent removing non-native trees. It will take over 20 years for that area to develop into a forest, so I will be 40 before I can come back and see the end result. You get a glimpse of how fragile that and the worlds environment really is. In a space of a few hours a fire could wipe out decades of development or tree fellers could come in and clear it out just as they are doing right now in Brazil at crazy speeds.

I also realised that I missed getting outside and going for walks. On the Wednesday we took a boat from Elgol to Loch Coruisk and then walked back along the cliffs by the sea. It was an incredible day from seeing eagles to witnessing some beautiful scenery that was reminiscent of the Andes last year. You get a lot of thinking time of walks and I missed that no pressured silence to just experience what is around you.

Coming back I already miss the feeling of going somewhere new. It was a powerful week and I'm glad I've been able to see more of this country which I now call my home. Five weeks of reality as I face exams before I can tentatively check my bank balance and start the Summer.

Beats: