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WH Travellers meeting 2019
The WH Travellers Meeting of 2019 was an odd one: we did not visit a WHS! Not even a TWHS. We gathered at the Scottish island of Skye for what would have been an epic trip to St. Kilda. Unfortunately the boat trip out there was cancelled for both the main and the spare day. More on what we learned about the logistics of getting to St. Kilda later in this post. What was left were 24 international travelers roaming about northern Scotland and its islands.
The 25th and 26th of July 2019 went into the weather record books of Northwest Europe as the hottest days ever. Even the island of Skye, from where we were supposed to sail to St. Kilda, was sunny and dry at 22 degrees Celsius. Our trip however was cancelled by the cruise company due to the wind being “in the worst possible direction”. It was bitter to know that the trips just the day before and after we were scheduled did go on.
In hindsight and after talking to the locals on Skye, a departure from the island of Harris would have been better. Two companies do make the trip from there, which is about an hour closer to St. Kilda - so the tour is cheaper, has less time on a rough sea and more time on the island. Both Harris companies seem to be more established as well: they have better terms&conditions regarding pre-payment, weather cancellation penalties and age limits.
The cancellation had various effects on the group members. Some whisked away immediately to the Orkneys, another island group a day away with the Neolithic Orkney WHS to tick for those who hadn’t been there before. Thomas was sad that he did not make it to the Outer Hebrides region and I desperately wanted to see puffins. Others went through a number of stages of grief and depression, leaving them doing not much at all. 12 of us ‘did’ Skye’s tourist destination #1: a hike up to the Storr. It’s a short walk (about 2 kilometers), but steep. Climbing from the start - just like for some Tour de France cyclists – does not fit me. So I eventually settled on a nice vantage point overlooking the sea just below the rock pillar called Old Man of Storr.
We were blessed with having Allan as a semi-local guide with us. At least he knew how to pronounce place names like Uig! Just as in Bulgaria last year we took the approach of pooling cars, so that we were all flexible and had different people to talk to. Others already had met up over the last week on the way up north, ticking some TWHS and WHS on the way. I took off some time to do a 3hr cruise near Skye's Trotternish Peninsula and the Ascrib Islands to see lots of seals and their babies, dolphins and the long-awaited puffins.
For myself, travel wise it was a bit of a waste of 2 precious holidays. On the plus side however I did get to know some WH travelers better, such as Canadians Craig & Lara who were in my car for over 6 hours! ‘New’ faces included Americans Jacob and Jay.
On my last morning at Skye I finally did see a few glimpses of island life on St. Kilda: I visited Dunvegan Castle, home of the Scottish clan of Macleod. For over 500 years they were the owners of St. Kilda and taxed its poor inhabitants. Two showcases in their quite ugly 19th century castle display a few items from the island plus photos of brave men rowing in high waves. And there is a stuffed puffin too…
Els - 4 August 2019
Jay T 4 August 2019
Even though St. Kilda didn’t work out, I had a great time meeting everyone and exploring Skye. Glad you got to see puffins, Els!
Nan 4 August 2019
Thanks Els for the summary and organising! No more boat trips; at least if the Rucek's are joining :)