The Isle of Skye is probably one of the most spectacular places you can visit in Scotland. And if you are looking for a real Isle-of-Skye Scottish Highlands kind of experience then it’s the famous Fairy Pools where you must go.
The Fairy Pools are something like an internet sensation. Is it the name or the pristine natural beauty that attracts thousands of tourists each year? I don’t know.
The only thing I do know is that the attraction is real and that the beauty of the scenery here is unrivalled. If you are planning a trip to the Isle of Skye do add the Fairy Pools to your list – they are just amazing.
Just make sure you are not as stupid as me when visiting.
A must-do destination for photographers
There was no doubt in our mind that we needed to visit the Fairy Pools when we spent a couple of days on the Isle of Skye during our girly Scotland road trip. Both avid photographers, we could sense when a location was so beautiful it didn’t really matter whether the sun was out or not – the photos resulting from the visit were bound to be stunning.
A word of explanation: “we” that is myself and my travel writer friend Coralie from London blog Tea Time in Wonderland. Both equally adventurous and curious by nature, she slightly crazier and more adventurous than me, yet a good team altogether.
That is, until you drop us in a place that is ruled by fairies, distracting us with crystal clear waters and the otherworldly backdrop of cloud covered highlands and meadows with colourful specks of heather. In that case, all careful planning, all mutual agreements, all caution could and would go to hell.
Let’s put it this way: we started out dry, clean and within our schedule, and ended up wet, dirty and pretty late.
A good start: Dry, clean and within our schedule
But how did we get to this?
We started the Fairy Pool walk just like any other visitor. Parked the car, walked down a slope to meet the gurgling stream. Followed the track, took photos here and there. Nothing unusual, just the same thing that everybody else was doing. Well, not quite, as my friend tends to take a million photos where others would be satisfied with just one. But that’s ok since I am pretty patient. I just let her do her thing while I tended to my own businesses, snapping away and enjoying the experience of the Fairy Pools Trail.
At times, Coralie would shoot forward, hunting for good spots to take photos from, with me falling behind. Then she would be distracted again by one particular view, one pretty corner, a minuscule detail, and I would overtake her. We would walk like this for ten minutes, twenty minutes, two girls together yet pretty much experiencing the pools separately.
I knew that Coralie was playing with the thought of jumping into the pools. Looking at the photos you might think that this was impossible, that the water would be freezing, but it is something that many people actually do when they visit the Fairy Pools. And did I mention that my friend was a little bit crazy? She had swum in Lake Windermere in Cumbria only a couple of days earlier, simply walked in there with clothes and all, so I was fully convinced she would jump into the Fairy Pools for a swim as well.
This is what happens when your travel partner is a little bit crazy
We were on a tight schedule, with a lunch review planned a couple of hours later. Getting into the water, drying off, etc. takes time, so I was naturally assuming that Coralie had run off to spent more time at the end of the trail, having a swim in the pools, until I would catch up. I lost sight of her, but wasn’t concerned as I was expecting to catch up with her later.
The Fairy Pools happened along the way. I was expecting them to be at the end of the trail. But as a matter of fact they are just part of the stream and the water system, which goes from flat river bed to gurgling waterfalls to deep clear pools and back again. A playful jest of nature, so pretty and pristine, just stunning to look at it. You could take a million photos here, come back over and over again and still would find something new to discover.
On and on I went, fascinated by the beauty of this scenery. The weather started to turn, so I quickened my pace. Before, the path had been relatively easy to conquer with sneakers only, yet now that the occasional drops turned into a more persistent drizzle, the path slowly turned into a muddy slide with random boulders strategically placed to keep me out of trouble most of the time.
I guess, it would have made sense to pack a (good pair of walking shoes for our Scotland trip like the ones on this website – check it out here (promotional).
It could only go downhill from here
The drizzle continued. Busy with keeping my footing and with the hood drawn deep in my face I neglected to take in my surroundings. I figured that Coralie would already be swimming somewhere in that magical place called the Fairy Pools. Maybe she was even waiting for me to take pictures of her while she was in the water. I hurried even more.
Occasionally I looked around, noticing that I had left the majority of visitors behind me. Those that continued on along the path were quite decidedly better equipped than me. They wore sturdy hiking boots, rain protective gear, they knew what they were doing. Well, I thought, she will probably be behind that next crest, waiting for me. Hopefully she won’t be upset that it took me so long to catch up.
I am not a particularly good hiker. I am a big city girl. I struggle to stay on both feet as soon as the conditions get less than ideal. And with the drizzle turning into a full blown rain shower the conditions were most decidedly not ideal any more. The weather turned into one of these famous Scottish summers of freezing temperatures and big rain showers. I had to pack away my camera. My pants started to get soaked. And then: a big unexpected obstacle.
A big leap over the river Styx
The path was crossing a swollen stream. Broad enough so that you couldn’t just simply skip over it. With slippery looking boulders in the middle, waiting for good hiking boots to carry the walker over the water.
Hiking boots, not sneakers. I looked down on my pair of Converse, my wet pants.
Hikers came up to me, seeing my dilemma. They offered me a hand, helping me cross the stream to get to my friend. I smiled and declined. I figured, she must be on her way back already, I just sit it out. And who knows, maybe she was actually still behind me, trying to catch up with me as I was hurrying up the path in search of her.
Five minutes passed. Five minutes in a rain shower, on the banks of a stream, waiting for someone who may or may not show up behind me or in front of me or from wherever. Nowhere to find shelter.
What time was it? I didn’t know. I was still confused with time. Only a couple of days earlier I had been to Germany, before that in Italy, before that in Greece and Turkey. All my movements involved changing of the clocks. Just an hour here and there, yet enough to confuse my inner clock.
I checked my phone. No reception. When were we supposed to be at the restaurant? Didn’t we say we only wanted to stay here for 20 minutes? Wasn’t it 40 minutes over already? Where was Coralie?
In my desperation I took the leap. I attempted to skip over the stepping stones to get to the other side of the stream to get to the magical Fairy Pools. Lucky for me, I succeeded. I felt pretty proud of myself. Wait till I tell you how I crossed the stream, Coralie. You think you are the only crazy girl here, but look at me and how I did that.
On and on I walked, following the water, with rain now hitting my face, my thighs, my exposed hands. Coralie, don’t be mad for my tardiness. I hope you had a nice swim.
Lost on an endless trail
At some point I realised that there were no Fairy Pools behind the next bend. That the main attraction was way behind me. To confirm, I stopped a hiker (who, incidentally was much better equipped than me and had a much more cheerful attitude than me despite the weather). I described my friend to him (“A girl with a big camera lens”) but he admitted he hadn’t seen anyone of that description.
Suspiciously I asked the second question, the one where I already knew the answer to. No, there was no end to this trail. This trek would go on for a 100 miles. There were no more pools coming. That was it.
Damn! It all hit me in that very moment. I was walking an endless path, I had missed the pools, I had lost my friend. We would be late for our lunch review. She would be worried sick, probably waiting at the car for me as I had aimlessly wandered off into the Scottish Highlands.
She would be mad at me. She would hate me. She would kill me.
In shock I turned around and sped along the path which was by now no more than one big muddy slippery slope. Faced the broad stream a second time. Didn’t think twice, just took all the stepping stones in a stride. Couldn’t even feel the pride washing over me anymore.
Don’t trip and fall. Don’t slip. Don’t step into this muddy pool, ah damn it!
Walked back to the car, on and on. Past the Fairy Pools. Soaked wet. Sneakers caked in mud. Pants clinging to me like a second pair of skin. Shivering, embarrassed.
She would kill me.
She would kill me.
She would kill me.
The car park and the road finally came into sight – I must have walked for at least 30 minutes to get back. So many people here, standing on top of the slope, looking down at the scenery.
Don’t ever cross the fairies
And there she was. Like a beacon she was standing there looking down on me. Too far away, I couldn’t see her face. Couldn’t tell if she was worried or angry or both. Climbing up the slope, exhausted and with pain in my legs, I raised me hands in a begging gesture. Please don’t kill me, please don’t kill me. To top it off, the rain turned into hail.
I almost cried when I finally stood in front of Coralie. I cried because I had lost her. Because I had felt helpless without a phone reception. Because I didn’t want to stir any negative feelings like worry or anger in her. Because we had a professional commitment to review a restaurant and I had no idea how awfully late we actually were.
But my friend just looked at me as I blabbered along like an idiot, alternating between apologising and swallowing down my tears.
As it turned out she was ok with it. She didn’t hate me. We weren’t too late. She had been worried but she had been not even close to getting really anxious about my whereabouts.
Miraculously, we made it to the restaurant in time. Yes, we were both soaking wet and exhausted. But this made our whiskeys so much sweeter. To my excuse, the fairies must have gotten wind that we were coming. I am sure I accidentally inhaled some fairy dust which is known to cause disorientation, confusion and general stupidity.
So next time you visit make sure you don’t cross the fairies. They are an evil bunch of people that will do anything they can to lure you into their world.