I woke up on Monday morning knowing that I would finally be visiting a part of the world that sparked so many thoughts and dreams inside my mind. Over one year ago, I remember sitting in that cafe with my good friend Rebecca very clearly. Traveling had been but a teeny, tiny thought in the back of my mind at this stage. There were still things to consider, choices to make, a conscience to follow. We reached the topic of Ireland and I expressed how much I dreamed to experience their culture one day. Rebecca had taken a recent trip to Scotland and almost instantly brought up this mystical destination. With excitement in her eyes she told me, “If you’re going to be near Scotland, you must go see The Fairy Pools.” We pulled up a photo on my phone and as they appeared, I was struck with amazement. The atmosphere seemed to sparkle with true magic and called out to me as a place I needed to be and absolutely could be. Looking at this photograph had me thinking of the many other almost unbelievable places the world holds. You read about them in the top ten books, watch them as backdrops in famous films and then wonder how you’ll ever be able to reach them yourself one day. They tend to seem so surreal. As I studied that photograph closer and closer, it hit me. For the first time in a long time, I realized that nothing was holding me back from immersing myself in these places that ignited such a passion and inspiring flame within me. I wanted to see them, didn’t I? Then why couldn’t I make the leap? I didn’t have permanent ties or commitments that had me stapled to the ground. In fact, nobody in this world really does. We choose our priorities and in that moment I was so sure of what mine were. My bucket list wasn’t going to sit in a corner and become torn as time passed me by. I needed to travel and The Fairy Pools would be seeing me very, very soon.
I had wondered for quite some time how I would possibly be able to reach the pools. The Isle of Skye is a located in a very remote and very northern part of Scotland. This place is a secluded and beautiful paradise. Everywhere you look you’re protected by a wall of the Coolin mountains or a forest of brightly coloured Autumn trees. It surrounds you daily and calms your soul. I felt so many emotions as I stepped off that bus and noticed that this town of Kyleakin was about ten buildings long with a view of the Loch right outside the hostel windows. A vibrant rainbow dipped into the bridge across the way and welcomed me in. After settling into my friendly hostel with one of those roaring fires I enjoy so much, I walked with a smile on my face along the rocky beach and took in the clean, untouched air. Every rock was a unique shape and colour and the sun continued to shine.
The sky darkens very quickly at 5pm around here so I made the most out of the three hours I had until evening took over. I took a beautiful walk up and through what they call Fox Hill located directly behind my hostel’s backyard. I had found myself a dream land entirely separate from the rest of society, how else can I possibly describe Skye? Every view point had me starring like a love sick puppy and feeling so, so lucky to be there in that moment.
Grateful that my temporary home offered free hot chocolate, I cuddled up with a cup that night and met a wonderful lady named Sarah who had just started working at the hostel that week. I explained my story and desperate need to see the Fairy Pools while here. She responded with a smile. That was exactly the same dream that brought her to Skye a few years ago and she had nothing but amazing things to say about the affect it has on her soul. “If you’re into energy, what you feel while there is incredible and will hit you the second you step into the realms. The minute I arrived, I knew right away that I needed to stay in Skye for just a little longer.” Our whole conversation had me jumping in my seat with excitement and anticipation for what the pools would hold for me. Sarah and I connected and bonded over the magic that drew us to this Island with just one glance at what it has to offer. We sat on the couch by the fire and shared our lives, views and love for our similarities. Most of all, I was thankful for her direction. She explained in perfect detail how I would be able to reach the main hiking point and then take the stunning walk to the home of the fairies. I was a little discouraged at first. The only way I would be able to enjoy this experience without rush would be to hitchhike as early the next morning as possible. “Don’t worry”, she assured me. “People on this island know how hard it is to get around. You’ll get picked up no problem and you shouldn’t have anything to worry about.” I had never hitchhiked before but had met so many travellers who had and ended up meeting very interesting people in the process. The thought always made me nervous as much as it intrigued me. It seemed like such a risky adventure and I’d secretly hoped I would be faced with it just so I could see for myself how thrilling it could be.
The next morning I took a scrawny scrap of cardboard from the bin and wrote my destination in thick sharpie on the front: Sligachan. With my heart held high, I made my way to the roundabout and stood at the side of the road looking as helpless as possibly and praying to God someone would take pity on me. Well, that’s how I started at least. I soon realized that I needed to be a little more prompt with my sign and stuck it out confidently. Within minutes of standing there in the rain, a car pulled over and I peaked inside. I saw a man, a small woman and a little white dog. Using my judgement, I was sure they were the least threatening people that could have stopped and I hopped in. The two of them were passing by Sligachan on their way to Portree and were happier than ever to give me a lift. Gotty, their sweet and soft puppy affectionately greeted me in the back seat. They introduced themselves as Savine and Dan, a couple from London who had taken time to visit friends in Scotland. Savine had done a ton of backpacking and hitchhiking during her younger years so she related to me right away. I answered every question they asked about my journey and we talked non-stop through the hour long drive. Dan, I found out, is an illustrator and former teacher in Glasgow which explained his respect for the artistic career I’m planning to take on full force. Both of them are such incredibly generous and warm people and I couldn’t thank them enough for empathizing with my need to navigate around this desolate land. They were so interested in everything I had to share and I felt support from them for all I was doing seconds after we met. I’m always saying that everything happens for a reason and it just keeps proving itself. Savine has a good friend based in New York, a photographer known for her portraits who has been known to take assistants. Who knows where it will lead or if it will amount to anything at all. What I do know is that the exact amount of time I overslept that morning, the minute I pushed open that door and the cars that passed me by all lined up so I would meet this amazing couple. Hitchhiking wasn’t so scary after all and it really does bring a big, big thrill.
Arriving in Sligachan, I asked the man at the one and only building in the entire town for directions to the path and set out for my trek. The sign reading: Glen Brittle, 4.6km had me giddy with excitement knowing that the pools were just a few hours away. I was shocked at the beauty of this walk. I had no idea that the hike to the pools was going to be just as amazing as the final destination. The Coolin mountains that surrounded me were snow capped and captivated me every step. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. You think about how many people are on this planet and how busy everything seems. The world keeps moving but through it all, there are places of absolute peace and stillness and I felt like I was the only soul in the world that had found it. Nobody was around me for miles and I was two inches tall against a backdrop that could have been snatched out of a postcard. I walked for over two hours, following a rickety wooden sign with the words PATH painted on the front. It wasn’t much of a path at all, really. Much like Mount Croagh Patrick, it had me jumping over rocks and scaling the sides of hills dropping down to waterfalls. It sure wasn’t for the weak. I took my sweet time and thanked the sun for once again shining brightly on a day when I needed it the most.
Finally, I found someone walking toward me on the trail and we stopped to photograph the same pond reflecting the peaks. He confirmed that I was in fact heading in the right direction and the pools were waiting for me at the end of the path. I continued on and had been wishing several times for a tripod. The lighting cast a shadow over almost everything and my photos weren’t having any of it. It was as if someone had heard my thoughts. I suddenly approached a beautiful waterfall and knew that I had arrived. A man sat crouched in front of it, balancing a tripod on a jagged rock. “Would you like to have a go with it?”, he asked me. I kid you not, this man proceeded to connect my camera to his tripod and let me use it for as long as I needed to get a clear and bright shot of the beautiful sanctuary in front of us. As Santiago in Paul Coelho’s The Alchemist always says,
“when you want something, all the Universe conspires in helping you to achieve it.”
I decided to find a secluded spot and take in some moments before walking back. I traveled as far as the trail would take me and spotted a patch of crystal clear water shimmering with turquoise touches. This is another aspect of the pools that make them such a wonder. If you find a section of water that’s stayed calm amongst the rushing falls, it glows several shades of blue attributing to its name and purpose. I almost gasped at the sight of it. The funny thing is, what I was looking at right then wasn’t at all like the photo that is posted on my vision board at home. Aside from the blue waters, what I’d first laid eyes on had been an extremely colour enhanced version of what I was seeing. You would think this would disappoint me but in reality, where I was could never be captured at all. It was much, much better than any google image out there and nothing could have prepared me for it. Everything boiled down to how my heart and mind felt while I was there and that was something I needed to be present for.
I carefully took off my shoes and tip-toed across the rocks to the paradise I had found. Sitting on the grassy ledge, I dipped my toes in very slowly and the ice cold water took over my whole body. I had originally thought to take a quick swim but was very glad I didn’t attempt it after experiencing how freezing cold it was. Swimming in the Atlantic last month was one thing, swimming here would have been stupid. All I needed was a bit of time to make my mark and place just one part of me into the magic waters. I sat there, looked around and smiled. This was definitely the moment I had been waiting for.
For the first time in hours I decided to check the time. Sure enough, I had been so lax about my pace that it had already reached 3:30 and the bus from Sligachan left at 5pm. Not only that, but the sun was going to start heading down soon and I wasn’t about to be hiking through this
with no light. Still, I took my time walking. Regardless of what happened with the bus, I would get home. I wasn’t about to rush the one thing I had come here to see. But as the sky began to dim and the beautiful red sunset that I couldn’t stop admiring faded away, slight panic set in. I had to take my time so I wouldn’t fall into a ditch from running, but I sped up my pace as much as possible and prayed I would make it on time. I arrived in town at 5:10 and at this point it was so dark I was sure no one would be picking me up if I hitched my way back. The hotel that had given me directions to the path was locked up and every light was out. The bus had clearly left. There was no one around for miles and I was literally in the middle of nowhere. The lesson of “everything works out” that I learned with the sunflowers in Pisa has done me well every single time but this was one of the first moments where I was almost certain I would be stuck out here all night long. I even began brainstorming how I would keep myself warm overnight. Drama queen, I know. I was shocked at how down I suddenly became. I felt so helpless standing in the dark and the rain, entirely lost and with little hope for a rescue. Before things escalated too quickly, I snapped myself back into reality. Things do always come together if I believe they will. Why did I need any more proof?
I remembered the small piece of cardboard in my bag and pulled it out. It was crumpled and wet but I did my best to scribble a sloppy KYLEAKIN on the front in big, bold letters. Only one or two cars passed by every five minutes but it was worth a shot. I stuck out my sign once again and held my hope high. Whatever did drive down the road passed me by for the next ten minutes. Then, out of nowhere, a white car pulled over and two people in their mid-twenties were inside, asking me where I was headed. They were going to a hostel in Broadford which was on the way but not quite where I needed to be. Regardless, it was still closer than I was and they agreed to drive me there. The two of them, Anya and Fabia are from Hungary and are cousins traveling the area to visit friends. Both of them were very sweet and soft natured. When we arrived in Broadford, they wished me luck on picking up my next ride and drove off. I was a little bummed about having to hitch for a third time at that stage but had a little more hope this time that it would work in my favour.
Seconds later, the Hungarian cousin’s came driving back and pulled up beside me. “We read our directions wrong”, they said. “We’re actually headed to the same place you are!” They laughed and pointed at the hostel photograph, wondering how in the world they mixed up the cities. “Hop in”, they told me. I was so relieved. What were the odds that out of all the cars (or lack thereof), they one that stopped was heading to my hostel in the middle of nowhere. Everything falls into place. I should have known.
Skye also brought me a few other sights. The next day I took a tour to The Fairy Glen (I’m sensing a theme here). This island is quite well known for their inhabitance. In this area, everything surprisingly seems to shrink down in size. The hills get smaller, the trees get shorter and there’s no doubt it feels like a sacred place. According to the myths, no one should ever leave or take anything from the premise or you’re bound to have bad luck for the rest of your life. I was just as captivated about this place as I was the pools but in a very different way. We didn’t end up staying long. The rain began to poor, the hail began to fall and we rushed into the bus for shelter. Just for good measure, we still ended up taking a hike down to a gorgeous waterfall and something at the end of our walk made the whole thing worth it. Those rainbows, they always shine down at the end of every storm.
Before I left for Edinburgh, Scotland at the end of October, I stayed with yet another Camino friend and her family (which you will eventually read about). Mary is an incredible lady from Derry in Northern Ireland and her hospitality blew me away like all the rest. When she heard I would be heading for the pools the next month and wasn’t sure how I would find my way, she came downstairs holding a small pin. It was a tiny golden fairy. “I hope you find the fairies”, she said as she clutched my hand around it. Mary, I promise you I did. I really did.