I first set foot on the Isle of Skye in the surprisingly hot summer of 2013, on my second visit to Scotland. The heat didn’t keep my wife and I from trudging over the Skye Bridge and climbing up the hill to the ruins of Castle Moil, as well as making it to the excellent castles of Dunvegan and Eilean Donan. I never made it to Neist (pronounced 'Neest') Point, but it also only rained once that I remember in two weeks, and we somehow missed the midges. It was a good (if somewhat disingenuous) way to fall in love with this land the Vikings called Skuy, or “the misty isle.
I returned to Skye in late April of 2015, after smartly renting a car in Edinburgh and taking the most visually pleasing five-hour drive of my life (which included at least six seasons of weather). I wasn’t about to be at the mercy of Skye’s bus service again, particularly on the weekends.
On that trip I made it all over the island, hiking up to the Old Man of Storr, traipsing out to the ruins (and the stunning views) of Knock Castle, and wandering all the way down to the Fairy Pools in the midst of three days of heavy rain. There was so much mud and angry water at that last destination that neither I, nor the young Asian couple who were the only others there at the time, were quite sure we were in the right place. The fairy folk had obviously either left or drowned.
It was another cracking adventure-filled trip, but I didn’t make it to Neist Point that time either.
I missed it that time mostly because my home base was in Broadford (at the lovely Otter Lodge B&B), making Neist Point a nearly 90 minute drive diagonally across the island. There were too many things to do and see. Neist Point didn’t make the cut yet again.
In those dark times between Scotland trips, while I reviewed consumer electronics devices, interviewed scientists, and trudged around New York City listening to podcasts. And I started justifying not going to Neist Point. Sure, it looked impressive in photos. But there were so many photos of the place. Neist Point was usually near the top of lists of things to see and do on Skye, and being a natural contrarian, that kind of put me off. I’m sure it’s pretty, I said to myself, but it’s just scenery. And who cares about an old lighthouse?
On my third trip to Skye in the summer of 2016, I managed to bring my wife along again, and it rained 17 of the 18 days we were there. It rained so hard that at one point we spent nearly two days indoors at the cozy Stein Inn, binge-watching episodes of UK Border Force nearly all day. This made me extra-anxious on the way home, by the way, when I got pulled in by US Customs at Dublin Airport after I mentioned that I bought a sheep-skin rug from SkyeSkyns. Even when you know you've done nothing wrong, it’s frightening to be placed in a room alone for 20 minutes without your passport or your luggage.
We did, though, manage to sneak out between the raindrops on that trip and march back up to Storr, seek out and find Dun Hallin Broch in a hilltop field, and explore both St. Mary’s Old Kirk near Dunvegan, and Trumpan Church on Waternish. I also returned to Castle Moil for the third time. Those ruins and the area around it are probably my favorite spot in the world, which is why I wasn’t all that upset when I slipped on seaweed in the isolated bay below the ruins and landed on my back so hard I bruised a rib. I now have a Scotland injury!
But arguably the most memorable event of that trip was when we finally made it through Glendale (no, not the one in California) to Neist Point. We ambled our way all the way down to and past the lighthouse, spending a shockingly sunny afternoon walking along the twisted and metamorphosed vertical rock layers, and looking out in amazement at Moonen Bay.
This is the westernmost point on the Isle of Skye, with just 15 miles (and the Minch strait) separating it from North Uist in the Outer Hebrides. (Side note: I’ll be making my way to those more westerly Western Isles in May of 2017. Perhaps I’ll head to Benbecula and see if I can recognize Neist Point from the other side.)
The lighthouse here was built in 1909, and has been automated since 1990. (Remember when I was hating on lighthouses a few paragraphs ago? I’m an idiot.)
The page on the local Glendale Skye tourism site says Neist Point is “the best palce on Skye to see whales, dolphins, Porpoises and basking shark.”
We didn’t spot any of those exciting sea creatures, but there were plenty of picturesque sea birds and grazing/lounging sheep enjoying the sun.
I could go on rambling about Neist Point and how happy I am to have finally made it to this gorgeous spot. It manages to stand out even on Skye, where there are hundreds of places with uniquely stunning views. But hopefully the photos speak for themselves.
The 360 photos I took do this place (above and below) do more justice than any panorama could, no matter how wide and detailed. If you happen to have a VR headset, I highly suggest breaking it out for these photos. The ability to look around from the top of An t-Aigeach (the high ridge with the vertical right-facing cliff in several of these photos), overlooking the lighthouse and Moonen bay, was worth the money I spent on Samsung’s Gear 360 camera alone.
From the moment I began the long descent from the car park, I felt like an fool for not making it to Neist Point sooner. Few people are lucky enough to come to Skye once in their life, and it took me three trips before I found my way to some of the most stunning natural scenery outside of…I don’t know, maybe New Zealand?
I adore Scotland, and there’s certainly a whole lot of it left for me to see. But I don’t expect my eyes to land on anything more breathtakingly, vastly beautiful than Neist Point unless and until I finally make my way to St. Kilda, an isolated group of islands about 70 miles west of Neist Point, on the other side of the Outer Hebrides.
As much as I’m still kicking myself for not making it to Niest Point for so long, Skye is a pretty big place—I just looked it up and holy crap, it’s 639 square miles. Even for its size, it's densely packed with places that are very much worth a visit. In fact, at the end of my upcoming trip to…let’s see: Inverness, Shetland, Orkney, Wick, Ullapool, and the Outer Hebrides…I’m going back to Skye for a few days.
Scotland, you make me feel like an idiot every time I leave without making it to every spot I intended to visit (and the ones I found out I missed after the fact). I’ll keep coming back until I feel as well-traveled and
-informed as a local.
And then I just might stay—if you’ll have me.