Monday, 1 June 2009

All Is Not Equal Under The Skye

Skye is a beautiful place, a far away wild mountainous island where it's still possible to believe - despite a bridge to the mainland - that you have left the UK for another land where people have Viking blood and no telly. It is a place of enormous skies, towering mountain vistas and roads that go for tens of miles to only one place.

We camped at the Loch Greshornish Camping and Caravanning Club site, in May, and learnt that a small island, sitting almost at the Northwesterly corner of our land, gets whipped by the spinning outer edges of the weather with pole twisting, canvas flapping force at times.

The Camping and Caravanning Club franchise has recently been bought by Dave and Nicky - English comer-inners to Skye who bought the farmhouse, croft and existing campsite two years ago. Since taking on the C and CC mantle they have had their work cut out - as well as bringing the place up to standard they must manage the substantial tract of land with sheep, ducks, chickens and long-horn Highland cattle they inherited with the land.

Chatting to people on site who knew it before it's apparent Dave and Nicky have done a lot of work - hard standing for caravanners, new roads, and greatly improved facilities - new toilets and showers to name a couple. But stood up to my elbows in suds in the outdoor washing up hut listening to the conversations , a noticeable divide is apparent in opinion on the site. There seems to be two camps (sorry!): those who need cosmetic improvement and those whose needs are simply functional.

Take the outdoor washing-up area. An electric light might be a nice thing to have, one day; but it doesn't go dark until ten o'clock on Skye - but you should just have one, right, everyone want to wash up in the dark after ten pm, don't they? That seemed to be the illogical stance of one of the site's detractors.
Others complained about the poor quality of the joinery inside the shower block, the door handles admittedly looked like they had been there since they were salvaged from a house in the 1970s; but they worked, everything worked. It was just a bit tatty and very much a work in progress. Work that means 12 hours a day for Dave and Nicky.

So who are in these two camps? Those who seem to need things to look nice, by and large, seem to be caravanners and motor home owners who have not been tent campers. They compare this site unfavourably to the regimented sounding, highly efficient Caravan Club sites; whilst tent campers and carvanners who have gone soft (sorry again) seem much more tolerant of this lovely loch side site, realising that there is more than enough beauty on Skye without having to rely on the inside of the toilet door for it.

If you are considering camping on Skye do go to the site at Loch Greshornish and stay with Dave and Nicky where they will for this year, be run ragged by their C and CC mentor while he drills them in the ways of the club. Eat Nicky's eggs for breakfast less than an hour after she has collected them from beneath clucking hens and quacking ducks. Join them in a lock side walk as the sun sets and chat about the life changing decision they made to come to Skye, and understand why it is worth the hard work when they end their day with that lochside stroll rather than watch The Apprentice on telly.

This site will get better, the new owners have the drive and vision to make it work, but I sort of hope it doesn't get too smart and snazzy. Skye isn't like that - the Crofters Hebridean life was always about surviving against the elements with the resources around you, not stamping your impression on the landscape insisting you have your way - I doubt you'd succeed much in any case.

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