Portree – Gateway to the Isle of Skye

Dawn breaks over the colorful shops and restaurants which line the picturesque Portree harbor

Sometimes you find the finest things in unexpected places. I had the best meal of my life in a tiny, unassuming restaurant located on the harbor in Portree, Skye. My husband and I had rented an apartment in the village, because halfway through a two-week trip a place to do your own laundry is a Good Thing. Through the open windows of the apartment, we could hear bagpipes playing somewhere in town, and we decided to wander around to find somewhere to eat dinner.

We found ourselves walking along the quay, watching small ships come in to dock and admiring the brightly colored shops and restaurants that lined the water. We chose a place called Sea Breezes, and because it was still a half hour until it opened, stood near the door to watch the fisherman. As we stood there, a line started forming behind us, and it got longer, and longer and longer. I decided to call in to make a reservation, and assisted the Parisian couple behind us to make one as well. While we waited, a waitress pulled up in a small truck filled with boxes of wine bottles, and a boat docked in front of the door, with the captain depositing a crate full of scritching creatures on the restaurant’s doorstep before motoring back out to sea. The door opened briefly, and both crate and boxes were swiftly pulled inside before the door shut and locked again.

The reservation turned out to be a great idea, because of the maybe twenty people standing in line, my husband and I and the French couple were the only ones who got in. Once inside, we realized why – the small building only held fourteen tables. We ordered local oysters and langoustines – tiny lobsters which turned out to be the scritchy creatures inside that crate. I had to ask the waitress to show me how to open the langoustines, which were amazing, and the oysters were hands-down the freshest and sweetest I’ve ever tasted. We found out that the restaurant is owned by the chef, who personally came out to check on and chat with each table.

The village of Portree is the capital city on the Isle of Skye in the Inner Hebrides of Scotland, and is an ideal place from which to explore the island. Skye is easily accessible from the mainland; there is a bridge that connects the mainland village of Kyle of Lochalsh to the village of Kyleakin on Skye. Once you arrive on the island, Portree is an easy 50 minute car ride North along the Eastern shore. Nearby, the Talisker Distillery is well worth a visit, and interesting even if you are not a whisky drinker. The building itself smells delicious, like warm bread and honey, and they give a delightful tour that explains the intricacies of distilling. Come visit, sample some whisky, and find out how only six employees produce an annual output of three and a half million litres of spirit! While there, I picked up a bottle of what has become a favorite whisky – Talisker Port Ruighe, the Gaelic name for Portree.

After spending some time in Portree, be sure to explore the rest of Skye, where you can find rugged coastlines and tall, imposing mountains. Take a walk in the Faerie Glen or visit the Old Man of Storr, a rock formation which you might recognize from movies such as Ridley Scott’s Prometheus. Speaking of movies, no visit to Skye is complete without a trip to Dunvegan Castle, the ancestral home of the Clan MacLeod, made famous by Sean Connery in Highlander. Wherever your travels take you, you are sure to have a memorable time on the breathtaking Isle of Skye.