The old and the new

Sun, Mar 22, 2020

Almost a year ago I betook myself and Fatty McFat Bike to the wonderful Isle of Rum. I made a wee film about the trip and looking back on it, the lack of people, the peace, the silence, were not only invigorating and renewing but those scenes now seem to hold a hint of prescience.

Today, on Skye, the roads are empty, the wind blasts incessantly across the rain sodden moors and the Black Cuillin claw from the black roiling sea to the snow and storm clouds scudding over the island. The other day, on the way to work, at work and on the way back, I saw almost no cars, no people. Just small birds blown across the rain-shined road. I stopped to pick a stunned robin from the middle of the tarmac at one point. Most likely having thumped into a car, out of control in the gale. I put him in the long grass to recover and continued on my solitary journey. It does feel spooky now.

We went for a wander above Loch Eynort last weekend but despite a sea eagle and some goldfinches, it was a desolate monocultural wasteland, lashed by gales and horizontal rain most of the day. Practically no tourists. The tourism on the island having collapsed. The Zombie Buses, with steamed-up windows, speeding at seventy through the sodden landscape reduced to a single instance on the way the Glen Brittlle and the new Fairy Pools car park.

In some respects it’s a disaster for tourist businesses. The co-op in Broadford is bereft of bog roll, pasta, rice, sugar. At one point I thought the island was going to run out of food. There’s a nine day waiting list for a Tesco delivery from Inverness as the populace hoard and panic buy anything social media instructs them is essential to life during and after the bacterial armageddon we’re facing.

In others respects it’s bliss. Quiet roads. Good cycling times. The landscape peaceful and free of people. It reminds me of thirty odd years ago as a young stravaiger, out on the hills in the solitudinous wilds. It feels free.