The Celestial Mermaid KingdomThe Celestial Mermaid KingdomAvailable as a signed limited edition print in size 12"x18" on premium lustre photo paper for $80. Please note price does not include a mat or shipping. Please contact me directly to order. PayPal or email transfer payments processed. Shipping worldwide. Thank you!

The Sting of Leaving Skye

September 24, 2019  •  3 Comments

  While on the Isle of Skye, we stayed in a few delightful hideaways around that otherworldly land, and were directed to a few hidden gems by helpful locals along the way. One place with magical promise was marked on a map for us in a hurried conversation, but we couldn't remember what exactly we were headed out to discover one fine sunny morning as we set out for the day. We knew only that there was something amazing to see marked with an X, so we set out in our rented car toward our mysterious destination. Up and down ear-popping hills just inches from sheer drops over cliffs on a single lane track, my husband had to back up several times to find places wide enough for oncoming traffic to pass. The roads are incredibly narrow and unforgiving of careless error. Don't forget, in Scotland we were driving on the side of the road (and car) opposite from our usual. It's so much fun! You've got to try it once in your life. Exhilarating! 
  This narrow road ended suddenly at a small parking lot, with just a few other cars and nothing special in sight. There was a huge livestock gate with a sign warning to close all gates behind you as you take the path through private farmland. The sign also warned of a "large bull". Intriguing! We passed through the heavy gate and closed it tight behind us, and started out on the rocky path which made a steep climb upward and then curved out of sight. After a few minutes we met another couple hiking back to the parking lot. They looked exhausted. "Is the walk far? Where does it go?" we inquired. They told us, "It's about three miles. Maybe five. Watch out for the bull. But it's the hills that really get you". They paused, panting. "It's worth it", the woman said cryptically before they continued on down the hill. The sun was beating down on us at this point, and we'd forgotten water in the car. But we decided to push on. 
Point of Sleat PathPoint of Sleat Path
  There were so many times I questioned what in the world we were doing hiking along that pathway. We didn't know where we were headed, we didn't know how far away it was, there were territorial sheep everywhere, goats were staring at us judgementally, and where was that bull, anyway? In retrospect, it was the hottest day on record ever in Scotland. We are used to heat and humidity where we live, but we don't go hiking over multiple mountains in it. Every time we crested a hill, I thought we'd see something significant on the other side, but dozens of times, it was just more path, more rock, more sheep, cows, and goats, and the next hill beyond the descent in front of us. The scenery was breathtaking! At the high points you could see out over the sapphire blue seas to the emerald slopes beyond, and the hills were covered in striking purple heather and foxglove. The fields surrounding us were like the countryside at home, but you can't just go traipsing about farmland amongst the livestock wherever you please in Bruce County! Finally we met another couple coming toward us with their small kids. They told us there was a massive bull and some cows on the path up ahead, and they didn't want to chance going past with their kids, so they were going back to the car. Wavering, we decided to crest yet one more hill and see for ourselves what we were up against. Sure enough, far ahead there were many cows and their babies blocking the path. The bull had been kind enough to wander up the hillside nearby, keeping a watchful eye on the herd. We decided to walk on, hoping the cows would move aside once we approached them. And they did... they moved over a few inches and stood right at the side of the path, with the kind of black mud that sucks your footwear right off your feet threatening cows and humans alike just inches off the packed stone roadway on either side. We'd have to pass within a couple of feet away from the cows and their precious babies if we wanted to go on. I hesitated, scared to aggravate the bull or anger a mother, although the cows kept pointedly staring at the roadway beside them as if to say, "There. Just walk by right there. Oh, lady. Come on. We don't bite. Just walk by. Right there." Tails twitched, the cows stared at the path, and still I stood there. Finally I went up into the sucking mud and around away from the cows, my husband laughing from the road beside them, and I swear the cows were rolling their eyes at my pathetic attempt at dignity despite the horrendous gurgling and belching noises accompanying each of my footsteps in the mire. 
Walk On By - Cows of SkyeWalk On By - Cows of Skye
  Once past the bovine challenge, we walked many more moments before meeting a French couple on their way back from wherever it was that we were going... how far was that again? Speaking French, the man told us it was still quite a ways further. The lady could only lament in universal body language the heat and distance she knew she'd have to travel back down the path. Once again I wondered what we'd gotten ourselves into. Then the man said in English, carefully choosing his words, "I wasn't positive it was worth the walk." We locked eyes and he said, "It's paradise. Paradise."

  With our anticipation heightened, we found a reserve of energy and marched on with renewed enthusiasm toward "paradise". Honestly, despite the heat, the swarming midges, and the mucky, manure strewn, mountainous route - this remote and inhospitable landscape was already paradise to my eyes. I loved every rock, flora, fauna, and glimpse of the sparkling sea. I hardly noticed the flakes falling from my my mud-caked shoes as they dried in the hot summer sun, nor the dry feeling in my throat as I cursed my neglecting to bring water. Suddenly a group of young people appeared before our very eyes as they popped out of a cleft in the rock towering over the roadway, which appeared to continue on down to a farm and then end at the aquamarine waters beyond. The jubilant Australian adventurers assured us we were on the right track, but we'd have to go up the cliff face where they'd just emerged. "A lot of people keep going down the road, and they miss it. Trust me, follow the path to the left", one assured us, winking. We came upon the place where the Australians had appeared, and saw that it was actually a waterfall, albeit without much water flowing over the rocks in this late summer heatwave. Sure enough, a battered wooden sign pointed upward; a good thing, as straight up a slippery waterfall might not immediately be interpreted as any sort of pathway. My husband Phil ascended first, and disappeared over a ridge far above. He called down that it was safe for me to climb up after him, and with a few muttered curses, I finally made it up the precarious rocks and algae to the plateau, where the path became almost impossible to discern amidst the ankle-twisting boulders and roots. We clambered over sharp rocks, and ever the naturalist and witchy herbalist, I pointed out many useful herbs growing amongst them, including my favourite, broadleaf plantain. It grows freely across North America, but was brought to our continent by European settlers (legend says it sprung up in their footprints!) as are many of our plants, so I recognized it in Scotland immediately. Daydreaming about the various flowers and butterflies dotting our surroundings, I didn't even see it at first. 
  "Oh, look. We found it," my husband suddenly announced. I stared, blinking. My brain honestly could not comprehend what I was looking at, because I'd never seen anything like it. All I could see was a glowing, silvery-white strip of landscape ending in bands of turquoise, cobalt, and sea-foam.
  "What is that?" I asked. "What's the white stuff?" I looked to the sheep leading the way forward for a clue, but he was no help. "It's sand, Sugga. It's white sand." "No!" I breathed.
  It was absolutely unreal. Unicorn white sand leading to peacock coloured waters. A tropical paradise which would absolutely be mistaken for an exclusive resort in the Caribbean, but it's so much more magical, because it's a hidden diamond in remote, "dreary" Scotland. I couldn't believe my eyes. It was indeed paradise. It was. 
The Mysterious DestinationThe Mysterious Destination
  Beyond an incredible ancient symbol laid out in the grass with large stones was a pristine white sand beach; the colourful shells and jellyfish littering the shore shone like jewels against their light background. We reached the shoreline after navigating around quite a few tide pools with decorous plant life and anemones within, and I realized the beach would be completely invisible at high tide. A stroke of luck in our favour that we'd reached this precious treasure at low tide, so we weren't left wondering forever for what in the world we had made that killer hike! I shudder to think of how off our timing could have been on top of our blind wandering... But hey, what's life without a taste of the unknown abyss? 
  I set to work right away photographing some incredible specimens - violet jellyfish and myriad mermaid-hued seashells abounded and I was in heaven poking around on the pearly sand - with my shoes on. My husband, who had brought water shoes on our trip, but had left them three-to-five miles back in the car, waded into the ocean barefoot, and I can't begrudge him that. Of course when you're by the crystal clear waters of a hidden warm sea for the first time, you put your feet in the water. I get it. Many lifetimes ago, I lived by a tropical ocean, so I've been there and done that, and I didn't feel the need to remove my armour in this lifetime. I'm also pretty familiar with salt water creatures. "Watch out in your bare feet, babe," I warned. "I can see the jellyfish clearly", he replied, and I said something to the effect that jellyfish weren't the only creatures you need to be wary of in the sand. With that, he waded out into rather stunning waters, and I carried on finding crabs, kelp, tiny fish, and other fantastic ocean-dwelling animals along the extraordinary beach. 
Shells In ParadiseShells In Paradise
  Some time later, I looked around for Phil and noticed he was sitting on the rocks above the beach, rubbing his feet. He noticed my gaze and waved nonchalantly. Surprised he wasn't enjoying the water, I made my way over to him. He's always my hero; always strong and level-headed - the calm presence in my storm-ridden existence. As I got closer to him, he straightened up and called out conversationally, "So, what would happen if someone got stung by a jellyfish?" "Well, that would be bad," I called back, equally conversationally. I stooped to snap a few close-up shots of one such gelatinous formation. The shutter clicked a few times.
  "Define bad," Phil finally called out. I froze for a second, then turned to him slowly.
  "Phil, did you get stung by a jellyfish?"
  "Oh my god! Are you serious? What happened?" I was already kneeling before him, examining a very obvious puncture wound on the bottom of one foot. It was bruised and swelling up and turning terrible colours. 
  "Holy s___! That's not a jellyfish sting! Did you see what it was?" I was trying not to panic. 
  "I didn't see it. Something shot out of the sand and punched me in the foot. It freaked me out so I came out of the water. Then I noticed the hole. It's getting worse." 
  You can't imagine all of the dire thoughts that ran through my mind then. We were all alone. Miles away from the car after hiking paths hard to traverse at your best. Unfathomable miles away from any hospital. Who knew what poisonous creature had injected my husband with its deadly venom! We came all this way on our dream trip to Scotland and now the love of my life, whom I cannot live without, was going to die right there in paradise, and what in the world was I going to do?! 

  Not knowing what kind of sea denizen had stung my husband so violently, I feared the worst. I began asking him all sorts of questions, and this kept me strangely calm, especially for someone who lives with crippling anxiety most normal days. But my mind was indeed racing...  imagining every possible scenario at once, and all of them unthinkable impossibilities...
  Did he feel dizzy, faint, cold, nauseous? No, no, sit down... surely the poison will rush straight to your heart if you move around... Yes, dramatic is the right word here. The puncture wound on Phil's sole was black and blue, the skin red and angry at the sting. I asked him if he was feeling strange at all. "Well, I don't feel all that great", he said. "It's actually really starting to hurt now." My husband is very strong and stoic... if he was admitting anything at all, that wasn't good. Oh, no. There was no cell service. Suddenly the ideal of being alone in an inaccessible place wasn't so idyllic. We couldn't just stay there on the secluded beach. We needed help. Something to stop the swelling and combat any venom. At that point, there was no way Phil could walk. I prepared myself to begin the sprint back up the many miles of rock-strewn path to find people, fresh water, or the car, whichever I reached first. Did I mention I used to be a smoker? This run was likely to kill me as well. Then my intuition and instincts struck me with a bolt of inspiration.
  "Oh my god! I know what to do! I'm going back up the path - I'll be right back!" I assured my love, already flying over the treacherous land as if my feet had wings. I scrambled over mossy boulders, searching the hard-packed stone trail between the larger rocks for something incredibly common and abundant all over the globe, but of course escaping my scrutinizing eye when I needed it most... broadleaf plantain. That most wonderful wild edible plant known for its many powerful medicinal benefits; most importantly here, its incredible anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties. It's truly a magical gift from nature. I had seen literally hundreds of clusters of the plant on our way to the paradise beach, but do you think I could find just one then? After what seemed like an eternity, I found a perfect specimen with large green oval leaves, and quickly snatched up as much as I could see. On the way back to Phil, I began to puncture the leaves with my nails, making them pulpy and releasing the healing juices. Back at my patient's feet, I applied a wad of wet plantain leaves directly to his wound and then stuck a larger leaf overtop like a bandage, and he slipped his sock over it all to hold it in place. I was still planning on making a run for help, but I waited a few moments, hesitant to leave Phil behind. We're pretty inseparable. I was wishing with all my witchy conscience that the plantain would work wonders. I knew from experience that it was useful for relief from insect bites and cuts, but it was a lot to hope that it might heal the effects of poison. Some of the most venomous animals on earth live in salt water, and I had no idea what might dwell in the waters around Isle of Skye, but its painful sting was a lot more epic than the average mosquito bite. Nonetheless, we waited a few moments, and to ease the tension I of course admonished Phil for trying to die on me and leave me alone to fend for myself overseas. We were laughing, and it seemed logical that if he was going to perish, he'd likely have done so after so many minutes. We checked on the wound under the plantain poultice.
  One doesn't like to throw about the word miraculous, but my jaw certainly dropped when I saw the wound, as it was suddenly almost invisible, where just moments before it had been bruised, discoloured, and swollen. The plantain had healed Phil's foot incredibly quickly. He was as astonished as I was - the pain was diminished significantly, and thankfully, he could walk! Of course, he was still quite sore, so we took our time making our way back to the car. Luckily, there were hundreds of plantain leaves all along the way, so we changed the magic poultice frequently, and by the time we reached the parking lot a few hours later, Phil felt well enough to go on driving to our next destination. Well, first to the nearest store for water and delicious Skye sandwiches. A few days after his misadventure, and with the help of plantain found all over Scotland, Phil's foot was back to normal, and I had forgiven him for giving me the scare of my life. He admitted that there were a few tense moments when he considered that he might die on that beach as well. What a harrowing experience... I'm so thankful for having knowledge of so many plants, even far away from my own home. 
   Now back home in Ontario, I recently collected some "Canadian" plantain leaves (broadleaf plantain weed was introduced in North America by British settlers many centuries ago) and together with my fellow creative and kindred spirit, Kristen, concocted an all-natural salve for multiple uses. It's great for bug bites, poison ivy, cuts and scrapes, skin conditions, and anywhere you might need healing. It's got Vitamin E, calendula, cocoa butter, and tea tree oil in it as well. I've already tried out our magic salve and it's fantastic! It's incredible what you can create with what Mother Nature provides. I highly recommend doing some reading into plantain and other valued and useful wild plants. 
   After a lot of research at home, we have come to the conclusion that my husband was struck by a 'weaver fish'. 
  Thanks for reading my story and following along on my wild journey. There are many more intriguing stories out of Scotland, so I do hope you'll watch for more musings to come. It's an enchanted place that will inspire my words and images for many moons to come. 
Skye JellyfishSkye Jellyfish





Karin Chalmers(non-registered)
Hi Sarah, I really enjoyed reading about you and your husbands adventures. I grew up in Glasgow but my mother is from the Isle of Lewis and still lives there. I was lucky enough to live on Skye for a year a while back and didn't hear about this hidden gem. Next time I visit I will try to find it. The plantain leaf you used...without checking I'm thinking it must have been ehat are known in Scotland as doken leafs. Was children when we fell into stingy nettles...and it happened often then we searched for a doken leaf ..rubbed it on and pain would go !
Susan Rix(non-registered)
I loved reading every part of your Adventure on Skye!! So glad your hubby was ok. I visited the Isle of Skye many moons ago. It was cloudy for most of the time I was there,..but, I loved every moment. I must go back to Scotland one more time. Late now..but I can't wait to read of more of your adventures in Scotland soon.
OMGoodness, what a great adventure...but what a place to leave us hanging!!! Since you are home and writing of this experience, I am going to assume all turned out well. I am SOOOO looking forward to your continuing escapades!
No comments posted.
January (1) February March April May June (1) July (1) August September October (1) November (2) December (1)
January (1) February March (1) April May June (1) July August September October November December
January (1) February March April May June July August September (1) October (1) November December
January February March April May (1) June July August (1) September October November (7) December (1)
January February March April (1) May June July August (2) September (1) October November (1) December
January February March April May June July August September October November December
January (1) February (1) March April May June July August (1) September October November December
January February March April May (2) June (1) July August September October November December
January February March April May June July August September October November December
January February (1) March April May June July August September October November December