Every Picture Tells A Story: The Gloaming on the Isle of Skye

Travel: Roaming in the gloaming in the land of soft colours and dramatic firmaments

Around ten years ago, I had the best trip of my life when I went to the Isle of Skye, Scotland with the Polish bear. We cozied up in the most comfortable little croft in all of the Scottish isles. Located in Borreraig, the farthest point of the Isle of Skye and as far away as possible from the hustle and bustle of the city.

Our croft was a simple one bedroom cottage with a loft sleeping quarters and a super comfortable bed. A fold out window gave us unhindered views onto the northern skies where there was zero light pollution, just the poetry of the heavenly bodies and the Milky Way.

Adventures on the Isle of Skye
Inside of our cosy loft bed, it was divinely comfortable and we found it hard to get out of bed each morning. There was even a massive window for us to look at the stars and try and glimpse the Aurora Borealis, but it wasn’t the right time for the light show Copyright Content Catnip 2010

The journey there was a long, but beautiful and filled with jutting skyscraping mountains which disappeared into the mist. Long lines of shadow fell over the roads we traversed. The sheer and diaphanous clouds mixed with the water and soil and created an ever-changing interplay of blue and slate colours that dissapeared into blackness on the horizon. Dramatic, moody, forboding skies stewed together and created new patterns, with sylvan shards of light. In this place all water, sky, sun, moon and earth seemed to exist for the joy, melancholy and theatre of our eyes alone.

Adventures on the Isle of Skye
A highland coo hard at work doing what it does best. Copyright Content Catnip 2010

In this place and time, the Polish bear and I contemplated the future. At that time we thought we would be separated and thrown apart by circumstances, distance and the UK visa system. We wondered if we would still be able to navigate a strong and true path together. It was a dramatic, dark and scary time for us both as we contemplated an uncertain future. The moody skies on the Isle of Skye seemed to be a very alive and very vivid part of our story.

In among the deep sadness of saying goodbye, we also had a sense of embracing, inhaling in the present moment and weaving memories together. The Isle of Skye was like a salve on the wound of our separation. Through the landscape of the Hebrides we were able to embrace the uncertainty of the future.

Adventures on the Isle of Skye
The view from out the front of our cottage, note the stone cairn on the right hand side of the hill. On investigating the cairn I found that it was left there as a tribute to a local and ancient Borreraig family who were famous bagpipers Copyright Content Catnip 2010
Every Picture Tells A Story: The Gloaming on the Isle of Skye
The wee boats out on the Portree harbour undulating on the North Sea at dusk. Copyright Content Catnip 2010

The Gloaming

The word ‘Gloaming’ is an old Scots denotes the long time between night and day. During the summer this time is extended out and in the northern highlands and islands, the sky doesn’t truly get dark, so the gloaming lasts for many hours, like a missive from the underworld. The word Gloaming comes from the Old English word “glōm,” akin to “glōwan,” an Old English verb meaning “to glow.” There is also a similar word in Dutch called “Gloeien”.

The gloaming comes, the day is spent,
The Sun goes out of sight,
And painted is the occident,
With purple sanguine bright.

Alexander Hume, 1599

Adventures on the Isle of Skye
The mists and cloud come out and flirt with us and the livestock in the gloaming. Copyright Content Catnip 2010

The gloaming across cultures

I discovered that there are many other cultures which have sayings, mythical creatures and words to denote the same thing as Gloaming.

French

Entre chien et loup meaning ‘between dog and wolf”. This stresses the liminal and otherworldly quality of something, whether it be a landscape, animal or a weather system.

Adventures on the Isle of Skye
A view from the road where light and dark compete for attention in dramatic mode Copyright Content Catnip 2010

Welsh

Gwyll, Gwyllon or Gwyllion are twilight fairies, night wanderers and ghosts in the Welsh language. They are known as gloomy spirits that are distinct from Welsh Ellylon or elves which are more benevolent creatures. Gwyll can be encountered on a misty days, and can be troublesome as they mean that they can frighten and confuse wayfarers, even when they are familiar with a road or path.

Icelandic

In Icelandic the word húm, which sounds soft and delicate in the mouth, denotes the same thing, twilight and dusk.

Adventures on the Isle of Skye
Night falls on Portree. Copyright Content Catnip 2010

The sky puts on the darkening blue coat
held for it by a row of ancient trees;
you watch: and the lands grow distant in your sight,
one journeying to heaven, one that falls;

Rainer Maria Rilke

Adventures on the Isle of Skye
The road from our croft. The mists and cloud come out and flirt with us and the livestock in the gloaming. Copyright Content Catnip 2010

It’s in between the hours of night and day, the crepuscular hours, the vespertine hours that you can really reflect on your life and its meaning and direction.

Adventures on the Isle of Skye
Across the water looking forwards Dunvegan castle from Borerraig at the north western tip of the Isle of Skye. Content Catnip 2010

Postscript: As it turns out, absence makes the heart grow fonder, not farther apart. In the ensuing years there was a lot of cross-continental declarations of love, art and craft flowing between this part of the world and the antipodes and in return, which meant that the Polish Bear and I were eventually reunited. It was the best decision we ever made.

6 thoughts on “Travel: Roaming in the gloaming in the land of soft colours and dramatic firmaments

    1. Thank you so much Tish. I am glad you could feel the energy of this place through my writing. I love this Welsh word too and it doesn’t sound like how it reads, like most Welsh words. I love the sound of that language it’s so beautiful. Thank you for reading and sharing that link with me. Enjoy your gloaming this evening xx

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