The natural beauty of the Isle of Skye, Scotland, is said to have inspired J.R.R. Tolkein as he wrote Lord of the Rings*. It’s the most beautiful place I’ve ever been. Other natural wonders I’ve seen - the Great Barrier Reef, the Blue Pond of Biei - as well as man-made ones - Petra, Angkor Wat - have so far failed to convince me otherwise. And I’m confident that that no matter where I go in the world, I will never find somewhere more beautiful, to my eyes, than Skye is.
The reason is this - I’ve been visiting Skye with my family since I was a little girl, I’ve lost count how many times we’ve been. And every time I uncurl my legs, aching from being squashed up against suitcases for hours upon hours, and step out of the car onto Skye, I’m transported back to the imaginary world I created as a child.
On a hike in the mountains, I’m the King’s daughter, braving perilous paths through magical lands to escape her wicked stepmother and join a gang of rebellious gypsies. Every time I enter the sea, or the aptly-named Fairy Pools, I transform in a water nymph, tasked with the protection of a dragon’s egg from human intruders.
Skye is the only place I feel connected to the natural landscape; my memories and my stories are hidden in the cracks and the ridges of the Cuillins. And because of this, I can remain fairly confident that I will never find somewhere in the world more beautiful to me.
*A very earnest young man perched on top of a large rock at the Old Man of Storr was telling anyone passing who cared to listen this fact, how true it is I have no idea but it seems believable to me.