Indian Food and Presbyterians: A Skye Tale

20 Saucy Mary's Lodge

(Saucy Mary’s Lodge, Kyleakin, Isle of Skye, Scotland. Photo by Jim Hale.)

In the first draft of my novel, my main character, Kathryn, arrives on the Isle of Skye and stops at Saucy Mary’s for some fish and chips. It’s one of the first places to eat once you cross over the bridge from the mainland. I loved the name, and I loved the story behind the name even more.

The feisty Norse Princess Mary married Findanus Mackinnon. He was Lord of the Isles around 900 AD. Local legend says she laid a chain between the mainland and the Isle of Skye to collect a toll from passing ships.

21 Castle Moil Kyleakin Skye

(Castle Moil, aka Saucy Mary’s Castle, Kyleakin, Isle of Skye, Scotland. Photo by Jim Hale.)

As you cross the bridge from Kyle of Lochalsh to Kyleakin you can see the remains of her castle. There is a Hostel Guest Lodge that bears her name complete with a pub. It was here I had Kathryn stop to eat her first meal on Skye.

Because of this, I intended to do the same when my husband and I took our trip to the Isle of Skye in 2008. I was following the story line to see if what I’d written worked. After driving the long five hours from the Glasgow airport to the Isle of Skye, we were ready for dinner…fish and chips from Saucy Mary’s. We’d stopped at Loch Lomond and Glencoe along the way, and unfortunately, had a flat tire on our rental car just before reaching the Skye Bridge. It was twilight. It was also our first encounter with the tiny vampires of Scotland…also known as midges. Once my handy husband changed the tire, we were off to the Misty Isle. I was so excited! After several years of writing and research I was finally going to experience Skye for myself. And search for my long lost ancestors…the Macdonalds!

As we rounded the final bend in the road, Skye came into view. I screamed, followed by uncontrollable clapping and laughing. Jim was undaunted, as this is a typical response when I’m really excited. I had him stop the car for a photo-op of the bridge, with the Cullin mountains in the background. Beautiful view! I still remember the awe of seeing it for the first time. The drive from Glasgow through the rugged landscape of western Scotland was fantastic, but the Isle of Skye was truly breathtaking.

With camera in hand we continued across the bridge and looked for Saucy Mary’s. Now here’s where my fairy tale trip took its first detour. (Cue impending doom music.) It was 8:05 when we pulled into the car park at the pub. We walked in and took a seat. I was doing the silent clap and giggle so as not to draw too much attention to myself. Someone said we had to order at the bar, so we walked over and asked for fish and chips. DENIED! The kitchen had closed at 8:00. (The cook had just left the building.) Are you kidding me? I wanted to scream, “I just flew over an OCEAN, and drove (technically Jim drove, but you get the point) for five hours to eat fish and chips at Saucy Mary’s for our first meal on Skye!” Instead we asked where we could find a place to eat. Jim was really hungry! It was Sunday evening, and as Skye is very Presbyterian, lots of places were closed on Sundays. They suggested the Indian Restaurant just up the road, as they are not Presbyterian. Now this is where I tell you how much I do not like Indian food. And it just seemed wrong on so many levels to eat it as our first meal on Skye. But alas, it’s what we did. We paid fifty dollars for some really, really bad Indian food. I’ve heard there are lots of great Indian dishes. We evidently did not choose any of these.

22 Macdonald B & B

(Peter and Jane Macdonald’s Bed and Breakfast, Sleat, Isle of Skye, Scotland. Photo by the Hales.)

Well anyway after let’s call it “dinner,” we drove to our bed and breakfast. Tired and hungry. But when we arrived and met the Macdonalds and saw the beautiful view of the Sound of Sleat with the Hills of Knoydart in the background, the fairy tale took a turn for the better.

As I lay in bed that night my mind would not rest. It was off on all kinds of adventures, searching for a stone manor, lost ancestors, and a faerie or two.

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