Isle of Skye
19th-21st July 2017
Almost immediately after returning from the Isle of Skye last summer I was already getting stoked for the next trip. And so, it was with great excitement that this year’s journey North got underway. Our first stop was St. Bees, on the Cumbrian coast, where me and my friend Will stayed overnight and hooked up with the 3rd member of our group for the week, Ben. From here we planned to tackle the 350 mile drive to Skye in one day, last year we broke the journey by stopping in Glen Coe for a night, but with more ambitious plans for this year, we wanted to push as far North as we could on that first day. We stopped in at all the familiar places en-route, Loch Lomond, Glen Coe, Eileen Donan, as well as a reasonably long stop in Fort William to pick up supplies for the week; but despite all this we made good time, heading over the Skye Bridge at a little past 1900.
After a long journey, and with the forecast not looking particularly great for the week, we were surprised to find ourselves on a relatively dry night – pretty midgey – but no rain. It wasn’t until we’d set up camp by the side of an ocean loch, just outside Broadford, spent time gathering firewood and set about cooking our dinner that the rain began. The rain driving the midges into the woodland gave us the option of dry and midgey, or wet but midge free. For anyone who’s spent any time in Scotland during the Summer months knows that isn’t a hard decision to make: and so we found ourselves walking along a pebbled beach in the rain, eating our steak and mash potatoes hurriedly before retreating back into the tent for the night.
The next morning we woke to warm sunlight baking us inside our sleeping bags. The midge problem hadn’t subsided overnight, which in turn acts a little like a strong coffee; I’ve never been more productive packing bags and dropping canvas than when under barrage of those insects. After hiking out 1km back to the car we quickly ate breakfast, before driving north for a day of locations and sightseeing around the island.
The views as you drive around on Skye must be some of the best in the UK and you are continually left speechless as you round each corner. Our first destination was the popular settlement of Sligachan, from here you get your first stunning views of the Cuillin, dominating the landscape to the South and West. We stopped here last year, and I have a photo hung on my wall looking down a long track towards the mountains. It was only after getting home from Skye last time that I learnt of the picturesque house at the end of the lane; so I was pleased to return and get the chance to see the idillic cottage.
We drove through Portree, Skye’s largest town, before stopping off at The Storr. One of the most dramatic landscapes in the country, The Old Man of Storr is a sight that really takes your breath away. The true scale of the place is something you can’t really appreciate until you’re there, and even thinking back and trying to remember leaves you falling short. The hike up to the tall columns of rock is a step one, climbing directly from the roadside along a well kept track. We headed to the far side of The Storr, to the raised hill used as the primary viewpoint of the landscape. Looking southward towards the Cuillin must be one of the best views in the UK.
The Quiraing is further up the same coast as The Storr, and is part of the same large (Trotternish) landslip that shaped the North-Eastern parts of the island. Here you find one of the only roads that runs across the width of the island; where is snakes upwards around tight bends to find a low shoulder in the hills. Again like many other locations on the island you find yourself taken back by the scale of everything, I think I could comfortably spend hours at each location, in all weathers, times and lighting conditions.
That night we headed to the most Northerly point of the island, parking the car at the side of the road and walking with gear to the Rubha Hunnish Peninsula, where an old coastguard cabin acts as a small bothy (sleeping cabin). Of all the bothies I’ve stayed in, this may be the most quaint and picturesque I’ve seen. It sings of history, with its advantageous looking out over the sea towards the Outer Hebrides; you can just imagine being holed up in here on a stormy winters night, watching as ships slid between the islands in the channel below. Behind the main room with 180º views was a small utility room and sleeping area – a double sized sleeping platform sat beneath a single bunkbed, perfect for the three of us.
What was to be our last full day on Skye began well, we awoke at the Lookout Bothy to sensational views, blue skies and warm sun. Hiking back out to the car we continued our journey around the northern tip of the island, stopping in the coastal port village of Uig for coffee, and a chance to refill our water supplies. We continued south until we reached the lower slopes of the Cuillin, in Glenbrittle. Last when year we’d driven through the valley, to camp further down by the side of the river, we planned to visit The Fairy Pools, but for some reason we didn’t. Now I can’t place why we didn’t take the walk up, as we were so close, and it is one of the most interesting sequence of waterfalls I’ve seen. The aquamarine pools backed by white waterfalls and the dark Cuillin looming above make for some incredible sights.
In our original plan we were to head back onto the mainland and proceed further north, but I don’t think any of us were quite ready to leave Skye just yet. We headed south from Broadford, to a small settlement called Torrin, where the huge Cuillin ridgeline climbs directly out of the water. Here we chose to camp by the side of the road, surrounded by beautiful scenery and bathed in a warm evening sun. Firewood was plentiful and we enjoyed a good fire for the evening, chatting late into the night – we really wanted to make the most of our time on the island