1st – 2nd August 2016
In the north of Skye the mountains resemble a child’s rational impression of a mountain; triangular in shape, with grassed lower slopes that fade into a grey rock towards the summit. In fact, the only thing missing from this perfect image is a small snow cap at its peak. Skye is one of the most geologically diverse landscapes in Britain, and in the south of the island slow cooling magma has created large mountains of black Gabbro. This hard, coarse rock has put up a better fight against the elements than its Granite cousin to the north, and as a result the scenery is about as dramatic as it gets.
The steep sloping sides are littered with craggy outcrops of rock, where huge sheets of rock form angular shapes and unforgiving cliffs. Higher up the grass fades, and the landscape becomes much more barren; gradually sharpening into a long ridgeline that encompasses the valley. Like a dark halo the Cuillin surround you, shutting you off from the world, towering high on all sides, save for the open waters to the south.
Our walk took us around the rocky coast from our overnight stay in Camasunary Bothy, along a much more treacherous path than we were expecting. It traversed steep slabs of rock, thankfully it was coarse and grippy, but above all else dry, as we wouldn’t have wanted to be making the route in wet weather. We navigated our around the headland finally reaching the foot of the valley on a beach of golden sand, as the sun shone through the gaps in clouds you could easily be mistaken for confusing the landscape with that of Southern Europe, where tall mountains meet idyllic beaches.
Heading inland we reached Loch Coruisk, lies amongst the mountains, encircled around the northern side by steep slopes, and slowly drained at the southern by a slow-moving river into the sea. The midday sun was increasing in temperature, and having fought for its place all morning it finally shone bright, banishing the clouds from the sky and leaving just a deep blue ceiling in its place.
The idea was pitched by Ben to swim in the Loch, and after a discussion as to just how cold the water would be, we decided that it was too good an opportunity to miss. Sometimes you just have to accept a little bit of discomfort, knowing that the experiences and memories it creates will outshine and last longer than the momentary hardship; and I think this statement is very true when swimming in wild places. I’ve swam in the mountains once before, high in the Swiss Alps in a glacial lake with an electric blue hue, which was more icy and chilling that you can imagine, but Lake Coruisk was a very different experience from that. Although the water in the shallows was clear as glass, all colour and light quickly faded giving the impression of a great depth and darkness. Jumping into the water was like being punch in the chest: the cold water was sharp, sucking all the air out of your lungs and body as you tried to acclimatise yourself to the sudden change in temperature. We were thankful of the sun’s determination to shine as we left the water, and were able to soon warm back up to a reasonable temperature whilst eating lunch on the rocky shore.
That afternoon we made the long walk back along the coast, collecting our bags and supplies from the bothy and retreating back the car to go on in pursuit of our final wild camping location of the trip. We headed back across to the eastern side of the island before heading south again, in this time the scenery changed dramatically as the mountains flattened out into rolling plains and wooded hilltops.
We found a forest road and followed it into the tall woodland, driving on for miles without seeing anyone or anything besides the cycling life cycle of felled trees, newly planted saplings, and those waiting to be cut down. Deep in the woods, and feeling completely shut off from civilisation, we parked up and made camp in a small clearing, looking East as the mountaintops of the Scottish mainland were painted glowing red colour by the setting sun. It was here that we had our last fire of the trip, and embraced the wonderful times we had and memories made. The orange sky slowly faded into darkness as the sky came alive with star; stepping away from the fire we were able to see the Milky Way stretching south to north, between us and the distant mountains across the bay. I felt a real sense of calm and tranquility as I absorbed the last moments of our trip, well aware that the following day was back to reality and civilisation.
Having desired to go to Skye for many years now, I was overwhelmed to find that it was even more magical and awe-inspiring than I had imagined, and is definitely somewhere I’ll always appreciate. Till next time Scotland, I promise it won’t be as long before I’m back