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The Skye Trail as a first backpacking trip

The Skye Trail as a first backpacking trip

Postby SoRealCru » Mon Jan 02, 2023 4:39 pm

Route description: Skye Trail

Date walked: 30/05/2022

Time taken: 6 days

Distance: 142.7 km

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In late 2021 I decided that it was finally time for me to start preparing and planning for the Skye Trail. An adventure that I had been thinking and dreaming about for quite some time. So on December 1st of that year, I started planning…

Since the Skye Trail would be my first, yes my first, backpacking experience I wanted to make sure I “had it all planned out” to the best of my abilities. I carefully researched, selected and bought the gear that was going to help me with this undertaking. Plotted out the baseline route I was going to follow and arranged transportation.

I took my time preparing both gear wise, but also mentally and physically.
And when it was finally time to depart on the 30th of may 2022 it was with great excitement for what was about to come but also with quite some nervousness.

Spoiler alert, it turned out to be one of the best experiences I’ve had in my life.

Some things up front
In my planning and preparation, I decided that I wanted to do the trail North to South. So, that meant starting the trail at the red phone box up North in Duntulm.

There were two main reasons I decided to do it North to South. First one being that I would finish the trail south in Broadford. I would be closer to Inverness and it would be a “finish in civilization” with access to grocery stores, restaurants and if needed accommodations. It gave some “peace of mind” knowing that.

But the most important reason for me to do the trail North to South was so the most challenging part (The Quiraing & The Trotternish Ridge) would come early in the journey when the body, mind and spirit are still at its peak.

I figured since it was going to be my first backpacking trip ever it was the best to do it that way.

While I choose to wild camp most of the days, I did, up front, book two B&B/guest houses in Portree. One when traveling to the Isle and the other one in the middle of the journey. But more on that later.

Getting to Isle Of Skye
Since I live in Belgium the first thing I did was take a plane from Amsterdam to Inverness. Since there are no direct flights from Belgium to Inverness departing from our northern neighbors was the easiest and fastest way. Once I arrived at Inverness airport, I took bus 11 to the “Inverness Bus Station” in the city center. And a few hours later I took the Citylink bus #917 that would take me to the city of Portree. The bus ride takes about 3-4 hours and when I arrived it was about 9 O’clock in the evening. I pre-booked a guesthouse to spend one last night in the comfort of a bed and shower before setting out to the trail-head.
The next day it was finally time to start the Skye Trail. I packed my stuff and took the 57C bus from the town square in Portree and asked the kind bus driver if he was up for it to drop me off at the famous red phone box in Duntulm.

Day 1 – Duntulm -> The Quiraing car park (19,63 Km)
Under a sunny sky the bus driver dropped me off at the unofficial North to South start of the Skye Trail. Right beside the box it was onto a pathway that will lead you to the Rubha Hunish headland where I was greeted with the first Bothy of the journey. From there It’s east along the coastline up until you reach Flodigarry. Since I still had some daylight left and knew what was about to come the next day, I planned to continue onward. After a quick stop at the hotel for a refreshment, I continued onward under a sunny sky.
Duntulm - The Red Phone Box

The next section is ascending The Quiraing which marks the beginning of the Trotternish Ridge. It had rained quite a lot the days/weeks prior to my visit so especially near and beyond the top of the Quiraing the ground was really saturated. The descent towards the car park was one where the trail had been washed away at some places and was really soaked through and slippery. I had planned to pitch my tent right above/before the car park. But, it had rained so much prior, there wasn’t much choice, and it was choosing between boggy or more boggy underground. Eventually, I did find a level stretch of ground a bit elevated where I pitched up and enjoyed a much needed meal and called it a day.
The Quiraing - Car Park

Day 2 - The Quiraing car park -> Bearreaig Bay (26,89 Km)
Day two, the day I planned for to be the most challenging. Both mentally and physically due to the length and terrain ahead. I woke up bright and early, and was greeted again with sunny skies and dry weather. Enjoyed breakfast and set sail to the Trotternish Ridge!
The Quiraing

From the car park and basically throughout the entire length of the Trotternish Ridge It’s ascending followed by descending over a very faint path with its fair share of bog in between. The views and terrain are absolutely breathtaking, and these must’ve been the most beautiful farsights I’d ever experienced. For me it was the hardest thing (physically) that I’d ever done, but still manageable. Again, I had been blessed with sunny skies and fairly warm weather at this stage, and the entirety of the trail actually. And I can imagine it being a whole other story if the weather had been “Scottish default”.
The Trotternish Ridge

Whilst crossing a handful of people along the ridge the quiet and peacefulness combined with all the rest were very body and mind soothing. It wasn't until I reached The Old Man Of Storr where I started seeing and hearing the first signs of civilization again. While I still had some daylight left, I decided to keep going towards Bearreaig Bay where I’d planned to pitch up for the 2nd night. The Cicerone guidebook spoke about it being the most “atmospheric night” you’d ever have.
And man were they right…
Bearreaig Bay

Day 3 - Bearreaig Bay -> Portree Centre (12,93 Km)
I woke up bright and early again for stage three of the Skye Trail. The destination for today was Portree. The Island capital where I had booked a B&B for the night where I could enjoy a shower. Whilst this stage is a fairly short one it was mostly trudging through miles and miles of bog. The weather again was nice, warm and sunny the entire day. The path on this stage is faint and mostly not existing so navigating with a GPS or a map was needed.
The trail to Portree

I arrived in Portree at about midday. Checked into the B&b, had a shower, ordered some food and called it a day.
I also stocked up on supplies in the “Inside Out” for the rest of the stages.

Day 4 – Portree Centre -> Fiaclan Dearg (27,16 Km)
Clear skies and warm days are becoming the default it seems. Day 4 was no exception. Woke up again quite early, enjoyed some nice Scottish breakfast and headed out again. The beginning of this stage, whilst coming out of Portree, is mostly following the road until diving into a narrow pathway that will go south alongside the stream. The roadwalk will continue whilst coming up on Sligachan. A couple kilometers before Sligachan you’ll come off the road and will be doing the final stretch on a fairly obvious path alongside Loch Sligachan. Once I arrived, I stopped off at Seumas' Bar for a well deserved pint. It was still early, warm and the sun was still smiling so I decided to continue into Glen Sligachan for a couple more kilometers. And man was that a good call… I decided to pitch up at Fiaclan Dearg and it felt like I had the whole Glen all for myself. Made some dinner, took it all in and called it a day.
Fiaclan Dearg

Day 5 – Fiaclan Dearg -> Kirkibost (Kilmarie) (via “The Bad Step”) (29,85 km)
Day 5 continues alongside Glen Sligachan but quickly requires you to decide if you’re going to continue the “default trail” or choose to opt for the detour via “The Bad Step”. I chose the latter. In my preparation I had read a lot about the bad step and in my mind you’ve not done the Skye trail if you’ve not conquered “The Bad Step”. That combined with the fact it had been dry, sunny and warm for days now, I figured the circumstances couldn’t be better to do the step.
"The Bad Step"

The trail will spiral up towards Loch Coruisk and Loch na Cuilce to eventually come up to “The Bad Step”. Whilst I must admit I wasn't entirely at ease doing the step and was shaking with nervosity, it felt amazing once I’d done it. The trail then continues alongside the coast until you reach Camasunary beach with the famous bothy. Whilst it was still being early I decided to continue hugging the coastal path towards Elgol. When approaching Elgol, I was so happy to see signs pointing towards a small shop and, I could already spot a couple food trucks in the port. I had a refreshing beverage and bought a couple sausage rolls at the truck. I applied yet another layer of sunscreen and headed onwards once more. A few kilometers of road walk followed by a trail crossing some farms, I eventually reached Kilmarie. I noticed the wind was picking up a bit and the sun started to go down, so I decided to pitch up at Kirkibost overlooking Loch Slapin and called it a day.

Day 6 – Kirkibost -> "Boreraig" (24.16 Km)
Like the other days I woke up bright and early, had some breakfast and continued onwards. Following the coast of Loch Slappin, you’ll eventually come on to the road that leads you into Torrin. I stopped at Amy's Place Tea Room to have some coffee and a sandwich and continued onwards alongside the road. Coming up to the coast again passed Camas Malag I continued alongside Loch Eishort and headed up north to push the final stretch to broadford. I was ahead of schedule and instead of finishing that day I decided to pitch up a few Kilometers before Broadford. This so I could take my time to finish the next day.
The way South to Broadford

Day 7 – Boreraig -> Broadford (2.15 Km)
You guessed it, woke up bright and early again and started the final 3 easy going Kilometers of the Skye Trail.
I finished the Skye Trail quite early that day, and it felt a bit surreal to have done it.
Finished The Skye Trail!

I celebrated with a nice breakfast at the Co-Op in Broadford.
Since I would take the City Link back to Inverness at 1 in the afternoon I walked to the “Irishman's Point” and sat there for a couple hours taking it all in and thinking about the journey I had just experienced.

My key takeaways - Tips
- On all the stages the views, vibes and atmosphere are truly unbelievable.
- Plenty of streams, lochs to fill up on water along the entire trail. With a proper filtration system, you will unlikely ever be without water. But then again, it had rained an awful amount days prior to my visit so everything was still saturated through.
- Plenty of spots alongside the trail to pitch up a tent. Never was I not able to find a suitable place.
- Fortunately, I had been blessed with fabulous weather the entire duration of the trip. This kind of weather is very unlikely in the Scottish Highlands. Whilst being prepared for the worst, I do believe good weather adds to having a good time on the trail
- On the Skye Trail you’ll be battling boggy terrain on a daily basis. So wet feet are “inevitable”. I opted for wearing Altra Lone Peak trail runners combined with three pairs of Darn Tough socks that I’d changed frequently to allow the others to dry out.
- At the end of may - beginning of June the midges weren't quite awake yet. Some early midges could be spotted at some stages but weren’t an issue at the time.
- Whilst I used the Cicerone Guidebook and Paper map, I mostly relied on my cell phone with an offline copy of the Skye Trail on the All Trails app.
- It can be a challenge to find cell phone signal alongside the trail so take that into consideration.
- If the weather is on par and you’re up for it, “The Bad Step” is a must do.
Posts: 1
Joined: Jan 2, 2023
Location: Belgium

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