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A Long Walk on The Isle of Skye

A Long Walk on The Isle of Skye


Postby ramblingpete » Thu Nov 08, 2012 12:49 pm

Route description: Skye Trail

Date walked: 08/05/2012

Time taken: 7 days

Distance: 150 km

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I was very lucky with the weather apart from one day, but that just made it interesting. I drove up the night before and stopped at the Old Post Office in Arisaig, before catching the first ferry across to Armadale from Mallaig - a great start to the trip.

The following is a little long winded so you might want to have nothing better for a while, or just skip to the pictures. Apologies for so many photos but it's hard to choose which ones to use. There's plenty more of them over on Rambling Pete.

Thanks for looking and hope you enjoy as much as I did.
Last edited by ramblingpete on Thu Nov 08, 2012 2:51 pm, edited 3 times in total.
ramblingpete
Walker
 
Posts: 61
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Re: A Long Walk on The Isle of Skye

Postby ramblingpete » Thu Nov 08, 2012 12:51 pm

Day One: 8th May
Weather: Starting off chilly, overcast, with a hint of rain in the air. A couple of showers.
Route: Armadale to Ord - 12.6 miles with 1970ft of ascent


Day one started off in the village of Arisaig at the ‘Old Post Office’ guest house. A nice leisurely breakfast in front of the wood fire, and out to look at the weather – a 100% improvement on the forecast of a day ago, with some blue sky showing in the distance, so I was ever hopeful of a dry day. A short 10 minute drive away to the ferry at Mallaig, and a 30 minute sailing over the Sound of Sleat to Armadale pier and the beginning of a new journey. The ferry wasn’t too busy and we were first on and first off, apart from the local fisherman who was ushered to the front in a blatant show of favouritism – there’s a lot of fish restaurants on Skye, so I suppose he’s a busy man. I was meant to be meeting Stuart (Lonewalker of Walking Places) today somewhere along the route, and knew he was parking his car at Armadale, so I’d made a spoof parking ticket from Caledonian MacBrayne ferries. Imagine my disappointment when his car was nowhere to be seen, plan A gone down the pan – although we did meet later in the day.

I’d plotted a out a route from various sources and looked at Google Earth a lot these past few weeks to try and anticipate a dry line over the hill and faraway. Immediately off the ferry road I turned right at the road towards the Armadale Castle visitor centre (past Armadale Castle, once the ancestral home of the Clan Macdonald) and up through the woods to higher ground. I was delighted to see it was a well defined track through the trees, climbing gently, passing over a bridge, and past a ruined cottage. It was well signposted up towards Armadale Hill, and turns off the track uphill to a small stand of pine. It’s well maintained for the quad bikes and clay pigeon shooters, with plenty of felled trees cleared to open up views. Once out onto the hillside I began to see the true nature of the land here – big tussocky grass, abundant moss, with lots of heather mixed in, and if you were walking here after a prolonged wet spell ( British summertime) it would become hard work.

There were great views back across the Sound of Sleat to Knoydart and the mainland, with dark looking clouds as a backdrop. Out on the open moorland the prominent knoll of Armadale Hill comes in to view and the track is good all the way to the top. It’s marked by a few posts on the summit, and whilst I had a quick sup I admired the views back across the water to Mallaig and Knoydart. That was it as far as the path was concerned and it was now off-piste down to the river in the glen below. This was one of those moments to drink in the solitude, listen to the sound of silence and smile contentedly. From the top of Armadale Hill I headed from a minor knoll before turning north to follow a secondary ridge down to the Abhainn a Ghlinne Mheadhonaich, the river that runs down to the water of Loch a’ Ghlinne. There were feint tracks, no doubt made by sheep, and they went vaguely in the right direction, although I veered off a little too far right. I was using my walking poles as I’d anticipated a spot of bog hopping, but really they were more use as a set of stabilisers for me. This was the worst bit of the day with some knee high heather to negotiate, the odd hole in the ground, and some soggy, mossy walking. Halfway down the hillside I had to climb over a deer fence (there’s no avoiding this, and it's a recurring theme for a day or two) so I chose a suitably sturdy pole that had a supporting sloping pole attached to it. This took the strain of my weight off the fence and it was an easy up and over. Then it was a short haul down to the river where I knew there was a good track to follow. After all of the pre-trip worries about rough land it turned out to be reasonable, but it was dry and on a different day I suppose it could have been very hard work in places, and very, very wet. Crossing the stream proved to be dryshod at every ford, maybe 6ft across at the most and only a couple of inches deep - that’s what happens when it’s been dry for a month. Before I got to the delightful woodland I was passing the ghosts of crofting remains returning to nature, with a lone croft sporting a small chimney, with an old tree keeping it company. What a setting down here in the glen, very quiet and untouched by the human hand for so long. Into the native woodland of Coille Dalavil , where peace and tranquility rule, with a large stand of mature Scots Pine – my favourite trees at the start of the path through the woods. I think that the fishermans quad bikes travel through here on the way to the coast so the path is quite well defined. Once more the overgrown remains are passed, with birdlife a plenty flitting in and out of the broken down walls – a big flock of long tailed tits very noticeable, and very quiet. There is a lot of dead wood lying around with plenty of birch saplings regenerating the forest floor. Plenty of loud cuckoos calling, and even louder woodpeckers, their knock knocking reverberating around the woods – the loudest I’ve ever heard. The surface of the Loch was a little windblown today, covered with golden reeds, but none of the water lillies that grow here in the summer – just a lonely dead deer lying out in the reeds.

The trek continues through the trees around the hillside staying above the waters edge to emerge at the remains of the cleared village of Dalavil. One more remain intact has a corrugated iron roof, red with age and shelter to sheep in the worst of the climate. There are traces of RunRigs (ridge and furrow) below the old settlement, and further away the water course has been straightened out in the past – I couldn’t see it from Dalavil, just evident on the OS map. I sat and refreshed amongst the mossy remains before starting up again. The islands were clear to see – Rhum and Egg, Bacardi and Coke.

After Dalavil the path diverges to the coast, while my path curved around to the north to meet the coast a little north of the estuary. What a shocker it was to see all the flotsam and jetsam across the shoreline, brought in by high tides and stormy seas of the winter. It looked like a plastics recycling centre. Someone had been around collecting it up and had piled it up below some crags ready for collection. Amongst all this rubbish were also several steel floats, big iron balls about 2ft diameter – these sat well amongst all the iris growing (I think it was Iris) and hopefully I got a couple of good snaps. I followed the coast for a short distance before heading up to higher ground as there were some deeply cut ravines to cross, and further inland made it easier to cross without detours up and down the hillside. Up on the clifftop there were occasional sheep trods that led me in the general direction required, but it was mainly pathless heather hopping, which on a normal day on Skye would have been a bit of a bogtrot. Not today though, even if it was energy sapping at times it was a joy to be walking north with the cloud covered Cuillins as a backdrop – moors, cliffs, sea, beaches, mountains – what a great mix. I didn’t see much wildlife but in the distance a tall stranger appeared on top of the prominent Sithean Beg – I knew in an instant that it was Stuart come to say hello. He couldn’t see me and turned away, so I let out a loud whistle which set off a few sheep running, and thus caught Stuarts eye. What a great gesture to take the time to come and meet me as he had finished his Skye Walk yesterday – he thought it was going to pee down today! So we shook hands and I gave him his parking ticket which he enjoyed – he might not of if he’d found it stuck to his windscreen. We spent a pleasant 30 minutes chatting away as we made our way down to the beach at Gillean, passing some great coastal path, then dropping down to the boulders below and across the stony shore. I had a breather and a refreshing cold can of coke from Stuart, then said my farewells without trying to cadge a lift to the end. I explained my theory of if it was raining or not - unless the dots are joined up it's just spitting down. As it happens it started to rain a short shower after I had walked up to the headland.

The remaining 4 miles of today's route were all road work starting with a sharp uphill pull above the beach, which led to a sublime much photographed view of the Cuillins behind the small settlement of Tarskavaig – it's a shame there isn’t any B&B here that would cater for the 'Skye Walk' walkers. It was a real roller coaster of a road, a B minus road that was very rough in places. There were plenty of stunted birch trees lining the kerbs and occasionally a really nice bit of prime real estate, with deer fences all around the landscape. Up over a headland passing Loch Gauscavaig and down to a lovely bay. There is a castle remains at Dun Scaich that I could have nipped out to see, but from the road I could already tell that there wasn’t much left of it and Stuart had told me that it was gated off anyway. So I contented myself with that view and plodded on. Between Tokavaig and Ord the road becomes even more wobbly, steeply up down and around – nice woods either side of the road with fresh yellow/green leaves on the oaks contrasting nicely with the bright green of the birch. There wasn’t much traffic here, just a few from the ferry taking the circuit around to Tarskavaig and Ord and back to Broadford. Plenty of wind bent trees that looked like they’d been coppiced, dry feet, and grassy sheep cropped verge with terrific views of the Cuillins, especially of Bla Bheinn which I hope to climb on Thursday.

I dropped down a steep windy bit of road into Ord, took my pack off and sat in the shelter of a yacht perched above the beach. I’d had about 10 minutes rain all told and that wasn’t enough to wet my pack. Overall a fantastic day out, leaving me with the thirst for more – day two is a trackless plod for at least 7 or 8 miles, and I’m hoping it’s not too taxing – we’ll see.

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Last edited by ramblingpete on Thu Nov 08, 2012 1:51 pm, edited 1 time in total.
ramblingpete
Walker
 
Posts: 61
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Re: A Long Walk on The Isle of Skye

Postby ramblingpete » Thu Nov 08, 2012 12:52 pm

Day Two: 9th May
Weather: Fresh, sunshine for most of the day.
Route: Ord to Torrin - 16.2 miles with 2330ft of ascent


Of all the long walks I’ve ever trodden on, this would be the day that I was worried about. There isn’t an awful lot of information out there on the internet, and the stuff that is out there doesn’t give me a warm rosy feeling. In trying to follow a route that will take me from the south to the north of the island, there is no escaping the bit between Ord and Torrin, and in particular the stretch between Ord and Boreraig. A pathless track of rough ground described by Paterson and a few others as energy sapping and wet. Luckily before I had left Manchester a fellow blogger had just returned from Skye having followed Patersons route from Ord along to Drumfearn – davewoodwalks.blogspot.com. After reading his account and mailing him, he warned me of the amount of burns between Ord and Drumfearn, with most of them in spate (after a wet night) and difficult to cross. So at least I knew that if the worst was to happen, I could bail out at Drumfearn, walk along the road and cadge a lift around to Broadford, and then resume my journey along the old marble line and on to the clearance settlement of Boreraig. Quite a few of the holiday firms that organise walking tours for the Skye walk leave this portion out altogether, which hardly surprises me - it's a long tough day.

After a quiet night in Broadford at the Red Skye restaurant (a great meal with a side dish of pasta), and a hearty breakfast at the B&B, I returned to Ord to start the days fun. The sun was shining and the forecast looked correct, even though there were a few stormy clouds in the distance. There was a chill wind blowing off Loch Eishort, so I donned my Paramo smock initially, but as I warmed up to the task in the sunshine I was soon down to HH base layer and trews – Paramo Cascadas weren’t required today.

Of all the long walks I’ve ever done I can now say that this was one of the most energy sapping days I’ve had. I’m only glad that it has been dry for so long here on Skye – about a month or so without any significant rainfall – as this day would have long if the ground had been wet. I would definitely split this day in two if or when I do it again. I'd been looking at Google maps trying to decipher the landscape, but generally I was non the wiser and couldn't pick out any discernable route across the ground. I reckon you’d have to walk the area regularly to pick out an optimum route, and no doubt that would change depending on how much of the wet stuff had fallen.

It was high tide when I set out, the sun was shining and within one hundred yards I had come to a dead end – doh, another false start. After consulting the map and not blindly walking along I was soon following a nice road track that led me through houses and then out on a metalled track to the last remote house in the village. A bit bizarre as the white house seamed to be in good condition but didn't appear to be occupied very often. Beyond the house all tracks ended for pretty well much of the way until reaching the clearance settlement of Boreraig – that’s about 8 or 9 miles of rough ground to contend with. I’d been warned to expect some tough going, but I was pleasantly surprised with the occasional sheep trods, cattle tracks, a quad bike trail along a deer fence and some delightful birch groves. When these became too overgrown it was down to the foreshore for sure. Walking on the rocky beach wasn’t the nicest experience but at least I could keep a good stride going. Overall I averaged 2mph today which is what I reckoned on and allowed me time to dwell here and there. I was also dry footed all day long which was phenomenal considering the ground – after a while I got to trusting the mossy bits I was walking on which is a little risky in my eyes – every now and again I got that sinking feeling, but just sped up a little to get away from it.

There is a good woodland terrace further up the hillside below the hill at Sgiath-bheinn an Uird ( a white quartzite shining in the sun), but I wasn’t sure if I could locate it, so just followed my nose and mainly stuck to the lower slopes. The first big river crossing was at Allt-a’ Chinn Mhor and I’d been told by Stuart that it’s best down at sea level – it was, dry and easy to step over. I crossed several fences today, with only one topped with barbed wire. Most of them were just a swing of a legover, which towards the end was easier said than done. A feature of most of the shoreline around the loch was a distinct sheep trod developing, which was handy to follow in places, but not beneath the scrubby birch. As I saw yesterday there was a huge amount of ship detritus on the shore, and a lot of polystyrene blocks and black floats from the fish farm and mussel lines just offshore. Across the loch I could see my destination, not very far away across the water. After a mile or two I walked little higher from the shore and up near the deer fence was a quad bike track that had been used by cattle as a route along – it was dry today, but would be a mire after a wet spell – you could follow it a lot of the way to Drumfearn, but then you’d miss the nice bits by the shore. It's been developed by ferrying fencing gear to and fro from the road at Drumfearn, but I'd hazard a guess that this will become overgrown in years to come, which will lead the walker back to the shore where it's accessible.

As I got further along towards Drumfearn, the Cuillins behind me disappeared from view, and the mussel pullers were working away, shovelling them up off the deck into storage below. On the beach at Drumfearn were a couple of boats ready to go, complete with outboard engines – I was mightily tempted, but I knew from here that the end of the loch was in sight and I stuck to the shore, knowing that it would get easier as I went past the end of the loch. The tide was out when I got to the outflow of Alt Aingh na Suirghe, and I was delighted to find it was such an easy crossing as it’s quite wide here, but the channels between the river gravel were quite narrow and easy to cross over.

Then it was back towards the west again and generally I hugged the coastline around to Heaste, with the odd unavoidable detour up and over minor headlands. I had sheep guiding me as they trotted ahead in a neat line, so I just followed them like a sheep. There was less detritus on the north shore, but it was bigger – black floats from the mussel lines and a stage complete with big blocks of well weathered polystyrene. The sun was in my face now and it was pleasantly warm sheltered away from the wind. I continued on the lookout for an otter and was rewarded eventually as I spotted a head in the water, and moments later a big sleek (3ft long) animal came up over the rocks, took one look at me and promptly disappeared – no photos unfortunately, as I’m not that quick on the draw – you’ll just have to take my word for it (after I returned home and was processing some pictures I spotted I'd managed to capture an Otters Arse). As I got towards Heaste there were quite a few boats moored out in the bay and it looked like there was a little activity by the jetty. But when I got level with the vans parked up I realised that they had left there doors open to let the smell of seafood disperse on this sunny day. Apart from the vans, there wasn’t any sign of life here, and the small settlement stretched away up the hillside. There was a sign indicating Boreraig at 2 miles along the coast, so I thought I’d be like Patterson and cut up over Tor Mor and chop the corner of the headland off. I made my way over some fine cropped grass that was dissected by the river, but again I got across dry shod. Then I cut up the hillside following a cattle trail to the top – when I was up there I wished I’d followed the coast, but if I’d followed the coast I would have wished I’d chopped the corner off. I don’t know if I saved any time, but I still enjoyed the views back to the hills of the Sleat Peninsula . My main view now was down over to the clearance village Boreraig, knowing that when I got back down to the coast there was at last a recognisable, well used path all the way to Camas Mallag – phew. I was a little ragged now so topped up with juice, Red Bull, chocolate biscuits and whatever other trash I could stuff down my neck. It worked a treat and just before I got to Boreraig was the real treat of the day – a lovely walk along a beach – interesting to see how the storms had graded all the cobbles on the beach to lie in the same general direction (I think they call that imbricate structure), a sandy shore (not the singer) with plenty of waders (not wellies), and a couple of Oyster Catchers, and the icing on the cake was the waterfall cascading over the cliff. Not the biggest, widest or best I’ve ever seen but wonderfully refreshing, splashing drops as I got closer, with a band of fossils to top it off. This is definitely a place I will return to, great for a picnic or to while away a warm day before the midges get active ( none out and about today – far too stiff a breeze). I had a look for fossil ammonites in a band below the waterfalls, but I think someone has been here before and hammered out the lot. Beyond the waterfall I climbed up onto higher ground and the clearance settlement came into view. This is a well walked route now, plenty of day walkers coming down from Cill Chriosd ruined church or from Camas Mallag up to Suisnish and beyond. I was mightily relieved that the worse of the bogs were behind me now for a couple of days, and it was great to be on a recognised track, good all the way now to the end of the day.

I got a strange feeling walking through the ghosts of this village, what a setting to live your life – hard and unforgiving but what a place. There’s a standing stone marking the route, and I’m sure there are several others on the way to Suisnish – at least in my eyes, and I’ve seen plenty in my time. The path drops down below steep, high cliffs on the way to Suisnish, which reminded me of the Jurassic coast down in Dorset – plenty of dark fissile Shale, but hard enough to withstand the winter storms. Eventually the path rises up the cliff face on a steady ascent to emerge on higher ground towards another clearance settlement of Suisnish – not as much to see here, apart from a big green sheep shearing shed, and beyond that another tin roofed old croft that is basically a big resting place for the sheep in bad weather – I sheltered here last October when it was persisting it down. The approach to Suisnish marks another high point for the day with the Cuillins coming back into view and they’re a lot closer now. Thankfully they were largely cloud free with the ‘Inn Pinn’ standing proud of it’s surrounds. All that was left for today was to follow the metalled track north to the beach at Camas Malag with views over to Blaven – waiting, brooding, ready for me tomorrow.

What a brilliant day, fatigued, sore feet from the uneven ground but very happy with how this walk is progressing. It was a bit breezy down the home stretch and the mussel fishermen were struggling sailing back to Loch Slapin. I’ll have a look at the forecast on the BBC News at Ten and decide in the morning. There’s loads of stuff I saw and forgot today, such is the power of peace and tranquillity on the mind when you're out walking a distance

I sleep like a baby…..but without the nappy bits…

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Last edited by ramblingpete on Thu Nov 08, 2012 1:56 pm, edited 2 times in total.
ramblingpete
Walker
 
Posts: 61
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Joined: Nov 29, 2011
Location: Manchester

Re: A Long Walk on The Isle of Skye

Postby ramblingpete » Thu Nov 08, 2012 12:54 pm

Day Three: 10th May
Weather: Starting clear, then turning to snow on high ground and persistent rain lower down
Route: Torrin to Elgol - 10.7 miles with 4200ft of ascent
Today was my day as the route I chose to walk differs significantly from the original. Forgotten is the tough pathless trek from day two and remembered is the hill I have to climb. Hill?- proper mountain I should say, and well worth the epithet. I depart from Patersons route that heads north to give me an extra day of travel by veering south towards Elgol, walking around the head of Loch Slapin. I have two alternative routes pending a decision as I pass the car park for Blaven (Bla Bheinn) – low cloud and it’s sticking to the coast from Kilmarie, but clear and it’s up and weigh hey, but in my mind I already knew the decision was taken.

Anyway I was dropped off at yesterday’s end point at Camas Malag beach, a short walk away from Torrin. Normally I would start and end at a B&B stop, but yesterday I was dead beat and ground to a halt at the beach. My legs felt ok at the start of the day even though day three on a long walk can be a bit sluggish, not in a slimy way. There’s something about being next to the coast first thing in the morning, maybe the air is fresher around me, and quite invigorating. From the beach I headed over a headland, found a nice gate to pass through and was in Torrin within a short time. There aren't any paths marked out on the OS maps, but it was quite easy to skirt around the coast, hop over a fence and then find a gate to pass through and up to a track. That took me up through many villas and up to the main road for a stroll through Torrin. The owner of the Blue Shed cafe was stood outside but it was far to early to be stopping for a cuppa. After a stroll through the houses of this small hamlet I was soon out on the road that skirts Loch Slapin and continues on to Elgol. In my face was the black mass of Bla Beinn (Blaven), looking very inviting and very menacing at the same time – but that’s only because the route up is over to the left and out of sight, beyond the big scree slopes that were facing me.
The tide was in and the loch waters a little windswept, with a flock of different songbirds, waders, gulls etc feeding along the shore. It’s been great for birdlife so far, there’s so many different types I’ve lost count, a brilliant place to come and stare. Stand still for long enough and you will soon be looking at a few different species. The road was pleasant to walk along, peaceful except for the odd car, and they were always courteous and slowed down as they passed by. I think I’d already made up my mind where I was going today and the cloud cover wasn’t going to put me off. As I rounded the head of the loch I could see the woods that marked the start of the route and knew I had to cut up to the right before the bridge over the river. At this point Patersons route heads north up and over the mountains to Glen Sligachan, but I definitely prefer my route. I followed the ‘Walk Highlands ‘ route up to Blaven, staying right of the waterfalls of Allt na Dunaiche, a deeply cut ravine with dense birch growth up the sides, so dense I couldn't get a good shot of the falls. After crossing the river at the road the path takes me up at a steady incline, across the moor, through a couple of deer gates where I could look down on the steep wooded gorge, with the fresh leaves making it look quite verdant. The water is crystal clear and very inviting, and a little bit further on I could gaze down into another rocky chasm cut deeply by the Allt na Dunaiche. A mile upstream and it was time to cross over to the other side, and make my way up towards the climb up to Coire Uaigneich, and by the time I was up there I felt reasonably fresh – not bad for an old fart. I passed by two Germans and thought to myself – ‘I have a micro fleece towel in my pack, must get up there first to lay it out’ – no chance of a sunbed today though. I pointed out the route to them and they followed me for a while before calling it quits. So it was me and the mountain and as I got up I had to watch out I didn’t venture too far into the Coire even though it was tempting, as the route cuts up sharply right away from the stony path. The main path leads to scree slopes below the south summit of Blaven.

No cairns mark the divergence of the route, I just had to look up and consult the GPS now and again. But Ron from the B&B had advised that once on the path you couldn’t really go wrong. That’s true enough and if you’re ever up this way and can’t see the path ahead then look again. It was a little harder work from now on as the gradient got steeper – walking up a Munro from sea level is not easy at the best of times, so I stopped often for the views. Plenty of zigzagging up on a wide lose scree slope. There’s one or two small scrambles but they are very short, and eventually I came out onto firmer ground which helped me stand upright a little more. Over on my right were some spectacular stone gullies with massive black buttresses on either side dropping right down to the coire far below – jaw droppingly brilliant. I knew I would lose the views as I got higher, but enjoyed looking down over Loch Slapin to Torrin, and the peninsula I had walked around from Ord. it looked a long way from up here even though it was now tiny. I continued up the stony gully which is the steepest and loosest part of the climb. Near the top of the scree the path heads on better ground and leads over to the edge of Bla Bheinn’s eastern cliffs, giving cracking views, but with a gusty wind I stayed back from the abyss. From here the way was well defined continuing up the slope to the left at a steady ascent with spectacular views in places between the great buttresses, much loved by rock climbers.
Further on is a cairn and views across to the rock peak of Clach Glas. As I gained height the ground became covered with boulders but I could still see the well trodden route showing up as a yellowish path across the darker stone. Ahead I could see another small scramble was required with a choice of three ways. I stuck to the middle line and was soon up and over leaving me with a short walk to the north summit trig point. By this time the weather had turned decidedly inclement, with snow flurries coming and going with a very chill blustery wind. Unfortunately the spectacular view down over Glen Sligachan wasn’t going to appear and if anything it was getting worse. So I decided to walked over quickly to the south summit via the ledge traverse – another short scramble on a narrow ledge, carefully avoiding falling off as this would hurt a little. Bla Bheinn (the Blue Mountain) is 928 metres high, making it the only Munro on Skye that is not part of the Cuillin Ridge.
I didn’t hang about and quickly started out on my route down the south ridge knowing it would probably take me as long going down as climbing up. The rain had set in for the duration now, but wasn’t heavy enough to cause discomfort, and once I’d lost some elevation I started to get some views of my route ahead and along the coast to Elgol. I stopped for a quick bite, more like a quick Hoover really and then continued the long descent down the south ridge – a fine route if I may say so. There is one rocky scramble down which is ok and towards the lower slopes the path turns left down a grassy gully. I spotted a likely looking small ridge that cut across the boggy slopes below and cuts away from the main path up to Kilmarie. I didn’t want extra mileage now as my legs were feeling the strain of yesterday and I still had four miles to go. Everywhere was now looking misty and Camasunary Bay didn’t have the charm it has on a sunny day – the house here is getting a new roof – I’d love to rent that out sometime. I walked the coastal path to Elgol last year and knew there was some precarious stretches to come – not a path to take an elderly relative on, unless you want your inheritance a little earlier than expected. It’s ok for most of the way but towards the first bay at Cladach a Ghlinne, the path is about 150ft above the rocky shore, little more than a ft wide, and about a ft from the edge! – tread warily is my advice, but as long as you’re sure footed it’s ok. On a fine day I would have been looking out across the sea to various islands such as Soay and Rhum, but though today has been more than fine the same couldn’t be said for the weather. I paused now and then to enjoy the view back to the Cuillins, very enjoyable whatever the weather. Soon enough the day was finished as I arrived at Elgol, looking down over the boats moored up at buoys, ready for a trip tomorrow. What an exhilarating day, tiring yes but what great fun. I found I’d run out of time to update the blog as I had an urgent date with a bottle of wine and some squat lobsters at the Coruisk House restaurant – wow they were delicious

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Last edited by ramblingpete on Thu Nov 08, 2012 2:01 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: A Long Walk on The Isle of Skye

Postby ramblingpete » Thu Nov 08, 2012 12:55 pm

Day Four: 11th May
Weather: A strong chill northerly wind in sunshine all day
Route: Elgol to Sligachan - 10.5 miles with 2050ft of ascent
Today I have two options depending on the weather. My preferred route and a great start to the day will be to take the Misty Isle boat on a one way journey to the landing steps near Loch Coruisk. A relaxing start that will only take 45 minutes, with the chance of wildlife viewing, but much depends on the prevailing conditions – hopefully my breakfast won’t be reappearing. If the weather is too inclement then I shall be returning to the car park near Kilmarie to cross over once more to Camasunary Bay and resume the path from yesterday, passing by the bothy and on up to Sgurr na Stri. I’ve been this way before, so know what to expect. The more I write about this walk, the more I realise that there are lots of options to take, it’s just a case of transport sometimes – I don’t suppose many cars will stop for a soaking wet hiker, so getting a bus timetable would be useful.

Having breakfast at Coruisk House and looking out to the south, it looked a little grey and unpromising (but the home made bread toast was fabulous). So I nipped out to the front of the house and was happy to see blue skies around the corner over the islands. Wondering what will it have in store today – wet or dry or soaked, with windy weather from the north it was a tad brisk. I was aware that the underfoot conditions will be soggy even on a good day out. Last October here was absolutely wonderful and I was hoping for more of the same today. My first thoughts were 'would the boat be running?' I've now used both the Misty Isle service and the Bella Jane service, and both of them were a real pleasure.

I was down at the quay for 8:45 to bag my seat on the early morning trip, I’d already mailed them last week to be sure, but I had only 4 fellow passengers, all of them walking the Skye Trail albeit a slightly different version of mine. The seas looked a little lumpy, but nowhere near rough enough to stop the service. The Misty Isle is very much a family affair and it shows in the service they provide. Anne greeted me at the ticket shed, saying it was so cold she’d have to shelter in the cupboard, but she still had time to put the kettle on. It was a cold wind from the north that didn’t warm until later in the day, and what a view across to the Cuillins – clear of cloud with a light dusting of snow on the tops. Away to my right the coastline is inviting, but I walked here yesterday, we gently pull away from the concrete ramp and out into the waters of Loch Scavaig, with the island of Soay the nearest and most prominent to the west. All eyes on the Cuillin hills, all jagged and broody, with Blaven over to the right behind Camasunary Bay. The father (Seumas) was the skipper, and son (Stuart) was the narrator, safety officer – took great delight in showing us the emergency exits – and teaboy as well. I decided to sit myself down by the forward canopy as the engines got up to speed, and a couple of thumps later my fellow passengers were sporting a sea spray jacket – I didn’t laugh. It was very relaxing listening to Stuart and his knowledge and tales were much appreciated, as well as a cup of tea. We didn’t see too much wildlife because of the sea state, but the seals were out basking close to the shore, tails and flippers in the air. We slowed down to have a good look at the 'Bad Step' on the west side of the base of Sgurr na Stri, but that wouldn't affect any of us on our walk out today. The approach into the head of Loch Coruisk is surrounded by big black volcanic hills, the boat slows down to look closely at the seals basking on small rock outcrop - plenty of shags with spread wings like a long paper chain. It's only 10am and already I'm so relaxed my mind is drifting all over the place this is such a wonderful theatre of landscape. Seumas saw us safely into the landing steps and it was abandon ship for the Loch Coruisk show. I love it here, it’s a very special place and I took my time walking slowly to savour this theatre. The route today gets the best views of the Cuillins and all of them were on view. I still can’t believe that some looney ran / climbed the entire ridge in less than 4 hours. The ‘Innaccessible Pinnacle’ was prominent above the ridge, looking like a splinter standing proud of it's surrounds but dwarfed by the surrounding majestic peaks. The path to the river crossing wasn’t too boggy and the stepping stones were well clear of the water and dry as a bone – amazing what a dry month does. My mountain legs were still in bed and I felt a little heavy after yesterday’s efforts, so I pulled the plug on a walk up Sgurr na Stri so I could savour the Cuillens and Glen Sligachan at leisure – this wasn’t a day to rush around. Later on down in the valley I wished I'd taken some time to walk up to the top as I had plenty of time in hand, but it was nice to have a slow day. The views around Loch Coruisk get better the higher up you climb – not steep ground, but you have to be careful where you put you’re feet. The gabbro rocks are very grippy for walking over, but will shred your hands if you’re not careful. A steady plod took me up beside the waterfalls on Allt a Choire Riabhaich, more of a trickle today. Loch a Choire Riabhaich comes into view with the jagged peaks of Sgurr nan Gillean in the background, what a spectacle. As I got to the top of the beallach to the north of Sgurr Hain, I stepped into another theatre of Glen Sligachan, dominated initially by the formidable western slopes of Blaven, which are very steep rocky slabs – I would have had a cracking view yesterday had it been clear. Way in the distance the Sligachan Hotel stands out as a white blob on the landscape, it's a steady five mile walk down from the beallach to the hotel. Starting down the slopes to the valley floor I felt the full chill of a northerly wind, which bizarrely warmed up as the afternoon went on. There were quite a few groups out stalking the Munros of the Cuillins, happy that the wind was at their backs.
I found a lovely lunch spot and settled down to my freshly made butties – one bite and it looked like Blaven – see picture! I had a short day today and was grateful for it, especially later on as I took a pathetic tumble and almost bit the dust – good job nobody saw me. Walking north down the Glen had me staring up at great mountains the Black Cuillins to the west and the Red to the east. The path was stony and easy to amble along and as I drew level with the jagged pinnacles of Am Bastier the river ahead meanders over the wide valley floor – plenty of glacial till and out wash here. I felt a little like it was leaving a special place behind as I got towards Sligachan, ready for another change of scenery. I was very grateful for the weather today – a very special place and one to return to time and again. All that was left was a soak in the bath and a little R&R in the bar.

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Last edited by ramblingpete on Thu Nov 08, 2012 2:07 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: A Long Walk on The Isle of Skye

Postby ramblingpete » Thu Nov 08, 2012 12:56 pm

Day Five: 12th May
Weather: Mostly sunny with brief showers
Route: Sligachan to Portree - 12.2 miles with 1017ft of ascent
How annoying are computers and ‘intelligent’ phones? I spent an hour blogging away on this day walk and it’s was swallowed and spat out into the ether. Believe me it was the best piece I’ve ever written (large tongue in cheek), so now you’ll just have to put up with this shorter version. Tsk. It was nice to wake up to another relatively clear day and a leisurely start as it was a predominantly flat stage most of the way to Portree. Looking out of my window this morning I spied blue sky over Sgurr nan Gillean so knew I was in for another good day. The route today was fairly straightforward and didn’t have many alternatives, the bus being one of them if the burns are in full spate. There are many side streams along the loch shore, and it has been reported elsewhere that after heavy rain the path becomes almost impassable. There are one or two diversions today that I could have made but didn’t, and my route followed the one laid out in Patersons book. After a light breakfast in the Sligachan Hotel I was out and down to the bridge to capture a morning shot of the sunny side of Sgurr nan Gillean. There was a photographer set up with tripod etc, so I nipped down beside her to get a shot – it saved me faffing around, lining up my view etc and I was just in time as two bus loads of Japanese tourists poured out to spoil her view. A little bit wistful about leaving the Cuillin hills behind me I set off across the busy A87 road towards the campsite, wandering through the tents, and then down by the river Allt Dubh. I couldn’t really go wrong as the path follows the northern shore of Loch Sligachan and is a well trodden stretch. One thing to note of today’s route is that after heavy rainfall with the burns in spate it would be difficult to make progress along here. Many of the smaller burns run straight down the hillside in narrow valleys and these would fill up rapidly, I saw it last year and the power of water is frightening close up. I counted up 18 burns to cross before you reach the road at Peinachorrain But today was dry again and river crossing was easy. The River Sligachan is quite wide in places and with a bit more water in would require a bit of careful crossing, but today it was nice and easy across a dry river bed, with plenty of big stones to help keep dry. On the opposite shore the main road south to Broadford intrudes a little but not for long, in fact the noisiest thing passing today was a Eurofighter which flashed past in a blur. I watched the ferry from Sconser to Raasay cross the short distance between islands, and as I moved further along the shore the Cuillins became a distant view once more, which I was a little sorry to leave behind. South of Loch Sligachan the skyline is dominated by the big bulk of Glamaig, which effectively blots out the sunlight for a lot of the area to it's north - must be gloomy in the wintertime. The end of the loch marks the end of the stony path and a change of scenery down onto the road that runs along through The Braes. it was pleasant walking along the road through the small settlements of Peinachorrain, Balmeanach and Gedintailor, with only a few cars passing by, and all of those very courteous – no rushing about these roads. As I came down off the hill to the road the view directly in front of me led my eyes beyond Raasay to many snow capped mountains on the mainland, and as I turned the corner I took the lower road and was rewarded with good views over to Raasay, with the flat topped hill of Dun Caan stood proud of the island. This area must have been used for a lot of crofting and there is plenty of evidence in the fields and a few original crofts still standing – one with a tin roof weighed down with old yokes on chains, one held together with a bolted timber frame and one gracefully sagging at the hip of the roof. There is an interesting bay below Balmeanach which leads over to a promontory with the remains of a Dun on the end, that begs an exploration at another time. There’s a few old bits and bats along this coast, and some interesting properties that give the Braes a feel of distinction, calm and relaxing. After Gedintailor the road veers to the north west and the big local hill of Ben Tianavaig comes into view. This gives a taster of the landscapes to come in the next day or two. It could have been a route option but I’ve enough ascent to do over the next two days There is a small cairn and bench to sit on north of Gedintailor, this commemorates a bit of a battle between the local crofters and the Glasgow Police in 1882 - There's a song written - about the Battle of The Braes, this from their website -

'A combination of increasing numbers of people working on a land too poor to support them and landowners who could earn more from sheep rearing than from subsistence farmers, resulted in many leaving the land in the 18th and 19th centuries. Some went abroad to the better themselves and many were forcibly evicted in what became known as "The Clearances". In 1882, the crofters in Braes of Portree on the Isle of Skye stopped paying rent until their demands for the return of common grazing land were met. Using the force of law, the landlord, Lord Macdonald, tried to evict them. The ensuing "Battle of the Braes" was reported in the press and eventually Parliament passed laws giving crofters more security of tenure. It is sometimes argued that the Battle of the Braes was the last battle fought on British soil (rather than Culloden in 1745). '
An interesting piece of history and a nice bench to pause at. Looking back along the road the Red Cuillins were still in view and ahead of me appeared the coast to the north of Portree and a very distinct prominence of the Old Man of Storr. In places the coast reminded me a little of Cornwall, but only small patches of it. The road rises steadily for a while after Gedintailor passing fewer buildings, with an escarpment above the road to the left and the big hill to the right the land becomes typical of Skye once more with a mix of rough grass, heather and scrubby birch. There was plenty of birdlife flitting along to keep me occupied as my feet ate up the miles of tarmac. It was a couple of miles on the quiet B road before I reached Peinmore, just before the main A87, but there was still a little interest - the odd building here and there, an old Chapel and a converted telephone exchange - must be the smallest property on Skye! From here the route took me off the road beside the River Varrigill which became more estuarine and tidal towards Portree. It was a real pleasure to put foot to turf once again after a day of road walking, passing through sweet smelling gorse on a good path before stepping along the banks of the Varrigill. There were plenty of Oyster Catchers flitting around, sea pinks in flower and springy turf beneath my feet. Most guide books point to leaving the river at the Aros centre and suffering the fast moving traffic along the main road to Portree. Thankfully for me the tide was out and it enabled me to walk along the high water mark below the cemetery and around to a slipway where there is a path that leads up to the road. This is probably inaccessible at high tide but well worth the effort and is much more peaceful than the main road. I got to chatting with a local who told me I could have carried on around until reaching the bridge over the river in Portree where steps lead up to the road. But as I didn't know I had a short walk of around a mile to reach the B&B. It was good to see some activity and stroll through the town on another fine day. The storm clouds were gathering for tomorrow though, to pay me back for all the fine weather I have ever had on my long walks.

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Last edited by ramblingpete on Thu Nov 08, 2012 2:11 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: A Long Walk on The Isle of Skye

Postby ramblingpete » Thu Nov 08, 2012 12:57 pm

Day Six: 13th May
Weather: As bad as it gets in the UK - wet and windy
Route: Portree to the Storr - 9 miles with 2360ft of ascent
It was just as well it was only 9 miles today as the forecast proved to be stunningly accurate -

''Headline, The Northwest Highlands - Very severe most of day: storm force winds; torrential rain, low cloud.
How Windy? Westerly, 60 to 80mph, gusts up to 110mph; strongest afternoon. Slight easing evening (a bit late then).
Effect Of Wind? Considerable buffeting from low levels. Any mobility extensively very difficult on the hills; sudden ferocious gusts even in relatively sheltered areas. Severe wind chill.
How Wet? Constant rain. Often torrential western mountains. Incessant heavy rain; concentrated western mountains where total rainfall will widely exceed 1 inch, in places 2 inches, and in Rambling Pete’s back 3 inches. Intermittently snow highest summits. Will ease to showers in evening – I’ll have finished before the evening thanks.''
Well I don’t often go out in weather like that, but didn’t want to waste a day of my walk, as it would definitely have been null and void in my eyes. Sitting at breakfast with all the other guests, they looked a bit askance when I said I was off out walking – it was nice and cosy looking out of steamed up windows, the trees outside bending over in the strong wind, and the rain pattering against the window in pulses. But I couldn’t make breakfast last all day, so it was on with everything waterproof that I had, knowing that by the time I’d finish most of it would be sopping wet anyway.

I don’t know if you remember Tiswas, the saturday morning TV programme where Chris Tarrant threw buckets of water over people in a cage. Well it was just like that, only without the cage. There were to be no spectacular coastal views today, and I’d be lucky to get a view at all. I decided early on to just use my I-phone for pictures today, as the compact would have given up the ghost in the wet. I had the phone in an ‘AquaPac’ cover, and it’s brilliant for really bad weather. I have quite a few blurry wet pictures though, but at least there’s some to put up, which was a minor miracle in itself.

Out into the wind and the rain, the streets of Portree were quiet, and the hills around provided some protection from the wind, but not the rain. There’s a nice little circular walk you can do along here, around Ben Chracaig and back, so the path is well defined and used. Up on top of Ben Chracaig there are plenty of old lumps and bumps with the remnants of Dun Torvaig, but my route stuck to the coast and as I turned past the island of Sgeir Mhor I got my first look at the big cliffs ahead. I was still a little sheltered down by the sea and wouldn’t feel the full force of the wind until up on the cliffs. A little further on are a line of green pasture called the ‘Bile Pasture’, nice and springy to walk across and probably nice on a sunny day to sit and ponder and watch out for the Sea Eagles of Portree. The only view I had was down to the fish farms and a misty Ben Tianavaig, whilst up ahead at Sron a Bhainne the waterfall was flowing uphill – I knew then that the walk up from the Bile Pasture would be interesting. With the lack of views out to the mainland or the Isle of Raasay I decided it wasn’t worth the risk of straying too close to the edge, so once I’d got up on top at Bealach Cumhang I stayed about 10yds from the abyss, on good short cropped grass. This must be a real joy to walk on when it’s normal weather – today was an effort to keep both feet and walking poles grounded. The path itself up on the edge is fine, sheep cropped grass, and brilliant to walk on. The general direction of the route today is north and undulates up and down between higher hills, the biggest of which is Sithean Bhealaich Chumhaing. Further on is Craig Ulatota and Fiurnean where the path drops down over a steep slope and veers towards the north west. There is a distinct grassy cleft in the escarpment and although steep it's easy enough to drop down. The ground changes character and the path becomes a little unclear, and a little more boggy. At this stage the wind really picked up and I don’t think there was much of me that was dry anymore, except my phone, snug in it’s pack. I was struggling to keep my poles grounded and it was quite testing leaning into the wind all the time. Down to my right there was another line of cliffs that could be walked along another time, and in a moment of clarity I could see the main road and the Loch Leathan, the feeder for the hydro scheme. I stayed high until I could see the hydro service road and then got down to the road as soon as I could then turned into the wind to walk up to the main road. What a struggle against the wind, bent over to make progress, crossing over the dam and the rowing boats at rest – no takers today. Five minutes later I passed by a villa with a young girl looking out of the window, stunned at anyone out in this weather. At the main road there appeared a magical bus shelter – almost blown off it’s mounting, but a great refuge to await my chariot. Some time later back at the B&B I drained my boots, squeezed out my socks, pants, base layer, merino and strung out the rest of my gear to dry – and settled down to listen to the football on Radio Five live whilst typing up the days events – I don’t believe it, only Manchester City can do it this way…. in the final minute, of the final game, with the final goal what a finish…CHAMPIONS at last!! I've supported MCFC since I was 11years old, and I've waited 46years for them to win the title again. Lets hope they're like London buses.

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Last edited by ramblingpete on Thu Nov 08, 2012 2:17 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: A Long Walk on The Isle of Skye

Postby ramblingpete » Thu Nov 08, 2012 12:58 pm

Day Seven: 14th May
Weather: Mixed sunshine with showers, and a cold wind
Route: The Storr to The Quiraing - 13.3 miles with 4837ft of ascent


The longest day, and after yesterday’s walk and last night, my legs don’t exactly feel full of beans – full of lead maybe. But that’s just an excuse really and at least it wasn’t windy today, just a touch of rain on and off and some bastard stinging hailstones thrown in for good measure.
I was looking forward to the Trotternish traverse and was ready for a long day. I started out wearing all my wet gear, as it was raining to start the day and a cold wind to go with it. Ha – dried out all my gear to get it wet again. I put on my Meindls today, nice and dry and that’s the advantage of having my personal baggage carrier – though she doesn’t see it that way – and she doesn’t read this either!
I hunkered down in my bus shelter and faffed around, looking up above The Storr for any approaching blue sky, but it was clothed with a misty blanket which always makes the area around the Old Man of Storr more interesting. I had a short walk up the road to the Storr car park where there has been quite a lot of wood clearance since I was last here, opening up the vista a little more to the north. The information board is a good guide to the area and gives a little geological information to make sense of the crazy pinnacles. The same of course applies to the Quiraing. It’s a popular attraction is the Old Man and there was a right old mix of people going up there for a look. It’s a steady haul up the the slopes that soon has you puffing – up through the woods the path was very muddy where there has been logging, but beyond that it’s a well trodden route, with the odd set of steps thrown in here and there. I was glad to have the walking poles for stabilisers though. I feared the worse for the weather as it lashed it down once more as I moved out of the trees to open ground. The midges were briefly in evidence down in the woods, but it was too cold for them higher up and they didn’t pester when I walked through them. No reflection pictures across the small lochan below the Old Man, so I steadily plodded on up higher to the Old Man and beyond. I was here last October in glorious weather, and as I passed the crazy pinnacles the sky cleared and it looked ok ahead. Shame about the wind though, but cold as it was, it wasn’t strong enough to blow you over the edge. There’s some mighty big drops from the top of the ridge and it’s a real roller coaster of a walk with plenty of ups and downs – I'll summarise it as this -

Up to the Old Man, onto Coire Scamadal, down to Bealach a Chuirn, up to Hartaval, down to Bealach Hartaval, up to Baca Ruadh, down / up to Creag a Lain, down to Bealach a Lain, up to Flasvein for lunch, down to Bealach Chaiplin, up to Groba nan Each, down to Bealach Amadal, up to Beinn Mheadhonach, down to Bealach Mhoramhain, up to Beinn Edra, down to Bealach Uige, up to Drum Ma Coille, up to Bioda Buidhe and finally down to the feckin car park.

There were a German couple and two ladies walking from the South at the same time as me. I’d met them on the boat from Elgol, and then again on the walk to Portree from Sligachan. I didn’t meet them on the wet and windy day – they were far too sensible, although the ladies did venture out for a circuit around Ben Chracaig. I met them again today, catching up with them at Hartaval and they weren’t that far behind me when I finished at the Quiraing – well done ladies, you did brilliantly.

Anyways once the sun had come out to play I could see the escarpment stretching away from me to the north, with a misty Isle of Raasay and occasional glimpses of the mainland to the east and over to the western part of Skye to my left, with views to Maclouds Maidens in the distance – some flat topped hills set in a soggy landscape. I only got a misty glimpse or two of the Cuillins back down to the south, but I knew what they looked like by now. The Trotternish ridge has some rough ground here and there but close to the edge there is an increasingly well trodden path along the sheep cropped grass. But step back a few yards and it becomes short tussocky grass, interspersed with moss and heather – that’s ok when it’s not too boggy, but it’s energy sapping if you stay in it too long. I had a great lunch spot today up on the side of Flasvein, a big boulder with a natural seat which allowed me to shelter a while from the continuing cold wind. As I munched my sarnie in the distance I saw a big bird whirling on the wind – is it a crow, raven or buzzard thought I – is it hell, it’s an EAGLE! I knew it was a big bird, but wow, it’s big. But as with the otter from a few days ago, there was to be no picture – at this moment I’d decided to return to Skye again, rent a cottage and spend some dedicated time looking at wildlife. I didn’t wait around too long after that as time was ticking away. The weather continued fine, but I could see the passing showers coming and going, so had plenty of time to get my hood up and gloves on. Hard to believe its the month of May – if you look at some of my long walks you’ll see it’s mostly been warm and definitely not down as low as 5 degrees C.

Looking ahead I could see the Quiraing in the distance and foolish me set to thinking its only down off here to the car park, what good time I’ve made – how very wrong could I have been. It was only big Beinn Edra In the way. How hard it was to muster the old legs for one final up when secretly they were already celebrating being near the car park. I should have consulted the map a little more often, not just when I’m writing up the blog! But I did remember one thing I’d been told by Ian Stephenson – ‘don’t cut the corner off on the way down’. So I didn’t, I cut the corner off on the way up to Bioda Buidhe to try and save some legwork. That worked ok once I was over the steep part, and it was dry enough.
Looking down from the summit I realised there was a way to go yet….tick-tock went the clock….though I told myself it didn’t matter. After wandering too far away from the summit I quickly realised I should be over to the edge, so yomped through some rough ground to gain the grassy edge once more and that’s where I stayed. It seemed a bit circuitous but the short cut was rough and boggy looking and would have been a big ask at the end of a long day. Eventually the car park hove into view far below, as did another hailstorm, and I could even see the tea wagon, although I knew it would be shut – I could have killed for a cuppa now. The long walk down from Beinn Edra took a while and the ground was a big soggier on the lower slopes, but in my line of sight now was the wonderful Quiraing, my last day tomorrow. Staffin was away down to my right sunbathing a little with a long line of white in the bay crashing over the shore. Down below the Quiraing there is plenty of evidence of old peat cutting, and some wierdd and wonderful landscape, but that was for tomorrow. Today finished at the car park and I had a quick chat with the B&B owner who was waiting for the others. I assured him that they were not far behind and pointed them out on the hill. He said he always gives people until 7pm then changes into his Mountain Rescue underpants – a good job they all arrived at 18:59:59. Another grand day out on Skye – this is turning into an epic walk

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Last edited by ramblingpete on Thu Nov 08, 2012 2:34 pm, edited 1 time in total.
ramblingpete
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Re: A Long Walk on The Isle of Skye

Postby ramblingpete » Thu Nov 08, 2012 12:59 pm

Day Seven: 15th May
Weather: Perfectly fine thank you
Route: The Quiraing to Rubha Hunish - 11.2 miles with 1861ft of ascent


The last day of a ‘Long Walk on the Isle of Skye 2012′. Always a wistful moment or two when I think back to the start of the journey and back again. I wondered about the end of this walk and stopping it at Duntulm Castle, but now I know I made the right decision to finish at the top of the island.
I awoke to bright blue skies above Portree, ate a hearty breakfast, packed the motor and set off north for the Quiraing. All around me were blue skies – down to the Cuillins and up to a clear Storr – fantastic weather. As I got to Staffin there was a Victor Meldrew moment – ‘I don’t bloody believe it’ – sitting right on the Quiraing was a great lump of storm cloud, and as I drove up the Quiraing road the heavens opened and dumped a veritable load of big white hailstones. It covered the road, enough for me to switch to 4×4, and to start cursing…a bit like our Victor Meldrew. At the car park I just sat and waited, hoping and delaying, but it was no good I couldn’t change the weather. Actually I did a couple of minutes later on – I wished it all away, and away it went. On with the wet gear, off with the wet gear, too hot in the sun, and too cold out.
But really who gives a hoot when the landscape is as distinct as this, sublime, hypnotic and downright smile inducing. The path below the cliffs is but a narrow trod above steep grassy slopes. It’s hard to make fast progress as there’s so much to look at. A short way from the start is an awkward rock step across a burn, but that’s the only problem here, and it’s not so bad. Then I stood and stared – sod the passing time and feast my eyes on this magical place – wrinkly terracettes in green mossy grass, as the soil creeps slowly downhill. Old farm use in the landscape below, of wall patterns and peat cutting. Prominent knolls and pinnacles draw the eye, as does a recent rock fall revealing crystal vesicles amongst the black basalt. Up above the high cliffs tower over the path, shielding me from the wind, and in the sunshine it feels like May for once. A vertical dyke splits the lava flow and next to it a small waterfall tumbles quietly down the precipice. Ahead of me lay the Prison, one of many slumped blocks that gives the landscape a crazy tilt. I’ve been up there so didn’t climb today, and up to my left was the needle, guarding the steep scree path up to the magical hidden table – another must return to venue. It’s almost too much, but I remember I have some bog trotting to do before the day is out, and that returns me to reality. I meet the two ladies and the German couple again – he’s smiling, enjoying this landscape and taking lots of pictures – I hope he gets in touch via this blog. The ladies are finishing today at Flodigarry, and it’s a shame they can’t hitch a ride and walk to the end at Rubha Hunish as I’m sure they would have enjoyed that.
But our paths parted and I took the higher route up to Fir Bhreugach and from there up towards Sron Vourlinn. This was where the path ran out, the start of a bit of rough, rough enough to make me curse a little, and struggle along for a while. The path runs out and in retrospect I should have stayed up higher on the hill, but part of this route is to pick a line and go with it.
As an aside, I take my hat off to all who complete the TGO challenge across Scotland every year, and especially to those sadists who complete ten years running – some kind of perversion if you ask me.
Oh yes – I followed the hint of a trod and it gently contoured around the hill in the right direction for quite a distance before it petered out. Stuart (Lonewalker) had told me there was a semblance of a path towards the east side of the coire on the right hand side of the Lon Horro burn. I’m glad he did, as after stumbling through rough ground for a little while I picked it up alongside the burn which has cut a decent sized, steep, rocky ravine through the rocks. Beyond the base of Sron Vuillen the ground levels off to a boggy waste and the only way across is to try and keep to the higher ground where there is any. Initially I made good progress across several hummocks of moraine, but these flattened off and it was just a case of picking a line and hop, hoping from dry tuft to dry tuft, and coming across the real wet stuff now and again. I’m going to compare my route down with Lonewalkers and see if we ended up close, it will be interesting for reference – as it happens our route across from Sron Vourlinn were very close. After the recent rain it still wasn’t truly boggy, but the walk up the length of Skye does refine the eye for a stride to keep dry-shod. It’s quite taxing watching your footfall all the time, but I stopped occasionally to look back at the route and confirm I was going in the right direction. There is a ridge of higher ground over to the east, but I was headed west to skirt Cnoc Roll and make my way to the telephone box that marks the path to Rubha Hunish.
Once I’d crossed the worst of the bog there are some lush looking fields before the wooden bridge over the Kilmaluag River – these turned out to be a little moist, and churned up by cattle, ready to catch the unwary with a boot full of muddy water. Once over the river the ground was easier, firmer to the foot and actually had a track on the ground. There is a ‘tongue in cheek’ sign saying ‘Quiraing footpath’ which made me laugh – it doesn’t run very far. I made a bit of a mistake here and took to a small road down to the hamlet of Connista, instead of sticking to the fields behind and above the houses. The net result was that I had to pass through somebody's yard and climb over a gate into another field to get back on line. Luckily for me nobody was at home or I may have had to divert somewhat. Across the boggy fields of Kilmaluag I could see my red telephone box that marks the start of the path, and instead of taking the minor roads to it I thought I’d take a turn over to Cnoc Roll, taking advantage of some old farm tracks. It’s a good job it wasn’t raining as some of the ground was mightily churned up by cattle. Luckily for me I walked mostly on the short cropped stuff just below the track and that was ok. As I got to Cnoc Roll the track split left and right, and i took the right branch to lead me around the east side of the hill and up to the main road. The farmer here had a line of old baths along the track – I think it was about 10 – but I didn’t know when bath-time was or if the farmer scratched the cows backs or not. I made steady progress north now, with good weather overlooking the peninsula, but still the showers crossed over the sea from the Hebrides, threatening me with a quick wetting. But the blue sky gods were with me and as I reached the telephone box I nipped inside for a few minutes to take on board some liquid before the final walk to the tip of Skye. The path out to Rubha Hunish is clearly signposted, and is also clear on the ground. There has been some remedial work done here which has probably filled in some of the worst boggy bits, and certainly makes access to the coast easier. Over to my left was Patersons finish of Duntulm Castle, standing proud on its knoll, but no time for a visit today as I’d plumped to finish at Rubha Hunish. Below me was a line of old crofting remains at Erisco, all laid out in a line running north south, there’s even some old run-rigs below the cliffs of Meall Tuath. The path heads for a cleft between two hills of Meall Deas and Meall Tuath, reaching a perched boulder that marks the way down to Hunish and the end. It’s a marvellous viewpoint looking down on the deep blue sea and the smell of fresh sea air was fantastic. The first bit down past the boulder is a little rocky scramble, but is ok and has plenty of hand and footholds, and this gives way to a steep path down the side of the cliffs, that tower above. It was a great feeling to walk down and across above Loch Hunish, but it was a little rough seas today for any whale spotting, and that’s another reason for a trip back here, maybe in the autumn. It was a real pleasure walking along the short turf and didn’t take long to reach the end of the peninsula, where I stood still gulping in fresh air and looking out over rough waters to the islands and over to mainland Scotland of Torridon. What a finish and what a walk – it’s right up there with the best, and I’m going to have to think long and hard about where to go next.

A Long Walk on Skye 2012, finished but never to be forgotten.

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ramblingpete
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Re: A Long Walk on The Isle of Skye

Postby mountainstar » Thu Nov 08, 2012 4:43 pm

Hi Pete,
Enjoyed that read, especially as I'm planning to walk the Skye trail next May.
I was interested on how you did the logistics....i.e. Transport, accommodation, backpack (daypack of carrying everything) etc.
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Re: A Long Walk on The Isle of Skye

Postby Lenore » Thu Nov 08, 2012 5:25 pm

What a spectacular trip!! Thanks for sharing.
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Re: A Long Walk on The Isle of Skye

Postby ramblingpete » Thu Nov 08, 2012 5:36 pm

mountainstar wrote:Hi Pete,
Enjoyed that read, especially as I'm planning to walk the Skye trail next May.
I was interested on how you did the logistics....i.e. Transport, accommodation, backpack (daypack of carrying everything) etc.


Glad you enjoyed it - you're in for a treat next May. Are you N-S or S-N. Friend of mine (Lonewalker) did it a week before me and had sunshine everyday - more jam than Hartleys. He walked N-S and thinks that the S-N route is better.

Logistically for me it was easy as my wife was driving, carrying to and fro and we stayed in B&B's. But the bus service is pretty good up there, and you could plan your days according to the timetable. Accommodation is expensive but it's Skye - lots of people go there, but thankfully not all of them walk around. Which leaves backpacking and the pleasure of that. I would say the weather would play a big part in it, as some of it is tough going, and would be even worse in really wet conditions. I think with some planning and helpful B&B owners you should be able to manage a good mix. Transport wise there's always a taxi or thumbing a lift - the locals are very friendly and welcoming.

If you want to look at how a backpacker got on have a look at Dave Woods blogspot. A man for the buses would be Lonewalker - you'l find both through a google search, and get plenty of info from their sites. My site has some more stuff on as well.

Whatever you decide you'll have a great time come rain or shine.
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Re: A Long Walk on The Isle of Skye

Postby mountainstar » Thu Nov 08, 2012 5:40 pm

Thanks,
We are doing it like you...my wife is driving.
S to N.
We will be camping.
I know Skye very well, just that I've never done this walk in one go, done most of it in bits on previous trips etc. I am taking someone who has never been to Skye before who will walk it with me.
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Re: A Long Walk on The Isle of Skye

Postby Billymaca » Thu Nov 08, 2012 8:56 pm

Well done ramblingpete, a fantastic report of a walk that is high on my wish list for at some point in the future, a great reference for when that time comes. I see what you mean about the pictures, it must have been hard to choose, it looks like spectacular scenery where ever you look. Thanks for posting
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Re: A Long Walk on The Isle of Skye

Postby gavmac » Fri Nov 09, 2012 11:54 am

Fabulous report, really enjoyed it as I know Skye well just never done a through trip like this. I will need to up my game for report writing and picture taking for my next trip.
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