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Two Dutch girls walk most of the Skye Trail, August 2017

Two Dutch girls walk most of the Skye Trail, August 2017


Postby goeky » Thu Dec 14, 2017 2:15 pm

Route description: Skye Trail

Date walked: 19/08/2017

Time taken: 7 days

Distance: 128 km

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Prologue
Last August, me and my friend Anna walked the majority of the Skye Trail. Now, with Christmas approaching I decided it was time to share my experiences. We weren't able to plan the trip in every detail, because the weather is so unpredictable. That's why we made up our route as we went along, and I would advise others to do the same. You need to be flexible when walking this trail.

We are two Dutch medical students from Rotterdam, both aged 21 at the time. I have some hiking experience, as I've walked the full West Highland Way in 2015 and did some hiking in the Alps last year. Anna is more of a mountaineer/climber. We are both fit, competitive, love camping and are always up for a good adventure!

We used the The Skye Trail Cicerone Guide and a Skye Trail 1:40.000 waterproof map by Harvey Maps. Both are highly recommended!

We had flown to Glasgow Airport and taken the train from Glasgow Queen Street to Mallaig. From there we took the ferry to Armadale on the Isle of Skye. Then we hitchhiked from Armadale to Staffin (90 km at once, we got lucky!).

Day 1: Rubha Hunish - Flodigarry (19 August)
The first two nights we stayed with a family member who lives in Staffin. Therefore we were able to walk this first stage with just a small daypack. A friend from Germany decided to join us for the day. He drove us to the starting point, where we began our walk just before 10 am. As it was raining, we reached for our waterproofs from our very first steps. The terrain was quite boggy, invest in some good quality waterproof boots and gear!

We chose to take our time and do the detour to Rubha Hunish, the northern-most point of the Isle of Skye. This is a famous whalespotting spot, but we didn't see any as we were having lunch among the sheep. The scramble down from the cliffs towards the tip of the island is easier than it looks if you follow the path. It was quite chilly there, even as the sun broke through the clouds. This is when I realised that Skye is actually as far up north as Norway. From this viewpoint we were able to see some of the Outer Hebrides and the view of the cliffs behind us were absolutely stunning! We took many pictures here. After our lunch, we climbed back up the cliff and continued our walk to Flodigarry. There is a lookout on top of the cliff that functions as a bothy, people had slept there that night. We parted with our German friend around 2 pm and managed to raise the pace a bit. We had taken our time in the morning and now wanted to make haste. The path continues along sleep cliffs, not for the faint-hearted but epic if you are not afraid of heights! We had to jump over some burns as it had rained a lot the days before. Our walking sticks came in handy here. Some other hikers with bigger backpacks did not dare jump over one of the bigger streams, but we did it anyway (without getting wet).

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Rubha Hunish


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We had intended to cover some extra miles and walk the Quiraing this first day as well, but we didn't do it in the end. The weather was unpleasant and it was quite late already. We had taken a lot of time sightseeing around Rubha Hunish in the morning. We took the bus towards Staffin from the parking lot outside of Flodigarry, where we stayed the night. We bought some supplies in a small shop there.

Day 2: Flodigarry - foot of the Red Fox (about halfway down the Trotternish Ridge) (20 August)
From this second day onwards we were carrying our backpacks (roughly 12 kg each) with tent etc. Our host would join us for the first half of the day and then walk the same route back. We wanted to walk as much of the Trotternish Ridge as we could. However, to walk all the way to the Old Man of Storr in one day just seemed impossible.

We left from Staffin at 9 am, took the bus to the parking lot and started our hike at 9:30 am. The first section through the Quiraing was busy but stunning. It was relatively dry and easy. We had a wee cup of a tea & a chocolate bar among the midges at a stall on the road between Staffin-Uig. This is where we said goodbye to civilisation, for we did not see any other hikers as we left the popular Quiraing behind us. There is literally nothing between this road and the Old Man of Storr. Luckily the weather was good; clear skies and no wind. The route goes up and down at lot from here. Be prepared! There is often no real path, but as long as you follow the Trotternish Ridge you can't really get lost, or that's what we thought... We said goodbye to our companion after a few hours and she turned back. We continued along the ridge, taking in the beautiful views. There is nothing here but sheep. Some of the ascents are very steep, up to 40 degrees. Sometimes it just seemed neverending, but it was impressive nonetheless.

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Somewhere on the Trotternish Ridge


The weather deteriorated, some of the summits were covered in fog. After we summited Creag a' Lain (609 m) and had a break there around 6 pm, we found ourselves surrounded by fog. We had lost sight of the ridge and descended this peak in the wrong direction. We followed what we thought was the ridge for at least 30 mins before we noticed something wasn't right. We took out our compass and needed every bit of logic and our orientation skills to find out what went wrong. In the end we just walked back up the hill and realised we had missed a steep pathless descent. Around 7:30 pm we saw a small tent in the distance and we knew we were saved! We pitched our tent on a beautiful, relatively dry, grassy spot at the foot of the Red Fox. There was a small stream there (we did use purification tablets because of the sheep!) and the breeze scared off the midges.

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We had some instant pasta bolognese and Anna ran up the Red Fox on her flip flops after dinner to watch the sunset. I was tired enough as it was already and enjoyed the view from there.

Day 3: foot of the Red Fox - Portree (21 August)
The next morning we woke up, enjoyed a hot bowl of porridge oats and left. The second half of the Trotternish Ridge lay before us, the Old Man of Storr our next goal. The "path" continues along the ridge and the view never ceased to amaze us. We did not meet any other walkers until the Storr (719 m). This summit is actually not part of the Skye Trail but we decided to climb it anyway as we thought we were "nearly there" (we weren't). But the view from the top was amazing and the flat, grassy surroundings seemed surreal. Anna compared it to Teletubbie Land. On the summit we met an American tourist who had climbed the Storr from the other side. We took many pictures, had a Snickers bar and made our way down. As we approached the Old Man of Storr, we saw tourists swarming the grounds below us like ants. After two days of utter silence, the sight of all these unfit and unprepared tourists down there was revolting. There is no real path there, so it had turned into one big mud bath. We had a small break just before we joined the masses and watched how a rescue helicopter landed next to the Old Man and some paramedics jumped out to perform some kind of rescue mission.

We continued our descent towards the main road. Because it was nearly 4 pm already we decided to skip the section between the Old Man of Storr and Portree (14 km). This part did not seem very interesting and we thought our chances of finding a good camping sport would be small. We hitchhiked (easy on Skye! Highly recommended!) towards Portree and enjoyed a pint in a pub. Then we continued along the bank of Loch Portree for a few miles. We were planning to find a good wild camping spot there, but this turned out to be impossible. The water was too high (as it is a sea loch, it is tidal) and there were too many midges. The path was partly impassable because of the high water. We cooked a very midgety dinner along the bank and decided at 9 pm that this wasn't worth it. We ran back towards the road and hitchhiked with a dodgy guy in a sportscar towards Torvaig Campsite, north of Portree. Even though the sign said they were full, we were welcomed by a friendly member of staff and pitched our tent there on a lovely dry patch of grass. We had one of the best showers of our lives and went to bed.

Day 4: Portree - Sligachan (22 August)
We got up, had breakfast and walked towards Portree. There we had an early pancake lunch and made use of the Wi-fi to answer some important emails. We hitchhiked the first few miles from Portree because the path was impassable during high tide. We got off there where the B883 branches off the A87. The next stretch was an easy country-side tarmac road with little traffic. We had a short chat with a welcoming local farmer about his lambs. We were delighted to find an Honesty Box selling the best home-made shortbread and cakes, somewhere in the Braes. Generally this was a very pleasant and friendly part of the island, a stark contrast with the rough Trotternish Ridge.
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We arrived in Peinchorran at 3:30 pm and had a little break, this is a peaceful spot with a picnic bench and nice patches of grass. The bank of Loch Sligachan was beautiful, the weather had cleared up and we scrambled along the path. It was slippery in places and we had to cross some streams again. I slipped and fell once, just as Anna was filming...
We had arranged to meet our host from Staffin in Sligachan for dinner so we were trying to hurry. But the walking was slow. It took us nearly 2 hours to reach the hotel. Near the end a bigger stream crossed our path. The water was fast-flowing and we stood there for a few minutes, trying to decide where to cross it. In the end we just took off our boots and waded through. My advise: bring water shoes or crocs or something because the pebbles hurt your feet! I didn't dare to use my regular flip flops for fear of losing them. Again, we were glad we had brought our walking sticks, they can help with your balance when you cross a stream. We helped a girl from Hungary there, who was also struggling to get across.

We arrived in the hotel by 6:30 pm and had dinner there (I had haggis, Anna fish & chips). I would not recommend the vegan brownie to anyone, by the way! That night we pitched our tent on Sligachan camping. It rained all night but we made good use of the showers there.

Day 5: Sligachan - Camasunary (23 August)
I think this was my favourite day of our trip. We woke up and had breakfast (porridge oats) in the hotel. We started walking at 10 am. We were planning to stay in the bothy in Camasunary, even though this meant we would not walk the full stage to Elgol in one day. People had recommened us to stay there and we were glad we did.

The path from Sligachan was the first man-made path we had followed since we had started the Skye Trail. We were able to raise the pace for the first time. This was a peaceful section where you walk through a few glens and along two beautiful lochs. We saw a few hikers in the distance, but apart from that we had it all to ourselves. The weather was better today, relatively warm and dry. We had a cheeky little swim in one of the lochs and cooked ourselves some noodles for lunch afterwards. What a life! As we were sitting there, minding our own business, we suddenly heard a deafening noise. We looked up and were shocked to see a fighter jet flying at full speed through the glen. Unfortunately we were unable to capture this surreal experience with our camera. Later we heard that there were two fighter jets practicing a chase, and apparently they do this more often over these sparsely populated areas. Someone told us about how it circled around the Old Man of Storr, that must have been quite the sight!

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Crossing streams


We continued walking to Camasunary, where we arrived at 5 pm. We saw some deer grazing along the beach. There were already a few guys in the bothy when we arrived, e.g. an experienced Scottish hiker full of stories, a German guy exploring the island's bothies and a small group of Dutch hikers. All men. But they made us feel welcome and safe, no problems at all. We cooked our dinners and played poker with biscuits and matchsticks until midnight. Just as we were getting ready for bed, an Austrian paraglider walked in. He had had an accident of some kind and was looking for shelter. He slept under his parachute and left early the following morning.

Day 6: Camasunary - just before Torrin (24 August)
In the morning one of our fellow hikers treated us to a warm bacon roll and hot coffee. We wrote our names on the wall of the bothy and left ("Made of Porridge - Anna & Marlène 23rd August 2017"). It took us more than two hours to reach Elgol. The path runs along steep cliffs and again the water slowed us down. The narrow path had turned into a stream most of the way. Anna made a misstep once and fell 1.5 m down, luckily she did not get hurt.
We had a little break on a pebble beach halfway. When we wanted to get moving again, we were hindered by another stream that seemed hard to cross. After walking up and down the stream for a minute or 10, we took our boots off and waded through. The water was several meters wide, ice-cold and again I regretted not bringing watershoes. We arrived in Elgol 90 minutes later. We had lunch in a homely little café and stocked up on pasta 'n sauce & spam. We continued, aiming to reach Torrin by nightfall. The first bit from Elgol was nice and easy, but it got harder and harder. It started drizzling, and at one point we couldn't see more than twenty meters in front of us. The terrain got boggy and the fog created an odd sense of solitude. The sheep suddenly emerging from the mist gave me the creeps. To shake off these feelings of desolation, Anna started cracking bad jokes. I don't know if this helped much, but it was certainly worth trying.

And then we finally started our descent towards the main road (B8083). We decided Torrin was too far still and we pitched our little tent in a cow's field, just off the road. I felt cold, wet and miserable. We sat down and enjoyed the best hiker's meal ever: creamy broccoli pasta with spam! During our dinner, we saw a herd of cattle approaching us. We are definitely not scared of cows, but the big bull amongst them did make us a bit uncomfortable. Luckily they paided us no attention and went on to graze further down towards the bank.

Day 7: just before Torrin - Broadford (25 August)
The next morning we woke up at dawn because of loud breathing sounds and the occasional moo. As I carefully opened our tent's zipper, we realised we were surrounded by cattle. We stayed in our tent for breakfast (oatcakes & cheese), later we worked up the courage to leave the tent and confront the cows. They barely noticed us and left us alone whilst we were packing our bags and left.
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Up close

We quickly covered the last stretch towards Torrin and enjoyed a late morning tea & cake in the Blue Shed Café. Unfortunately there was no wi-fi or phone connection anywhere on this part of the island. Our mom's must have been worried sick by now. We enquired about vacancies in Broadford, but we had no luck. Where would we end up that night? I shook off the thought and enjoyed my sticky ginger cake.

We followed the path through Torrin and Kilbride and strolled through the countryside. The sun broke through and we sang along to the Beatles' songs, especially Octopus' Garden. We had lunch somewhere (porridge again) in a sheltered spot with a great view over the bay. The path was pleasant and easy to find here, it took us past the ruins of desolated villages (the result of the infamous highland clearances). As we turned our backs on the remnants of these settlements and started a short climb inland, we had a little chat with an elderly American couple. They were amazed by our stories and offered us a ride from Broadford to Fort William. We thought about this for a second or two but then grasped the opportunity. We arranged to meet them at a parking lot just before Broadford in an hour. Again, we were being flexible and made our plan up as we went along. We almost ran the last few miles, eager to reach the finishing line (and to not keep them waiting). We got there before they did and tried to freshen up a bit, which turned out to be a hopeless undertaking. They got there after 10 minutes or so, we got in and by 9 pm we were enjoying a roast dinner in a restaurant in Fort William. Who would've thought!

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Our finish photo!


Epilogue
The following two nights we stayed at the Glen Nevis campsite. The weather could not have been better the next days. We did laundry, had a few more life-saving showers and spent all our pocket money on food a big supermarket. We climbed Ben Nevis (1345 m) on the 27th. We got up at 6 am and summited it in 2 hours and 45 minutes. On the 28th we hitchhiked with a lovely couple from Fort William back to Glasgow.

Worth mentioning:
- Weather: be prepared for all weather circumstances! Good-quality waterproof kit is essential! I borrowed gaiters and was happy to have them.
- Orientation: make sure you know what you're doing, bring a compass and invest in a good map.
- We regretted not bringing crocs/watershoes
- Go hitchhiking!
- Stay in a bothy, it's a great way to meet fellow hikers and it is probably dryer and warmer than camping.
- Be flexible, dare to cancel a risky section if the weather does not allow it. Do not attempt to walk the Trotternish Ridge in bad weather!

Marlène
Last edited by goeky on Fri Dec 15, 2017 12:45 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Two Dutch girls walk most of the Skye Trail, August 2017

Postby Mal Grey » Thu Dec 14, 2017 7:32 pm

Sounds like a great trip. The Trotternish ridge is a remarkable place, and Camasunary is one of my favourite places in the world. It sounds as if you made the most of enjoying the wilder places, and received some excellent hospitality too.

Is it a European thing to write on the walls of huts? I've seen it in huts in Scandinavia a lot, but its not something I'd want to encourage in the UK bothies, though I appreciate the new Camasunary is different to most bothies. (Not having a go, and I'm sure you wouldn't have done it if others hadn't already, just an observation and question about different cultures. And Rotherham is very different!!! )

It would be great to see any photos?
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Re: Two Dutch girls walk most of the Skye Trail, August 2017

Postby goeky » Fri Dec 15, 2017 12:19 pm

Hi! Thank your for reading my post. I think writing on the wall of a bothy is not a particular Scottish habit, but the bothy is brand new (this one replaced the old bothy less than 2 years ago) and the whitewashed walls are already covered in hiker's graffiti. It's become some sort of art project, people have written poems on the walls, and some pretty drawings too.

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This is us in the Camasunary bothy
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Re: Two Dutch girls walk most of the Skye Trail, August 2017

Postby Helena Webster » Fri Dec 15, 2017 7:17 pm

Hi

Very pleased that you enjoyed your visit to the Isle of Skye. I read your account of walking the Skye a trail with interest. I just wanted to let you know that writing on the walls ofBritish Bothies is not normal. Within a year of opening the Camasunary Bothy was covered in graffiti and it has taken four people several days to repaint it this autumn. So, here’s a plea to anyone using British Bothies- please don’t write on the walls. Bothies are looked after by volunteers and maintainance work is paid for by members of the Mountain Bothies Association. If have ever used a Bothy please consider joining the Association. Your membership fee will help to maintain the existing bothies and open new bothies. Many thank to you all.
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Re: Two Dutch girls walk most of the Skye Trail, August 2017

Postby Mal Grey » Sat Dec 16, 2017 8:02 am

Ah, yes I see that is more interesting than just a room full of names.

The old bothy was great too, stayed there jut before it closed.
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Re: Two Dutch girls walk most of the Skye Trail, August 2017

Postby nick70 » Mon Dec 18, 2017 2:20 pm

Excellent report, I really enjoyed reading it :clap: :clap: .

I am hoping to visit the island next year and I am trying to get as much information from others blogs as I can.

Glad you enjoyed our country and haste ye back :) :)
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