The area around the Old Man of Storr is one of the most popular on Skye, and from the car park to the bottom of the Old Man it was fairly well packed with people. As it turns out, once you've gotten to the interesting rock formations, you've done most of the ascent already and actually getting to the summit is a very pleasant walk that takes you well away from the madding crowd and onto a headland with great views in all directions. The extra effort is well, well worth it.
As you climb from the car park, you are always looking up at the Old Man, and while it's kinda interesting, you do wonder what all the fuss is about. It's a big grey rock standing upright; okay. But the best views of the Sanctuary -- the strange group of unusual spire-like rock formations -- is when you get past the Sanctuary and start looking back. From there, not only does the Old Man get really interesting (a thin slab precariously pointing upwards) but you can also see the crazy angles that these spires ended up in when they split off from the mountain and came sliding down hill, some millions of years ago.
From there, the crowds thin out by 95% and you have the mountain to yourself. The path continues by contouring a big broad shoulder of rock, and once you round the bend you make a near-U-turn and head back towards the summit. The slope is gentle and the going fairly easy. The views of the surrounding highlands (looking inland) are very impressive, with vast reaches of unspoilt moorland and the continuation of the Trotternish ridge.
The ultra-broad top offers excellent views straight down into the Sanctuary, and also to the south where the Cuillin are ranged on the horizon. The cliffside is quite sheer and offers a good test of one's nerve!
Rather than make a loop, we returned the way we came. Once back down in the Sanctuary, we had a little more leisure to explore around the rock pinnacles and get some interesting perspectives of these fascinating stone pillars towering overhead. By then, most of the crowds had left (it was mid-afternoon) and one could actually enjoy the surroundings.
The weather remained grey and murky all day, so the scenery was not at its best. Nevertheless, this walk made for a very enjoyable day.
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Warning Please note that hillwalking when there is snow lying requires an ice-axe, crampons and the knowledge, experience and skill to use them correctly. Summer routes may not be viable or appropriate in winter. See winter information on our skills and safety pages for more information.