SCOTLAND Isle of Skye 2018
What was I expecting as I drove over the bridge and onto the Isle of Skye: Isle of dreams and hopes? I had seen some wonderful and dramatic pictures, mostly taken of the Quiraing and Old Man Storr, as well as the red and black Cuillins, so I wasn’t totally without preconceptions, but I can’t say I had any concrete outlines to give shape to what lay in store for me – and no fixed plans either. I’d just go with the flow. I had some nights booked into accommodation, and some nights left to float free and either use my tent or find something last-minute, as conditions and weather dictated. The itinerary would be decided by opportunity and weather.
I had held off booking for far too long; a friend had said she’d like to come too, so I kept waiting for her to firm things up. By the time I realised I needed to book, it seemed the entire island was booked out. Warning: Skye is very popular! Lucky, the best possible accommodation had space for me: the self-catering accommodation at Sligachan. Whew. I managed to find it and check in.
First day. On my way up the mountain behind (with obligatory unpronounceable name – a name so long it is no use my repeating it). Photo number 1 had Glamaig in the background, which, being merely disyllabic, will score a mention.
At last. Now, let the holiday begin. I decided it might as well start out the back door, at the mountain staring down at me (Benn Dearg Mheadhonach [in photo above]), so up I headed off into the gloomy mist, with wind that gathered in intensity with every step I took of a height-gaining variety. Despite the blast, I was enjoying the wild feeling that comes with walking in a storm, and strode purposefully towards my goal. I was, indeed, a bit nonplussed when I met two German guys descending, who said they hadn’t made it as the wind was too dangerous up there. In my hubris I told myself it was because they were Germans, but I would be fine. They were just tourists for sure.
This turned out to be one of only two mountains in my life where I have had to snake on my belly to touch the summit cairn. Even doing that, I was petrified. The wind was treating me like a silly plastic toy that should be discarded … now. Even crawling exposed too much surface area to its malignancy, so, belly it was. But having had two strapping guys in their late twenties also backing out of any more, I was not ashamed to come straight back down, and lay off my plans for the other two mountains I had intended for that afternoon. I learned a new respect for the winds of Skye that day.
On the next day, the wind was still raging, so I chose a tamer option. Yet even that was hazardous, and I had to defang some of my original intentions, and merely go over a pass and down to Glenn Bhreatail and return. I pleasant day’s outing, but not the summit I wanted.
That chasing of less adventurous options became a nasty habit, but at least it kept me alive, I guess. Next morning, I chose to visit the Fairy Pools before breakfast to beat the armies of tourists I’d witnessed the day before. Mission successful. I had this magic and delightful place mostly to myself, although I did meet a photographer from Melbourne who had similar designs to mine.
I decided that, as the winds were blasting from the west, I should climb things to the east, so chose Bealach Cumhang, just north of Portree, before moving my headquarters further north to the Quiraing area, and playing up there for a few days, climbing lots of fabulous peaks north and south of the main attractions (such as Meall na Suiramach, which looked down on all those lovely rock towers, and The Storr).
There was absolutely no accommodation to be had in this section of Skye, but, as I had my tent and could remain flexible, it didn’t matter. Food was more of a problem, as I found it really hard to find anywhere that would serve me dinner.
Back down near Sligachan for a brief second stopover, I managed to get up Glamaig – one of the mountains intended for my very first day. On no day so far had the wind been kind to me, and on every day, there was mist in abundance. This all changed when I moved in the direction for my final night, to sleep, I thought, at the bothy at Camasunary. Luckily, I went there nice and early, as the bothy was all locked up, which means it is not a bothy at all, and needs to change its name. I’m sure glad I didn’t arrive exhausted and near dinner time.
As it was, I retraced my steps, and chose a truly magnificent spot underneath Beann na Cro and other majestic Cuillins. There, I had the pleasure of meeting Huwel, who is still my friend. He was camped nearby, and I appreciated his company, feeling uncomfortable about being within sight of the road as I now was. The evening was mild; the day had been warm and wonderful. It was so lovely to eat outside by my tent, roam a bit, chat a bit, and just enjoy being alive in this wonderful place, on this brilliant eve.
On my last sad morning, I climbed Beann na Cro, with magnificent views, before heading off for my next adventure to mainland Scotland, and the area around Glencoe.
There are so many, many more beautiful photos of Skye that I could show you (I have culled it down to 440 images). I hope this small selection suffices.