Speed bonny boat, like a bird on the wing...
This Easter the Meiklejohns went over the sea to Skye. Unlike bonny Prince Charlie we had a bridge to cross, so didn't need a boat, but we did have a long drive, which took us most of Friday.
We started off up Loch Lomond, stopping at Inveruglas for a toilet break, before hitting Crianlarich, Tyndrum and Glen Coe, with lunch at the visitor centre. After Loch Lochy we took a left turn towards Kyle of Lochalsh. There were some pretty impressive sights on the way, and just before the kyle we stopped at Eilann Donnan for some photos. The tide was out so it looked a bit more seaweedy than you typically see on the postcards.
Anyway, over the bridge and onto Skye proper, we had another 45 minutes before nearing Portree. Our cottage, Applegate, is ten minutes outside Portree, along a quiet one-track road. It's pretty much brand new and lovely inside, with great views over the hills to the east. We got settled in and made a quick shopping trip to the co-op in town before our first night.
Our first full day was a bit rainy to start with, so we had a look around Portree first. Our hosts had left some goodies from the Skye baking company, so we made an effort to find their place and had some cakes and hot chocolate. That was enough fuel to get us out for a bit of a climb.
Just north of Portree is a group of hills called the Storr. Some of it is very rugged and there's a big spike of rock at the front called the old man of Storr. We parked at the bottom and followed the track up, which was a bit of a climb, but very busy with tourists from all over the place. Nigel Farage would have hated it. There was still a bit of snow about and Cate managed to do a bit of sledging without a sledge. The weather was cloudy and so lots of mist was blowing over and we had to wait a bit to see the old man without his misty cloak, but the mist added to the atmosphere.
Onwards and upwards (North, I mean). The hills on Skye really are amazing. Every so often you come over a hill and there's a whole new vista waiting to amaze. Some of the hills had mist rolling off them like dry ice at a rock concert. Our next brief stop was to view the Mealt Falls and Kilt Rock, from the well-fenced viewing area just along the cliffs. We shared the spot with a bus full of Japanese tourists and their selfie sticks.
A bit further up and as we came to Staffin we were faced with another amazing view of the hills ahead. We came to visit the beach, which supposedly has dinosaur footprints. We didn't find them, but Cate had a first shot with her geologist's hammer.
We took the coast road around the top of Trotternish, which was all single-track road with passing places. This makes it a bit dangerous to take your eyes off the road and look at the scenery, but we made it round to Uig. There's a small road off past the Uig hotel which has many potholes but leads to the Fairy Glen. This was a bit misty to really enjoy but is a series of miniature hills and a mini loch, with a castle-like rocky outcrop. A strange place but the sheep seem to like it.
After some tea we took a walk around the local area, down the road where we had some great views across to Raasay and south towards the Red Cuillin.
The next day was glorious, the warmest it's been all year and sunny all day. We planned out a return trip to Trotternish but all didn't go quite as we planned.
The beach at Flodigarry is supposed to be good for fossils, so we drove up that way first of all, with a stop to take some photos of the Torridon hills across the water. It wasn't easy to find the beach, and we made an extra stop just outside Flodigarry to find there a small loch and a great view of the Quiraing. The sign there indicated we were nearly at the stop for the beach, but when we found it it was just a path with no obvious parking places. So parked next to a house we took the path down to the beach. We searched and hammered for a while, but didn't find a great deal, just some fossilised shells and a dome shaped shiny piece inside a rock.
We'd planned on lunch and then a visit to the Quiraing, but Cate had managed a spectacular slide in the mud, so we had to abandon that idea and came back to base instead. The neighbour informed us we'd just missed a sea eagle right over our cottage.
The hill across the fields from our front door looked inviting, so boots on again and off we headed. From the hamlet of Camustianavaig we climbed up on to the hill and made our way up from right to left. It's one of those hills that tricks you into thinking you're at the top, only to reveal a new and higher summit another half mile away. It's also nice and smoothly sloping for most of the west side we climbed, but when you get to the ridge the hill's just gone, and there are sheer cliffs dropping off down to the sea.
We made it to the southern summit - not quite at the top but pretty near - before tiring and heading back down. We certainly felt we deserved our Chinese takeaway that night.
Even the simple drive down to Portree for dinner provided some amazing views. I got a long distance shot of the old Man of Storr from the road, and a good shot of the black Cuilins from Portree harbour.
The Black Cuillin loom large over the Isle of Skye. They are the highest, sharpest and most dangerous peaks on the island. So we're not going to be climbing them in a hurry. However, under the shadow of these hills the river Brittle runs through its glen, cutting through the rock in a series of waterfalls and pools. The coloured stone gives the pools a touch of magic, and hence the Fairy Pools.
The car park was busy here, then there was a walk down the muddy slope to the river. Claire thought she'd start a new trend and see what trousers look like with one leg covered in mud.
It didn't take long to get to the pools and we had a good time exploring along the river to see what the next one looked like.
We had a flyer from the Oyster Shed in Carbost, which is near the Fairy Pools, so stopped off there for lunch. Cate had the platter for one, with all manner of fish and shellfish, some still in their shells, staring up at us. She enjoyed it though.
We booked up a 4pm slot with the Brigadoon boat trip. Peter took Cate and I out with 4 others to see if we could see some wildlife. We stopped at the foot of Ben Tianavaig where sea eagles are nesting, but couldn't persuade any out. So Peter took us across the sound to Raasay, where a colony of seals were lying about on the rocks. On the way back we stopped again for the sea eagles, and got a glimpse of one sitting up high on a rock. After a bit of a wait, during which a neighbouring boat tried to tempt him with a fish, he did take flight for a brief period before settling back at the nest. It was a very cold but satisfying couple of hours.
Dunvegan is a half hour drive from our base and sports a decent castle. We travelled over in the morning and toured around the castle and grounds, before having lunch at the cafe there. One of the options there is a boat trip out on the Loch to see the seals, but we didn't bother as we'd been out the day before. However on the drive up the the Coral Beach we found that the seals' island is very visible from the shore, so we stopped to take a look at them.
Up the coast from Dunvegan, at Claigan, is a beach where the remains of lots of a type of seaweed get washed up. The pieces of bleached seaweed look just like bits of coral, hence the name. It's quite striking to see this beach after so many others comprised just of big boulders.
After dinner we had a calorie-busting walk around the Scorrybreac circuit. This is a circular path from the north end of Portree, along the coast, up a hill and back through a small forest. It's only 2 miles but the hill makes it a fairly strenuous walk. We did see some wildlife on the walk, but no eagles or seals, just a couple of rabbits.
The Quiraing gets top rating on a lot of "things to do in Skye" lists, so we thought we'd better take a look. It's at the far end of the Trotternish Ridge, and features the usual high cliffs with a few unusual shaped rocks along the way. Despite the write-up it was fairly easy going most of the way, though very windy at a few points, and because we started off at the high up car park there was very little climbing to do.
What there was was spectacle. Every few steps was a photo opportunity, with amazing vistas up and down the ridge, great pinnacles of rock above us and hills of all shapes and sizes below.
We didn't get all the way round the trip, but made it half way before injured legs, weak bladders and scenery-dazed eyes convinced us we should turn back.
After a cake and toilet stop at the Columba1400 cafe, we came closer to home for the Braes Beach. Actually this is a peninsula that sticks out into the sound of Raasay, with beaches either side of the thin strip of connecting land. Once more there were stunning views, looking up the sound to Ben Tianavaig. We explored the west beach, walked from one end to the other of the peninsula, then back along the East beach. Finds of the afternoon were two golf balls, a sea urchin shell and a sheep skeleton.
Another lovely day, and I'd read about a good walk over the hills from Kilmarie to Camasunary Bay, using a path built by the army. It's supposed to have great views and should take an hour or so. It wasn't the best choice however. The south of the island was still misty, so we couldn't see the Cuillin at all. The path was rocky and uncomfortable to walk on, and Claire had a sore leg.
By the time we came in sight of the bay, we didn't fancy taking the path down only to have to climb back up again, so we just turned back and trudged back across the moor. We drove to Broadford and cheered ourselves up with some excellent fish and haggis suppers.
Since it was our last night we went out for dinner, booking a table at Marmalade, where we had a very decent and reasonably priced meal to round off our week.
And so we came to the long road home. We stopped at Eilean Donan, Glen Nevis and the Green Welly Stop on the way back, and got home in time for tea.
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