Showing posts from August, 2015

Glenelg-Skye Ferry

Highland / Skye | Glenelg / Kylerhea | Vehicle ferry | ★★★

The ferry from Glenelg to Kylerhea must be by far the slowest of the three ways from the Scottish mainland to Skye, accessed in both directions by long and sinuous single-track roads (admittedly very scenic, but not useful if you're in a hurry). Before you ask, "so why bother?", this is in some ways the most appealing of the three options. Much cheaper than the ferry from Mallaig and much more romantic than the modern bridge, the Skye Ferry is Scotland's last manually operated turntable ferry. We first used it in unexpected circumstances: the A87 was unexpectedly shut for 4 hours and the bigger ferry to Mallaig was fully booked, leaving us with no alternative. But what an alternative! Sitting by the water's edge, watching seals playing in the narrows - 50 years ago, the scene would hardly have been any different.

Location & info

📌 Glenelg-Skye Ferry★★★
Mainland jetty is at minor road end 2 mi north of …

Walk: Kyleakin woods - over the trees to Skye

Skye | Kyleakin | Short walk | ★★★

If you arrive on Skye via the bridge, Kyleakin will be the first village you come to. This quiet and easy Forestry and Land Scotland circuit through the woods just west of the houses is a great intro to the island, first with views back over the bridge, then out to sea and towards Raasay - only slightly marred by a huge, new fish feed factory. Finally the Red Hills and Kylerhea Hills are revealed to the west and south once the summit of Cnoc a' Mhadaidh-ruai... well, once the summit is reached anyway.

📌 Walk: Kyleakin woods - over the trees to Skye ★★★
Start / finish at layby immediately south of the A87 roundabout, south end of the Skye Bridge, Skye, G.R.: NG 743264 ///claps.talent.snowstorm

▶ 4 km / 2 mi | ▲ 90 m | ⌚ Short | ⬤ Easy
Summits: Cnoc a' Mhadaidh-ruaidh (101 m)
Terrain: Easy gravel paths, some steps / rocks.

Route & map

Layby - Cnoc a' Mhadaidh-ruaidh - Allt Anavig - start, in a clockwise circuit. Loop waymarked intermittentl…

Walk: Bioda Buidhe & the Trotternish misfits

Skye | Trotternish | Short walk | ★★★★

You may well attract a few puzzled glances as you head south, rather than north, from the Quiraing car park. "Why are they going that way...?" The layby is often full, but this straightforward walk is often deserted. None of the world-famous landforms along the spine of Trotternish are exactly conventional, but the topography here around Bioda Buidhe seems especially out-of-place. No convenient clusters of spires like nearby, photogenic Quiraing (although this is a great spot to view them from). Instead, the landslips around here are disjointed and messy: dumpy Cleat standing all on its own, not invited to the party; Druim an Ruma just bits of Bioda Buidhe that have fallen off over the millennia. It's great, unique, quintessentially Skye.

📌 Walk: Bioda Buidhe & the Trotternish misfits ★★★★
Start / finish at car park (gets full) on minor road, top of the Quiraing pass, 3 mi west of Staffin, Skye, G.R.: NG 439679 ///…

Duntulm Castle

Skye | Duntulm | Castle | ★★

One of the more popular stopoffs on the Trotternish tourist trail, Duntulm Castle scores full marks in the "how not to manage a historic property" competition. Perched spectacularly on a rocky headland, the castle ruins are surrounded by a broken fence and Keep Out! signs. You can't see much from behind the fence; anyone venturing beyond (as most people seem to), needs to watch out for sheer drops, unstable masonry and nettles, while trying to ignore the litter problem. The castle was originally several storeys high, but its progressive collapse into the sea will continue unless sea defences are constructed. There's some interesting local history (search online - there's scant information at the site itself) and the wider coastal setting on the Hunish peninsula is worth a visit alone, but don't come expecting another Eilean Donan.

Location & info

📌 Duntulm Castle ★★
Off the A855 at Duntulm, Skye, G.R.: NG 410743 ///overgrown.po…

Walk: Solace on Skye at Sneosdal

Skye | Trotternish | Half day walk | ★★★

First, a warning: this is one of the boggiest walks on Skye, and on this blog, thanks to a single frustrating kilometre on approach to Loch Sneosdal. It's worth the reward however - a hidden loch nestled dramatically beneath vertical cliffs, and views across the Hunish peninsula and across to the Western Isles from the crags above. The section to the loch is a waymarked route but apparently little-travelled (why might that be?!). Somewhere to escape the high season crowds then, but wait until after a dry spell or bring a snorkel.

📌 Walk: Solace on Skye at Sneosdal ★★★
Start / finish at track junction (space for a couple of cars - don't block access) on minor road half a mile east of Kilmuir, Skye, G.R.: NG 394701 ///vocally.loose.songbirds. More parking in Kilmuir.

▶ 8 km / 5 mi | ▲ 350 m | ⌚ Half a day | ⬤ Tough
Summits: Suidh a' Mhinn (357 m) | Features: Loch Sneosdal
Terrain: Good track to transmitter mast, then very boggy track th…

Rha waterfall

Skye | Uig | Waterfall | ★★★

Most people heading to Uig on Skye are bound either for the famous (and famously overcrowded) Fairy Glen, or for the Western Isles by ferry from the village harbour. This scattered port settlement is no beauty, but it does boast a second nearby beauty spot in the form of Rha waterfall. This double fall on the wooded River Rha looks spectacular after heavy rain, and you'll probably have it to yourself even in high season. Keep an eye on the skies while you're visiting - we've seen eagles lazily circling above Uig Bay on two separate occasions.

Location & info

📌 Rha waterfall ★★★
On the River Rha, 1 mi east of Uig pier, Skye, G.R.: NG 396644 ///unscathed.stuffed.rhino
Always open | Free

Anything else? From the street parking near the A87 / A855 junction at G.R.: NG 397642 ///monument.liquid.gloves it's a 5-min walk to the falls. Head briefly west along the A855 to the signpost for Rha Woods on the right. A slightly muddy path with lots of s…

Clach Ard (Tote)

Skye | Tote | Pictish stone | ★

The Picts generally occupied northeast Scotland, so it's a bit of a mystery as to why this 7th century Pictish symbol stone has turned up here. Found being used as a door jamb in a nearby house in the late 1800s, today Clach Ard (Tall Stone) stands by the minor road to the crofting township of Tote, about 10 minutes' drive northwest of Portree. West coast weather has since taken its toll, but you can still make out symbols including discs, V-rod and Z-rod. You'll probably pass by Tote on the way to Uig or Dunvegan Castle. The unusual but accessible location makes it totes worth a look (sorry).

Location & info

📌 Clach Ard (Tote) ★
By minor road at Tote, just west of the B8036 junction, Skye, G.R.: NG 421491 ///grab.mistaking.larger
Always open | Free

Walk: Marsco - narrow ridge, wide views

Skye | Red Cuillin | Full day walk | ★★★★

Glorious bog characterises the middle section of this ascent: two kilometres of negotiating soggy paths may leave you wondering why you decided on this foray into the Red Hills from Sligachan. But a trip to the top of Marsco (Seagull Hill in Norse) is worth it just for the final few minutes. The summit's unlikely position on a narrow ridge with steep slopes dropping hundreds of metres on either side makes it difficult to pause for long - a shelter cairn sits on welcome broader slopes just beyond. From here, the views of the Cuillin Ridge are as stunning as a glance at a map at home promises them to be. Taking the ridge, views and underfoot conditions into account, not one for a wet, windy or foggy day. Whoops.

📌 Walk: Marsco - narrow ridge, wide views ★★★★
Start / finish at car park on A87 immediately east of Sligachan, Skye, G.R.: NG 488299 ///target.sunroof.freely

▶ 14 km / 9 mi | ▲ 740 m | ⌚ Full day | ⬤ Tough
Summits: Marsco (736 m, Gra…

Walk: An Ardtreck trek

Skye | Minginish | Short walk | ★★★

Another part of the Minginish peninsula, Ardtreck headland is even quieter than nearby Talisker Bay. If you successfully make it through the network of questionable B-roads to the start, you've a good chance of being alone here, even in high season. Ardtreck Point and its lighthouse jut out into Loch Harport, with views across to the tidal island of Oronsay off the Waternish peninsula. Both of Macleod's Tables on Duirinish are also prominent, while the landscape closer to hand is speckled with crofts. The spine of the headland is used for the return leg (Beware of the Bog), but on the way out it's well worth detouring to visit Dun Ardtreck broch - one of Skye's best.

📌 Walk: An Ardtreck trek ★★★
Start / finish at layby at minor road end 1 mi northwest of Portnalong, Skye, G.R.: NG 337354 ///rating.mega.wonderfully

▶ 3 km / 2 mi | ▲ 90 m | ⌚ Short | ⬤ Easy
Features: Dun Ardtreck; Ardtreck Point and lighthouse
Terrain: Brief minor road t…

Walk: The Talisker Trinity

Skye | Minginish | Half day walk | ★★★★

The formidable hump rising out of the landscape east of the Talisker road end is Preshal More. Composed almost entirely of perfect dolerite columns (like basalt, but with larger crystals), its spectacular southern side is riven by steep gullies carpeted with shattered crystals, allowing a adrenaline rich escape to the moorland beyond. A little-visited broch, Dun Sleadale, breaks up the tough traipse to the massive sea cliffs behind, with stormy Talisker Bay's boulder beach making up the third of the trio. The dramatic bay is backed by a tall waterfall which gets blown back upwards on windy days (which is most of them). Pathless, tussocky ground and steep ascents help to characterise this energy-sapping circuit. But between basalt, broch and bay, Preshal More, moor and more, there's plenty to keep spirits high - you could top them up again afterwards at Talisker Distillery, named after this place.

📌 Walk: The Talisker Trinity ★★★★
Start /…


Skye | Carbost | Village sights | ★★★★

A rare outpost of civilisation in this part of Skye, Carbost is the largest settlement on Minginish. The village occupies an idyllic spot on gently curving Loch Harport, with attractive waterfalls on the Carbost Burn just above easily accessed from the nearby road. The water's source is the high ground around Cnoc nan Speireag, and also feeds Talisker Distillery. This famous distillery - dating from 1830 - is named after the stormy bay to the west, and remains one of the most popular visitor attractions on Skye.

Location & info

📌 Carbost Burn waterfall ★★★
Next to the minor road, up the hill half a mile south of Carbost, G.R.: NG 374310 ///winter.slacker.fingertip
Always open | Free

📌 Talisker Distillery★★★★
By the B8009, west side of Carbost village, G.R. NG 377319 ///deprive.wealth.regal
Open daily - booking advised | £10+ adult depending on tour type / £5 child

Walk: Uamh Oir - Fingal's Cave in miniature

Skye | Trotternish | Short walk | ★★★★

Translating as Cave of Gold (perhaps after the yellow lichen here?), luckily this peaceful spot is easier to reach than it is to pronounce in Gaelic. Like Fingal's Cave - its famous bigger brother on Staffa - perfect basalt columns surround the narrow opening, with shags usually populating nearby outcrops. You can't usually get inside (nor is it safe), but the setting is a bigger draw than the cave itself: views of the Western Isles interrupted by the odd fishing boat or dolphin, if you're lucky. An iron-age broch (Dun Bornaskitaig) can be visited with just a small detour, which also reveals lovely views south to Camas Mor. This is an unfairly neglected corner of Skye.

📌 Walk: Uamh Oir - Fingal's Cave in miniature ★★★★
Start / finish at car park at minor road end north of Bornesketaig, Skye, G.R.: NG 378717 ///spices.worthy.unravel

▶ 2 km / 1 mi | ▲ 70 m | ⌚ Short walk | ⬤ Moderate
Features: Uamh Oir; Dun Bornaskitaig
Terrain: First…

Walk: The Quiraing - Skye's labyrinthine landslide

Skye | Trotternish | Half day walk | ★★★★★

Some of the UK's most spectacular rock formations put The Quiraing firmly on the A-list for tourists visiting the Isle of Skye, forming part of the huge, active Trotternish landslip which continually deforms the roads around here. Heading along the quieter ridge top lets you peer into the heart of this rock city from above, before you descend to the tourist path below it. To fully appreciate the scale of the natural architecture, you should ascend the steep gully underneath the famous Needle, with narrow paths taking you into complex terrain at the heart of the maze. Nothing makes you feel smaller than being hemmed in by these volcanic, vertical walls. Such an incredible and busy place deserves better than the disgraceful parking arrangements at the walk's start on the road pass - no facilities at all at the unsurfaced, litter-strewn, inadequate layby. On a sunny summer day, arrive early (or late afternoon) to secure a space, or appro…

Walk: Fingal's Fantastic Four

Skye | Trotternish | Half day walk | ★★★★★

West of Flodigarry, these final thrusts of the Trotternish landslip are just as spectacular as the heavily trodden sections further south. Two beautiful lochs are easily accessed from the A855, guarded by two particularly unlikely landforms; both are caused by the unstable ground on this part of Skye. Leac nan Fionn, also known as Fingal's Tomb, stands sentry over Loch Hasco, with vertical walls and a steep climb up, but almost flat on top. Above lower Loch Langaig to the north are Fingal's Pinnacles, a delightful collection of natural rocky sculptures popping out of grassy surroundings. Listen out for echoes between the Tomb and the Pinnacles. This is a fascinating half day walk with countless mini summits to explore. Also guaranteed to be 90% quieter than the nearby Quiraing (which you can easily walk to from here) - maybe giant warrior Fingal eats some of the tourists to keep numbers down?

📌 Walk: Fingal's Fantastic Four ★★★★★

Walk: Prince Charles's Cave - worst accommodation on Skye

Skye | Elgol | Short walk | ★★★

Bonnie Prince Charlie must have been pretty desperate when he slept here, in this smelly and muddy cave, for his last night on Skye. Fleeing along the cliffs from Elgol, he probably didn't fully appreciate the coastal scenery, or views back towards the Cuillin Hills. Hidden from the coast path by a vertical drop, accessing the cave involves continuing to where the cliffs relent at Port an Luig Mhor then doubling back along the shore. The last section along the bouldery beach is incredibly slippery and fully submerged at high tide - there's just as much chance of a slip here as on the Cuillin Ridge. At least if you get stranded here one evening with a twisted ankle you'll know where to stay ;)

📌 Walk: Prince Charles's Cave - worst accommodation on Skye ★★★
Start / finish at car park at minor road end, Elgol jetty, Skye, G.R.: NG 516135 ///dirt.moves.unfilled

▶ 4 km / 2 mi | ▲ 170 m | ⌚ Short | ⬤ Moderate
Features: Elgol; Suidhe nan Eun sta…

Walk: Blaven - short scramble to 7th heaven

Skye | Black Cuillin | Full day walk | ★★★★★

Starting up the path towards Blaven (or Bla Bheinn) from the car park in good weather, take a glance at this spectacular massif and you instantly know you're in for a special day. This is probably the second easiest Munro on Skye to ascend after Sgurr na Banachdich. The proper ascent begins at Fionna-choire, with a loose scree slope soon after and one awkward step further up. Views to the Red Hills are soon eclipsed by the wow! moment as Clach Glas suddenly appears to the north, vying with the summit panorama of the entire Cuillin Ridge for the walk's highlight.

📌 Walk: Blaven - short scramble to 7th heaven★★★★★
Start / finish at car park on B8083 2 mi west of Torrin, Skye, G.R.: NG 560216 ///appealing.conquest.coining

▶ 8 km / 5 mi | ▲ 990 m | ⌚ Full day | ⬤ Tough
Summits: Blaven (929 m, Munro)
Terrain: Excellent path progressively steepens to Fionna-choire. Mapwork required to follow correct intermittent path (of many) here, becomin…

Walk: Sgurr na Banachdich & a ridge (not?) too far

Skye | Black Cuillin | Full day walk | ★★★★★

The Cuillin Ridge strikes fear into many a hillwalker: one look at the range from Sligachan and it's obvious why so many people hire a guide. However, Sgurr na Banachdich is technically no more difficult than most mainland Munros, with no scrambling on the ascent route described below. Descending via Sgurr nan Gobhar is great fun if you fancy putting your hands to work a bit. Otherwise, return by the ascent route. It hardly needs to be said that the views are sensational from the start - and just keep improving.

📌 Walk: Sgurr na Banachdich & a ridge (not?) too far ★★★★★
Start / finish at layby at SYHA Glenbrittle (gets full), Skye, G.R.: NG 409225 ///standing.shatters.exhaled

▶ 8 km / 5 mi | ▲ 970 m | ⌚ Full day | ⬤ Tough
Summits: Sgurr na Banachdich (965 m, Munro); Sgurr nan Gobhar (630 m)
Terrain: Well-made path along burn at first, fainter and occasionally wet across to Coir' an Eich. Steep ascent on grass then small scree runs…