Days 17-19: Over the sea to Skye

We set off from the lovely Wee Campsite at Lochcarron heading for the Kyle of Lochalsh and Skye. But first we needed a walk so we stopped at Strome Wood and set off up their woodland track. It was beautiful but very steep and I am quite certain more than the 3/4 of a mile claimed. But a lovely little walk with fabulous views over Loch Carron. 

Getting the walk in early was a good move as the day quickly became very wet so we didn’t see a great deal of the road via Plockton that we took to get to Kyle of Lochalsh and soon we were “over the bridge” to Skye. 

It is a beautiful bridge, rising high above Loch Alsh between the mainland and the Isle of Skye but I am not sure it has done the island any favours and I am pretty sure my parents would find Skye very different from when they honeymooned here just over 60 years ago. 

On our first day there we drove north from the Kyle heading for Portree, where we stopped for a short wander round the pretty harbour planning to then stop early at a recommended park up at Loch Leathan. But I took a wrong turn and ended up going up towards Uig and the top of the island – a much longer route than planned. However it did mean we could stop off at the Skye brewery in Uig to stock up on beer! 

I have to confess I am torn about Skye.

On the one hand it is breathtakingly beautiful. The Cuillins are magnificent and dominate the landscape from all angles. The light going round the top of the island was spectacular: sea, clouds and islands blended in beautiful soft milkiness. Most of this was impossible to capture in photographs not least because stopping on the rough single track roads round the north of the island proved tricky. But it was stunning. 

As I drove around the words from the Robert Louis Stevenson poem, used in the Outlander theme song, seemed very apt:

"Billow and breeze, islands and seas,
Mountains of rain and sun..."

But on the other hand it was so very busy. Bus loads of visitors jumping on and off for photo opportunities. People everywhere and with them the visitor attractions. I realise that I am part of that, but it struck me that on Skye – at least up north – it was almost impossible to find solitude.

Because of my wrong turning our first day was long – more than 125 miles – and we finally reached our park up at Loch Leathan as the light was fading. This was a recommended “Search for Sites” park up and the views were fabulous even in the rain. The loch beside us and the Old Man of Storr just behind. A rainbow added to our early optimism.

But it turned out to be a terrible place to sleep. The road was busy well into the early hours and the ground listed to the side far more than I had expected. It was wet and miserable and we were really cold. I didn’t sleep well though I think Otter at least was less worried!

However, by morning the weather had improved giving us a better view of the Old Man and a lovely dawn over the Loch. We set off early and after a short while took a detour towards Torvaig, mainly to get away from the endless traffic stream and to find somewhere for a walk. 

It turned out to be a seredipitous choice. A mile or so down the single track road we found a lane off to the right with a large sign saying PATH. A chap with a Jack Russell was just heading down it so it looked promising as a dog walk. We parked up out of the way and set off following the sign. It was a fairly boring walk through fields but it did the job. After a few stiles we met the man and his JRT who were now coming back. He was very friendly and suggested an alternative walk along the top of the shoreline.  So we headed off the way he indicated and soon found another sign also just saying PATH. This one soon took us along the top of the shoreline, with beautiful views stretching out over the sea and the peninsular opposite. 

Our walk at Torvaig restored my soul a little but I was very weary from the long drive the day before and the disturbed night, so after a visit to Portree and Stein harbour, where the oldest inn on Skye is located (shut when we go there in the late morning), I decided to call it a day and book into a campsite to recover.

We headed off to Carbost, home of the Talisker Whiskey Distillery and set up camp on the little Certified Location at Merkadale. It was basic but functional and good to have everything to hand including the rarity of wifi.

We took a walk down into Carbost and back then settled in for the night, under another rainbow.

On our final day on Skye we set off down to the south of the island, taking a little road round the feet of the mighty Cuillins and around Loch Slapin to Elgol. This was my favourite part of Skye by far. It was wild and beautiful at every turn. Sheep and highland cattle mooched across the roads without a care and the traffic was neglible compared with the rest of the island. It felt like the Glen that had been (thankfully!) forgotten, except by walkers and cyclists.

We went to the end of the road at Elgol then turned back and stopped at the base of Ben Meabost for a walk. The track would’ve taken us right up into the Cuillins but none of us are fit enough for that, so we contented ourselves with a walk in the foothills and then continued on our way down to the southernmost point of the island and the Aird of Sleet. Our walk there had to be cut short as we were due to catch the ferry to Mallaig, so we turned back and drove up to Armadale to take our place in the queue.

The ferry is just turn up and drive on. It is a short journey so we could stay in the van, which was just as well as Martha was quite concerned initially. So we sat together on the bench and had a cuddle while we made our way back over the sea from Skye.

We reached Mallaig as the sun was setting and had planned to park up in the car park there but it was packed and really not a pleasant place to stay, so we continued a few miles down the coast, taking a minor road off towards Traig. I soon came across a small layby opposite a tiny beach. On Google maps it is marked Arisaig Beach but Arisaig is further down the coast so I don’t know. But it was a nice park up if rather isolated so I put my straps on the front doors before we went to bed.

In the morning I couldn’t find my keys and then realised I had left them in the outside of the door all night! Clearly it was a safer location than I had imagined!

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