October 4, 2014
This morning the weather looked quite promising for our day of planned walks. We had breakfast and then made packed lunches to take with us, heading out a bit before 10 am.
Our first walk, the Quiraing, took about half an hour to drive to. It was easy to find the car park because it was quite full of cars and tour buses. Just as we got there a heavy rain shower arrived, producing a beautiful rainbow. We sat in the car and waited for it to finish, then got out to don our rain gear and head out.
We chose the higher of the two routes, which would take us up to the headland and look down over the Quiraing. It took us about half an hour to reach the height of land and as we climbed we were regretting the warm clothing we had worn. There was no more rain and the views got better and better. The Quiraing is a collection of pinnacles, blocks, and buttresses. These strange cliffy features had been produced by erosion and landslips, and they had names like “The Needle” and “The Table”. Looking down on them was quite spectacular.
From the high point, Meall na Suiramach, our trail descended to a stile over a fence and then dropped down into a lovely valley below the rock formations. We walked past a huge tilted square block called “The Prison” and then we came to The Needle, which is a shaft of rock 40 meters high. From below, the formations really did tower over us. We skipped the side trail where you could scramble up The Table and carried on. This part of the trail was really nice to walk on and it was easy going, except for one spot where we had to cross a narrow gully.
Back at the car we ate our lunch and headed on to our next trail, the Old Man of Storr. Since this was a more famous landmark there were even more tour buses here, with walkers of many nationalities. The little car park was full, so we parked along the road. Our hiking guidebooks said that the first part of the trail climbed steeply through a forest, but in fact there was now a clear-cut to climb through. However there were signs at the entrance explaining that they planned to replace the non-native conifers with native species, so after a few years it should look less ugly.
After about 45 minutes we were on a better trail, on the slope below the Old Man. The Old Man is a basalt pillar 49 meters tall, and it can be seen from a great distance as you drive along the local roads. The trail was very busy, but most people seemed to stop well before the part of the trail which ascended between the Old Man and the adjacent rock pillars. Caroline scrambled up the last steep slope to get a close look at the Old Man, and then we continued around to the slope behind it.
From this higher viewpoint the views were much more spectacular and you could really see the shape of the Old Man. There were other smaller rock spires and they were also very impressive seen close up. We could see windows in them and also little caves. We continued along the trail a bit farther to another small headland which had an even better view of the Old Man and his sisters, before descending back to the car.
By now it was 4 pm so we decided to go down to Portree to look around at the shops. As we arrived there was a short sharp rain shower with a bit of hail, so we sat in the car and waited for it to finish. We went into several shops to see what was available, but we didn’t really see much of interest.
We had bought a “Fajita Kit” as part of our food supplies, so that was on the menu for tonight. The kit worked out fine, but the sauce was extremely hot and spicy—not what we had expected from British packaged food! After dinner we wrote our journals and read for a bit; tomorrow’s weather didn’t look very promising, but we would just have to wait and see.
October 5, 2014
We woke up to wind and rain, so we took our time heading out. After the rain stopped we headed south towards the Cuillin Hills. Earlier in the trip they had been spiky mountains in the distance, but today they were shrouded in clouds. Heading for the Fairy Pools we drove for about 50 minutes down the Minginish Peninsula, finally plunging down a one-lane road to the car park at Glen Brittle.
The Fairy Pools trail crossed the road and headed downhill to a creek crossing. There was a set of large rocks which served as stepping stones, and they looked a bit dodgy as they were wet from rain. The crossing was made even harder by the strong wind gusts which tried to knock you over. But once across this section the trail was straightforward, following the river as it came down the gentle hillside. There were numerous waterfalls and pools which we passed, some waterfalls larger than others. The pools were supposed to be very clear, whence the name “fairy pools”. But the water was rushing and foaming so much that we couldn’t see to the bottom of the pools very well. It was rather disappointing.
After a while we turned around and retraced our steps to the car. By now it was lunch time, so we headed back towards Carbost to find a place to eat. It was a Sunday in October so of course most places were shut, but finally we found the Old Inn pub open. It was situated right on the shore of Loch Harport and despite the grey skies it had a lovely view. We decided to make this the main meal of the day, and luckily their food was at the good end of the pub-food spectrum. Rosemary had a large serving of fish and chips, which was very good; Caroline had a big bowl of mussels; and Paul had haggis and tatties and neeps in a puff-pastry strudel. Pretty good pub grub really.
Caroline wanted to do the tour of the Talisker distillery, which was right there in Carbost. This would have been interesting, but unfortunately it was closed on Sundays. So we drove down to the village of Talisker (not where the distillery is) to walk down to the beach. Parking at the end of the one-lane road, we walked along a private road which acted as a right of way for the public. This led us to a large manor house and then onward to the beach. The bay was surprisingly sheltered from the wind, but on the far side we could see a waterfall tumbling down the cliff. The wind was blowing so strongly that most of the water was being blown back upwards as spray!
We headed back to the cottage, stopping in Portree to buy some groceries. None of us were hungry after the large lunch, so we postponed dinner until 8 pm, and even then only had sausages and beans. We planned our route for tomorrow; the weather didn’t look very promising, so we researched out craft shops to visit.
Next: Skye, part 3