Skye 10: Back to Glasgow

Skye must have known we were departing her shores – the blue skies were not there to greet us and we woke to a foggy morning, so foggy that we couldn’t even see our Loch for one last time! Once we got back to Portree the fog had cleared considerably, and by the time we got to Sligachan the Cuillins looked amazing with their peaks clearly visible but with impressive clouds obscuring their lower slopes. Cars were stopping and people were out with cameras and tripods and all the various kit to take photos of an incredibly picturesque landscape. My photos really don’t do justice to this morning’s view of the Cuillins.

The drive back to Glasgow was seamless with a lunch stop in Fort William. As we approached Glasgow driving down the side of Loch Lomond, somehow Loch Lomond was no longer as impressive as we had considered on the way up to Skye and the Highlands……now relatively mundane when compared to the sights we have been privileged to see over the past 10 days.

Our Citizen M Hotel here in Glasgow is something else! We have a room on the 7th floor (top floor) with great views up Renfrew Street, even the bathroom has floor to ceiling window looking over the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland with alumni which include David Tennant, Sheena Easton, James McAvoy, Ruby Wax…..to name but a few.  Everything is operated via a Samsung tablet – window blinds and curtains, lighting, TV, radio, internet, mood lighting, room temperature etc., and Mr L will now be known as Citizen Keith!!

Citizen Keith

Citizen Keith

Citizen M Hotel room

Citizen M Hotel room

We found ourselves a nice Italian for dinner and wandered off via George Square where loads of ‘yes’ supporters were gathered with their Saltire flags, Lion Rampant flags, and Scotland the Brave flags. There was then an impromptu march which headed off down Ingram Street, all very positive and happy but clearly not pre-planned as traffic had to stop to allow people through.

Glasgow for 'Yes' in George Square

Glasgow for ‘Yes’ in George Square

Our dinner at Qua Italia was excellent and a great way to end our holiday.  We walked back via George Square……it’s going to be an all-nighter for many of the people here to tonight.  Time for a quick selfie………

Citizen Keith and Mrs L selfie in George Square!

Citizen Keith and Mrs L selfie in George Square!

…….and then back in our quirky Citizen M room watching the TV and listening to the dialogue of the yes and no spokespersons for the Scottish referendum.

Good luck Scotland, l hope you have voted wisely. I know what I would have voted if I was Scottish……..but also what I want as an English person……..

Skye 9: Sleat and the Kinloch Forest Leitir Fura Walk

The legs were good this morning after our long walk yesterday but the gluteus maximus did make me aware of a few twinges first thing – getting the buttocks in shape is never a bad thing!!

There is one last bit of Skye we have yet to visit and explore, Sleat down on the south west of the island – so that’s where we set off for today. I also found a walk for us to do…….Mr L thought he was getting a day off from walking……the walk was identified as ‘delightful through gentle woodland above Loch na Dal and the Sound of Sleat’ (the bit of sea between Skye and the mainland), plus it was only a mere 4 miles.

We decided to do the Sleat peninsula touring bit first so it was back to Broadford which is the first ‘town’ you come to when you arrive via the Skye Bridge and a fairly inconsequential boring place in our opinion! We drove down to Armadale which is where the Mallaig (on the mainland) and Skye ferry is based. It was a pretty little area and we stopped for coffee and cake (lunch). Mr L then decided that exploring Sleat meant taking off across wild and remote moors and hills. It was a barenuckle ride from Kilbeg to Tarskavaig to Tokavaig to Ord and then back to the main road just north of Sasaig. The cross country route was single track all the way (with the occasional passing place) but with gradients that varied from 14-20%, and deemed not suitable for caravans! When you got to the top of a hill you had no idea where the road was going to go when you got over the top……neither did you know if there was another vehicle approaching – exhilarating or what (not)! The best bit was on one of these incredibly steep hills up to a blind summit which had ‘slow’ written on the road…….well if you hadn’t slowed right down you would have been off the road and down the side of a cliff as there was no road unless you turned sharp right. The A851 was pure luxury after that little nerve-wracking detour!

We headed back to Kinloch Forest which sits at the top of Loch na Dal. It is also where Kinloch Lodge is, home to the Clan MacDonalds and a Michelin star restaurant run by Lady Claire MacDonald.

The Leitir Fura walk follows part of the route of the old drover’s path which would have originally gone on to Kylerhea. The circular route took us to Leitir Fura, the site of a small village abandoned in the 19th century.

 

Abandoned village of Leitir Fura

Abandoned village of Leitir Fura

Approximately 40 people lived on this site at one time, mostly of Clan MacInnes, and they looked after the forest for their landlord, the Chieftain of Clan Donald of Sleat. Most of the inhabitants left for a new life in Nova Scotia, it is not clear as to whether this was by choice or they were forced to go as part of the Islands and Highlands clearances. Descendants of the Selkirk Settlers, 600 emigrants from Skye and Raasay who set sail from Portree, Skye for Nova Scotia in the summer of 1803, planted a commemorative oak tree on this site in 2003.

The walk was incredibly scenic with blue skies overhead, the blue water of Loch na Dal and the Sound of Sleat in the distance, the peak of Beinn Sgritheall, and the village of Knoydart across the water complete with lighthouse – all within a single viewpoint.

Loch

Loch na Dal and out to Sound of Sleat

Loch na Dal

Loch na Dal

The walk took us 2 hours including mooch time in the abandoned village site. It was then time to head back to our cottage for our last night on Skye.

All those extras we brought with us to fill the time on the rainy miserable days will be going home unused thanks to wall-to-wall sunshine and temperatures up to 18-20c every day – not what we expected on our Inner Hebridean Isle of Skye!

Skye 8: Glen Brittle – Bealach Brittle Loop

We headed back to the Minginish peninsula region today as Mrs L’s wish was to do the Fairy Pools walk at Glen Brittle…….

Mr L wandered off to look at the notice board in the Fairy Pools car park which had details of the Glen Brittle Forest Bealach Brittle Loop, a mere 9.5 mile forest trail walk estimated to take 4-5 hours. Details defined it as strenuous but suitable for bikes as well as walkers, with walkers needing to wear walking boots. Mr and Mrs L had a brief discussion and agreed to abandon the fairies and go for the Bealach – my only concern was that we had only anticipated a shortish walk so had only bought fairy rations with us…….one small bottle of water and a small bag of trail mix!

View at start of walk

View at start of walk

We set off on our 9.5 mile loop up hills and down valleys.

First break with limited rations!

First break with limited rations!

The Cuillins on our left with low cloud covering some of the peaks soon disappeared from view as we rounded Beinn Staic and looked out upon Loch Eynort – the view was simply stunning. Perfect blue skies, a beautiful blue loch and picturesque bay where loch and sea meet.

Second break - view over Loch Eynort

Second break – view over Loch Eynort

The sea was completely calm with a clear view to South Uist. Agricultural lives of times gone by were clear from the runrigs running vertically on the steep hills on the opposite side of the loch.

Loch Eynort with view of runrigs

Loch Eynort with view of runrigs

There was very little wildlife to be seen, but we did see an eagle (not sure whether a golden eagle or white-tailed eagle as too far away). The walk reminded us of one of the walks we did last year in Montana, many similarities in scenery etc except we didn’t have to worry today about bears! The ferns and lichens were impressive, especially enhanced with the autumnal colour changes taking place.

Amazing coloured lichens

Amazing coloured lichens

Grey Ground Liverwort

Grey Ground Liverwort

We paced the water supply and trail mix ration to an hourly treat – the rations lasted, as did we. We made it back to the Fairy Pools car park exactly 3hrs 40 mins after setting off. We were pleased at our time; the walk was strenuous in that there were lots of steady inclines and declines so we could both feel the impact on the legs. Mrs L really enjoyed this walk, it was her sort of walk…….wide paths so she could keep well away from any edges with big drops!

We stopped at the Aros Centre when we got back to Portree for a much needed cuppa and use of their excellent wifi. Mr L downloaded himself another book to read on his Kindle and I managed to upload a few more days of blog entries.

We made it home in time to see a glorious sunset over the other side of our Loch Greshornish, and a well-deserved glass of wine or two…..

Skye 7: Talisker Distillery and Talisker Bay

The plan today was to stop in Portree for a coffee and internet at the Royal Oak but the Royal Oak was not open at 10.45 this morning…..so no chance to upload the latest daily blogs.

The haze has lifted today, the blue skies are glorious and the views clearer than they have been all week. We could now easily see the Cuillin Hills in the distance, majestic with their pointy ridges in sharp contrast to the more rounded tops of the other hills.

The Talisker Distillery is in Carbost on the Minginish peninsula; we arrived just in time for a tour due to leave within the next 5 minutes.

Talisker Distillery

Talisker Distillery

It is the first time I have done a distillery tour, Mr L thinks he might have done one in the past many moons ago, but can’t really remember. The tour was interesting particularly around why west Scotland whiskies are peatier than the ones from Speyside and over on the east of Scotland. To be called Scotch whisky, the whisky has to have been produced at a distillery in Scotland, matured in oak casks in Scotland for a minimum of 3 years, and comprising a minimum alcoholic strength of 40%.

Lunch was at a great little inn, The Old Inn, in Carbost overlooking Loch Harport and surrounded by picturesque hills and the Cuillins in the distance. Mr L had mackerel which the young waitress informed him that she had personally caught on a line from the Loch just in front of the Inn – mackerel does not get much more local or fresh than that! We then spotted an antique washing mangle sitting ornamentally in the garden, it had been made by McFarlane’s of Glasgow.

We then drove down to Talisker Bay for a short stroll. It was about a 1 mile walk from where we had to park the car down to the bay. The bay is set between to 2 majestic cliffs – the one on the right as you look out to sea is McFarlane’s Rock, the cliffs on the left are known as Talisker Point.

Talisker Point

Talisker Point

McFarlane's Rock

McFarlane’s Rock

We made our way over the very rocky foreshore onto the beach where the sand is very fine and very black. Mrs L chilled for a while resting on the rocks soaking up the rays whilst Mr L threw stones into the passing stream which ran through the rocks towards the sea…..”it’s what boys do” I was told! We then strolled the 1 mile back to the car. An easy walk day.

It was comedy night tonight with Ross Noble at the Portree Aros Centre – very good, very funny albeit a bit whacky and manic to say the least! He is obviously doing his warm-up tour in small venues, the Aros Centre auditorium holds approximately 175 people…….he played Mull last night, Shetland a few nights ago – I can’t imagine they had much bigger venues than here on Skye!

Skye 6: Dunvegan Castle and the Two Churches Walk

I got out of bed this morning to make the morning cuppa for Mr L and myself and…..oh dear, Mrs L suddenly had the legs of a 90 year old! The summit experience of yesterday had taken its toll, my poor quads were somewhat stiff on first movement!

Today was our Dunvegan day. We planned to start with the Two Churches Walk but had a false start as we parked too early at what are 2 cemeteries which also contain Commonwealth War Graves.

Commonwealth War Graves

Commonwealth War Graves

We took the opportunity to walk around these 2 very well maintained cemeteries and discovered an interesting fact (well to us anyway) – in Skye, women are buried using their maiden names and have their husband named on their gravestone. Is this a Scottish thing or is it specific to Skye? Certainly makes family tree research easier. We drove on and parked in the correct lay-by for St Mary’s Church, the church at the start of the walk. This derelict church is the burial place of the Clan MacLeod.

The derelict St Mary's Church

The derelict St Mary’s Church

We picked up the trail to the millennium Diurinish Stone on top of a hill with a ‘yes’ attached to it.

Diurinish Stone

Diurinish Stone

The walk was gentle and pleasant through an abandoned plantation and up through a heavily wooded area which had fascinating varieties of ferns, lichens and fungi growing in the damp and less sunlit areas. We also saw a dolorite dyke that has protruded through the basalt rock parallel with the path.

Dolorite dyke

Dolorite dyke

The walk exited at the Diurinish Parish Church back in Dunvegan. Check out the windows of this church, they are not all what they seem…..some are not real, but are very effective murals of the real thing!

Diurinish Parish Church

Diurinish Parish Church

Dunvegan Castle and gardens were our next stop just 3/4 mile up the road. Dunvegan Castle is the oldest continuously inhabited castle in Scotland and is the ancestral home of the Chiefs of Clan MacLeod for 800 years. The MacLeods are descendants from a 13th century Viking chieftain, Leod, who sailed from the Isle of Man to take over Dunvegan Castle. It was Leod’s sons who founded the MacLeod clan. Today’s clan chief is the 30th MacLeod chief, Hugh MacLeod of MacLeod.

Dunvegan Castle

Dunvegan Castle

The history of the clans is fascinating and I would like understand it more. Skye, Lewes, Harris and parts of Western Scotland seem to have been either Clan MacLeod or Clan MacDonald for ever. Then in 1745 the Clan system broke down – without internet and the ability to google we can’t get more detail on any of this. Certainly severe deprivation and the impact of the potato famine meant that 400 families (2000 people) volunteered to leave Skye on boats for destinations in Australia, New Zealand and America.

The castle has been changed, added to and made more suitable for modern day living over the years. The view is fantastic as you look up Loch Dunvegan.

Loch Dunvegan

Loch Dunvegan

The gardens range from walked gardens, a round garden, woodland walk and waterfalls – they are varied, colourful and well done.

As Mr L is wont we set off for a drive across country…….we picked up a single track route, a B road with passing places, that took us from Struan back to Portree……there really is nothing in the middle of Skye away from the coastline other than a continuation of the amazing scenery and sheep!

Skye 5: Uig and The Quiraing

Well, today has been an interesting day. We left promptly to drive up to Uig in the North East of Skye to do the Quiraing of the Trotternish Ridge walk, a circular walk of 4.5 miles / 7.3km estimated to take between 3.5 to 4 hours. The walk was less of a walk and more of a hill climb mostly on very narrow paths on the edge of a hill.

The Quiraing path

The Quiraing path

The views were tremendous on yet another hot sunny day. The haze we have had for most of the past week persists so unfortunately we could not see the views of the Outer Hebrides and the Scottish mainland. Did Mrs L enjoy it……some of it yes, but mostly no! It was not really my idea of fun but do I have a sense of achievement on persevering and completing a walk that was well outside my comfort zone – yes! It took us 3.5 hours so we weren’t too slow despite my inability to climb up and down in a nimble fashion. Even the sheep looked on in amazement at my lack of goat-like abilities!

image

View from our route going up

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View looking up towards the Needle

The Trotternish ridge has been formed by a massive landslip which created high cliffs, hidden plateaus and pinnacles of rock. The key features on our walk included ‘The Prison’, a pyramidal block of basalt rock that had long ago slipped down the side of the hill. Looking up from here you can see the Needle rising up, a 37m jagged pinnacle. The narrow path snaked its way upwards until we got to a stile which we climbed over onto the ridge, but we were still below the highest point of the Quiraing main ridge. If there had been no haze we should have been able to see Harris from this part of the ridge, but we couldn’t. The climb to the top of Quiraing was steep but at least was well away from the edge. We made it to the cairn on the top and Mr K took a photo of Mrs L by the cairn to commemorate her ‘summitting’ achievement! There is a view of the Table, a flat grassy plateau surrounded by rock formations and cliff faces, from the edge – Mr L took these photos! The walk down the other side was less stressful but was steep in places and very slippy, nevertheless we made it back in one piece.

Mr L has since checked out the walk on various hill walking sites – it is defined as a classic hill walk graded medium in length and hard in difficulty with the climb to the top of the Quiraing being an ascent of 340 metres from the car park at Bealach Ollasgairte. The Quiraing is 543m / 1,781 ft. above sea level.

We then drove back into Uig which was a considerably smaller ‘town’ than we expected. It has a very small general stores, the Isle of Skye Brewery, the Uig Pottery, the Pier restaurant and a ferry terminal. We enquired at the ferry terminal about a day trip to Harris – on Mrs L’s to do list – to find that today had been the last day you could do a day trip, from now on you have to have an overnight stay on Harris. So the trip to Harris is still on the to do list and will have to wait until until next time. Lunch and free wifi at the Pier Restaurant – the lunch and a much need cup of tea for me was good enough but the wifi was virtually non-existent……

Mr L is now getting carried away with thoughts of returning and doing the 79.5 mile Skye Trail, a walk from north to south……depending on the cliff walks involved, Mr and Mrs L may be having separate holidays that year!!

Skye 4: Portree and the Scorrybreac Walk

The plan for the day was to have the morning in Portree and the afternoon in Dunvegan but in the end it was all Portree.

We had a mooch around the various shops in Portree, mostly gift/tourist type shops but nevertheless all very nice. Cappuccinos and internet in the Royal Oak meant I could post my blogs of the past 3 days and Mr L caught up with the news and his Twitter feed. We also used the internet to work our what we would be doing after Tuesday next week as we had nothing else planned for the remainder of the holiday.

We have been able to book another 2 nights here at our cottage in Kildonan. We had thought to spend the en route home night in Edinburgh as it will be the Independence Referendum night……there was nowhere of a reasonable price available so we have booked to go back to our favourite Glasgow, this time we are in Citizen M hotel up on Renfrew Street. I am sure we can find somewhere to go along to and follow referendum events…..there is a big screen in a marquee in Merchant City as part of the post Commonwealth Games legacy…..

Skye votes YES!

Skye votes YES!

Everywhere we have been there has been loads of ‘YES’ signs in windows, on fences, on verges, on lamp posts etc. Just today for the first time we have seen some ‘NO’ signs in Portree. Next Thursday will be a historic night whatever the outcome.

We had lunch back at the cottage and a leisurely couple of hours before heading back to Portree. The plan was to do the Scorrybreac walk on the far side of the harbour, followed by fish and chips sitting outside on the harbour and then up to the Aros Centre just outside Portree centre where they have their BLAS festival and tonight’s entertainment was Scottish music.

The Scorrybreac circular walk was just under 2 miles on the south side of Portree harbour bay and involved a fairly steep climb up away from the coastline so what it lacked in distance it made up for in effort! It was an enjoyable walk with great views over the harbour in the late afternoon sunshine.

Fish farm in Portree Bay

Fish farm in Portree Bay

Portree Bay

Portree Bay and the Black Rock

We also got a glimpse of The Old Man of Storr in the distance, albeit somewhat hazy (as most of the landscapes have been today).

Old Man of Storr visible in the distance

Old Man of Storr visible in the distance

The fish and chips were great, despite being watched by a beady-eyed seagull that clearly wanted what was ours!! The evening entertainment at the Aros Centre turned out to be not quite what we wanted so we didn’t bother to get tickets, instead we have booked tickets to see Ross Noble doing a pre-tour warm-up show Monday night.

We headed back down to Portree harbour for the third time in the day and had a drink in the Pier Hotel bar which was full of locals rather than tourists like us. Then home to catch up with iPad TV download programmes and a relaxing rest of the evening.

Fishing boat being unloaded on Portree Harbour

Fishing boat being unloaded on Portree Harbour