The mountain walking highlight of our Scottish trip in May was undoubtedly my trip up Quinag (see post #201), but I had also pre-planned a couple of shorter days out that Chris might enjoy, both of them on Skye. There is always something special about travelling to an island, and even though Skye is now joined to the mainland by a road bridge, there is still a certain magic about crossing the narrow straits between Kyle of Lochalsh and Kyleakin.
Summer visitors to Skye will soon learn (if they didn’t know already) that the Scottish midge can make life truly miserable, with the Skye midge nominated as the worst (well, it certainly feels like it is!). In May, however, the little blighters aren’t yet active and a settled spell of weather can often give conditions far superior to what passes for summer. The plan for the day was to have an extended dog-walk with Border Collie ‘Mist’ that would also be interesting for Chris – a walk out to the Quiraing was on the cards.
The phrase ‘be careful what you wish for’ came to mind soon after setting off from the car park at the bealach (pass) when we came across an obstacle that Chris found a bit too ‘interesting’ – a narrow path with a steep drop-off to one side suddenly arrived at a narrow rocky gully, where the crucial steps across to the other side had water streaming across. It soon became apparent that ‘me missus’ had no intention of taking the ‘leap of faith’ necessary to make the crossing – in fact, she was more concerned about the ‘leap of death’ that might result if she slipped. Time for Plan B!
Plan B was simple – retrace our steps along the narrow path, escort ‘me missus’ back to safe ground, where she could walk back to our camper van parked at the bealach, then turn round and start out again. The Quiraing is a weird, other-worldly sort of place – the geologists will tell you it was caused by landslips, some of which are still active today, but it looks like something out of Tolkien! In mist it must be even more dramatic, with features called ‘The Prison’ and ‘The Needle’ looming above.
As I reached ‘The Prison’ I met a bunch of mountain bikers going the opposite way. The cyclist leading the group gave a perfect masterclass on how to descend the steep slope, followed by more hesitant performances by his mates – they all displayed amazing skill on what must be a fairly technical trip for mountain bikers. Beyond there, ‘Mist’ and I carried through a rocky section before the views opened out and the narrow valley I was in became wider – it was nearly time to head back.
The path continued meandering below high cliffs on the left, before rising gently, heading for a breach in the cliffs. I almost had the hill to myself, with just a German couple heading the same way – they had been surprised that the path was not waymarked as in the European Alps, but after checking out the route with me they were happy to continue.
The rising section of path wasn’t really steep, and didn’t last long, and I was soon on the path crossing the tops of the cliffs I had been walking under. The panorama really opened up now, with views out to sea and down to ‘The Prison’, and I stayed on the cliff edge rather than heading for the nearby summit of Meall na Suiramach. A gentle descent across the moor eventually gave great views back to the start point. The final steep descent to the Bealach was muddy and unpleasant, but didn’t diminish in any way what had been a great little walk – ‘Mist’ still wanted more of course!
Text and images © Paul Shorrock