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May 2021, and our meandering Scottish trip took us from Arrochar to Skye. This hadn’t been part of the original plan, but a bad-weather day was forecast, so my view was that if the weather was going to be rubbish, we might as well spend the day travelling to somewhere nice. As it happened, the worst of the storm was overnight, with one VW camper at Glenbrittle campsite losing its ‘pop-top’ roof! The next day blew fair, and on a sudden whim I suggested a short diversion to Raasay.
My first trip to Skye was in the 1970’s and I had been back many times since. By the time the main road reaches Sconser, the Cuillin Mountains are starting to look more interesting by the minute, and I had never given a thought to turn off to check out what used to be a fairly ramshackle looking ferry pier. I didn’t even have a clue where the ferry sailed to, or how often it sailed.
If I had checked the map back in those days, I would have seen that the opposite side of the sea loch was, in fact, an island – the Isle of Raasay. A major upgrade to the ferry slipway in 2012-13 resulted in a modern, tidy looking terminal, with 25-minute crossings almost every hour – Raasay was starting to look more interesting as a destination.
The biggest attraction for Chris and I (plus Border Collie ‘Mist’ of course) was a wee hill no more than 443 metres (1,453 feet) in altitude. They say that size isn’t everything, and we were almost certain to get the hill all to ourselves. With a fine afternoon in hand, we found a place to park up for the night, before treating ‘Mist’ to her second walk of the day. Before long, we realised that we were not alone.
Above us, a small drama was being played out. The white tailed eagle is the largest bird native to the UK, but once again size isn’t everything, and above us two smaller raptors (or ravens possibly?) were harassing and mobbing an apparently unconcerned white tail. Minutes later, it was time for the eagle to check out what two humans and a dog were up to in his domain, and at one point it was about 25 metres away, the closest I have ever been to a wild eagle. The signs were that a trip to Raasay had been a good idea.
Raasay isn’t what you would call a mountainous island, but the small peak of Dùn Caan was an obvious attraction that was worth a visit. The morning wasn’t quite as fair as the previous afternoon had been, but sometimes a cloudy day can be more interesting than wall-to-wall sunshine – perhaps just as well, because there wasn’t to be much sun on this outing.
The walk out to Dùn Caan was over moorland that was not hugely interesting in itself, but the views out to Skye more than made up for that. In fact, it was the views from Raasay towards the Cuillins of Skye on one side and the mainland on the other, that made the hike all the more interesting. Having said that, Dùn Caan was also an interesting looking hill, both from a distance and in close up.
The summit was a good place for a sandwich and a brew of coffee, once the photographic duties were complete, with more great views out to Applecross and beyond. With a cool breeze kicking in, and the looming clouds suggesting a chance of rain, we didn’t linger on the top. The return route was longer, but we made good speed on the narrow road back, and over a distance of 4 kms we saw just two cars – I don’t think they ‘do’ rush-hour on Raasay.
Text and images © Paul Shorrock except were indicated otherwise, which are taken from the Geograph Project and are reproduced under a Creative Commons Licence.