#302 – The Isle of Raasay – small hills and big eagles!

Heading towards Dùn Caan, highest point on the Isle of Raasay at 443 metres (1,453 feet)

For the best viewing experience, left-click the images and maps to zoom in to a new window, then exit that window to go back – go on, it really does work!

White tailed eagle (sea eagle) flying over Raasay

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.

Skye and the Hebrides – Raasay indicated by the red arrow
The short ferry crossing from Sconser on Skye to Raasay (red dashes)
The old ferry terminal at Sconser, as work started on the upgraded facility in 2012 (© John Allan)

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.

Entrance to the new terminal (© Richard Dorrell)
The Raasay ferry, ‘MV Hallaig’ (© M J Richardson)

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.

Raasay, seen from the stony beach at Sconser ….
…. with a closer view of the 443 metre Dùn Caan
The ferry, ‘Hallaig’, returning to Sconser, seen from our overnight stop-over
Fine afternoon on Raasay, looking back to the Cuillin Mountains on Skye

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.

White tailed eagle (sea eagle) being ‘mobbed’ by smaller raptors (or ravens)
White tailed eagle

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.

The next morning – not as fine a day as the previous afternoon
The route to Dùn Caan – anti-clockwise from the start point (blue flag)
1Closer view of the route

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.

On the way out, looking back towards Skye ….
…. with the clouds coming down over the Cuillins
First sighting of Dùn Caan
Loch na Mna with Dùn Caan rising above and Border Collie ‘Mist’ waiting patiently
The final steep bit of the path to the summit
Looking back down the ascent path
Skye panorama from Dùn Caan

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.

Chris on the summit
Panorama of the mainland, looking towards Applecross and beyond
Rare photo of the author, checking out the summit of Dùn Caan with the Cuillins behind

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.

A final view of Dùn Caan, all 443 metres of it ….
…. then it’s time to head for home

Text and images © Paul Shorrock except were indicated otherwise, which are taken from the Geograph Project and are reproduced under a Creative Commons Licence.

About Paul Shorrock

I've been mucking about in the mountains for longer than I care to mention. I started out by walking my local hills, then went on to rock climbing, mountaineering and skiing. Still doing it, and still getting a buzz. I'm now sharing the fun, through my guided walking business (Hillcraft Guided Walking) and by writing routes for other publishers, mainly Walking World and Discovery Walking Guides. Just to make sure I keep really busy, I am also currently a member of my local mountain rescue team.
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4 Responses to #302 – The Isle of Raasay – small hills and big eagles!

  1. Steve says:

    Beautiful!!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. We always call him ‘Duncan’! 😉 We always stay at Sconser in a holiday cottage when we go to Skye as it’s nice and central and we can bob over to Raasay on the non-hill days. I’ve only walked the hill once and we took the same route as you did there. Did you find that crevassed area on the approach? It’s on the side of the hill under the craggy front between Duncan and a small hillock part-way up.

    Liked by 1 person

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