The sun goes down…

… Behind the isles – at this time of year, South Harris. There have been times when, during our stays on Skye, we haven’t seen what we would call a sunset (there have been times when we haven’t even seen the Western Isles), but this time we’ve had some clear skies and a nightly spectacle in the west. The sun sets around 10pm in these parts in late May…

Going out on a high!

Wednesday 2 June: ‘High’ is relative – at no point am I more than 1,200ft above the sea, but the top of Sròn Vourlinn is isolated and exposed – and quiet.  For every 1,000 visitors who park at the Quiraing car park* and head this way, I suspect fewer than one comes this far. As I approach the airy overhanging ridge, there are a couple of other people, but they’ve gone within minutes, and soon I’m sitting on the springy turf surveying the scene. Once again, I’ve got a fine viewpoint entirely to myself. Tomorrow we’re heading home, by a roundabout route – this is a great way to close the Skye chapter

* I started out from the small parking area near Flodigarry, ascending past Lochs Langaig and Hasco, joining the main path amongst the spectacular pinnacles beyond the Quiraing.

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Uig and the Fairy Glen

Monday 31 May: It’s firmly (and deservedly) on the tourist trail – it’s also a pleasant walk from Uig, which solves the problem faced by most visitors – where to park the car? Since our last visit, a couple of years ago, lots of new parking space has been created by the local authorities – but I think we’ll stick with the walk. The views from the road are pretty good, especially when the ferry arrives, doing an impressive hand-brake turn to tie-up and unload at the end of the pier.

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The far north

Sunday 30 May: Rubha Hunish, Skye’s northernmost point – a great place to be, especially if I get there before the others… I’m walking by 9.30, and there’s hardly anyone else about. I pass three, then two more people – they’ve been staying overnight in the bothy, the former coastguard lookout on Meall Tuath, which overlooks the little Hunish peninsula. Am I alone now? No – as I descend the precipitous path down the cliff face, I hear voices. Four people appear to have just reached the foot of the cliff path – I can only just see them, but one particularly strident voices carries clearly. (Why do people so carelessly destroy what they, and others, have come for?).

The noisy people look as though they’ll walk clockwise around Hunish, though for now they’re lingering on the shore. I’ll walk anticlockwise – that way, they won’t be in earshot just ahead or behind me, apart from when we pass. Much later, I realise I never saw – or heard – them again! Did they just go back up and miss out on all the interest down here?.

There are cliffs on the eastern side, and three fine stacks – then the northern tip, where I sit a while and watch the world go by. There’s a dolphin, or similar, out there, and a seal pops up for a moment. Then HMS Lancaster sails by…

All too soon I’m back at the top of the cliff path, looking back. One other person has just descended – now they have Hunish to themselves. Crossing the moor on the way back, a few others pass, heading for the clifftop. I’ve timed it right today!

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Sneosdal and a wet moor

Saturday 29 May: On my own again today, avoiding the crowds by parking near the Kilmuir village hall and heading across the moorland to Loch Sneosdal, a quiet stretch of water tucked below dark crags, not visible from any road. Heading back from the clear waters of the loch, my eye is caught by pools atop the moorland to the south of the usual route. In a reversal of the normal sequence of events, the sun comes out as I approach them – wonderful!

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Staffin strolling

Friday 28 May: an enjoyable short stroll around Staffin. Starting from Columba 1400, we take the path over the moor, past the chambered cairn and down to the rocks south of the slip. The beach and slip are fairly popular, but hardly anyone explores beyond the latter. After watching the waves for a while, we continue past the slip and the beach towards Quiraing Lodge (‘Staffin House’ on old maps), then back beside the main road and the highland cattle.

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Loch Cuithir

Thursday 27 May: Skye’s Trotternish peninsula is firmly on the selfie trail – perhaps six miles to the north, as the golden eagle flies, there are hundreds of people milling around at the Quiraing (I’ve just driven over the road from Uig – there must have been 120-150 cars parked at the top of the pass), and three or four miles to the south, a similar number will be trying to enjoy the spectacle of the Old Man of Storr. Loch Cuithir is almost deserted – I saw just one other person in the two-and-a-half hours I was walking. He looked like a local, with a sheepdog, driving slowly in a van along the very rough track.

The bed of the loch was a rich source of diatomite, a form of silica with a honeycomb-like structure having a wide variety of industrial uses. It was worked commercially around 100 years ago – a 2-foot gauge railway was used to take the raw product to the shore at Lealt where there were processing facilities. Although long-disused, the trackbed of the old railway is still visible along most of its three mile length, and though boggy in places it is walkable (I walked most of the way along the road/track, using the last mile or so of the old railway to reach the loch. It would have been very slow going to walk it the whole way). One or two small bridges have gone – some rails remain in their vicinity, well-rusted. The loch itself lies below the spectacular peak of Sgùrr a’ Mhadaidh Ruaidh – the Peak of the Red Fox.

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Bornesketaig coastline

Tues 25 May: a good leg-stretch after yesterday’s fun – a walk through Bornesketaig to the clifftops, following them westwards to look down on the Uamh Oir (a cave of gold!), then along the shore to Camas Mòr. There’s a towering bank of cloud over Lewis and Harris, but here the skies are blue. We’ve left winter behind!

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A long journey

Monday 24 May: We’re on our way to our ‘Northern Office’, and though there will be some domestic duties to attend to, there will also be opportunities for outings – some on my own, when I can be a little more adventurous…

The weather at home has not been great recently, and as we drive through Dalwhinnie, taking the road to Spean Bridge, the car tells us it’s just 5°C outside. The steady drizzly rain, which has caused much spray on the A9, appears to be falling as wet snow on the mountaintops, which are just-about visible through the cloud and mist enveloping them. We’ll pause for a few minutes and a very short leg stretch (it’s still drizzling) where the river Pattack flows peaty-brown through a little gorge beside the road.

A little over three hours later, we’ve arrived. The rain has stopped – Skye is dry! – and the sun is gradually going down behind the Western Isles. The light catches a shower in the Minch. I stand (too much sitting today!) and gaze at the scene, glass in hand, and the long drive begins to unwind. Tomorrow will be a better day.