Quiraing

Weds. 26 April ctd: after lunch, we’ll drive round to Flodigarry, and have a walk up the path from Loch Langaig to the Quiraing. More precisely, we’ll walk to the path below the Quiraing – one of us wouldn’t be able to get up there, or back down again (it’s just a bit too exposed)… The route is surprisingly busy: the better-known way from the parking area at the top of the pass is almost always busy, but this path is becoming popular now. Deservedly so – the rock scenery is amazing! There’s nowhere else like it in the UK.

We try to pick out a different route for our return, but the conditions underfoot make it too difficult to recommend – deep spongy moss, thick heather, tussocky grass – it’s really hard work. We’d better follow the others back down to the car.

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Quiraing

27 November: It’s one of the most spectacular landscapes in the British Isles – and the path to the Quiraing from the top of the pass, between Uig and Staffin, is one of the most enjoyable. Its popularity makes the first part of this walk difficult in summer – largely because it’s almost impossible to find anywhere to park. But on a Sunday morning at the end of November, even with such amazingly good weather, there are just six other cars. I’ll meet other walkers along the way, but it is truly quiet here today. The only sound for much of the time is that of the waves breaking on the shore at Staffin, perhaps a mile and a half distant.

The last few times I’ve walked along the path below the Quiraing, I’ve been with others who wouldn’t be persuaded to scramble up into the rocky stronghold, but today I’m alone, so it’s up the steep crumbling slope, behind the needle, through the cleft and onto the table, a remarkable small grassy  plateau completely enclosed by the crags. A couple of young walkers are here (one is a “Staffinite”, according to his companion), enjoying the photographic opportunities, but I get the impression that many, if not most, casual visitors give this part of the walk a miss.

The descent back to the contouring path is possibly more difficult than the ascent, but I’m down again, walking on towards Sròn Vourlinn (yes, we were here in August, on the path from Flodigarry) – and I discover the downside to November exploration. I knew that the early sunset would limit my time up here, but hadn’t thought about the effect of the sun’s low angle – much of the path beyond the Quiraing is in deep cold shade. It’s worth it for the additional views that open out eventually – to the north and west, where Lewis and Harris are prominent across the Minch. Can’t afford to hang about though – I’d better get back… What a great day it’s been!

map

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Staffin shore: Orcas

27th August ctd: After our visit to the Loch Shianta, we drive on to Staffin slip, park the car and wander across the saltings to the rocks. Rather than remain at our usual spot, we continue along the grassy upper shore below the cliffs. Soon, we can go no further – the jumble of huge boulders makes the shore virtually impassable. We stop for a while, and gaze out so sea – what’s that? Large fins break the surface… Glimpses of white patches identify them as orcas, also known as killer whales. There are no acrobatics, but they’re there for the best part of 20 minutes (the YouTube video below contains the edited highlights…).

Later that day, we’re back on the west side of Trotternish, watching the sun setting behind Harris, in an almost-perfect demonstration of the curvature of the earth.

The enchanted loch

27th August: The sign at the little parking place describes Loch Shianta as “The Enchanted, Holy or Magical Loch”. There’s certainly something magical about the water in this well-hidden pool – it’s the clearest water I’ve ever seen, with a curious turquoise tint. Is it something in the water, or just its rocky bed? Sadly, neither the depth nor the clarity come through in the photos – it has to be seen to be believed.

The path down to the loch is short and well-made, with little plaques every few yards, mostly in Gaelic. “Gabh seo, a ghaoil” seems to translate (Google) as “take this, love”. Is that perhaps too literal? Though it’s late in the season, this is a colourful walk, with plenty of knapweed and scabious, not to mention a patch or two of ragwort. Just off the path. there’s a super small colony of fly agaric (“flying Eric”, as my nephew once misheard), and as ever, there are great views of islands and the highlands.

Staffin Ecomuseum

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