Thurs. 4 May: taking it easy today. Firstly, a walk from Staffin, over the hill and down to the shore near the slip, where the cold easterly breeze is blowing the waves against the rock. Later, in the last hour of daylight, a leg stretch down the road at Linicro. It’s still cold, but the light is very warm. There’s not a cloud in the sky!
Weds 3 May: it’s a fine bright evening, clear but cold. We’re spending a few minutes down at Camas Mor, where there’s a little sailing boat with red sails (I know, we should have stayed until sunset) and the light’s catching the scattered houses of Bornesketaig. Later that evening, the sunset is spectacular, and after the sun’s gone down, there’s a sun pillar over the Harris hills.
Tues. 2 May: we’ve walked this way several times before, but it’s always an enjoyable outing. From the tiny Port Gobhlaig, a faint path follows the top of low cliffs, with stacks and inlets and an excellent view to the coast and hills to the south. After a little while, what seems to be an ancient path descends steeply to the grassy foreshore, fringed by rocks, pools and camels (just their humps). Eventually, one can go no further. There’s evidence of settlement here, the remains of perhaps three “black” houses by the shore – is this where a ferry (to Trodday, just a mile off shore) once departed? It’s a pleasant, and exceptionally quiet spot – there’s no-one else here – a good place to find a comfortable rock seat and gaze across the water. Eventually, we return the way we’ve come, more-or-less, which is no hardship given the views of the cliffs and Trotternish ridge ahead.
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Mon. 1st May: I’m on my own again, heading for Skye’s northernmost tip – Rubha Hunish. The path down the cliff face, between Meall Tuath and Meall Deas, puts many casual wanderers off. They’ve already reached a spectacular viewpoint, but the promontory below the cliffs is somewhere special. A cruise liner passes as I descend carefully: I’d much rather be where I am than where they are. There’s a great feeling of freedom on Rubha Hunish – I’d feel trapped inside that thing…
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Sun. 30 April: the circular walk that wasn’t… Glen Hinnisdal cuts deep into the Trotternish ridge, a few miles south of Uig. A surfaced road links scattered houses on the north side of the river; to the south, it’s paralleled by a well-graded and very walkable forest track. Much of the forest has been felled in recent years, though there is still some untouched woodland at the end of the track, just beyond the river crossing. If we follow one of the rides down through the forest, we can perhaps get across to the north side and walk back down the road. No chance! At first it’s just plain difficult, very wet under foot – but then we come to an area where trees have been blown across the gap, and now it’s impenetrable! We have to retrace our steps. A golden eagle flaps away from the tree tops yards from where we turn – wow, he’s big. I don’t think many walkers have been here recently.
The views are, of course, subtly different on the way back – instead of the ridge, we’re now facing the Waternish peninsula across Loch Snizort, with Macleod’s Tables beyond. We’ve come here to try to avoid the cold easterly breeze – and now the wind’s dropping, and there’s more blue in the sky. We may not have achieved what we’d intended, but it’s been very pleasant.
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Sat. 29 April: I’m being left to my own devices this afternoon. I’m walking to Loch Sneosdal, a well-hidden lochan below dark crags, just two miles from the Quiraing as the golden eagle flies. For every thousand pairs of feet visiting the latter, I doubt if one visits Sneosdal. Other than the occupants of one or two cars on the main road (it’s very quiet, the views to Lewis and Harris are excellent, and it makes a good circular walk possible) I see no-one else. From the main road, the Heribusta lane is a pleasant stroll; from the top of the lane, a moorland track starts out towards the lochan. It becomes less distinct, before petering out altogether, and to reach to water’s edge is hard work. I make my way slowly and cautiously around the far shore, before following the feeder stream up towards the low grassy ridge. Now, after the somewhat closed-in amphitheatre of Sneosdal, I’ve got the views of the outer isles again – and can see my route ahead to the rough-surfaced waterworks road, which provides a quick route back to the start.
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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!
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