About this blog

Just having a bit of fun here, posting about walks and other stuff. I need to get out more.

Monday, 30 April 2012

A Long Walk on the Isle of Skye (Part 2)

Day 2. Inver Dalavil to Loch Eishort

It was another cold night in the tent but I had a better night's sleep and awoke to another glorious morning on the Isle of Skye. I opened the tent to the sight of another clear blue sky and hardly a breath of wind.

I had a leisurely breakfast and eventually packed up and set off walking at about 08:00. The walk today was to be almost entirely along the west Sleat coastline and the views to the Cuillins were first class all day.
The first three miles were quite strenuous, there is a vague path in places but generally this section is rough going and time consuming just picking out a route above the shoreline.

West Sleat coastal scenery

I reached the beach of Tarskavaig Bay and chatted to a lady out walking her dog, she warned me of impending heavy rain and gales, forecast to move in from the west at about 5pm. It was hard to believe this news given the stunning weather so far on the walk.


The next section of the walk follows the road to Tarskavaig and Loch Gauscavaig to Ob Gauscavaig, which is a stunning little bay with great views of Bla-Bheinn and the Black Cuillins, an ideal spot for a rest and a lazy lunch. 

Loch Gauscavaig

Mindful of the impending storm I decided to make the best of the good weather and detour slightly to the ruins of Dunscaith Castle which is beautifully situated at the entrance to the bay.

Dunscaith Castle ruins
The main stairway to the castle has long since collapsed but it is possible to tiptoe along a ledge to gain access to the top of the castle ruins. The views from here were the best of the trip so far.

Wow factor goes off the scale
Rather than retrace my steps back to the road I decided it was time for a bit more rough stuff and headed out over Druim Dubh, knee deep heather bashing, deer fences and the occasional boggy bits led me to another lovely bay at Inver Aulavaig. This would have been a great place to camp but I decided it was too early in the day and  wanted to push on a bit further if the weather was about to break as forecast.

Inver Aulavaig
Approaching Ord
More of the same rough coastal walking took me to the small settlement of Ord.
It was impossible to rush any part of the walk today, the views were quite simply breathtaking and improved with every step taken. Many times I paused to soak it all up. I temporarily left the sea behind at Ord and took the road out of the village for about 1km, I then ascended to half height of Sgiath-bheinn an-Uird, a magnificent block of white quartzite stretching for 3km from above Loch Eishort.

Sgiath-bheinn an-Uird
I didn't have the time to visit the top of this hill today and instead followed a faint track which traverses below the hill to some lovely woodland before descending to Loch Eishort at the outflow of Allt a-Chinn Mhor where I pitched the tent.

Loch Eishort Camp
It was not yet 4pm but I decided that this spot would do just fine and I pottered about on the beach doing nothing much at all.
I managed to get a few text messages away and blogger Carl Mynott confirmed the weather was about to take a turn for the worse for the next 18 hours or so.
At just before 8pm the first drops of rain hit the tent, the wind stiffened significantly and I lay looking out at the Loch reflecting on a great day. Just at that moment a fox trotted down from the woods behind the tent to the Loch side less than 30 yards away from me, I reached for the camera but before I had time to take a photo, it sensed my presence and quickly ran back to the cover of the woods.
Eventually I zipped up the tent and drifted off into a deep whisky induced sleep.

Day 3. Loch Eishort to Broadford

Considering the conditions I had slept like a log apart from one or two occasions when the wind and heavy rain were at their most ferocious. 
When I unzipped the tent for a call of nature at about 5.30 I realised just how heavy the rain had been. The level of the Loch had risen significantly and the Allt a-Chinn Mhor, which had been nothing more than a trickle last night, was now in full spate.

Water morning
I didn't hang about this morning and was packed up and walking before 07:00. I had concerns that the planned day via Heast, Boreraig and Suishnish may well be dangerous in these spate conditions, I was proven right as it took me almost two hours to walk a mile and a half to the stony beach below Drumfearn. There were many more burns on the ground this morning than were shown on the map and all were raging torrents posing problems to cross. It was raining again now as the time had come to make a decision.
Without further ado, I bailed out along the minor road to meet the A851 and hitched a lift to Broadford Backpackers Hostel where I spent the night..
By the time I had got cleaned up, done a bit of shopping in the Coop and had some fish and chips, the weather had reverted to clear blue skies again as if the storm had never happened.
I was now off route and left with the headache of trying to get to Torrin early the next day to continue the walk.

Sunday, 29 April 2012

A Long Walk on the Isle of Skye (Part 1)

Loyal followers of this blog (both of you) may be aware that I had decided to take a year off from the TGO Challenge this year to take a shorter, more leisurely backpacking trip in an area outside of the TGO Challenge boundaries and I had latched on to David Paterson's excellent book "A Long Walk on the Isle of Skye" which describes a route from Armadale in Sleat  to Rubha Hunish which is the most northerly point on Skye. I had tweaked Paterson's route slightly to include a visit to the Point of Sleat on the first day of the walk, thereby enabling a most southerly to most northerly walk on Skye.
The details of the route plan can be found in a previous posting on here... Link to plan

This is the story of my Long Walk on the Isle of Skye.

The Journey to Skye.
I travelled up to Skye on Saturday 14h April firstly on the early morning train out of Doncaster to Glasgow then on the familiar 12.20 Glasgow to Mallaig train.
 I have caught this train several times over the years, usually when travelling up to one of the TGO Challenge start points on the west coast.
The station concourse  on these occasions is always full of happy, smiling Challenge entrants and the event starts here, among friends.
This time there were no friendly faces, no Roger Smith to shake my hand and wish me well as I passed through the gate onto platform four to board the train.
Somehow, it just didn't feel right this time, just not the same sense of excitement and anticipation for the long walk ahead of me.

I started to relax soon enough as the Highland scenery on this classic rail journey started to take hold of my emotions and by the time the train split in two at Crianlarich I was in full holiday mode and relishing the thought of a long walk on the Isle of Skye.
The entire journey is superb and one that I will never tire of making, memories of previous Challenges and Munro days came flooding back as the train made steady progress to stations such as Bridge of Orchy, Rannoch and Corrour.
From Fort William onwards to Mallaig the scenery is just breathtaking and I was fortunate to have clear blue skies all the way to Mallaig.
There was a strong bitterly cold northerly wind blowing straight into my face as I walked over to the ferry terminal ticket office where I bought a one way ticket to Armadale and boarded the MV Coruisk for the short journey across the Sound of Sleat.

Heading for Skye 

Knoydart from the ferry
Finally, after 13 hours of travelling I set foot on the Isle of Skye.

In true Challenge tradition, the first point of call was the pub... The Ardvasar Hotel where pan fried scallops were devoured, washed down by a few pints of Guinness.
I had spotted a few potential pitches quite close to the sea as I was walking up to the hotel and eventually I reluctantly left the warmth of the lounge bar and made my way back towards Armadale.

Scouting for the ideal pitch
The wind had thankfully dropped but it was still a cloudless and bitterly cold evening. I managed to find a sheltered enough spot close to the sea, put my tent up in the fading light and huddled deep inside the sleeping bag looking over to the mainland and the twinkling street lights of Mallaig.

The walk.
Day 1. Armadale to Inver Dalavil
I slept fitfully, waking several times during the night feeling cold and uncomfortable, finally at around 6am I decided to get a brew on and start to prepare myself for the first days walking. It was a glorious morning outside the tent, not a cloud in the sky and the Sound of Sleat was like a mill pond, Oyster Catchers noisily went about their early morning business flitting up and down along the foreshore of the bay.

Early morning tranquillity 
It was 08.30 when I eventually left the bay and set off back along the road towards the hotel.
The road walk out to the the scattered community of Aird of Sleat is pleasant enough with the south Sleat coastline always in sight on my left, the air was full of the sounds of birdsong and nothing else. At one point I startled a roe deer and it elegantly hurdled over a fence and disappeared under the dense canopy of Tormore forest.

The road ends abruptly at a steel gate, beyond which there are the scrapped remains of cars and tractors quite out of character with the surroundings. Once past this eyesore the scenery improves again, good views open up of the isles of Eigg and Rum as the track undulates towards the Point of Sleat. 
A Scottish Rights of Way signpost indicates the point at which to leave the track and follow a path out towards the lighthouse at the Point of Sleat. As I made my way along the path a Buzzard took to the sky from its perch quite close by and noisily circled above me, I can only assume that the nest site was on the nearby crags of Creag Mhor given the raucous behaviour of the bird.
Just a short distance further along the path starts to descend towards the most idyllic white sanded bay imaginable. This is the much photographed beach of Camas Dariach. 

Sandy Bay, Camas Dariach
It was only 10.30 but I decided that this was the just the most perfect spot to get the stove on and have an early leisurely lunch. After all, it's not often that you have a paradise like this to yourself. I spent about an hour here, just strolling along the beach or sitting on the rocks listening to the gentle lapping of the waves breaking on the virgin sand.
Of course, all good things come to an end and I shouldered my pack and made my way back along the path for a short distance before branching off up and over the headland to the Point of Sleat.

Point of Sleat lighthouse
The old lighthouse was demolished in 2003 to make way for this concrete structure, the light is solar powered and would probably be fully charged given the clear blue skies today.

Solar panels on the lighthouse 
The lighthouse is not particularly pleasing on the eye but that is more than made up for with the superb views over to the Isles of Rum, Canna and Eigg. 

The Isle of Rum from Point of Sleat
To pick up the route over to Inver Dalavil involved retracing my steps back along the path to regain the track towards Aird of Sleat . After about 1km I left the track to follow a burn up to Loch Aruisg, this was pathless rough walking, a mixture heather bashing and bog trotting.  
Loch Aruisg
I followed a deer fence for a while to link up Loch Horaveg and Loch an t-Seilich. Superb views of the Cuillins began to open up and eventually I descended from the Bealach Garbh to paddle across Allt a' Glinnhe and set up camp close to the outflow to Inver Dalavil. 
It was only 4 o'clock but the camp site was too good to pass by. Following dinner I spent my time wandering around on the rocky shoreline soaking up the views. Curlews, Oyster Catchers, Shag and assorted Gulls had made this part of Sleat their home as had about half a dozen Seals who sempt totally oblivious to my presence as they fooled around in the bay.

Fine views of the Cuillins 
I could not have hoped for a better days walking on my first ever visit to Skye. I sat and reflected on the day as the sun dropped below the horizon.   

Sunset, Sea of the Hebrides