About this blog

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

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


  1. Wow Dave - I'll have some of that, especially the weather. What a treat to see and so peaceful.

    Looking forward to the remainder of the walk.

  2. Stunning start Dave. What camera did you take with you. Pictures are very nice.

  3. Pete, I hope to crack on with the rest of the trip report now I've finally got started. I'm currently following @LoneWalkers progress on Twitter and on his blog, looks like he's had a great start to his walk.

    Alan, Glad you like the pics, the camera is just a Panasonic TZ4, It's served me well for a few years, photos are taken straight from the sim card with no editing.

  4. That little Leica lens sure does a good job.

  5. Come on dave, part two, part two!!!! Lovely day one. Was there with you, pal.