A Breath of Fresh Air

How I'm getting back out into the countryside whilst living with MS

Archive for the tag “Skye”

Scottish Highlands and Islands: Part One – Isle of Skye

I couldn’t resist writing something – we’ve been wanting to take the tandem to the Scottish highlands for some time and we’ve finally done it! It’s a part of the world that we are repeatedly drawn to. It’s where we first holidayed together and where we spent our honeymoon. It was definitely time to share it with the tandem. At last, we were able to make sufficient time to travel north into the mountains (it’s a long drive!) and enjoy immersing ourselves there.

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Cuillin ridge

We actually made several tandem rides on the trip – too many for one post! So, as my son might say, buckle up, here comes part one (of three – I hope you think it’s a worthwhile journey!).

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tandem by the Cuillin

As soon as we arrived on the Isle of Skye, we wasted no time driving straight from the ferry and making for an old road we had seen on our last visit (it’s only taken four years to carry out this plan!). The road had been abandoned once a faster route had been blasted out of the hillside on the way to Sligachan.

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Cuillin from Loch Ainort

That left the old road all for us. No one was interested in it, potholed and rough as it was. Perfect! The route skirted the shore, providing ever evolving views as we curved round towards Loch Sligachan. We could see the gentle slopes of the Isle of Scalpay, just out to sea, then the beginning of the Isle of Raasay with its small volcanic peak jutting out from a flat skyline. As we rode on we could see north towards the rocky cliffs around Kilt Rock, and on the way back the Red and Black Cuillin dominated.

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north Skye

The bike ride enabled us to feel much more immersed in the island in a way that driving through in a car couldn’t – much more akin to going for a walk. This time though we were doing something new; rather than climbing amongst the Cuillin, we were hugging the coastline, bending as it bent, and watching the tides, seeing the bright orange seaweed blanket the wet, black rocks.

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towards Loch Sligachan

It wasn’t all peace and quiet though … the midges were still out in force when we arrived, as we discovered when we sat down to try and eat our lunch. As soon as we were in one place, they pounced! Especially on Pete! We abandoned trying to eat and hurried back on to our saddles – we could outride them at least! Future stops were very brief and in places where there was a breeze, which successfully thwarted them. Ah well, we were definitely getting the full highland experience!

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midges!

(Fortunately(?) the weather cooled shortly afterwards and the midges departed, causing little bother for the rest of our trip.)

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tranquility

The next day, buoyed by the tranquillity of our first tandem ride (bar the midges), we headed further afield, to the northwestern edge of the island, sure that we would be alone again. We remembered a quiet road that we had discovered many years earlier, and that it had been a most peaceful spot.

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Macleod’s Tables

As we turned off the Dunvegan road shortly before the village we vaguely noticed that we were by no means the only car taking the turning. Hmm. Undeterred, we unloaded the tandem and rode out.

The scenery was definitely as beautiful as we remembered … unfortunately, it was no longer an unknown road at the edge of the island. It was still a single track route with passing places, as most of the island had been once of a day. That’s fine when there’s not much traffic but now it seemed that word had got out that this was a lovely place to explore and, whilst not exactly busy, it wasn’t exactly quiet either.

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Loch Dunvegan

This was when we discovered the particular challenge of a slightly busy single track road on a bike, especially on a hilly road, as that one was. Not only do you need to be aware of where the next passing place ahead is so that you can gauge whether you or the vehicle coming the other way needs to stop and use it, you also need to be aware of traffic coming along behind so that you can stop at a passing place to allow them to overtake. And all the time you lose momentum for climbing the inclines. Most frustrating! When all we wanted was a peaceful time enjoying the views (as did everyone else, obviously!).

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the loch, looking seawards

And so that tandem ride came to a somewhat abrupt end. It was hardly a disaster though – we had our lunch overlooking Dunvegan Loch and the only sound was of the odd car passing. It was all much less frustrating when we weren’t on the road and somehow it didn’t seem so busy after all once we stopped. Peace was restored.

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A Skye Adventure

I have been walking amongst the Black Cuillins of the Isle of Skye! I never expected to be doing something so adventurous amidst those awesome mountains again.

Black Cuillins from Sligachan, Skye

Black Cuillins from Sligachan, Skye

Pete and I haven’t been on Skye for way too long but, fortunately, our Silver Wedding anniversary gave us the necessary nudge to get us back, retracing part of our honeymoon. We made numerous visits pre-children when we climbed several Red Cuillins, as well as one mean Black one (after a previous aborted attempt due to Scottish weather on our honeymoon).

We have also explored the island by car, heading down most of its roads in our quest to see as much as possible. However, on this visit we discovered that there was a particular road, with a very tempting boat trip at its end, that we hadn’t previously been down.

Cuillins from Elgol

Cuillins from Elgol

This was the road to Elgol, and the boat was the Bella Jane. The road took you round the south west part of the island to give a view of the Cuillins that was hidden from the main route up the island. Even better, the Bella Jane took you close to the hidden Loch Coruisk, only accessible through the mountains by foot or by boat.

We drove for three quarters of an hour along a single track road, past hamlets and single houses dotted amongst the long rough grass, and on round the wide empty shore of Loch Slapin, with a glimpse of the small isles beyond. Finally, a severe drop down to the sea brought us to the hamlet of Elgol, with its handful of houses, three huts for boat trips, and, most amazingly, a village school! Right on the water’s edge – it must be the best placed school in the country!

darkening atmosphere

darkening atmosphere

The tiny harbour faced the Cuillins across Loch Scavaig. Although they were still a little distant, they managed to look rather less than welcoming. You knew that to climb them would be a challenge, only to be undertaken by an experienced walker (indeed, an experienced climber for several).

Our boat brought us ever closer to the rocks that formed the lower slopes of the mountains. As we drew nearer, the rocks loomed larger, darker and more forbidding. It felt colder, more serious.

basking grey seals

basking grey seals

The mood was lightened by the sight of seals basking on several little rocky islands. Then we turned into a beautiful dark green lagoon, with Cuillin rocks rising out of it. The boat moored below a flat rock and we climbed a steep metal ladder (with a handle at only one side – I clung on with both hands!).

Now my adventure really began! The walk from the mooring to Loch Coruisk usually took about 10 minutes. It took me about three times as long, with several stops.

steps up from the lagoon

steps up from the lagoon

The effort was completely worth it. I was walking amongst the Black Cuillins! The path was muddy, grassy and stony. It was uneven and there were puddles. I was properly on the lower Cuillin slopes! Some of the route was even over the distinctive, grippy gabbro rock that made up those mountains.

views whilst walking

views whilst walking

 

the footpath

the footpath

It was an exhilarating walk and at journey’s end I was able to sit above Loch Coruisk, enjoying the brooding, empty beauty of the scenery. Others may climb the jagged peaks; I have conquered the walk to the hidden loch.

wilderness of Loch Coruisk

wilderness of Loch Coruisk

I have to confess that the midges did find us but even they didn’t manage to spoil the moment!

Red Cuillin on road to Sligachan

Red Cuillin on road to Sligachan

It was a memorable trip, and one of the highlights of our long overdue return to the west coast of Scotland. Oh, those magnificent mountains! They nearly had me weeping!

 

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