Isle of Skye IV – Strathaird and Sleat Peninsulas

This post is a brief tour of the southern part of the Isle of Skye. I don’t have any stories to tell about the area, so I’ll just show you some pretty “drive-by” pictures. We’ll first make a quick visit to the Sleat Peninsula, then drive to Elgol (at the end of the Straithaird Peninsula) to view the Cuillin Hills from the other (east) side.  Previously we had visited these hills from the west (Isle of Skye II – Fairy Glen, Dunvegan, and the Cuillin Hills).

View of the mainland from the Sleat PeninsulaSleat is mostly flat, but it has great views across the water to the mainland (picture on the left). The series of pictures below capture Sleat nicely. They were taken from a single location, although the first picture was taken on a different day than the rest.


The pictures below are of the Cuillin Hills again, but this time from the eastern side.

On our way back we come across “Cill Chriosd” (Christ’s Church), a ruined parish church.

It’s small and simple, but the ruins are old.  Written records announcing the replacement of a chaplain for the church date back to 1505.  It’s interesting to compare these simple rural structures with the overwhelming, grand cathedrals of the cities, many of them built even before this parish church.  The impressive cathedrals are a testament to what humankind can achieve, given a purpose; these parish churches, like the beautiful Gallarus Oratory in Ireland (Southwest Ireland Tour III – Ancient Christianity), to me question what that purpose was.  Really, they’re both beautiful in their own way.

Have I mentioned that it rains a lot in Scotland? But there is an upside, as you’ll see in the pictures below, taken on this rainy day – the hills come alive with waterfalls!

Below are two final pictures as we leave the Isle of Skye.  I hope you enjoyed this beautiful island as much as we did!

Next post – the Isle of Harris (and Harris Tweed).

Isle of Skye III – Return to the Quiraing

Because that bit of the Quiraing hike we took in the Skye I post was pretty fabulous (Isle of Skye I – The Trotternish Peninsula), I’m off to do the entire loop hike, expecting great things.  However, the trail has some pretty tough parts as we discovered in Round I, so Ginger is having none of this adventure and is opting for R&R.

Sgùrr nan Gillean in the morningThis morning I’m greeted by the Sgùrr nan Gillean peak looking quite spiffy.  It would be fun to climb that beast, but not this trip; I kinda doubt it’s a day hike, plus there would be mutiny.

The trip back to the Trotternish Peninsula is picturesque, with views of Raasay Island and behind it the mainland (below).

Here we are, and off I go.  You’ll perhaps recall this stunning scenery that one sees immediately at the trail start.  No long walk to the pretty parts here!

I want you to remember that long wall of cliff-face rock off to the left in the images above.  It’s impressive, but there is more to the story that I’ll come back to later.  The view ahead is gorgeous, but the view to the right is dazzling, as you may recall.

Those mountains are the Trotternish Ridge, receding into the distance.  OK, time for new territory!  I’m now where no Warner has gone before, making it to The Prison (many of the

rock formations have names).  Now over the ridge – and it’s beautiful.  That’s probably the

Outer Hebrides (islands) there in the distance, which we will be visiting.  The view on the left is all rock cliff, imposingly close, as shown below.  That thin vertical rock formation in

Narrow trail with crumbled edgethe first picture above is called “The Needle”.  As you can see in the other two pictures, we’re following the cliff wall to new mini-mountains up ahead.  The trail is easy enough but it’s narrow, and occasionally when the hillside is quite steep, the downhill edges of the trail become a bit unstable.  The trail shown in the left picture is less than a foot wide; walking across it is not unlike walking a gymnast’s balance beam, with consequences for slipping off.

The trail continues counter-clockwise around the rock cliff, and I’m in the shadow of that cliff surrounded by a jumbled but interesting terrain – and a nice spot for a lunch break.

The trial rounds the bend and starts steeply up – below is rock cliff, above is grassy slope.  Then, Voila! – I’m through a notch, and turning left I’m at the base of a huge ridge.

Really it’s more like a very long sloping plateau; this is where the trail starts to loop back.  The trail heads to the top of the cliff and continues along the cliff edge.  Before long I reach a spot where I can look down and see where I ate lunch.  From here, the combination of mountain, lake, sea, island and rock create views that are amazing, as shown in the first two pictures below.  They were taken while standing in the same spot, the second one

turned 90°.  Wish I had taken the 360!  Even better, the higher you hike up that sloping plateau, the more awesome the views become (last picture above).

Near the top of the sloping plateau, looking back downI love this picture!  The view is fabulous, but it also helps you appreciate the huge “sloping plateau” I’m on, which is very much like one to the far right in this picture, but much bigger.

A surprising observation is that, in spite of the plateau’s steep slope and the lack of rain today, the ground is a marsh, even near the top!  I’m trying to walk on clumps of grass to keep my feet dry.  If the ground is usually that wet, it might help explain the relatively low diversity of plant life.

View from the topI’ve finally reached the top; this high up, there’s a commanding view, shown on the left.

There’s not much of a trail anymore.  As I continue along the edge of the cliff, I’m surprised to discover that I’m not on the cliff I thought I was on.  In front of and some distance below me is a secluded green plateau that’s hidden from the first part of the trail by vertical rocky projections.  Those projections are the back side of the long rock cliff the trail followed at the beginning of this hike – it’s a cliff in front of the cliff I’m on!  The secluded plateau is called “The Table”, and I discover later that

“Quiraing” is from Gaelic (“cuith raing”) meaning “a pillared enclosure”.  It is that!  I’d like a better picture of the Table, but the ground slopes down ever more steeply toward the cliff edge.  So, discretion being the better part of valor, I’ll have to be satisfied with the pictures above.  Besides, Ginger would kill me if I slipped over the edge!

It’s pretty up here, as shown below.  The two hikers in the first picture below should

provide some perspective.  Distance and height are greater than they seem.

Finally, a last view from on high, looking down the Trotternish Ridge.  Impressive, isn’t it?  A spectacular finish to a spectacular hike.  That last picture shows the trailhead parking

lot at the far right.  Still a ways to go, bushwhacking down the mountainside.

Hope you enjoyed this long description of the Quiraing Loop.  As you can tell, I certainly did.

Next post: Isle of Skye IV, Strath and the Sleat Peninsula


Isle of Skye II – Fairy Glen, Dunvegan, and the Cuillin Hills


We’re off to explore some of the Dunvegan Peninsula, but first we’ll detour to the Fairy Glen that we’ve heard about.  As we find out, it’s not so easy to find those fairies!  We’ve driven Waterfall on adjacent hills near Fairy Glento a rural setting, and after traveling back and forth on a narrow winding road devoid of signs or parking lots, we decide that two cars parked at the edge of the road must mark the spot, and off we hike up some hills.  Behind us in the distance is a pretty impressive waterfall!

Scrambling up through ferns The Fairy Glen coming into sightand scrub trees, we begin to see a unique landscape of furrowed conical hills.  The glen itself is a small secluded area – fitting for small fairies, right?  It has a rocky pinnacle that will provide an overview, so up I go.  The scramble is a bit precarious, with edges on both sides, and Ginger decides to explore from below.

Well, climbing the pinnacle was fun, and the textured hills are interesting, but I don’t

see any fairies, alas.  Ginger is in the glen below, still looking for fairies while waiting for me to come down.

Based on what we saw in New Zealand, I believe the interesting texture on the hills is nothing more than years of sheep walking more or less horizontally across the hills.


Share the roadNow on to the Dunvegan Peninsula!  The roads here – like many of those on Skye – are one lane, making driving more interesting.  Usually the roads are paved, but not always.  And as shown in this image, I think “traffic jam” on this island means nose to butt sheep on the road.

The Dunvegan Peninsula doesn’t have the bigger hills, but it’s pretty enough, as shown below.  We’re off to hike to the Coral

Beaches.  That’s the name, but in reality this is just UK wistful thinking; coral isn’t quite right (have you heard of the coral reefs of Scotland?  No?  Truly, their closest thing here to a tropical fish is called a “herring”).  As you can see below, the beach is distinctively white,

and indeed attractive, but it’s actually composed of white shell and calcified seaweed.  We hike further to an overview of Lovaig Bay, but the most interesting thing is simply the abandoned wall shown below.  Whatever it contained is no longer there, but the wall itself

is beautifully constructed.  Returning home, we pass Dunvegan Castle, home of the MacLeod clan, and continuously occupied by them for 800 years.


On the road to the Cuillin HillsWe’ve relocated further south to be near the Cuillin Hills, shown here off in the distance.  Notice that these “hills” are on the big side.  They’re only about 3000 ft high, but they’re as craggy and jagged as any alpine range.  They dominate the skyline of most of Skye.  I’d say they’re at least mini-mountains, yes?  Can’t wait to go climb one.

We’re staying at the Sligachan Hotel, a 100-yr old hotel that is a haven for hikers.  Other than a very impressive view of some of the hills, there’s not much here – it’s pretty isolated.  Below are two views from outside the hotel – not too shabby.

Other views below.

Today we’re off to climb Coire Lagan, a hike from the south side of the Cuillin Hills.  Another view of Cuillin Hills“Coire” is a Scottish (Gaelic) name for a cirque, an amphitheater-like basin gouged from a mountain by glaciers – see the first picture of the Cuillins a couple pictures above – the Sgùrr nan Gillean peak.  To get to Coire Lagan we have to circle around the Cuillins, enjoying the views of the mini-mountains such as those shown here.

Our hike starts at a pretty point on a beach, the first picture below.  Actually, we’ve already

hiked up a pretty steep hill to get to this vantage point.  Where we’re going is Coire Lagan, the right picture (above); notice in that picture that the trail is tough – it’s uneven and laced with protruding rocks; you really have to watch where you put your feet.  Below are

looks back out to sea, one with Ginger chugging along.  The only sign of life, other than us, is a single sheep in this wide expanse.  The views keep getting better as the trail goes

unrelentingly up.  The hike approaching Coire Lagan is shown below.  Notice how quickly the sky changes from overcast to sunny!  This is Scotland, and the weather can turn on a

dime.  Also note there is a rock wall up ahead that’s going to have to be climbed!  The last picture above shows another sign of life, a deer.  Unlike the US, they are not prevalent here.

The trail has been a lot steeper than it looks in the images above; perhaps the first picture below gives a better perspective.  Now we have to scramble up that rock wall, and it too is

going to be a lot harder than it looks from that last picture above.  Ginger decides she will wait at the base and let me tell her about what I see (it hasn’t been an easy hike!).  I’m hoping there will be a small but beautiful lake at the cirque base, which is usually the case.  Water sluicing down says there should be.  And there is, although it’s quite small and a bit

disappointing.  Still, it’s pretty enough.  The view from up here is quite a window on the world.  It feels like being half-way up to the space station, even though I know I’m just a

few thousand feet high.  One last look, and then back we go.  Ginger is really tired, but is

still enjoying the view back down, with a setting sun.

The Cuillin Hills, driving home, are pretty in this light, as shown below.

This last shot is of Sgùrr nan Gillean back at our Sligachan Hotel.

Our next post will feature a return visit to the beautiful Quirang.  The little piece of it that we saw in the last post was just too outrageously gorgeous not to revisit for the full loop hike.