Sunday, 31 October 2004

Lundavra - 31/10/04

The morning after the day before. Aching muscles. Dragged myself out of bed just after 7, and set off on a walk just after 8.30. Headed up the hill, slowly, along the West Highland Way (WHW). The way is along a forestry track, with gentle inclines which unfortunately did tax the muscles in a painful reminder of yesterday's exertions. After about 1 km, you double back on yourself and the track runs out. A steep hill is climbed to lead onto a path through the forest, i.e. a good deal more narrow. It is a very dark forest, consisting of lork and pine. The lorks are losing their needles, as they do in the autumn. From a distance, the woods are mottled yellow in green. Very pretty. The WHW weaves in and out of forestry plantations, some of which are being felled. Had a break at 9.45 on a very large boulder near a stream. When heading off again was confronted by a golden labrador which decided to bark at me from the top of a flight of steps. Its owners were not far away. At just past 11 o'clock, I reached the road to Lundavra. I left the WHW to go south and east across Laimrig Mhor towards Kinlochleven. I had another break, then walked towards the loch at Lundavra, which is actually quite pretty. Sort of hovered around there for a few hours, then headed back to Fort William along 5 miles of road. Not particularly spectacular, but a pleasant glen. You finally top out at a viewpoint overlooking Fort William from the south, an unusual aspect. Town remains ugly LOL. Walked through its main street, then nipped into Nevisport for a Ben Nevis achievement certificate which I was left to fill out myself. Nice one. Also a visit to Tesco's to get supplies in for tomorrow's jaunt. More details tomorrow! Back to the hostel, but noticed on the way that the restaurant in Glen Nevis is now closed for winter. As is practically everything else. Encountered the two Danish lads, who had raced up and down Ben Nevis in just over 6 hours. Well, my total time on the hoof was 6h25, but I spent 45 minutes on the summit. The weather today was cloudy, with the cloudbase at 900m and the cloudroof at 1300m. I.e., the summit of Ben Nevis was reported to be in the clear. Curious.


Saturday, 30 October 2004


Woke up at 7.30, when it was still dark. Had breakfast with the morning star winking at me through the trees. Marched out the door at 8.30, it being fully light by that time. Quite a few people were heading out by that hour, and I left a route card at reception. My destination today:

BEN NEVIS 1,344m - 4,406 ft

Anticipated time of return: 6pm. Set out across the road, across the bridge and on to the track. This was innocently flat at first, but then started to climb. And never stopped climbing. Walked with one other hosteller. It was a demanding, exacting exercise. The ascent was continuous, and rapid. But it took its toll on legs, particularly the upper leg muscles. Speed is a killer in this sort of situation, so it was a case of proceeding slowly but persistently. You wind up the hillside to the junction with the path from the Visitor Centre, then climb up northeast until you reach the valley which leads to the Ben itself. You climb out of the corrie, until you crest out near Loch Meall an t-Suidhe, altitude 570m, 1,900ft. Things don't stop there, obviously. At a large wall, the tourist path from Fort William comes in, and it veers east again. The climb continues, across a stream and then into boulder land. At altitude 1,150m, 3,800ft, a patch of snow appeared along the trail. These quickly spread and multiplied, and eventually, near the summit, spread onto the path. It is very dangerous to walk on the snow without crampons on. It is not soft, fluffy snow; it is hard, frost-glazed and you'll slip if you're not careful. Follow the cairns up, and finally, by 11.40, the summit cairn and associated ruins hove into view. There are some truly hairraising precipices along the way, and one of them is topped by a cornice. Again, in poor visibility, if you stray onto those you fall a mere

600 metres - 2,000 ft

Similar cliffs and hazards abound round the summit area. Fantastic views, all along the view. There was a great atmosphere of camaraderie on the summit plateau; the most moving thing was the cairn, which was surrounded by dozens of memorial plaques, devoted to those who never came off the mountain. Some of them had teddies placed alongside; the most recent dated back to this July. There was the ruin of the old hotel, which existed here in the early 1900s. There is a shelter at the summit, and the summit trig point, placed about20 feet above the actual summit. Snows can be deep up here in winter. Chatting to a few fellow walkers, one of whom had done the walk in 2h36; I had covered it in 3h15. He intended to do the Three Peaks Challenge - Ben Nevis, Scafell Pike and Snowdon within 24 hours. Had a cup of soup and a roll on the summit, as well as some tea. Then the weather began to change. Cloud rolled in, a bank overtopping the summit by about 200m, 700 ft, wreathing everything in mist. Decided to start the descent at 12.30. Got into trouble immediately, because of the mist. Didn't see the bloody route, set out as it is in stone and snow. Waited till I heard voices coming up the mountain, and followed their route. Go wrong on the summit, and you'll fall deep. Met loads of people coming up. I walked out of the mist at about 1pm, then merrily walked on through the empire of stone. Greeted all oncomers and advised some of them on distance yet to be covered. They were all covered in sweat, as I myself had been. Drank some water out of streams, which you shouldn't really do. Returned to the lochan at about 2.30, and met my final oncomer below that at 2.40. She walked very slowly, and rested every 50-100 yards. The lady would not make it to the summit and back before nightfall; at time of typing I'm still worried, but nothing I can do. A gruelling hour descending the path to the hostel brought me back there at 3.40, 3 hours and 10 minutes after leaving the top. Oh dear, how knackered can you be. And how much good a shower can do LOL.

Entry updated to 5pm

Supper consisted of my old standby "carrots & tatties", after I had washed all the sweaty togs I'd worn going up the hill. Caught up with a few friends on-line; those I spoke to know who it was. Too knackered to go to the Hallowe'en party down the road.


Friday, 29 October 2004

Fort William and Glen Nevis - 29/10/04

Left Sheena's at 10 o'clock, not quite sure what I'd be doing today. The preceding evening had been marked by people coming in late from the 23.30 train, who were going on to Knoydart in the morning. Another gentleman, dressed as a performing musician (classical) was getting on the 10.30 train to Glasgow. I decided to get on the same train, but to go only as far as Fort William. On arrival there, at 11.50, I proceeded to Nevisport. No rucksacks that took my fancy, or fitted my particular anatomy of shoulders. Put one on and went 'ouch' straightaway. Pity. Ellis Brigham, across the way, had lots of rucksacks, but none jumped off the wall at me. So, went into town, looking at outdoor shops, but they made me look at them with a warped smile. Dived into Tesco's for the shopping, then had the temerity to take a taxi to the Youth Hostel, which is 2.5 miles away in Glen Nevis. £4.70 and 10 minutes later, it delivered me there, and yes, there was space. As per normal, I didn't book anything in advance. The only thing I had booked in advance in recent days were Sheena's before going to Rum and Kinloch Castle. Had to hobble back into town for a disposable camera, then proceeded to make my supper. Chili and peaches.


Thursday, 28 October 2004

Back to mainland - 28/10/04

The drizzly weather matched my mood on departure. Sort of mooched around the castle and the village until it was time for the guided tour of the castle at 12.30. This was an eye-opener, particularly with the background info. The abiding images will be the orchestrion, the monkey-eating eagle and (of course) the Steinway. Had to dash to the ferry after the tour, and the Ullin Staffa left at 2.20. One child nearly got run over by a lorry, as it was about to reverse onto the freight ferry Raasay. Plenty of kids about on the castle tour as well. The return journey to the mainland was boring, bumpy and long. I once again subjected myself to Sheena's, and had dinner in the Clachain Inn. Knew this joint from years ago, and it was recently done up. Only to be torched days before its opening.


Wednesday, 27 October 2004

Rum - 27/10/04

I have decided to dub Kinloch Castle: Jamaica Inn. It's on Rum (yep) and it's a hostelry. C?

Set off at 9.30 for Guirdil in moderate rainfall. After 50 minutes I reached Malcolm's Bridge under Ard Nev and branched off in the general direction of Fionchra, the green hill. The path was boggy and some of the streams difficult to cross. Gaining altitude all the way, I found myself under Fionchra at 11.30 and began the sweeping curve up to the pass under Orval. Reached the top, at altitude 375m (1,250 ft) at midday and could see the Long Loch and the summits of the Rum Cuillins. The rain had stopped at 11am. The cold easterly still continued though. On the far side of the pass was the rocky face of Orval, the green mass of Bloodstone Hill (380m) and Canna framed between Bloodstone and Fionchra. Went down into the valley, not losing much altitude at first. It was fairly easy, mainly level grassland. The descent towards Guirdil did get steeper during the 40 minutes down, but finally stopped on a ridge, 11 metres above Guirdil Bothy and the beach. The ruins of the settlement and the lazybeds were still perfectly plain to see, even 180 years after they had been cleared of people. Only the stags now roam here, and the odd hiker. Went into the bothy and promptly wrecked the opening mechanism of the door to the dorm. Set off to Glen Shellesder at 1.20, but on arrival there, half an hour later, got into big problems with the burn. This river was deep, fast, broad and bereft of suitable crossingplaces. It was a simple case of taking boots and socks off and wading across. Excruciatingly cold once you're across, during the crossing you have to watch the stones on the bottom; they're either sharp or slippery. Or both. And it gets ever so cold in there... Finally continued on my way at 2.40, for a most unpleasant and uninspiring bogslog. Met some stalkers who weren't having fun either. Eventually sloshed my way down the hill to Kilmory Glen at 4.40, to reach Kinloch an hour later. In the shop it was not lively. Joined the other guests for dinner at 7pm, which was very good. Tom Keane showed me round some of the decorative rooms in the castle and allowed me a tinkle on the Steinway, 100 years old and still in tune - was done 3 weeks before.


Tuesday, 26 October 2004

Rum - 26/10/04

Woke up to the sound of rain. How odd. Annual rainfall total at Kinloch 2,500 mm, 100 inches. London, for the sake of comparison, has 800 mm (32"). Looked out of topfloor window at 8.30 to see the top of a waterspout. By the time I got my camera out it had faded. After breakfast and the preparations for lunch, I set out for Harris at 9.45. This involves an 8 mile road walk. As mentioned before, the roads on Rum are atrocious. First you go to the Kilmory turn, then past Salisbury's dam. This is a failed attempt by the then owner Lord Salisbury to dam the waters of Kinloch River in 1876. When the dam broke, it caused a massive flood in Kinloch Glen. In the distance to the west Fionchra and Orval rear up, the former wreathed by a rainbow. Ard Nev towers over the road just to the west. Barkeval stands to the east, followed by Glen Harris. Crowned by - clouds. In clear weather there would be the Rum Cuillins, with tops rising to 823 m, 2864 ft. Today's weather is mildly showery. See them rolling past all around, but only get 1 or 2 myself. Beautiful view over Harris to Coll and Tiree, and the Treshnish Isles as you descend. The roads deteriorates from atrocious to abominable but I manage to blast along at a steady 4 kph (2.5 mph). Find a jeep, surrounded by mating bovines, containing Tom Keane and another chap surveying the road. Tom is to assess the amount of money needed to improve amenities on Rum. It will cost millions to upgrade the road. In the days of yore, a car was raced from Kinloch to Harris in 8 minutes... Nowadays it takes more like 60 minutes. Reached Harris at 1pm. Thoughts of continuing to Papadil are thwarted by distance, terrain and diminishing daylight hours. Looked at the mausoleum. The western lintel is in danger of collapse, but a company has been found to amend this. The only thing is, they'll have to helicopter their gear to Harris, because of the state of the road. Brief moment of silence to remember those at rest here. The three members of the Bullough family who built Kinloch Castle. Gorgeous location. Temperature is 10C, according to thermometer outside the non-bothy. It's actually the HQ for the goat project. Found the goats alright, long-horned ones. Back up that bloody hill again, then plain sailing all the way to the junction. Found the path to Bloodstone Hill at Malcolm's Bridge. Reached the Kilmory fork at 4pm, and decided I had time in hand to go there. Not quite, as it turned out. The road there wasextremely wet, at times I needed a boat. Met the treehuggers, who recommended I go into the first wood along the road to view the waterfall. Wood is wild, wet and beautiful. Saw plenty of deer, in between dodging puddles. Stopped at 5pm, about 3/4 mile short of the beach. Sunset is at 6, and I still have to walk a mere 6-7 km back to Kinloch. This took me the anticipated 90 minutes, and I just beat the darkness to it. Although I had planned a break at the roadfork, I found myself in a stride and decided to press on. The moon rose in front of me and gleamed beautifully on the Kinloch River, when I reached there at 6.30. It was dark. Dived into the shop, which was full of drinkers. Had a coke, then bought me baked beans & fruit cocktail stand-by for supper. Total distance walked today: 34 km (21 miles) a new record.


Monday, 25 October 2004

Rum - 25/10/04

After a quick breakfast of sandwiches and tea went off to the Co-op for a 3 day foodshop. More than 10 quid's worth in 3 bags. At 9.30 to Calmac for the ticket and embarkation. One lady wanted to go to Skye but had to be told 4 times over that there was NO sailing at 10am because of the winter schedule. Two boats lay ready for the Small Isles. The Raasay, the freightboat and the Staffa Ullin, well known from my previous return from Eigg. The latter was setting off first, heading for Eigg with 24 people on board, including my host from Eigg. The Raasay cast off at 10.30, carrying a posh car belonging to a post-office inspector, and some cargo for Eigg and Rum. And the passengers for Rum. These included 3 tree-experts who were going to look at all the forests (erm which ones?) on Rum and at what grows on the trees. Another chap was a Raasay resident who had seen me flapping about on various ferries around Skye during the past few weeks that I'd been in the area. Left Mallaig at 10.30 to reach Eigg 90 minutes later. The crossing was choppy. Went ashore for a wee minute at Eigg, to find the teashop jampacked, the craftshop closed and the store having nothing I particularly desired. Spoke briefly to Colin Carr at the pierhead, before being called ashore by the crew of the Raasay. The journey to Rum was sunny, but a lot of spray came over. Reached the island at 1.30pm. Left bags on trailer to be taken down to the castle. Walked down a track paved with gravel, through a wooded avenue. Past the White House, the estate office. Went inside with the treehuggers, then on to the castle. Nothing was ready, had to wait around for a bit. Finally, we were allocated rooms, me being in number 4, on the top floor. The castle defies description in these pages, check out Or have a look yourself, as from Easter 2005. The castle closes at the end of this week. Went for a walk at 3.30 up Kinloch Glen just beyond the roadfork for Kilmory / Harris. The road is atrocious. You can see Ard Nev and Orval in the southwest, the path to Guirdil over the hills. There is this gate along the way that you have to pass through, which is difficult if you're fat. I'm not, but can imagine the more corpulent having to open the roadgate. Cooked my own dinner (cauliflower and tatties) at 7pm. Had great fun using up all the bits and pieces left behind by previous guests. Chatted to Tom Keane from Kinloch CastleFriends Association, the body looking after the upkeep of the place.


Sunday, 24 October 2004

Mallaig - 24/10/04

Got up at 9 and went out for a walk at 10. Headed out to Glasnacardoch. The weather was grey and cold, with the last vestiges of brightness fast disappearing to the west. The rain finally caught up with me at midday, and lasted for 2 1/2 hours. Walked to Loch Nostarie and a little beyond. It is very wet on the ground. Had wanted to go to Loch Eireagoraidh, but met the man with the hammer. The wind was a bitingly cold easterly. Returned to Mallaig at 3pm. Found I needed new waterproof trousers and bought them in a local store. Went for a lasagna at the Marine Hotel at 6.30.


Saturday, 23 October 2004

Mallaig - 23/10/04

In the morning, Amy and me went on a brief stroll towards the Quiraing, then jumped on the 13.23 bus to Portree. We drank a glass of pretty foul beer (McNab, avoid it), then I sent Amy on her bus to Inverness, and I went on my coach to Armadale. Ran into her bus again just outside Sligachan where it had broken down. Gearbox had crashed and it would not budge an inch. There was also a fire. Nice and sunny at Broadford. After waiting for 30 minutes at Armadale, Coruisk took me over the water to Mallaig. At Sheena's Backpackers, with which I wasn't really impressed. Noisy, and a lack of space. Ok, it'll do. Had dinner at the Marine Hotel. There was a tremendous racket in the street outside after midnight, drunken yobs. The police silenced them at 2 am.


Friday, 22 October 2004

Trotternish - Floddigarry 22/10/04

Finally booked out of Broadford after 10 days. Caught the 9.50 bus to Portree in iffish weather - showers. Went to the library to try uploading pictures, but the process took absolutely ages, and in the end could only manage 4, of which one was a dud. Next stop the post office to mail off some maps. I may need them if I decide to stay in Skye. After a lightning visit to Safeways, I jumped on the 12.26 to Flodigarry, which arrived there at 13.03. Gavin welcomed me to a very nice hostel, particularly the kitchen deserves commendation. Well equipped and bright. There was also a piano, but blimey was that a wreck. Several notes well out of tune and the E-flat below central-C sounded like a combined E-flat/D. Aargh. At 13.20 I set off for the 3 mile walk to the Quiraing. This walk gets more complicated the closer you get to the escarpment. At The Prison, you have to descend a scree-slope, and basically you cannot afford a mistake in your orienteering. You'll end up on an impossibly steep slope, with no safe means of descent or ascent. There is also the stream, which can only be crossed by using the steps gouged out by previous walkers. At 15.45 I stood at the top of the hairpins, and after a short break proceeded down the 1:7 slope. Two cemeteries later, I turned left at Brogaig and subjected myself to a 2.5mile roadslog. In the evening, an Aussie lady, Amy, joined me at the hostel, and we chatted for a bit, also in the nearby hotel bar. This can be reached along a poorly lit path, which is basically a load of gravel dumped on top of a layer of thick plastic. Oh dear.


Thursday, 21 October 2004

Snakes and ladders - 21/10/04

Today was a raindrenched day. Yesterday's snow was all but washed off the summits by the time I went out, in full wet weather gear. The morning I spent in Broadford, shops etcetera. Needed to get some maps and info, and reported that lame sheep to the police. Then hobbled down the road to the Serpentarium. On arrival, a lady gave me a snake to handle, a royal python by the name of Goldie. She was about 3 feet long, but when placed in my hands felt neither cold nor clammy. She was beautifully marked, and her little tongue was going hither and thither. Snakes smell through their tongues. They have infrared sensors at the front of their snouts; they are deaf and poorly sighted. This one took a liking to the water droplets on my coat and gradually crept up my jacket to head towards my neck. Upon which, the lady gently took her off me. I don't mind snakes, I find them fascinating. The creatures in there include iguanas, tortoises and frogs. They are mostly confiscated at UK airports when someone tries to smuggle them into the country from exotic places. Either as an order from an individual or for some strange purpose. The Serpentarium patches them up, ready for someone really dedicated to look after them. After a cup of coffee and a piece of cake, I headed off to the library for some internet access, until the 12.20 bus materialised that would take me to Kyleakin. The driver was on his break, but didn't mind if I sat in the bus. It was pouring with rain, and blowing hard. At Kyleakin, I changed for the Kyle bus, which was having fun on the bridge. On the other side, I dropped my pictures off for processing at the chemists. In the meantime, the bus took me 9 miles down the road to Eilean Donan Castle. Moderately interesting, a good stopgap for a rainy day. Busdriver told me to wait half an hour on the way back, because of some fault on the vehicle. Picked the pictures up in Kyle, which had been put on CD-ROM for me, and headed across to Kyleakin again. Where I allowed the Uig bus to drive off without me, as I was under the impression that there would be a Rapsons bus going to Broadford at 16.10. No such luck. No bus. So I had to order a taxi. £8 is still £8, and that's the second time that the blinking bus company has cost me money because of their crappy time tabling. I know it's Skye time, but... ah, what, I should stop moaning.

Wednesday, 20 October 2004

Glen Sligachan - 20/10/04

So I decided to jump on the bus to Sligachan and view the majestic Cuillins from close up. On the way there, I snapped Glamaig (the saddle-backed mountain above Sconser) and a few other white-capped beauties. Arrived at Sligachan at 10.15, and took myself off on the path towards Camasunary. Camus Fhionairigh actually means the Beach of Fiona's Summer Meadow. And it is a meadow. However, first I had to negotiate the path. Had a spot of bother keeping my eyes on it, because I couldn't take my eyes of Sgurr nan Gillean, my all-time Cuillin favourite. Completely out of bounds to someone like me suffering from vertigo on a pinnacle like that, but I can gawp. Glamaig slipped behind me and the bulk of Marsco slowly became clearer against the low sun. A large river had to be forded, but managed it with two ladies who were going in the same direction. The piece de resistance came at 12.30, when it took me a mere 40 minutes to cross the one bloody river. Had to take my boots off and wade across. Excruciatingly cold. Danced on the grass with the pain of the cold. AAAAAAAGH!!!!! By then, the view had changed to Harta and Lota Corry and a side-on view of Pinnacle Ridge on Sgurr nan Gillean. The middle section of the Cuillin Ridge also hove into view. Was overtaken at lunch by a couple heading down towards Elgol. Then the journey went around Ruadh Stac and Sgurr Hain, and the Cuillins were lost from sight for me, for a little while. Bla Bheinn towered high above me, also covered with a layer of snow. The fun stopped when my route had to go up a waterlogged hillside to An t-Sron and around the base of Bla Bheinn. Threading a route took me a little while, but finally reached the Camas unary path at 3pm. Spent about an hour gazing at the view, then toddled across to Kilmarie. Spoke to a group of Australians who were down for the day and had walked to the viewpoint. The path is quite rough and wet, but the managed surprisingly well. After they left in their own minibus, I walked down the road towards Torrin again, and once again came across that lame sheep. Decided to report it, because it had been out for at least 4 days like that, and that's cruelty. Back in Broadford at 6pm.


Winter Wonderland - 20/10/04

Woke up this morning to find Beinn na Caillich wearing a white hat. It had snowed at a level of 500 metres (1700 ft) and above. Not just here, but everywhere within sight. Fantastic.

Tuesday, 19 October 2004

Pouring rain - 19/10/04

Today started so well, weatherwise. Me off to Portree at 10 o'clock (another dud ticket, silly me) to buy a mapcase and some new mitts. Then picked up my Skye Rover (I thought) but the driver said that the Nevis 'n' Coe was invalid. So a separate ticket to Luib was required. It was meanwhile pissing down with rain on the journey through Varragill Glen, past Sligachan and Ainort. Got off at Luib and went down the 'village' high street (about 5 houses) and on to the ancient Broadford to Portree road. It was bucketing down. As in, huge drops, continuous. Driven on by an ice cold wind, it was a case of head down and keep on trudging. Lots of water on the path. The trail leads on the other side of a hill compared to the current A87, but at An Dunan, the path comes within sight of Loch na Cairidh (the channel between Scalpay and Skye). I sat down at 1 o'clock with the intention of eating my sandwiches, but they practically washed away in the driving rain. So I went on my way again, decided not to pursue my initial plan to go to Torrin over the mountains. Instead, I carried on straight ahead to Strollamus and the A87. From Strollamus it was a case of road hogging. Fortunately, there was not much traffic about. At around 3 o'clock, I reached Broadford. First I went to the supermarket, then to the library for Internet access. It continued to pour with rain.

Monday, 18 October 2004

Raasay revisited - 18/10/04

Another trip down the A87 to Sconser, and a busdriver who (or so I discovered 7 hours late) sold me a dud ticket. Nevis 'n' Coe is nowhere near Skye. Took the ferry to Raasay at 10.45, and once again arrived at the Suisinish Terminal. This time round after my visit to the shop, I went to see Raasay House. Had a cup of coffee there. The place had been well refurbished since last visit in 1995, and looked nice. If a bit deserted. The history of the house was recorded there, but not in the way I was used to. Dr Green, locally infamous for blocking all progress on Raasay between 1967 and 1979 was 'exonerated' in the info-folder there. Have to put that to the local press, because I've never read that version before. They blame it all on obstruction by the Highlands & Islands Development Board. Anyway, after the cuppa, I wound my way up the island's main road as far as Glame. This included a lunchbreak, with completely inedible rolls, soggy and all, at the path to Dun Ca'an. Could see Portree from there across the water. Had thought to go up the hill again, but didn't fancy another bog trudge. So on return from Glame, I also considered hobbling the mile down to Inver, through a field of frisky rams. Raring for the rear, if you like. Didn't do it, because of time constraints. Spent some time mooching around Raasay Hostel, which is in a poor state. It was still the same as it was left in October 2003, when it closed, not to be reopened this year. Bike shed with two bikes in it, open to the elements. An old bathtub, that was still there from 1995. Building was locked, but Nil Mutandur. Nothing had changed. Pity it was closed for the season and the year. Saw the visitors' book, dates 2000, 2001, 2002 and 2003. Not 2004. Lost in memories, I ambled on, only to be offered a lift. Nah, plenty of time. I'll be fine, even if it's raining. Proceeded down the road, and meandered my way round to the mining track, in the vain hope of finding my lost mitten. It is so cold. The ferry arrived at 4.25, but didn't leave till 5.00. And once on the other side, I still had to wait more than 30 mins for the bus. Oh well, Raasay is pretty. Back at the hostel, I played a game or two with a family with two young teenagers; June (mum), Davie and Hannah. Beat Davie at chess, but that wasn't quite an equal context. He was concentrating more on the TV than on the board, so he lost resoundingly.

Sunday, 17 October 2004

Broadford on Sunday - 17/10/04

Today is Sunday, so nothing moves in terms of public transport. Not until after midday at any rate, when going elsewhere in Skye. So I took myself off on a little romp around Broadford, commencing at the hostel itself and going north, towards the pier and the Corry estate, rather than the customary south, towards the main road and the village. With a bit of weaving about, you arrive at Irishman's Point fairly shortly, upon which you turn left into the wilderness. The following 2 miles are just sheer purgatory. There is hardly if any path, it leads to dead ends (such as on the edge of cliffs, in secluded bays without other exit etc) or through humungous bogs. It is extremely wet everywhere. I struggle through the tangle of brambles, spaghnum mosses, lork trees and dead alders and taking a full 2 hours to cover the two miles. The worst section was where I had to do a jungle type traverse of the alder undergrowth coupled with one of the lork trees in the background. Finally achieved the end of the trek at 11.45, at the end of a forestry track. Meanwhile, Scalpay Island (inaccessible as privately owned) and Guillamon Island were in plain view. Scalpay has high hills, up to 400m (1400 ft). It is also fairly large, some 4 miles across. Went up the forestry track to the cemetery, then along the old A850 (not the present day A87) east in the general direction of Broadford. There is no traffic on the A850, it has been locked off after the A87 opened. Went south at the Coire Chatachan turning, and spent about 2 hours snoozing in a hollow at the roadside. Only disturbed by sheep, drizzle and passing cars. Grand total of the latter: 5. Beinn na Caillich, which towers above, is wreathed in clouds, the cause of the drizzle. By 2.30, I go on my slow way again, down the Marble Line path. At its terminus, where the path towards Boreraig goes on, I have another break, then return to Broadford. In time to beat the shop closing time of 5pm.

Saturday, 16 October 2004

Raasay - 16/10/04

This was the day that all the timetables didn't work my way. Had thought to go to the Quiraing, North East Skye. So, there I was, on the 9.50 bus to Portree, only to discover that I would not be able to come back the same day. A quick rethink was in order, and I asked the driver to let me off at Sconser. The Raasay ferry was in any moment, and it duly materialized around the corner. Fifteen minutes later, we docked at Suisinish Terminal, and I marched off towards Inverarish village. 25 mins later, I went into the post office, which no longer stocked OS maps for the island. A little walks leaflet was all they had. So I took that and went off, in the general direction of Dun Caan, the highest hill at 443m. There are nearly 15 different walks on Raasay, and I followed walk B. First along the Burma Road (history eludes me), then up the hill and along an extremely MUDDY track. When I say muddy, it was just that. Remember that old ditty?

"Mud, mud, glorious mud - nothing quite like it for chilling the blood"

"So follow me, follow, down to the wallow - and there we shall wallow in glorious mud"

Leaving that to one side, the track up was a bit dreary. Until the moment the craggy summit of Dun Caan pops up above the moors. Once the path peters out, you've got to find your own way using the cairns. I took a wrong turning, but still managed to get alongside a loch west of the hill. Quite some altitude above the loch, but due to time constraints I couldn't climb Dun Caan itself. At 1.30 I had to turn back in order not to miss the 3.45 ferry and the connecting bus to Broadford. The return section was still boggy, and I managed to be brought to my knees by it. Once at the bottom, I resumed the Burma Road in the direction of the old iron mine. Several concrete structures remain standing, as does the Miners' Trail out of Inverarish Village. From a certain point, you can go straight as a line to the ferry terminal. Got there at 3.30, nicely on time.The concrete structures pop up every now and again.

Ferry left late because the crew had to clean the slipway with pressure-hoses, and it was bloody low tide. So I duly missed my bus at Sconser, which necessitated a taxi. Directory Enquiries gave me a useless number, it was an office number, which wouldn't be manned till Monday. I walked the 3.5 miles to Sligachan along the A87 main road, a stretch I'd rather forget. On arrival at the hotel, at 5.10, I rang the taxi which would have to come out of Portree. Whilst waiting I went into the packed bar for a drink. I wouldn't like to stay at Sligachan Hotel. Place is a bit ramshackle. A people carrier drew up at 6 pm. Another bloke with a bike also had to go to Broadford, as he had 'cycled' from Elgol to Sligachan. I put quotes round that, as I happen to know that there are several sections where you just cannot cycle. Anyway, got to Broadford and had to pay handsomely for the pleasure.

Friday, 15 October 2004

Strathaird - 15/10/04

This morning, I took the 9.36 bus down to Elgol (Ealaghol in Gaelic). It took its time, arriving at Elgol Pier at 10.15. Once you reach Elgol, it's a very steep descent from 110 to 0 metres. Not much to be seen there, apart from a stunning aspect of the Cuillins. Unfortunately, I haven't got the pictures available. Sgurr na Stri stands out between Camasunary and Coruisk, and the teeth of the Cuillins rearing up to the left. Rubha'n Dunain tapers out just beyond Soay. I climbed up the hill until the sign that said Camasunary 2 1/2 miles, Sligachan 10 1/2 miles. I joined that path and commenced an airy cliffwalk, and if I say airy, it was. It quickly became fairly rough, and required a bit of scrambling. Not to mention that point where it ended at the edge of a 100 ft precipice. Yikes! I'd missed a turning that was not signposted. Half way up the coast a glen comes up from the hinterland, and it takes a bit of mapreading to find the onward route. It remained a fairly tough undertaking, and was knackered by the time I collapsed on the beach at Camasunary. Lots of flotsam and jetsam up there. There is also a farmhouse and at the far end, right underneath Sgurr na Stri a bothy. This contained two sleeping platforms, one of them actually occupied (this was 1.30pm) by a sleeping person. Lots of candles in bottles. A shelf contained spare food. This bothy was fairly tidy. I've heard stories of people abusing these remote hide-outs for lonely booze-ups. I dabbled about Camasunary for a bit, then went up the hill and slowly, very slowly, made my way to Robostan, where I'd be waiting for a bus back to Broadford. I arrived there at 4.40, bus not being due until 5.30. So I decided to walk for a bit, rather than stand there and freeze. Half a mile beyond Strathaird House I came upon a lame sheep. It didn't run but merely hobbled painfully. When I stopped a little distance behind it in order not to scare it into hobbling into the road, into the path of an oncoming car, it looked round at me. Mutely saying "Now then, are you really going to kill me?". But I crossed to the other side of the road and it hobbled away. A few miles further, in sight of Torrin and the Red Hills, a German couple pulled over and offered me a lift to Broadford. Which I accepted. They were due to travel back to Karlsruhe the next day, but would fly to Frankfurt Hahn. Some 80 miles away from Frankfurt. Arrived back in Broadford at 5.45.

Thursday, 14 October 2004

Hillwalking - 14/10/04

So I thought I'd go hillwalking today. Beinn na Caillich is the nearest hill of some proportions, couple of miles west of here, altitude 732m. It features quite prominently above Broadford, you can't miss it. Unless it's wreathed in cloud of course. Early in the morning, wisps of cloud were drifting along its summit, at an altitude of 500-700 metres. At 9.15, I set off along the Portree Road, and after 2km branched off into the road to Old Corry, or more correctly: to Coire Chat-achan, the Valley of the Wild Cats. No wild cats there, they were hunted to extinction long ago. I followed the instructions from the guidebook to the letter, and went wildly wrong on them. I went past the farm and then across a stream, along the wall and subsequently up the slopes. Only to find, in retrospect, I'd gone up the slope at the wrong blinking stream. Impossible and kneewrenching to climb up, tussocks of heather, oh my god. By the time I reached 300m I was knackered. It was 1pm and I was never going to make it to the summit and back before nightfall. Remember, that is only just after 6 at the moment. So I turned back, and swore the devils out of hell when I came upon a perfectly decent path, along the banks of another stream. Oh hell. Never mind, returned to the farm and dawdled down the Marble Line Path. I took my time getting back to Broadford, returning just before 5. All in all, not a very successful day. On a more positive note, the weather was glorious. Once again, Skye defied the forecast. The new gear? Hmpf, still need an extra fleece I reckon.

Wednesday, 13 October 2004

Shopping in Fort William - 13/10/04

Today off to Fort William on the 8.40 bus to buy some outdoor stuff. It's a nice run, taking 2 hours and 20 minutes. The weather on the mainland is just plain awful. Low cloud, sometimes descending to roadlevel, incidental drizzle. People getting on at Kyle, Balmacara and someone got off half-way down Loch Cluanie to walk to Glen Affric. 15.5 miles in this weather? The driver was distracted by his granddaughter who was sticking piccies in a book. Not a good idea at 55 mph. Arrival in Fort William at 11.05, upon which I headed straight for Nevisport. This outdoor shop sold me a new multilayered coat, a new set of the boots that I've worn to threads over the last 2 months and a thin fleece. The idea is to create layers to "wick the moisture away from the skin". Unquote. We shall see what that actually means in practice when I go out into those hills tomorrow. After a few expensive buns in the cafe and a little book about walks in Skye I sort of doddled off to the busstation. The 14.00 bus back to Skye was late, because it had broken down at Tyndrum. A quick turn around ensured we weren't much more than 15 minutes late in leaving. Although the cloud had lifted somewhat, the weather remained dreich. Two ladies told each other they could only do "it" after a pint or two. God. Thought it came natural with the right encouragement. Ahem. An elderly gent coming on at Invergarry spoke to the driver right the way to Skye, although he shouldn't have. All about how the Germans never learned after WW2, the beautiful landscape (can't fault that) etc etc. Arrival back in Skye just after 4. A lady frantically waved her arm at the Kylerhea turning, but just a tad late. She had to run 200 yards in the verge of the road, 'cause the driver couldn't stop on a dime at 55 mph. She needed to go to Broadford. Although I'd seen her in the hostel the day before, she still got off early. Later on, I spoke to her and she had a pretty severe defect in her eyesight. Hadn't stopped her bagging all the Munro's and a lot of Corbetts. For the uninitiated, Munro's are mountains over 3,000 feet (914 m), Corbetts are over 2,500 (760m) I think. An Australian lady was driving around Skye and wanted to see what it was all about. So, I told her where she could go and have a good look. And there was the 6th form class out of Leeds who were exploring Skye for a project. Tomorrow they'd go to Edinbane and interview local people about a controversial windfarm project. I know a little about it, so I told them what I knew.

Tuesday, 12 October 2004

Leaving Eigg - 12/10/04

Well, all good things must come to an end. On Tuesday morning, I moodily packed up my things. Unfortunately, when I came down to Kildonan, my backpack was transported to the house for me. So its weight came as an unpleasant surprise. Said goodbye to my hosts and lumbered across to the pier in 60 minutes. That is actually normal time, especially bearing in mind I diverted through the Lodge Gardens. On arrival at the pier, the Eiggach were in great confusion regarding The Boat. It was very well known that the regular one, Lochnevis, was away for its refit. The Raasay, a very much smaller craft, was taking its place for cargo. At midday, a mast appeared above the pier and everybody streamed down to have a look. No passengers. At 1pm, another cry "the boat is here" sent me scurrying down the pier again. This time round, it was for passengers. I could see nothing of it until I got to the point where John Cormack was standing. "Erm, John?" I went. "Did they wash Lochnevis at too high a temperature?" The Ullin Staffa was really wee. But a lot faster than Lochnevis. It covered the distance to Mallaig in 60 minutes, where the regular ferry takes 80 minutes. On departure from the pier at 1.15, the sea was choppy, and we took over a fair amount of seaspray. Some of the kids turned green and were sent out on deck for some fresh air. One young girl was beyond help and proceeded to spew up over the side. Nice. The adults stuck to their devices for keeping seasickness at bay. Arrival in Mallaig at 2.15, and we had to clamber onto the loading ramp for Coruisk, the Skye ferry. This materialized at 2.40. Coruisk was taken into service on 14/8/03, only to be taken out again before the month was out because she had lost a propellor on entering Mallaig Harbour. I had to wait for a bus for 2 hours at Armadale. I walked down the road to Aird for a bit, sat on a grassy knoll and had a coke in the local pub. On return at the main road, I stood waiting for the 5.35 from Armadale Pier, when one of the shopkeepers advised me that "this was not a stop". No. But the bus would stop there anyhow. However, I didn't want a row, so I dutifully toddled off to the Pier and boarded the number 52 for Broadford at 5.35..


Monday, 11 October 2004

Eigg - 11/10/04

went out earlier than before, and tootled across to the Pier to start with. From Kildonan Farm House, you can actually short cut to the Pier via the cliffs. Of course, you must cross some fences :-\, but they're there to keep the sheep in. I finally reached the point opposite the pier, and came across Lady Runciman's Bathing Hut. No longer up to spec, as several planks were missing from the walls, and Lady R would have been severely embarrassed changing in there. Whether she actually did go for a dip in the days of yore, history does not recall. My attempts to cross Pier Bay were thwarted by deep and wide streams. And the sea of course. I had to wind my way around the obstacles and found myself outside Shore Cottage. No problem, I just walked round to An Laimhrig. There I partook of a cup of Nescafe, 50p, and chatted to a yachtswoman who was over with her family out of Ayrshire. Later that day she would sail, with hubby, young boy and dog, to Soay, 15 miles away under the Skye Cuillins. Apparently 2 people live there, but the Arisaig boat Sheerwater delivers their mail. Why the Western Isles (Mallaig based) or even the Bella Jane (Elgol, right opposite Soay) cannot do that, nobody knows. Later on that day, the golden labrador would bite Diesel, the Carr's dog, for mischievous behaviour. The lab behaved impeccably. Diesel, a lil monster, did not. I marched up Pier Hill, past Galmisdale and up the path to the Scurr. That is well eroded and little better than a mudchute. I did comment on that to some people, but did not receive much of an active reply. Once underneath the Scurr ridge, I diverted to Lochan nam Ban Mora (Loch of the Big Women) to find the bench, which had been placed there earlier in the year in memory of Brigg Lancaster. He had died early in 2003 in a road traffic accident on the island, when his jeep left the road at Sandavore, and it rolled over. As this happened at 2am, he was not found for another 8 hours. Although he was still alive when he was found, he succumbed to his injuries. Brigg, aged 31, left a wife and a one-year old girl. The plaque on the bench simply reads 'honesty'. A bottle of whisky is commonly left at the bench, for people to have a dram. Unfortunately, the Famous Grouse had been smashed. I just sat there in complete silence, looking over the water of the lochan. Later on, I went on my way. I met Brigg only once, before he got married to Tasha Fyffe. He seemed a decent enoughperson.

Although I have visited Eigg for 15 years, I still managed to get lost amongst the lochans. I had to get the map out (disgrace) to remind myself of their location. Next stop: Lochan Nighean Dougaill, Lochan of Dougal's Daughter. Her lungs were alleged found floating on the surface of the lochan after she was abducted from the nearby township of Grulin. The abductor was a kelpie, one of the good people, of whom we cannot speak. Grulin was cleared in the 1850s, and now only ruins and the bothy remain. With some difficulty, I managed to wind my way around to the Twin Lochs, at an altitude close to 1,000 feet. Corra-bheinn towered some distance to the northeast, above its own lochan, which I could not see. I had to stay that high because of Glen Charadail, which cuts deeply into the hills here. The Twin Lochs can be crossed at midpoint, but be prepared for wet feet. The traverse to the western end of Lochan Beinn Tighe is a nightmare, 2ft high tussocks of heather and boulders. I disturbed 3 sheep, missed by the shepherd George Carr, so he has a job to go and retrieve them lol. Clambering over more boulders round the shoulders of Beinn Tighe, I finally managed to reach reasonable terrain at 3.15. I collapsed on the shores of the lochan and took a 45 minute break. Then followed a fairly speedy descent towards Laig, but not without the infernal barbed-wire fencing. And when you ignore clear warnings in the terrain that you're standing above a cliff, well, you have to clamber. Dont you. LOL. Reached Laig at 17.30, and the main road at 18.05. Although it's only a mile, there were plenty of blackberries to distract me. I came across Liz Lyons and Morag MacKinnon, outside's the former's pigsty - sorry, yard. Morag's cows were blocking the road further on at the summit of Bealach Clithe, so that was an interesting exercise in shooing the damn creatures to the side. Arrived back at Kildonan at 18.55. A good, long day, and I was well knackered. Asked for a rum coke - for those who don't know me, I hardly ever touch liquor.


Sunday, 10 October 2004

Eigg - 10/10/04

Sunday 10th October dawned overcast but clear. The visibility was going to be the dominant feature. After breakfast, I left Kildonan at about 10.30, I really should not be keeping my host from her work by yakking so much lol. My progress up Eigg's main road keeps being impeded by ripe blackberries. Which obviously, I have to go and pick. Anyway, the piece de resistance of the road north through the island comes when you descend Bealach Clithe [pronounced Byalach Cleey] and first the towering mountains on the neighbouring island of Rum (seriously, the place is called that) hove into view. At 2,800 feet, they are impressive at 4.5 miles distance. The next corner reveals the green swathe of Cleadale, the crofting community, over which the 1,000 foot high cliffs of Beinn Bhuidhe [Ben Vooy] tower to the east. I slowly ambled down the road, past the houses of Cuagach, the terrible sideroad to Laig Farm and the old folks houses. Then you arrive at a T-junction, at which I went left, towards Seaview. This house was occupied by Angus MacKinnon, one of the island's elders until his death, a few years ago. It appears to be empty now. The blackberries distracted me. You can walk to Camus Sgiotaig, the Beach of Singing Sands from Seaview, but don't fall off the cliffs. You've got a bit of a job finding the way down. Don't chase the sheep over the cliffs either. Please. Once on the beach, the white sands, if dry, produce a shrill shriek if you rub your shoes over it. Or just walk over it. The streams cut a deep channel right through the sands, and you've got to be careful not to fall through the layer of sands if the water has undercut it. Otters have been seen playing in the kelp on the tideline. Towards the south, there are caves and natural arches to explore. It should be possible to walk back to Laig Beach, a mile to the south, but do watch the tides. I climbed up the hill at the north end of Camus Sgiotaig and ploughed through some dead bracken towards the pass of Bealach Thuilm. If you want to you can cross the stile and descend into Talm, which is overlooked by an 1,100 foot high cliff, Dunan Thalasgair. I climbed up the green hill behind the Dunan right to the top of the cliffs. Took me 15 minutes, but left me well out of breath. On the top, I got a signal on the mobile. Transmitter is located at Mallaig, 10 miles distant to the northeast. I went through the gate and proceeded to walk south. The views were phenomenal. I could see the Outer Hebrides from Barra Head north to South Uist, then again North Uist to Berneray and possibly Harris. To the south, I saw Tiree, the Treshnish Isles and Staffa and Mull. Having gorged myself on this panorama, I went south. Right by the edge of this cliff, only inches away from it. Not for those suffering from vertigo. Met a lady with her children, who had climbed up to the ridge from a point a few miles south. Then it's a case of following the cliff edge south, and choosing a route. Those heading for Kildonan just take aim for the farmhouse and make your way across. Beware of barbed wire fencing, and beware not to underestimate the distance.


Saturday, 9 October 2004

Eigg - 09/10/04

A perfect autumn day. Crisp, cool, practically windless. Skye looked perfect in the morning sun, as I took the bus down to Broadford, and then on to Armadale. I just could not get enough of the magnificent landscapes along the 27 miles to the ferry terminal. Coruisk came in on time at 11.40 and left 5 minutes later. It's been called all sorts of unfriendly names, like an 'inverted flowerpot'. On one of its first journeys, it lost a propellor on rocks in Mallaig harbour, in August 2003. But it chugged across the Sound of Sleat in 23 minutes, and offered the familiar view up to Isle Ornsay, Sandaig Islands to the north and Eigg and Rum to the southwest. After two hours of dawdling through Mallaig, Lochnevis entered the harbour and embarkation began. The couple that I met yesterday at Strathaird was on board, following my glowing endorsement of the 7 hour round trip. I talked them through the first 75 minutes to Eigg. On arrival, at 3.20, my host, Marie, was waiting on the pier, also to collect her daughter on half-term hols. The ferry waited 20 minutes, doing nothing, until formal departure time came. I sat in the jeep to be driven the 100-200 yards to An Laimhrig, the Anchorage. This is the teashop/craftshop/general store building at the end of the new pier. Check out the Isle of Eigg website for further details. Having bought a can of coke, I speedmarched off up Pier Hill towards the Lodge and Galmisdale. The low autumn sun lit everything up in a way I had never seen in the 15 years of coming to the island. It was, again, a perfect afternoon. I continued up the hill, to Galmisdale, with its glaringly red roof. Then further along to Grulin, where I went as far as the Bothy, 1 1/2 miles in. I sat in the sun, looking out over the water to the Isles of Muck, Coll, Mull and the Dutchman's Cap and Staffa. At 5.15, I decided to head back. Temperatures started to drop, and I was glad to reach Kildonan, where I was going to stay for the next few days.


Friday, 8 October 2004

Kyleakin - 08/10/04

Once again in the Youth Hostel at Kyleakin. Strange day today. As I was waiting for the usual 10.20 bus to Broadford, I noticed two young people getting into the water of the Kyle. It was a bracingly cool morning. Bright and sunny, but rather nippy. And there were two youngsters getting into the water and going right in! The female appeared to be skinny dipping, oh dear. At Broadford, I proceeded to the Elgol postbus, where the driver was huffing and puffing to get all the mail, the milk, the papers, the everything on board. It wasn't until 11 o'clock that we finally got going. I had meanwhile come to chat to an elderly lady on the bus, who was quite knowledgeable. She lived at Elgol, which I was not going to reach. My destination was the little path just south of Strathaird across to Camasunary. But, that was not for another 75 minutes. The driver complained that he was a Jack of all Trades but master of none. On arrival at Torrin, we dumped mail not just in postboxes, but through open windows, on top of a baby's playpen, in dustbins, disused freezers, and little homemade boxes at the side of the road, marked 1/2 7. Meaning, half of number 7. It was all good fun, and we duly arrived at Strathaird at 12.15. Fifty minutes late. The path to Camasunary was well boggy at first, and stony afterwards. The views are stunning, and I'll add pictures when I get hold of them. I did not go very far, since I would not want to miss the return bus at 5pm. Bla Bheinn (Blaven), Beinn na Cro and the backdrop of Loch Slapin, Loch Eishort, Sleat, Suisnish and the distant mountains on the mainland dominated the backdrop on the ascent. At 1pm I was at the pass, alt. 189m, and my jaw dropped. The massive curve of the Cuillins' main ridge, forestalled by Sgurr na Stri, Camasunary. To the south all the Small Isles were visible, Eigg, Muck, Rum and Canna. Just to the right of the Cuillins the Isle of Soay could be seen. And on the horizon the double hump of Barra and the ridge of South Uist. A very sad cairn announced the location where the ashes of a cheif (sic) constable of Inverness-shire had been scattered by his daughter. Hers had been scattered in the same location 5 years later. A fantastic piece of scenery. Hobbling back to the main road, where I had to wait an hour for the bus back to Broadford. Fortunately, a couple from Israel/USA were also waiting, so we passed the time in pleasant chat, although the temperature was dropping like a stone.

Thursday, 7 October 2004

Portree and Trotternish - 07/10/04

The weather today is very unpleasant, so I go on a shopping trip toPortree. MNy boots need to be replaced, they have been letting in waterno end. A mapcase would come in handy too, as would (perhaps) newwaterproof trousers. Arrive into Portree at 11 a.m. and start off inanoutdoor shop. No fitting boots here, although I can finally start touse a mapcase rather than a Morrisons shopping bag. Try Jansport, onthe other side of Somerled Square, for an honest attempt at bootbuying, but still no joy., The library has restricted opening hours. Asit's 12.30, I nip into the restaurant opposite the library forlunch. Can't say I'm impressed. Slow, disinterested service, food bland- avoid. At 1 pm, I head off for a tourist trail run aroundTrotternish. My Skye Rover, £5, allows me free travel all over theisland all day, so off I go. Past the Old Man of Storr, after abalancing act along the shores of Loch Fada and Loch Leathan. The Storris 719m high. Proceed north, right up to Staffin, where the little roadacross the Quiraing goes west. At Floddigarry, two hostellers alightfor the hostel down the road. The remarkable tablelands of Trotternishrear up to the left. Pass the Duntulm Hotel, where I was in mid-August.A radiotransmitter stands on a hill above the road. This continues highabove the sea, perched precariously on a cliff. A man joins the bushere, telling all who want to hear that he will be working on theCalmac ferries this weekend. Past Flora MacDonald's monument and southtowards Idrigill and Uig. On arrival there, the driver picks up a paperin the piershop. At Portree, half an hour later, I join the Kyleakinbus. Although the weather is dry now, it's looking very dreich on thereturn to Broadford and Kyleakin.

Wednesday, 6 October 2004

Drumfearn and Leitir Fura - 06/10/04

This morning, I set off for Broadford at 10.20, then on towards Sleaton the Armadale bus. I alight at the Drumfearn road end, as I wish towalk to Heast. In a direct line, it's not more than 3 miles. According to my Explorer map, there is supposed to be a path from the bridge atNG691170 to the outflow of the Kinloch Eishort river. Well, I walk backfrom the Drumfearn road up to the bridge. There is a sign at the sideof the road. Aye. Once there though, the moment you step off the roadyou stand in a foot of water. The recent heavy rains make it impossibleto traverse the mile to the Eishort river. I retreat to and go up theDrumfearn road. The first houses in this remote hamlet, appear on thehillside of Mullach an Achaidh Mhoir, to the right. Cross the bridge and pass several houses. A Dutch car stands outside one of them. It's turning out nice and sunny. Reach the end of the village road in a thicket of birch trees. A track carries on to the shore. From here, a path goes on above sealevel, through some very dense birch woods, overrocks. It gets very, very complicated and I sit down for lunch at a small cape. A boat lies tied up, high on shore. In view of the hightide, it's not possible to proceed below the coastal cliffs. Carryingon northeast through the trees is not an option either. I concededefeat and wrestle my way back to the road-end. Some men are working ona piece of machinery as I regain the main road. Carry on down thevillage, dodging a shower. At the A851, I follow the signs for aforestry walk at Leitir Fura. The access road starts half a mile southof the Drumfearn roadend. A broad forestry track leads to a carpark,from where an upper and lower path go east northeast, parallel to theSound of Sleat. The upper track will eventually emerge at Kylerhea, 12 km further on. The trail is well marked, and information panels are available at regular intervals. They tell of the significance of trees to former inhabitants of this area. most of them were cleared by past lairds. The township of Leitir Fura, NG731159, is the only substantial remains of a settlement in this remote corner of Skye. The views are absolutely stupendous as you descend from the upper trail through Leitir Fura. You can see down Loch Hourn, the Sound of Sleat, Loch na Dal and Isle Ornsay, all the way to Mallaig. This is not readily discernible because of (a) the bright, low sun and (b) a massive shower. Everything is set in a golden glow - it is early autumn. Once I have reached the lower trail in Leitir Fura, it starts to rain heavily. I spend quite some time in the bramble bushes, stuffing my face with blackberries by the pound. I finally tear myself away and head back for the main road through a very dark forest. Once back at the carpark, everybody has left. I also go forth and hobble back to the Drumfearn roadend to wait for the 5.25 bus back to Broadford. Posters for upcoming events flap in the wind. I remove one for a meeting by the SSP which took place 6 days ago. Yesterday's busdriver turns up in a luxury coach, so I congratulate him on the promotion. The world has been washed clean in the showers, and I enjoy the views on return to Broadford and latterly Kyleakin. Continue my quest as walking tourist information centre. Oh, the MacBackpackers and Haggis Tours buses also come here. Aargh!

Click on the link below for a description with pictures of the beautiful Leitir Fura Walk.
Leitir Fura Walk

Tuesday, 5 October 2004

Aird of Sleat - 05/10/04

A cloudy morning with bright intervals as I set off on the 10.20 bus.Once at Broadford, I change buses by crossing the road at the PostOffice. The busshelter is full of bundles of newspapers. Also waitingis a young woman who is helping out some tourists with their busconnections. I engage in conversation, and it turns out she is astudent at Sabhal Mor Ostaig, where she is doing media studies byGaelic medium education. This basically means that lectures &c aregiven in Gaelic. She is a very pleasant young lady, and once we arriveat Ardvasar, she also tells me that she was at the hospital inBroadford for physiotherapy on her shoulder. The large shopping bagsdon't help. Alight at Calligarry and head down the road towards Aird ofSleat. This is a trip down memory lane, as I was here before two monthsago. The only difference is that the blackberries are ripe, and I spenda fair amount of time picking them. Pass the farmhouse at Formore,which was the farthest I got in August. Go up a very steep hill andcarry on along the fringe of a forest. Finally come out into thevillage of Aird. The road goes sharply up and down, round sharp bendsbefore ending at a carpark. The weather has worsened, and it's comingon to rain. The shower clears quickly and the brilliant sunshinereturns. I arrive at a gate, which bars progress to the farm. A signpoints to the left, where you have to scramble up a very steep, rockyas well as muddy hillside. It's tricky, and my leaky boots don't makethings very nice either. The rocks are slippery, so have to exerciseextreme caution. After quite a lot of trouble, I finally come out atCamus Daraich, which is about half amile short of Point of Sleat, theextreme southern point of Skye. Have lunch just inland from the beach.Cannot proceed at sealevel, so have to retrace my steps and go uphill.Oreintation is tricky, but I do manage to come out at the top of ahill. Steps lead down to the foreshore, and again, extreme caution isneeded. Once at the bottom, I stand aghast at the amount of flotsamthat has been washed up here. Finally, I walk down the last grassytrack and stand by the lighthouse. This is a small, demure affair, notmuch more than about 6 m in height. It's very, very windy. I havedifficulty keeping my footing on the walkway, and those winds caused metrouble before as well. I turn back, walk round the corner and up thesteps. Lose my way through a very boggy patch, but re-establishpositioning when I find myself at the gates of the farm. Bearing inmind that nobody is around, I just pass through the yard which islittered with wrecked cars and machinery. Then come out at the othergate, which was where I turned off up into hte hills before. Go downthe path, back towards Aird. I gradually gain on a couple with a dog,but decide to have a break before I overtake them. Reappear at the gateat the road's end at 3pm, and continue at a pace. Have to be back atArdvasar at 5pm in order to catch the bus back to Broadford. I reappearin Ardvasar just after 4 to catch a glimpse of the Sabhal Mor studentflitting across the road inthe distance. As it's very early, I headdown to Armadale Pier to wait at the junction, after having a drink atthe hotel. Hobble back to Calligarry where the bus pulls in after I do.The driver is a pleasant chap and we have a great yarn all the way downthe A851. His bus is knackered, the schoolkids he takes on it are OK.Everybody knows him. A lady gets on at Teanga, but the driver cannotsell the ticket she needs because the machine is out of order. Majorroadworks are in progress between Teanga and Kinloch, to make it into anormal width road - it's single track just now. It does mean a bit ofslalomming around cones &c. Oncoming traffic is regulated usingstop/go signs. Once at Kinloch we go back to full speed. The showershave abated and the low sun lights up the distant Cuillins to thenorthwest as well as the long straggling line of houses that isBroadford. On arrival there, I nip into the Co-op which I can justmanage before the Kyleakin bus pulls in at 6.10. Return to the hostelat half past six. An hour later I watch the Citylink buses come in. Iam still in room 6, and have company there for tonight.

Monday, 4 October 2004

Heast - 04/10/04

Today's weather is a little better than at the weekend, but still veryshowery. I take the 10.20 bus to Broadford and alight at the bottom ofthe road to Heast. This is a settlement 5 miles south of Broadford onthe shore of Loch Eishort. Six years ago, I walked up this road alittle way, but I'm now up for the whole hog. Not a terribly inspiringroute, but the approach into Heast is nice. The village is only 2 mileseast of Boreraig, but it's not possible to find a route. Right by theseashore, a fishing pier with a lot of fishboxes and the stench ofdiesel. Across the harbour lies Heast Island. I tried to walk east,parallel to the shore, which was tricky. Going west, to Boreraig was asignposted route. Unfortunately, following the heavy rain of the lastfew days, the Heast River was in spate and could not be crossed.Thwarted on both sides, I could only retrace my steps up the road.There is a nice view once you crest the highest point, at 200 m / 675ft. It ranges from the Red Cuillins in the west to Scalpay, the islandsin the Inner Sound and the hills between Kyle and Applecross. I wantedto make things interesting by cutting cross Braigh Skulamus, from gridreference NG660206. This path was fine, until it got wetter and wetter,the closer I got to Harrapool. Nipped into one of the local hotels fora bite to eat, then started to look round for a shop selling boots.There was an outdoor shop next to a veterinary surgery. Have to becareful not to go into the wrong door there. In the hotel, the barmanwas sanding and revarnishing his bar. Had a general look round thevillage before returning to the Coop. This provided me with tonight'sdinner. Went back to Kyleakin on the bus at 4. There is a restaurantacross the road from the hostel, and I went in there to check out thefood. At one point, I joined a family for dinner who were also in thehostel. Nice convivial evening. In this restaurant you serve yourself.Food good, no atmosphere. It's the King Haakon bar. Kyleakin is theKyle (Narrows) of Haakon. So no Ky-lea-kin please, it's Kyle-akin.Still noisy pipes in the hostel. It offers Internet access, a TV-room.I sit in the dining area and offer people advice on the district. Am Ia walking tourist office, or what?

Sunday, 3 October 2004

Boreraig and Suisnish - 03/10/04

After breakfast I was taken to Broadford, so that at 10 a.m., I wasalready heading down the Marble Line path again. Fairly bright day, andthe path ahd had a chance to dry out. The crossing of the stilepresented no big problems, and at midday I was back at Boreraig. Had abit to eat, then resumed the trek at 12.20. The only thing was that bynow, a big wall of grey had moved in from the west. After passingthrough Boreraig, the path became a narrow and precarious affairthrough rock and stone. Had to encourage sheep to move out of my way.It meanwhile started to rain with gusto, which made the path all themore hazardous. Due south of Carn Dearg, the path went up a crazilysteep incline. With a little bit of handiwork, I arrived on theclifftop above Suisnish at 1.25. The view, for as much as there was,switched round to one of Strathaird and Loch Slapin. I found outyesterday that my boots were knackered. They are letting in water bythe bucketfull, and I'm beginning to feel chilly. The passage throughSuisnish is absolutely sodden. The path leads above the present-dayfarm buildings, then veers north. I slowly progress towards theroad-end at Camas Malag. At 2.15, I encounter an elderly couple whowant to go to Suisnish and ask me how far it is. Fifty minutes. I was abit concerned because of their unsuitable footwear. Did not comment onthat to their faces though. Arrived at Camas Malag at 2.30, and satdown on a hill just north of the road end. The rain had relented andwas now showery. After half an hour, I carried on to the main road atKilbride. This leads past a marble quarry, with the showers still goingon. From that point, I had to walk along the B8083 Elgol - Broadfordroad. Not much of a bother because of light traffic. It just got alittle hairy along Loch Kilchrist, as I didn't have a lot of leeway,and the road runs along the loch shore. At Kilchrist, I cut through thewilderness to the Marble Line Path. I did not fancy a 3 mile roadwalk.It's a bit of a chore, and have to jump barbed wire, but I gain thepath. Sit under a bridge to avoid a shower, then head north down thenow-familiar curves of the Marble Line. At Broadford, I discover a deadsheep at the point where the path goes back to the road. From thevillage, I nip back to Kyleakin by Citylink bus.

Saturday, 2 October 2004

Boreraig - 02/10/04

Come downstairs to be met by the sight of a distracted warden who istaking all the hot water taps apart. Apparently, a new boiler wasinstalled only recently, but it isn't working properly. Book intohostel for the weekend, then go on the bus to Broadford at 10.20.Fifteen minutes later, I'm dropped off outside the Post Office there.Walk over to the Post Office van marked Elgol, and jump on. I ask to bedropped off at Kilchrist, 4 miles southwest of Broadford. It's a bit ofa tight squeeze on board, but that isn't going to be for a long time atany rate. Dropped off a few hundred yards beyond the church, near thereed covered Kilchrist Loch. Find the track that is supposed to lead toSuisnish on the coast, south of here. This is a derilict village,cleared of its inhabitatns in the 19th century, together with itsneighbour Boreraig. My efforts to reach Suisnish along this path arethwarted by some appalling weather. A shower kicks off, leaving me todash for relative shelter amidst the ruins of Kilchrist village. Thereis a strong westerly wind, blowing the showers over the nearby Beinn naCailleach. Once that has passed, I continue on my way, but I lose trackof the path. Find myself scrabbling on the banks of the Allt naInbhire, trying to cross. Well, I give that up as a bad job after hafan hour, and make my way cross-country to the Marble Line walkway. Thisused to be a railway carrying marble from the quarry up the hillside tothe pier at Broadford. It closed suddenly at 1912. This path is wellmaintained and signposted. After a gate, it worsens slightly to a roughhillpath. Crossing the fence at Loch Lonachan is troublesome because ofstanding water. This continues to be a nuisance, not helped by frequentheavy showers. The valley opens out, and I duly arrive into what I thoughtwas Suisnish. How wrong can you be. After checking my bearings againstvarious landmarks and their relative position, I have to concede that Iam 2 miles out and actually in the enclosure of Boreraig. Wanderthrough the sad remains of that village and try to eat something in thepouring rain. Carry on as far as the Boreraig River, then turn back.Get a massive scare outside the village, when I'm taking a break at12.52. As I look northeast, I see a fierce blob of light. About 2seconds later, a deafening crash follows. I'm in the middle of a thunderstormand there is NO shelter. I wait for the storm to move away, crouchingdown, then go on my way north. OnceI rejoin the Marble Line path, Ifeel like a train, going at 4 mph. Pass above some of the houses nearKilchrist, then the branch which leads to Coire Chatachan, below Beinnna Cailleach. The path finally ends under the high voltage power line,where I have to divert to the road. Do some shopping at the BroadfordCo-op, then join the 6pm bus back to Kyleakin. The YH is still plaguedby pipe trouble. Have a nice chat with other hostellers. One coupleoffer me a lift over to Broadford tomorrow, Sunday. This gives me thechance to do the walk to Boreraig and Suisnish properly. Weatherprospects also appear to be better.

Picture: ruins at Boreraig

Friday, 1 October 2004

To Kyleakin - 01/10/04

Went to the station to catch a train to Kyle of Lochalsh. It's still anice trip, and the weather has improved on yesterday's rain - at leastit's dry. Trundle my way west in 2½ hours, arriving in Kyle atlunchtime. I go into the stationbuilding to have a look in the museum.Have to be careful with my pack, which I leave at the door. Part of themuseum is without electricity as a result of flooding. Nice display ofrailway memorabilia. Walk into the village, after glancing out to thewarship that lies moored at the pier. Nipped into the TouristInformation Office for some ideas, and there is a tour with a glass-bottemed boat.Before setting out, I walk through the village to a viewpoint aboveKyle which looks out to Skye, the bridge and east up Loch Alsh.At 1.30,there is too little clientele in the tour, but at 2.30 there issufficient interest to warrant the man to set forth. It's veryinteresting to look out under the water and see all the junk on thefloor, the different types of fish and seaweed. We head out to a clumpof skerries in the Kyle to view a colony of seals that are baskingthere. Not in the sun, it's cloudy. Then we sail to the far shore toobserve the wreckage of a minelaying vessel which blew up in 1941. Afire had broken out on board, and it was towed across the Kyle. Had itblown up at the quayside, the village would have been devastated. Viewbeds of seaweed on the way back to Kyle. After the trip in theglass-bottomed boat, I walk over the Skye Bridge to Kyleakin. Justbefore the span of the bridge proper, you pass the cottage on EileanBan, where Gavin Maxwell lived, of otter fame. He died there in 1969.There is a gate to the bridge, and I believe you can stay there. At thebottom of the bridge, I turn left on the roundabout and wander into thevillage. Kyleakin has improved for the better since the bridge came, 9years ago. The big marshalling yard for the ferry is now a neatcarpark. I arrive at the youth hostel at 4pm, an hour early. Leave therucksack there and try to walk into a sideroad just off the bridgeroundabout. The farm at the end has everything fenced off, so noaccess. Try the main road to Broadford, but that only has limitedstretches of secluded old road. Have to double back to Kyleakin. Checkinto the hostel at 5pm and am allocated a bed in room 6, which has only2 beds in it, plus a sink. Go downstairs to prepare my dinner and havea nice chat with other hostellers. Who describes my surprise when Imeet up with some folk who were with me at Kirkwall earlier in theweek. Use the laundramat. Saw a musical event advertised for tonight inthe Saucy Mary pub, across the green. Go there at 10, but the music isno good, neither is the beer. Have a very poor night's sleep, onaccount of some heinous rattle and clanging in the pipes of the centralheating system.