Skye Trail: Day Seven

4th May 2012 – Broadford to Drumfearn: 9.8m – 1,200 ft – 3 hrs 00 mins

Day seven dawned – well we assumed it dawned, we couldn’t actually see the sun and the wind was blowing a force seven at least; the waves were throwing themselves against our little beach like suicidal white horses. I’d heard the wind in the night, picking up from yesterday’s obviously quite tame levels. The house has withstood much worse though, that’s for sure, and no windows rattled and no doors shook, so I pretty much slept through it.

I had hoped the worst would be over in the morning, but I wasn’t that lucky. We packed the car and headed out on the long drive to Broadford. The wind was certainly freshening and the sky was all shades of grey and black. I decided that I’d ridden my luck as much as I was going to this week, and here was traditional Skye spring weather in earnest, I couldn’t complain though – 6 straight days of pretty much perfect weather was lots more than I expected.

The morning commute to these longer starting points is something of a joy too. There are few cars about, even at what would normally be rush-hour at home. Many of the lanes are narrow, with passing points, but most cars obey the signs that suggest you should pull over and let faster traffic pass. We are that faster traffic. The two tracks roads are great too, long straight sections abound and the reduced number of cars makes for some lovely clear journeys.

We arrived in Broadford about 8:30 and I set out into the biting wind with my long sleeve baselayer on, beneath my Paramo coat, a fleece and my wind proof in the pack, just in case things got worse (or better). I left the Tilley in the boot.

Leaving Broadford, it's a bit grey today and I fear it could start raining at any time

Leaving Broadford, it’s a bit grey today and I fear it could start raining at any time

The wind is up and the cloud is down as I walk out of the town

The wind is up and the cloud is down as I walk out of the town

Looking back to Broadford, a lovely place, but not a suitable end or start to the Skye Trail

Looking back to Broadford, a lovely place, but just not quite good enough to be the end or start to the Skye Trail

I only had about 9 miles to do today and the first 5 are along the road into Heaste, so I told Rog to expect me about 11:30, possibly 12:00. I meandered through Broadford and came to the turn off for Heaste and as I turned right into the lane I turned my back on the wind – I was having some more luck there too. At least I wasn’t going to be walking into the wind all morning, as I had all afternoon yesterday.

The road was quiet, it supports maybe 20 houses in Heaste and very few cars passed along it while I was using it. The road winds up and down through the surrounding moorland. It’s nothing like as charming as the road walk through the Braes and it has very little to offer, except for the most direct route to Heaste and avoiding a return down the same route I’d used yesterday.

I used the impetus of the wind and pushed hard all the way to the end of the road. I used my headphones for the first time to listen to some music, generate a pace and basically eat up the time.

Road walking for the first few miles - makes for a quicker day, but not as nice as the Braes road

Road walking for the first few miles – makes for a quicker day, but not as nice as the Braes road

We have sunshine! Not on me, but that's the way I'm heading soon

We have sunshine! Not on me, but that’s the way I’m heading soon

Welcome to Heaste - it felt like Hillbilly country out here, no passing traffic at all!

Welcome to Heaste – it felt like Hillbilly country out here, no passing traffic at all!

The 5 miles to the little harbour at Haste took me 90 minutes. There’s a little pier here, with several small boats tied up alongside it. There was a promising Scotways sign too; telling me Kinloch was 3.3m away. I wasn’t actually going all the way to Kinloch, but the fact that Scotways recognise the route suggested there may be a path along the coast.

Reassuring Scotways sign

Reassuring Scotways sign

The little harbour at Heaste, the white van belongs to the fish farmers who are just putting out in their boat. They gave me a worrying look

The little harbour at Heaste, the white van belongs to the fish farmers who are just putting out in their boat. They gave me a worrying look

Mostly trackless beyond the harbour, you have to pick your route as best you can, using sheep tracks where you can find them

Mostly trackless beyond the harbour, you have to pick your route as best you can, using sheep tracks where you can find them

There is a beaten track through the stones of the “beach” for the first few hundred yards along the coast, made by vehicles used by the fishermen to access the pier I guess. After a while this faded though and I was soon clambering over rocks and around little outcrops. It was hard to decide where to walk. There was no path. I had the choice to walk higher, up into the scrubby heather and tussocky grass above the coast, or stick to the coastline and hope that it was navigable. In the end I used a mixture of both, as they seemed appropriate. In some sections it was obvious that I had to leave the cost and head inland. Thin sheep tracks moved in and out along the coast and these helped to some extent. As long as they were going in roughly the right direction I followed them.

There is a thin track here - the sheep wander along the coast, so there's often some sort of path to follow

There is a thin track here – the sheep wander along the coast, so there’s often some sort of path to follow

Towards the head of the loch it was obvious I needed to drop down, to find somewhere to cross the river (Abhan Ceann Loch Eishort). This had been a worrying section of the planning stage. The river looked wide at the head of the loch and Paterson hadn’t been very precise on the best place to cross, or indeed if a crossing would be possible, especially after rain. I was hopeful though, there had been very little rain and all the rivers I crossed so far had been low and easily passable.

A more defined path here, obviously no alternative higher up so all the traffic is funnelled down to this level

A more defined path here, obviously no alternative higher up so all the traffic is funnelled down to this level

Another sheep track, going in the right direction too

Another sheep track, going in the right direction too

In the end the crossing of Abhan Ceann Loch Eishort was also simple. It was so shallow I barely got the soles of my boots wet, using a series of small stones to cross easily to the other side.

Looking ahead to the head of Loch Eishort and the river crossing that could cause me problems

Looking ahead to the head of Loch Eishort and the river crossing that could cause me problems

The worrying river was very shallow and caused me no problems at all

The worrying river was very shallow and caused me no problems at all

With all the little stones I even managed to get across without getting the soles of my boots wet

With all the little stones I even managed to get across without getting the soles of my boots wet

The litter at the head of the loch was incredible. Dozens of large blue and grey barrels lay all over the place, like a container load had been spilled out in the loch and they’d all ended up here. Tons of smaller pieces of detritus were scattered in amongst the barrels too. It was an awful sight.

Huge plastic drums litter the shoreline everywhere, dozens and dozens of them, as well as loads of other plastic litter

Huge plastic drums litter the shoreline everywhere, dozens and dozens of them, as well as loads of other plastic litter

More litter and more drums as I approach the head of Loch Eishort

More litter and more drums as I approach the head of Loch Eishort

I found a small flock of what looked like feral sheep too. Their coats were grey and matted and their horns were long. Not sure if you can have feral sheep or not, but these gave that impression.

Along the shore of the lock heading for Drumfearn now

Along the shore of the lock heading for Drumfearn now

Easy walking on this section, no need for a path

Easy walking on this section, no need for a path

On the other side of the river it was easier going. I stuck close to the shore as there seemed to be no major inhibitors to my progress. I passed some huge equipment, washed up, or more likely moored on the shore. They looked like flat-bed lorries without the wheels or cabs, possibly some sort of fishing equipment maybe? In the loch at this point I could see the Mussel lines; long parallel lines of floats tended by a small boat.

Huge floating pontoons, used as the decks on the fish farms I think, moored and secured

Huge floating pontoons, used as the decks on the fish farms I think, moored and secured

More pontoons and an ancient engine and winch gear abandoned in this cove

More pontoons and an ancient engine and winch gear abandoned in this cove

The mussel lines in the loch, with attendant vessel

The mussel lines in the loch, with attendant vessel

Beyond the moored or abandoned machinery I was forced to head up and in, away from the shoreline. The ground was rugged, heather-clad and tussocky with thin patches of deciduous trees and rocky outcrops. Just outside Drumfearn I came across a fence in my path. I couldn’t see anyway round it, so I had to cross it, into a dense clump of trees. The ground dropped away rapidly towards the coast and it was very wet and boggy. I scrambled down through the trees, trying to avoid the worst of the wet sections and I eventually emerged onto the coast again.

I went awry somewhere and had to hack my way through some undergrowth to get back to the shore at Drumfearn harbour

I went awry somewhere and had to hack my way through some undergrowth to get back to the shore at Drumfearn harbour

A short hop along the coast and I arrived at the tiny harbour at Drumfearn. This is even smaller than Heaste, no pier, just a sheltered cove with a few small boats tied up in it. Loads of equipment littered the place, it looked like a dump for old fishing gear, chains, ropes, nets, huge grey and blue barrels, crates and even an ancient, rusting digger. Nice.

Back on the path again, heading into the little harbour at Drumfearn

Back on the path again, heading into the little harbour at Drumfearn

Boats tied up in Drumfearn harbour

Boats tied up in Drumfearn harbour

I found the road to the village and headed up it. It was only 11:15 so I expected to have to find somewhere to sit and wait for Rog. I was pleasantly surprised therefore, to find the car sitting at the gate at the end of the access road. He was asleep in the car and wasn’t best pleased as I banged loudly on the window to announce my arrival.

Phew, thank goodness, Roger is already here, waiting for me

Phew, thank goodness, Roger is already here, waiting for me

As I took my boots off I found a tick in amongst the debris that had gathered behind the tongue of the boot. Later that evening Rog had to remove two ticks from Molly. This was our first encounter with the little beasts (and our last as it happened). Given a longer walk today I guess my passenger could have found his way to flesh, so I consider myself lucky.

One of the ticks Roger removed from Molly

One of the ticks Roger removed from Molly

We drove into Portree and had lunch and a mooch. We did some shopping in the supermarket and spent an enjoyable afternoon in the croft.

Roger was heading home tomorrow, he’d only managed to secure a one week pass from his wife and I’d agreed to take him, rather than have him rely on a train with a load of gear and a Labrador to look after.

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