Skye Trail: Day Zero

27th April 2012 – Northwich to Trotternish: 487m – 8 hrs 10 mins

It was absolutely tipping it down as we packed the car at Roger’s house. I was as surprised as he was that we managed to get two fat lads, one fat dog and two weeks of gear into my little VW Golf, but we did and what’s more I could even see out of the back window.

The rain continued as we made our way up a very busy M6, towards what was our first expected stop in Glasgow. We made a slight change in plan though as hunger took over and we pulled over, into Southwaite services to allow the Molly the dog to have a leak and for us to stock up on flame-grilled meaty goodness at Burger King.

Unfortunately, after spending 15 minutes queuing, we were told “Sorry, we’re closing, we’ve run out”. “But you don’t know what I want yet” I said, “doesn’t matter” responded the pimply youth, “we’ve run out of everything, we’re closing, goodnight!”

An oath sprang to mind, but I left it unspoken and instead we bought sandwiches, crisps and sweets from the M&S across the bridge. At least it had stopped raining as we headed back north; next stop, driver-swap at Glasgow.

I pulled into what must be the most convenient Motorway Service Station anywhere in the country; Hamilton Services, as I don’t think I’ve ever driven past the place. Roger took over the driving duties at this point and immediately discovered the problems of switching to an automatic gearbox. In the end I had to put my hand over the gear stick at every junction, to prevent him from trying to change down.

As we drove through Glasgow the heavens opened and it rained like it can only rain in Scotland. The wipers were struggling to cope with the deluge and we had to slow to a crawl, despite the empty motorway. All I could think of were the levels of the bogs on Skye, steadily rising and filling up in preparation for my arrival. I slept fitfully as far as Glen Coe. I love driving through Glen Coe, it’s a magnificent and wonderful place.

Glen Coe was exhilarating and spectacular, even in the dark. The dark brings out the deer, which graze on both sides of the road at will. If they’re feeling particularly brave they play chicken with fast moving vehicles, whose occupants are gawping at the hills and not paying attention to the road. We missed it, but only just! Thankfully, it stayed stationary in the road as Rog threw out the anchor and I grabbed the dashboard in terror. The image of a calmly masticating, fully-antlered Red Deer standing astride the white lines of the road will stay with me for a long time. The ABS works on the Golf, I can attest to that and also when you brake really hard, the hazard lights come on πŸ™‚

The road through Glen Coe in the daylight

The road through Glen Coe in the daylight

The deer was still standing there, as we shot off, probably laughing and about to collect his winnings from the other deer watching from the dark. After that Glen Coe took on a sinister dimension, home to potentially fatal warm-blooded road blocks that have no care for speeding metal.

In what seemed like no time at all we arrived in Fort William, where we refilled the tank and forgot to buy a loaf for breakfast. Bugger! I blame the lapse on the garage attendant, who was listening to some thrash metal music at full volume and didn’t even have the common decency to turn it down as I entered and tried to pay him. I wanted to get out as quickly as possible.

As we left Fort William we passed a snow plough – yes, you read that right, a snow plough! It was gritting rather than ploughing, which we were grateful for, but still not a very promising sight. The temperature had plummeted to -1C and we were forced to slow again to avoid an early death on the now perilously icy roads.

I decided that I’d rather die unaware, so tried to sleep as Roger drove on into the night. We crossed the bridge, onto Skye at about 1am. We stopped in Broadford as the Co-op on the main road was open, doing a roaring trade to folk staggering home from the pub. Roger queued patiently at the little service window; the shop itself was shut and you passed your order through the window to the man in the shop, who would wander off into the dim interior to snag your order and return. The hilariously drunken lad in front of Roger struggled manfully to enter his PIN code into the machine, but although he knew the number, he couldn’t command his fingers sufficiently to enter it.

In the end the man in the kiosk returned with Roger’s order of a white loaf – producing the smallest loaf I’ve ever seen. It was like a toy loaf; “Sorry pal, that’s all I’ve got left now” was his excuse. It still cost more than a really big loaf does at home though!

gti on skye

At about 2am we arrived at the croft. It had taken up about 8 hours, which isn’t bad considering some of the weather we’d had during the journey. If Roger hadn’t been here before I’m not sure I would have ever found the place, even with directions. It’s a tiny croft at the farthest northern tip of the Trotternish peninsula, hidden behind a slightly larger house and sharing their front gate. We tip-toed comically past their bedroom window, not wishing to aggravate the people we’d be living next to for the coming few days.

We unpacked the bare essentials only; sleeping bags, blankets and a bottle of whisky! I wanted to do some walking in the morning so needed to get to bed as soon as I reasonably could. A couple of drams of Laphroaig sent me right off and I was zedding long before 3am.

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