Skye Trail Day Four – Portree to Sligachan – 11 miles, 4.5 hours
After the short day of yesterday we had a whole afternoon relaxing and generally mooching around the croft, mostly waiting for 8pm and the Big Match kick off. Possibly the most important Manchester derby game this century, certainly one which would change the course of the season for one team or the other. We had intended to go to the pub to watch it. We’d already checked with the Isles Inn that they were showing it and that we could bring the dog in too. In the end though the mutual decision was that we were too knackered to drive the 30 minutes there and back and sit in the rather uncomfortable bar area to watch the game.
Instead, Roger spent 45 minutes rigging up a radio to capture an AM signal from Radio 5 Live. We moved the radio to the top most point of the croft and rigged a speaker that ran most of the way down the stairs, pointing into the little lounge where we could at least sit in front of the fire and enjoy the comfy chairs. It was well worth the effort too, not a great game, but a great result for us City fans. In hindsight, we didn’t miss a great spectacle; if we’d won 6-1 again then maybe we’d have regretted not going, but it was a close game and too important to be open and high-scoring.
It was quite late then, when I finally went to bed, late at least for me when walking, it was gone 11pm. The whisky we’d had to celebrate the win did its usual job of sending me soundly to sleep without any problems. I was awake by 6:40, with only a few restless moments during the night. We have a reasonable routine sorted now in the morning, so we were out of the house by 7:30 and sitting outside the Isles Inn at 8am, leeching off their WiFi signal so I could send the updates for Days 2 and 3. We also managed to download a couple of highlights of the game, which was a great bonus!
I was walking away from the Aros Experience by 8:15, in the warmest morning sunshine of the walk so far, with the prospect of a truly excellent day ahead. The sky was flawless blue and there was almost no wind to speak of. I was warm enough for my thin baselayer and my wind-stopper soft shell thingy.
The route notes say to look for a thin path directly opposite the Aros Experience, that drops down to the salt marshes and then picks up a path beside the river, leading eventually to the road into the Braes. Could I find it? Could I buggery. I ended up having to walk down the road, the busy main road, at “rush hour”, trying to avoid being run down by the arseholes who think as long as they don’t hit you, they’ve done their good deed for the day.
After a kilometre or so I reached the turn off and entered the much quieter single-track lane to the Braes. I was a kilometre into 6.5 miles of road walking. Now I hate road walking as much as anyone, but this was one of the nicest roads I’ve walked on in a long time. It wanders through some lovely scenery, with views ahead to Glamaig and the Cuillins and views behind to the Old Man of Storr, skylined in all it’s glory. Of the 50 or 60 cars that passed me on that road, almost without exception, I got a cheery wave and a courteous reduction in speed to accompany it. It was a lovely experience and I guess the locals must walk along the road themselves, so appreciate what it’s like and make the effort to give walkers a little extra room.
After about a mile though I could feel a hot spot building up in the arch of my right foot, just to the right of the ball. I decided prevention was better than cure and it was better to be safe than sorry, and various appropriate parables and looked for a suitable place to apply a Compeed. I stopped in the bus shelter at Camustianavaig and did what was needed. As I set out again I felt immediately better, the hot spot disappeared immediately and I felt much more comfortable and confident.
I spotted a couple of houses for sale down that road that I would gladly live in, even if they probably only dream of fast Internet and Tesco home delivery! The views down into Raasay Sound were fantastic, Dun Caan looked like a capped volcano from this angle and these were backdropped by distant, snow-clad hills.
I made a short stop at the Braes memorial cairn, I could sympathise with anyone who wanted to defend themselves from being evicted from such a lovely location, even if the lives they led were hard and spare. The road continued. At Gedintailor you have a choice; shorter and higher, or longer and lower. I chose the former, hoping for better views. I got some, but no idea if they are better than the lower route, probably just different I guess.
Glamaig got closer and more impressive, looming over the road and the houses. The higher route is much quieter, I didn’t see a single car in fact. There are no houses on this bit of road and the surface is pot-holed and broken, but much better for me. I sat on a rocky outcrop and gawped at the scenery. I got a phone signal and sent a couple of texts and saw my first people of the day. A local couple, who I guessed we’re doing a circular using the two roads – they had no packs and no water, just hand-in-hand out for a lovely warm stroll.
I had loads of time in hand. I’d allowed 5.5 hours for today, but road walking is so easy I’d eaten up the miles and wasn’t due to meet Rog until 2pm. If I was early though I could sit in the Sligachan, so no problem.
At the road end is the sleepiest village I have ever walked through, Peinchorran. The sheep were meandering across the road, nibbling on hedges and popping in and out of gardens (except those guarded by huge barky dogs, which come snarling up to a pathetically inadequate gate, slavering to get their jaws around a juicy fat walker!). I found the weirdest garden in Scotland, a title that probably hasn’t been bestowed upon the place, but almost certainly should be. I will post some pictures when I get back, or perhaps in the week if I get time. Inside this garden were; a cannon, a dog hotel, a plastic donkey and various other bizarre scenes. Pictures paint a thousand words though 🙂
I found the Scotways sign that points down the loch towards Sligachan, 3.2 miles according to this, I also followed the route notes that suggest the path is better, higher up the hill, so I cut over the heather and drying bog to find it. It was a lovely path, now one of my favourites and as soon as I got on it I could see my destination. At the far end of the loch sits the hotel, tiny and insignificant, sitting beneath the majestic Cuillins.
The path is obviously well used, probably by sheep more than walkers, but the result is easy to follow, mostly good underfoot and hugs he side of the hill, several dozen feet above the water for the majority of the way. At one or two places it drops down to meet the loch, and here you find small grassy areas, almost designed for wild campers. There are inevitably hundreds of mussel shells scattered in these areas too. Whether deposited by people or animals I couldn’t tell, but there are literally thousands of these, mostly towards the eastern end.
I was well ahead of schedule and so I dawdled for most of the length of the loch, taking my time to sit and enjoy a leisurely lunch, listening to the cuckoo on the slopes above me and wondering if I was wasting my time looking for otters in the loch. I did see the ferry, a serious commercial vessel, leaving Sconser and heading for the island of Raasay. A journey of about 3km across the Narrows of Raasay and looking like a boating lake today.
I would need to check my tracklog, but I would guess that 3.2 mile section of path took me over two hours to complete and it was 2 hours well spent I can assure you. This had been one of my favourite sections of the walk so far, a highlight amongst the highlights.
At least a dozen tiny streams cut across the path, but none of these caused me any problems, not even the big ones closer to the hotel. After heavy rain, they could, but under the current conditions that were all easily stepped across, usually on stones.
At the hotel end of the loch, the path gets closer to the salt marshes and this could again be very boggy and potentially wet in places, but the path is always clear and I soon found myself walking through the campsite, across the road and into the hotel car park. I found the car, dumped by pack in it and, as there was no sign of Rog, I headed into the hotel for a drink and a shot of their WiFi.
After 10 minutes or so Rog arrived and we decided to head into Portree rather than eat in the quite expensive and touristy hotel. We spent a couple of hours in the Isles Inn, doing some tech stuff and managing to see the highlights of last nights game.
Evening entertainment in a croft with no TV and a jerry-rigged radio mostly consists of watching movies I’ve brought on an external hard drive, connected to my laptop and fed through a desktop PC monitor we brought with us for just that purpose. We tend to have a big fire going before the sun sets, as the croft is quite cold, even when the sun has been shining all day, all except for the upstairs front bedroom which is hot enough to boil a monkey’s bum, it’s like a blumin sauna in there. So we hang our towels in there and they’re dry by the time we need them again.