I slept quite well, which is unusual for my first night in any strange place, but perhaps that was because of the whisky and the late night. I was awake at my usual time of about 7am though, some habits are hard to break.
The sunlight streaming through the window looked very promising though, so I dressed quickly and went out.
I’ve been really quite worried about the recent weather, not least because of the bog factor involved in walking on Skye, but also because I didn’t particularly fancy walking in driving rain and howling wind for a week. The sight that greeted me then, as I stepped out of the croft was fantastic, and such a relief.
Beautiful blue skies, a cool, but not bitter breeze and warm sunshine. The back door of the croft opens onto a small rocky beach and I stepped out, mug of tea in hand to inspect the view. I could see for miles, across the sea to the isles of Uist and Lewis and along the north west coast, hills stacked up one behind the other.
We polished off most of the tiny loaf we’d bought the night before, for breakfast and once I’d packed my gear we were off out.
I apologise I advance for the amount of route detail I’m going to try and include in this journal. But as Rambling Pete and I have found, there are almost no walkers’ journals out on the Internet and anything I can add to that resource will hopefully help out other folk who decide to walk the path in the future.
My walk begins at Duntulm Castle, only about 5 miles from the croft, so we were there in no time. We parked in the non-existent car park and clambered over a wire fence beside the locked gate and headed out to the ruins of the castle. There’s not much there and what there is, is fenced off and falling to bits, some of it into the sea. But I did the dutiful thing and wandered around for a while taking pictures and admiring the sea view.
Duty done, I headed back to the road, the car and the bulk of my gear which was waiting in the boot. I shouldered my pack and with a wave to Roger and the dog I set out along the road, the short distance to the track that runs around the base of Cnoc Roll. This would take me to the little settle,ent of Connista, which would be the launch pad for my assault on the boggy wilderness between there and Coire Mhic Eachainn.
The path was great to begin, until I came across a herd of cattle that had churned up the path to a muddy, shitty mess and from here on I was doing the dance of mud avoidance. Once I struck off away from the path things improved though and I was soon skipping through ankle high heather with short grassy sections between. I crossed a couple of low fences and soon reached the bridge (not marked on the OS map) that crosses the Kilmaluag river.
I’ve done a fair amount of Internet searching for this next section, but there’s very little information out there to indicate which is the best route to take, even Geograph, normally a great source of information, had drawn a relative blank. So I was very nervous about this next bit.
At the bridge I donned my gaiters, in preparation for a dreadful bog-fest. I headed slightly left away from the bridge, sticking to the high ground where I could and using the tussocks to avoid the spagnum bits in between them. It was nowhere near as bad as I was expecting, in fact even the track earlier had been dusty in places, not an indication of recent heavy rain.
My original plan for this bit had been to aim for the western edge of the Coire and follow the bottom of the ridge to the back, exiting Fir Bhreugach and up to the summit of Meall an suiramach. However, now I saw that the eastern edge of the Coire looked much easier to ascend, had a better looking surface (even from this distance) and so that was where I aimed for. I got across the wasteland pretty much dry, only one foot into the watery stuff and that was protected by the gaiters.
There are no paths across this section, but there also seems to be no better or worse line, so just pick your exit point and go for it. I hopped and skipped for what seemed like an hour, but was in reality only about 55 minutes! The eastern edge of the Coire has a reasonable path up beside the tiny burn (unnamed, but the right hand one of the three when looking at the OS map). It soon petered out though and I was left striking my own path again, through the Coire. The ground looked easier on my right, closer to the western edge, so I changed course again and cut right. It’s fairly boggy again, but not too bad at all. I kept as high as I could against the western wall and was soon able to exit, steeply out the back of the Coire and up to the trig point.
The views behind as I was ascending were stunning, the sea was so blue it looked like a kids painting, with the rocky islands dotting the surface. The views ahead opened up as I climbed and before long I got my first view of the Cuillins, jagged and harsh on the horizon, with a smattering of snow on the high tops. More daunting though, in the immediate distance was the Trotternish ridge, it looked immense, it looked massive, it looked bloody frightening. That was my challenge for tomorrow and it was twice as long and twice as high as today’s walk.
I left the trig point and headed for the cliff edge. Looking down I could see the Table, a grassy platform a couple of hundred of feet below, large enough the and a small plane, or host a football game for die-hard heroes. The Table is surrounded by jagged peaks towering above it and the result is seriously impressive, in fact the whole of the Quiraing path is jaw-droppingly beautiful. Trying to describe it here though is a bit like trying to explain what the sky looks like – you really need to come and walk it.
The upper path from Meall na Suiramach runs parallel to the lower path and it was this that I was aiming for, as I descended gently at first, then more steeply until I came to a gate in a fence line. The view of the Trotternish ridge from here was incredible. The path from here on was awful. Completely eroded and not maintained at all, a huge groove in the grass was the best bit and then that turned into a steep descent of broken turf, loose soil and knee-sapping gradients.
In the end I made the lower path and this turned out to be much better, a fine path in fact and one that I absolutely loved. It twists and turns through the glorious architecture of the Quiraing, picking out the best bits and taking its time in doing so.
I’d agreed to meet Roger about 2pm at the end of the path, beside Loch Langaig, where the car would be waiting and we could go and do some shopping. I passed the path that allows one to walk up to the Table, a steep twisty defile that looked a bit too steep for my current leg strength, so as much as I would have liked to, I decided to continue along the path. Just before I reached the small Loch Hasco I met a German couple looking for the circular path that runs around the Quiraing. I pointed them in the right direction and wished them luck.
I soon saw Roger, playing with Molly, his dog, in Loch Hasco. I think he’d been expecting me sooner, but I’d been taking my time over the last section, enjoying the views and taking in the majestic rock faces and structures.
I felt surprisingly knackered back at the car, it had only been an 8.5 mile day, but my feet were quite sore and I certainly didn’t feel like I could have done it again. I worried about how I would cope with the long ridge tomorrow.
We went into Portree and did a big shop in the huge Co-op supermarket in the town. We stocked up on junk food, beer, wine and lots of bread. Back at the croft we got properly squared away, it’s only a small place, so organisation makes things much easier.
I’m typing this up with no hope of a wifi signal tonight, or indeed until tomorrow evening. I will try and add some photos if the signal strength is good enough, but I’m not expecting it to be.