Skye Trail Day Three – The Storr to Portree – 9 miles, 4 hours
Day three dawned with a slight change in the weather; overcast with distance blue skies and a chill wind coming in from the north, which suited my direction of travel at least. It was a shorter day today, and with hindsight I was glad I’d done the long route yesterday, instead of trying to put it off.
We drove back to the Storr car park and I got booted up in the cold wind, wishing I’d remembered to stick my Paramo trousers in the car when we’d left the croft. It was about 7C which is cold enough to justify them in my mind, plus they are waterproof and I was sort of expecting to get rained on at some point along the walk, based on the cloud cover and wind speed.
I set off down the road clad in baselayer, Paramo jacket and warm hat. I turned into the access road for the Bearreraig power station and got some great views behind me to the Storr. The Storr was backed by wonderful blue skies, a very deceptive picture of the weather conditions I was walking in. It got colder and windier as I climbed away from the power station, up to a grassy hummock (186) with a wooden post sticking out of it. Although there is a Scotways signpost beside the cottage at the power station, there is no path on the ground to follow for any of the subsequent description. There are sheep tracks all over the place and a quad bike track that appears and disappears, but you’re pretty much on your own, following your nose.
The route advice today was stick to the high ground as much as possible and this was relatively easy to do, as a vague ridge line stretched away to the south east. A number of cols separated the various high spots and in wetter times these would be very wet and boggy; today however they were fairly dry and although I was carrying them I didn’t feel the need to deploy the gaiters at all today. The boggy cols were more squelchy than anything else and springy and enjoyable in places.
At the end of the ridge I had to drop down to what would also be another long stretch of boggy ground, heading towards the craggy northern face of Fiurnean. It too was pretty dry and I managed to skip and jump across the worse sections, before arriving at a handy gully, still dryshod. A sheep track mostly went the way I wanted, so this helped. The gully is the most obvious route up onto this section of high ground, it’s steep, but not difficult. At the top I headed left, to stick to the edge of the escarpment, which gave great views across to Raasay, Applecross, Torridon and probably beyond. The stark white mountain tops from yesterday were mostly hidden in cloud today though.
There is a final steep grassy ascent up to Fiurnean, which took the wind out of me and also put me firmly in the grip of the growing northerly. I stopped to add a mid layer beneath the coat as a wind stopper and this helped immensely, as did the gloves I finally gave in to wearing.
From the summit of Fiurnean the ground improves significantly I found myself walking on short cropped grass, almost like a bowling green compared to the previous couple of days. Another climb saw me at the summit of Craig Ulatota and another steep descent and a ferocious climb and I’d reached the trig point at Sithean Bhealaich Chumhaing. I took respite from the wind here, and managed to get a good phone signal to send a couple of texts. Just as I’d stopped the rain had started, but it wasn’t really proper rain, just a couple of drops that I thought presaged a bigger onset, but fortunately that never transpired and the most it did for the rest of the walk was spot occasionally.
The good green turf continued for a while beyond the trig point, but soon gave out to thin, low level heather and more, mostly dry bogs, as I approached Bealach Cumhang. From here on I admit to straying off my intended line somewhat. I didn’t lose the path, there wasn’t one, but I did end up following a sheep trod that was going in just slightly the wrong direction, enough to lead me away from the optimal descent route off Creag Mhor. In the end I used the GPS to lead me to a likely looking descent spot and I scrambled down a steep slope covered in heather. I could see my target well below me, the Bile pastures of Portree; pleasant green fields on the coastline, nothing like what their name suggested.
I found a fence line with a stile and used this to cross to a thin path that cut down a narrow gully, steep and damp and murder on my knees, which still hadn’t recovered fully from yesterday’s punishment. This brought me to Am Bile and I crossed the pastures to reach a lovely stone-laid path around the base of Ben Chracaig. This reminded me of the path around Haweswater, except for the smell of salt in the air and the floating fish farms moored in the Sound.
The path got better as it approached Portree and I began to see day trippers doing the circular walk around Ben Chracaig. As I arrived in Portree I looked for a likely shop for a sausage roll or pasty, but no such luck. Lots of chip shops and little cafes, but not a bakery that I could see.
I left the town, along the main road and soon arrived at the Aros Experience, a rather busy looking place, but where I’d arranged to meet Roger. He wasn’t around, but I found the car and eased my feet out of my boots and into my trainers – much better. A minute or two later Roger arrived, from taking the dog for a wander and we headed back to Portree village to find some lunch.
1pm is obviously school lunch hour, because everywhere was packed with kids. Even the supermarket was 10 deep at the checkout with kids, the chippies had queues of kids coming out the doors, so we called it quits and headed back to the croft.