Footprints Across Scotland
Why not make a few of your own!
3rd to 11th September 2005
A weeks holiday on the Isle of Skye
First taste of the main Cullin Ridge and three days Kayaking.
We are now well into autumn and my September holiday now seems a distant memory. It was my first true holiday of the year, up until then I had enjoyed a couple of long weekends (and a fair few shorts ones) away, but this was my first full week. I had been thinking about alternative ways of exploring Scotland and alternative activities for when the Scottish weather is not suitable for high-level hill walking and to be honest at certain times this year these periods have stretched over a few weekends. Anyway I quite fancied the idea of canoeing or kayaking; there is certainly plenty of water around Scotland, long stretches of coastline, plenty of rivers and lochs. I had spoken to some of the guys at work about this and one of my colleagues had given me the contact of a instructor over on the Isle of Skye. Gordon Brown (no relation to the Chancellor) is I believe one of the most qualified in the UK and came highly recommended. So after getting in touch I arranged for three days instruction. The sea kayaking was arranged for the middle of the week so this gave me an opportunity to explore some more of Skye. I have only previously visited once before for a long Easter weekend early 2003 when I enjoyed unseasonably warm and very nice weather. They do have their fare share of inclement weather over on Skye, which is maybe why the Vikings called it the "misty isle". The forecast for the first three days was fairly good, no (or little) rain expected and very light winds. So I got up bright and early on Saturday morning threw everything I needed (and probably much more) into the back of the car and set off. Out of Aberdeen and around to Inverness down the side of loch Ness through Invermoriston and along Glen Shiel and on toward the Sky bridge. The main mountains of Skye, the Cullins, can be seen on the approach to the bridge and provide an impressive sight even from some distance away.http://www.undiscoveredscotland.co.uk/skye/bridge/index.html
I followed the main route across Skye (heading to the Island capital Portree) until I reached Broadford then turned off down a minor road to Elgol, A small fishing village in southwest Skye.
Magnificent Blaven from across Loch Slapin
The road passes around the shores of Loch Slapin and past Blaven. After arriving in Elgol I had a bite to eat and then loaded up my pack and set off along the coastal path towards the bay at Camasunary. The views across the sea and loch Scavaig towards the Cullin hills were very impressive even though the hills appeared as a dark silhouette in the hazy afternoon sunshine. After passing across the sandy flatlands of Camasunary bay the coastal path continued roughly along towards loch na Cuilice, a sheltered sea anchorage, and the gateway from the sea to the shores of loch Coruisk. The only obstacle now lying in my way was the "bad step" were the coastal path is interrupted by a steep section of rock extending from the hillside down into the sea. A crack along its length however provided a good foothold and not too many difficult moments.http://www.undiscoveredscotland.co.uk/skye/elgol/index.html
Past the "bad step" at Loch na Cuilice
I did entertain camping with a view of the sea near Loch na Cuilce but there wasn't any easy access to running water so I decided to camp near a waterfall on the shores of Loch Coruisk. The waterfall provided all the drinking water I needed and refreshing but rather cold "shower facilities".
Camping on the shores of loch Coruisk
I awoke about six on Sunday morning and a quick peek out the tent gave a disappointing view of very low mist but a good excuse for another hour in my sleeping bag. After getting up and starting breakfast the mist seemed to be clearing and I could just snatch one or two areas of blue in the sky. I decided to start my walk and see how the weather progressed as I went along.
Early morning mist over loch Coruisk, my "Campsite" was around to the right
Loch Coruisk is just above sea level and surrounded almost completely by steep sided mountains. The Cullins run along one side and around the head of the loch while some more steep hills guard the other sides restricting access to some long footpaths or by boat.
Anchorage at Loch na Cuilce and the waterfall at "Mad burn"
After walking around loch Coruisk I then negotiated the shoreline around Loch na Cuilice and across the mad burn and then up the hillside. There was a path part way but then it became necessary to pick a route through the crags to gain the ridge.
A boat arrives at Loch na Cuilce near Loch Coruisk
Looking back down towards the anchorage I could see that the early morning solitude had been broken and new visitors were arriving. The day trip boats from Elgol, a couple of Yachts and a big party in Sea Kayaks. I could still pick out my tent, being bright red it didn't exactly blend into the surroundings. Just before reaching the main ridge there was a bit of rain but this soon cleared together with the clouds leaving a lovely sunny day. This was my first time on the main Cullin ridge and I must admit I approached it with a bit of trepidation. There plenty of sections that could prove troublesome with plenty of sheer drops and awkward areas of scrambling, some areas of the ridge are definitely not for walkers and are only suitable for experienced climbers, but with good conditions on my side I could now press on and enjoy the scenery.
Onto the main Cullin ridge
Most of the ridge is pure rock, razor sharp in places and a bit on the crumbly side in others.
Loch Coir a'Ghrunnda
Sgurr Alisdar and Caisteal a'Garbh-choire (foreground)
After what was a fairly long and strenuous walk I arrived back at the tent and after cooling of in the waterfall had my evening meal, spoilt only by the massive numbers of midges that were trying to enjoy me as their evening meal. I was so glad I had brought my head net to keep them off. The net proved fine until it was time to eat when it proved difficult to take a bite of food at the same time as trying to keep the little monsters from flying in under my defences. When the wind got up a little bit it tendered to keep them at bay, but at times when it was dull and calm they came out to greet me in there numbers, still it was a small price to pay to be able to be amongst such amazing scenery.
One of the "little Monsters" (well maybe not!)
I just took things at a leisurely pace on Monday and after watching a couple of boats arrive with passengers from Elgol I set off on the hike back to the car. The three-hour walk back is fairly tiring over rough ground and with a big pack but I think because the day was so warm and sticky it made just that bit harder.
The coastal path to the "bad step" leaving Loch na Cuilce
Back at the car I removed my boots with the utmost joy and then set off to Isleornsay and Camuscross were I would be staying in bed and breakfast for a few days while on the Kayaking course. The owners of the B&B Liz and Archie turned out to be a lovely couple. Gordon, the kayaking instructor, had recommended the B&B and said that "Aunty Liz's" breakfasts were legendary and so they proved to be, I think one would have kept me going for a week. Apart from breakfast she also provided a huge packed lunch together with a flask of tea "to see me through the day".http://www.undiscoveredscotland.co.uk/skye/isleornsay/
Evening view from Camuscross (bed and breakfast)
And the following morning with the tide out
Four other beginners, Ian, Ben, Kim and Trevor, joined me on the kayaking course. Kim and Trevor were on the honeymoon and Kim was convinced she would be the first to capsize. Well true to her word she was but only after getting to the stage were I think she had gained some confidence and then let her self relax a little too much. Her concerns about being able to get out of the kayak were certainly unfounded as Gordon had said. I think she was out and holding the side before the Kayak had completely rolled over. The Kayaking was great but a little hard work at times, using the arm muscles I forgot I had. The first day was spent around the bay at Camuscross learning how to paddle and "steer" the Kayak and generally getting a feel for the boats. At the end of the day we did some controlled capsizing, learning how to get out of the Kayak properly while keeping contact with the paddle and boat. The middle day was spent around the area near the sky bridge in some slightly choppier sea and up a tidal river. We headed out and around some of the tiny islands nearby and got some good views of the many seals in the area. On our final day Kayaking we headed around the coast from Camuscross and stopped at the little harbour near the Isleornsay Hotel and popped into the whiskey shop next door for some whisky tasting. Kim and Trevor had come along on the Kayaking course with a view to see plenty of wildlife and especially with the hope of catching a glimpse of some Otters and today proved to be their lucky day. I managed to hear them chattering but just missed seeing them as I was last to turn the corner were they had been spotted by the others. At the end of the day it was again time to get wet as we learned how to help rescue each other and how to self rescue and get back into the Kayak without the help of others.
The Motley crew come ashore. Trevor, Kim, Ian, Ben and a man in strange hat
Beinn Sgritheall on the shores of loch Hourn
I enjoyed my final night at the B&B after having a "wee dram" with Liz and Archie I headed down the Isleornsay hotel for my evening meal. I met up with Irene and Rene a Swiss couple who had just arrived earlier at the B&B. We had dinner together (fish and chips) and then a bit more whisky tasting was in order. The food at the hotel had been great all week and plain old fish and chips was just as much a treat as the rest had been. For anyone interested in a course I would definitely recommend Gordon and his team at Skyak adventures. It was really great fun and a good experience. Isle of Ornsay and its surrounds make a great location for anyone interested in a paddle.www.skyakadventures.com/
Impressive "handle bars" but not for sitting on!
After leaving Camuscross I headed back to Broadford were I had a walk up some of the red Cullin, some less fearsome hills to the south of the black Cullin. First task of the day was to pass some highland cows who seemed quite content to stand around all day blocking the road. I had to get out of the car in the end and almost push them out of the way.http://www.undiscoveredscotland.co.uk/skye/broadford/index.html
Beinn na Caillich and Broadford in the distance
Self-portrait with the Cullin for company
Another view of Blaven from up high
After completing the walk around the hills of Broadford I headed up the main road to a campsite with "hot showers". Sligachan is situated at the other end of the Cullin ridge to were I had walked on Sunday.http://www.undiscoveredscotland.co.uk/skye/sligachan/index.html
I had arranged to meet Ben the following day for a walk to climb Am Bastier and Bruach na Frithe. Ben had not climbed any of the Scottish mountains before but was keen to get a feel for what it was like. It turned out to be a fantastic day and a brilliant walk with some magnificent scenery; Ben was very impressed (me too). The sky went a bit grey for an hour or so during the climb but cleared later to leave use with some great views.
Sgurr nan Gillian and Am Basteir
Pinnacle ridge (the climbers way up)
Am Bastier (the Executioner) and the Bastier Tooth
No Executions today
A look back at the route up
Ben on top of Bruach na Frithe
What a view, but a long way down!
Ben leads the way off.
. but is overtaken
Eilean Donan castle on a grey day
Still looks good without the sunshine
After packing up camp at Sligachan I started the journey home stopping at Eilean Donan castle to take a few photos. I then continued on my way until reaching Drumnadrochit on the shores of loch ness where I stopped for lunch. The local pub had Scottish Rib roast with Yorkshire pudding on the menu and I couldn't resist. I don't know if it was the fact that I had been living on "camp" food for a couple of days but the meal tasted fantastic and was washed down with a bottle of Black Isle blonde beer. A nice end to an enjoyable week.
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