No ‘speed bonny boat’, nor was there a ‘bird on the wing’. There was, however, an ‘over the sea to Skye’. We just took the far handier bridge!
Our first trip to Skye was, admittedly, an afterthought, a trip that was tagged on to the end of our visit to Harris last year. I’m ashamed to admit it but, in all the excitement of taking Harris to Harris, a first trip to the island not just for our son Harris but, also, for us, we omitted to even consider the many locations we would encounter along the route from Ellon to Harris.
And then, with some thought given to the amount of time spent travelling, both by ferry and car, we added a Skye stopover, staying for two nights at the excellent Breakish Horse cabin (Air BnB link), towards the bottom of the island.
Given the time of year, September, less than savoury weather was always a risk. However, I would be lying if I said that I wasn’t slightly disappointed that we ended up with two days straight of mostly torrential rain and more midges than I care to remember. It’s not like I hadn’t already had enough of the midge menace, having experienced some of the worst midges ever at the 2016 West Highland Way Race and then a further dose of them at the 24 hour Glenmore 24 ultramarathon.
Weather and midges aside, we did our best to see at least some of what Skye had to offer, often through sheet rain and cloud, and saw enough to convince ourselves that Skye was a special place, worthy of considerable exploration. And so, with this in mind, we decided that Skye would be our Summer 2017 holiday destination.
There was no question of where to stay this time around. The Breakish Horse cabin is a real gem, a self contained cabin that has everything required for a vacation, and with enough room between us and the closest neighbours, coincidentally the host Jackie and her family, that we didn’t have to worry about Harris being his often excited, occasionally very loud self! Fortunately, Jackie had availability for 5 days that matched our preferred dates. Sorted!
The cabin is set well away from the road, and overlooks Lower Breakish, a stunning view at the best of times, more so as you watch the sun set with various tinges of orange and red. What’s more, it is also part surrounded by sheep, and we arrived in the midst of the lambing season. We loved spending time listening to the varied, often comical, bleats emanating from the sheep and we had the added bonus of the nimble young lambs, adding their own distinctive cries and entertaining us with their acrobatics. I still find it hard to believe that these popping, leaping youngsters grow up to become cumbersome sheep!
There was one lamb in particular, Murdo, unfortunately rejected by his mum, who Harris sought out each day and we were fortunate to be able to help feed Murdo on a couple of occasions.
So, on to Skye itself. We were blessed with temperatures in the mid to high teens (°C), with a couple of days of completely blue sunny skies, one slightly overcast day, and days that improved as the day progressed. On our last day, we found ourselves sitting outside having dinner at 6pm, watching the lambs leaping around, without a midge in sight! Despite warnings of an impending ‘midge-ageddon’, we managed to dodge the midge bullet, a huge bonus to someone like myself, who appears to be the equivalent of a ‘happy meal’ where midges are concerned.
Looks like May next year for a repeat visit if the week just past is anything to go by!
We had plans with regard to what we wanted to see but, unsurprisingly, didn’t get around everything – the perfect excuse for a return trip.
Departing very early on the Monday morning meant that we arrived in Skye before lunchtime and we spent the afternoon enjoying a leisurely walk out of Broadford, just a couple of miles along the road from Breakish. Given how long we had spent in the car already, we opted not to travel further than necessary and this walk was the perfect distance, covering some of the Skye Trail and returning along by Beinn na Cailleach. We took the Unirider along which meant that Harris could hop on, or off, as required and he made the most of each and every opportunity to clamber and climb over rocks.
Tuesday morning again saw an early start, arriving in the car park at the Old Man of Storr whilst there was still a space. I’d read that there were proposals to increase parking and, by the time we returned to the car, some 3 and a 1/2 hours later, I could see why. The road was double parked as far as you could see!
Our Old Man of Storr trip unintentionally turned in to Harris’s first scramble. He was as fearless as ever. However, with the benefit of hindsight, we should have stuck to the path instead of blindly following those in front of us, who, it turns out, opted for the scramble directly up the steep front of the Old Man of Storr. It probably didn’t help that one of them started to really struggle approx. half way up and appeared fairly distressed.
After a fair climb, we again rejoined the more obvious route, and retreated to just beneath the Old Man of Storr.
Exploring around the base of the Old Man, I found a slightly less treacherous route, which I ascended. Again with hindsight, doing this with no pockets (shorts & t-shirt only) and with an iPhone in one hand and a walking pole in the other, wasn’t perhaps the most sensible approach, something that I confirmed to myself on the slip sliding descent via another route, that saw me gingerly make my way back down to Leanne and Harris. It was, however, worth it for the view:
Despite the scramble element, this was an excellent walk, slightly ‘hairy’ at times, but enjoyed by all and in the most glorious of weather conditions. We were all in need of lunch by the time we returned to the car and headed back to Portree for supplies before then heading to the Quiraing. It was just too nice a day not to head there to try and see the Quiraing in all its glory, especially having seen just a fraction of its beauty last time around thanks to the driving rain. On our previous visit there had been no more than 3 cars, brave/foolish souls all desperate to see this stunning attraction. This time around, we were lucky to find a space. Harris’s efforts at the Old Man of Storr had, by this point, caught up with him and he was fast asleep in the car, giving me the perfect opportunity to escape for a short run along the various Quiraing trails. Once Harris woke, we all set about exploring and taking in the stunning views.
After the efforts of Tuesday, both Leanne and Harris opted for a well deserved chilled day on the Wednesday, staying closer to our Breakish base.
I, in my ‘wisdom’, decided to opt for a run, with a target of ascending Beinn na Cailleach and traversing the Broadford Red Hills. Unfortunately, at approx. 450 metres, with some 250 metres of ascent still to go, I found myself out of my comfort zone, having lost the trail (as I discovered retrospectively) and somewhat uncomfortable with the steepness and the terrain underfoot. After succeeding in displacing more than a few small boulders, and not for the first time that morning, self preservation, and indeed, preservation of my by now cut and bleeding shins and ankles, kicked in and I set about descending, which was in itself quite a journey!
Once at the bottom of Beinn na Cailleach, I set about exploring some more of the Skye Trail, far more runnable and much more favourable. This was what I should have done instead. Ah, the benefit of hindsight. I ran back into Broadford where I met up with Leanne and Harris, enjoying chips and curry sauce for lunch. Well earned I reckon!
The afternoon was spent enjoying the stunning Lower Breakish Beach and, once again, Harris found himself in his element, clambering over the rocks.
On Thursday we again set off early, this time heading for The Fairy Glen. This is a must visit if you come to Skye. It’s just so different to anything that you might encounter elsewhere, described as ‘a bizarre and delightful miniature landscape of grassy, cone-shaped hills’ on walkhighlands.co.uk. We spent much longer than we had anticipated exploring both the left and right hand side of the hills, intersected by the narrow road to/from Uig.
Next up was a fairly lengthy drive to the Coral Beach in Claigan, just north of Dunvegan. ‘The beach is made from crushed white coral like seaweed that makes the water look tropical blue when the sun comes out.’ (https://www.isleofskye.com/skye-guide/top-ten-skye-walks/coral-beach). The volume of visitors, despite the remoteness of the beach, is testament to just how special it is. Well worth travelling for.
We stopped off in Glen Sligachan on our return to Breakish, so that we could take in the beauty of the Black and Red Cuillin and ended up staying far longer than expected (a recurring theme!). Leanne and Harris initially enjoyed the park whilst I had a brief run along the trail, a trail that I would return to Skye just to run, such was its beauty. A timely flyby by a couple of Eurofighter Typhoon jets added to the sights (and sounds), as they hugged the mountains.
Returning from my all too brief exploration of the trail, I soon discovered the rocky riverbed at the base of the old bridge and knew straight away that Harris would love it. And love it he did, hopping around the rocks, leaving me to try and keep up and follow as best as I could in the interests of safety. It’s great that I can now ‘legitimately’ do stuff like that, all in the interests of parenting and ensuring safety of course!
After a good time spent rock hopping, Harris took it upon himself to cross the entire way to the other side, something I thought, even with the fairly dry state of the river, was ambitious, especially given that the obvious rock ‘path’ thinned somewhat. Just a matter of feet from a successful crossing, Harris took a tumble and an early ‘bath’. I took one for the team to ensure a safe and easy extraction of the now soaked Harris. We did make it to our destination, albeit a bit wetter than when we had set out, but having thoroughly enjoyed ourselves and glad that we had taken the opportunity to play around. The river was, I suspect, lower than normal due to the lack of rain that week, and the rocks likely drier than they would normally be. I’d also noticed a lull in the tourists trying to take the all important bridge/Cuillin photos so our fun and games hadn’t come at the expense of anyone’s photographic memories.
Finally arriving home, we enjoyed the last supper in the company of the sheep, basking in the unexpected heat and without a midge in sight. A perfect conclusion to our trip to Skye.
Friday morning saw us depart, with a stopover at Eilean Donan Castle, a destination both myself and Leanne had long wanted to see, and then it was off to Nairn for the night, where we had decided that a stopover would help break up the return journey.
It turns out that this was a well calculated move, as we found ourselves in a lovely, spacious static caravan literally feet from the lovely Nairn beach and, with temperatures easily reaching 19°C, we hit the beach armed with buckets and spades.
Whilst it did rain overnight, the forecast day-long rain failed to materialise, at least long enough for us to enjoy one last walk along the beach before finally heading home to Ellon.
I can’t wait for a return to Skye, a sentiment shared by both Leanne and Harris. There’s so much more still to do, and, from a personal perspective, so many more trails to run (though next time I will be more considered in my approach to the mountains – quite literally!). We will no doubt look to base ourselves in Breakish again, should availability permit and we can only hope for a repeat of the glorious weather that made our trip quite so successful this time around.