A spot of island hopping Part 1: a quick visit to Skye27th August 2008
Sunday, August 10th:
Up to a few weeks ago, I hadn’t been to Skye for a few years, so a visit was long overdue, even if it turned out to be a short one while on a journey that took islands that I had until then not visited at all. There might have been showers floating about, but Skye didn’t disappoint whenever the sun made its way from behind the clouds. The day before couldn’t have been more wet in Macclesfield (the Sutton Sheepdog Trials could have done with better weather…) so anyone who knew what I was planning could have been forgiven for thinking that I was mad. However, things didn’t look too bad in Glasgow, and the sun lit up parts of the city as the coach on which I was travelling made its way to Fort William. Between the upper reaches of Loch Lomond and Loch Linnhe, though, the aspect shown by the weather was well wet. I still found Fort William wet underfoot but dry overhead during a short stop there to change coach before continuing to Skye. That drier theme was set to continue all the way to Kyle of Lochalsh, where Skye was displaying a damper appearance. Further north on the island, conditions were very different, with a good deal of sun on offer in Portree.
Once I had dropped off some of my things at where I was staying for the night, I decided to head for Ben Tianavaig for a spot of hiking. To get there, I had to brave the busy A87 before making my way onto the B883 that serves Braes, a place that is noted for a famous clash between crofters and police who had come to enforce the execution of eviction notices. The result of that battle was the enactment of legislation guaranteeing crofters’ rights that sounds not that dissimilar to the demands of the Irish Land League. Different histories sometimes exhibit certain common threads.
The Braes were five miles away from the A87, so that was never going to be my object for the day; more than ten miles of road walking is not my idea of fun, so a bicycle would offer a better way of getting there. As it happened, my initial target was Camustianavaig on the shores of Loch Tianavaig. There, I met some people who said that there were porpoises playing offshore, and I got to see what they were enjoying with my own eyes. I left them to savour the sights and soon found a rough path taking me out into open country to start on my way up the steep sides of Ben Tianavaig. I chose a route away from any really steep drops, particularly those looking a little bit too close to the sea. After braving the leg busting ascent and any showers that cam the way, I found myself on top of the hill with marvellous panoramic views to be enjoyed. The sights included Raasay, the Trotternish ridge to the north, the Red Hills and Cuillin to the south, along with Skye’s indented coastline. I had it all to myself for those moments before thoughts of getting back down again came to the fore.
The route down was to be different to the way up, and Scotland’s access laws were well-used as I negotiated the rough country between Ben Tianavaig and Penifiler. It wasn’t all downhill, since there was a small bit of uphill action before I got onto less testing ground. Conditions underfoot weren’t too wet considering the rain that was about, and the vegetation wasn’t too bothersome either. There was a tricky thicket of scrub that through which I forced my way across a stream, but heather, bracken and marsh grasses were the less challenging mainstay. I don’t recall seeing much wildlife and I don’t remember any interest from midges, so they can’t have been too bad.
Even with my return to tarmac, there was still the matter of rounding Loch Portree as the sky grew darker. If there was a bridge across the loch, then I wouldn’t have needed to take as long to return to my lodgings for the night. That darkness soon turned to dampness, and I needed waterproofs again by the time that I reached the A87 again. The rain was to persist for a few hours, but I was after a good walk with its moments of sun and so had no complaints.
An easier day followed, and I couldn’t really get up to doing much, with a 14:00 ferry to Harris to be caught. I spent some time mooching around Portree and trying not to buy so much as to be overloading myself with it; the weight on my back was already enough for me. I left Portree at 11:35 on the bus to Uig, where conditions were drier with no showers happening on me while I waited there. That may have left me with some hours to spare, but buying a ticket took up some of that time, and the sun came out while I was waiting. That ferry came soon enough, but that’s a story for the next post in the series.
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