Making a planned escape in the midst of a time of turmoil14th March 2017
In a lot of ways, 2005 was an eventful year. My mother’s health was poor for much of it and several weeks with a vomiting complaint resulting in her having to go to hospital, a move that she resisted. We could have done without the clueless inexperience of the consultant that had here in his care. It all meant that an Easter visit to Ireland proved inevitable. During the summer, the poor woman suffered an episode of shingles if life was not hard enough as it was.
In the world at large, there was a general election in Britain where the government got itself re-elected with a reduced majority. Times were changing and July brought two terrorist attacks in London, one horrifically successful and the other resulting in failure. Neither did anything to steady nerves and I resolved to keep away from London for a time; it was to be a few years before I made any return visit.
Not a Good Time to be Going Away
With all this happening, my by now customary week long summer break was in order. The timing was not nearly as bad as my brother’s trip to London with a friend of his. An abortive terrorist attack happened on 22/7 while he was staying in the city and I was to travel to Scotland the very next day. Paternal nerves needed steadying after I sensed that I might have said too much about London events so I got my brother to make contact with Ireland. London turned out to be big enough that he saw very little of anything that happened.
As I travelled north, there was heightened awareness as I topped up on a few things at a WHSmith’s branch in Manchester Piccadilly train station. Otherwise, the security situation does remain so much in my memory these days. My journey was to take me to Edinburgh where I would spend the weekend with a friend before continuing to Skye.
Any recollection of how the weekend was spent has faded as much as that of the journey from Edinburgh to Broadford on the Isle of Skye. Shortly after arriving, my brother phoned to see where I was because our mother had shingles. Both of us were away from our normal bases so our father had to be supported in another way, possibly with help from an aunt and uncle. While the security situation felt very far away, life’s tribulations displayed their ability to follow you. Still, I got out for a stroll along Broadford Bay and found my way to somewhere where I could get something to eat.
Next morning, I caught the bus to Elgol. Then, services were not as regular as they are today and that influenced my choice of walk. It is a scenic spot with coastal views of the Cuillin hills. There were to be plenty of those as I followed the path north along by Loch Scavaig.
As this took me along the steep side of Ben Cleat, my mind was focussed by the possibility of slipping into the see if I was to lose my foothold. It reminded me of walk along Offa’s Dyke Path by the side of Eglwyseg Mountain only a few weeks earlier. Tripping there would not have dropped me into the sea though.
Reaching Glen Scaladal brought with it a sense of relief though the amount flotsam and jetsam from the sea made for a surprising sight. Next up were the slopes of Beinn Leacach but they were not as intimidating as those along Ben Cleat had been. Camasunary was reached without incident.
From this point, many continue towards Loch Coruisk by way of The Bad Step near Sgurr na Stri. That way would take you into the heart of the Cuillin but I was not so adventurous. My choice took me towards Loch na Crèitheach and Glen Sligachan before I would finish my walk at Sligachan itself. This would continue the scenic grandeur to which I had been exposed.
The sun was set to shine for most of the way too. Thus, I would get to see a whole range of delights like Blàbheinn and Marsco at their best. This was a small helping of wilderness walking with encumbrance from scarcely a soul, exactly what I needed after all that had happened that year. Waterways like the River Sligachan and lochs like Loch an Athain or Lochan Dubha would be watery companions for parts of the hike. Map inspection was as much for working out what surrounded or what other walking possibilities there might be as much as it was for progress assessment.
The famous south-facing view from Sligachan was not a photographic possibility as I awaited the next bus to Broadford. Taking some refreshment at the Sligachan Hotel tempted too but I decided to play safe though buses were not so irregular here. This is a place to which I probably need to return.
After the enjoyment of the previous day, I was off again and the destination this time was the Trotternish. With a stopover in Portree, I went from Broadford to Brogaig. It was on the second leg of the journey that I saw that newspaper delivery to Staffin was done by bus. Once I had disembarked, I was on the minor road across the ancient landslip that so dominates sights on this part of Skye.
Though the curiosities of the Quirang lay to my right, I chose instead to turn left and stroll south along the inland cliff top. Quite why I had overlooked an out and back stroll in the other direction is a little lost to me now but it might have been because the day was dull at this point. Leaving the making of photos of rock formations like The Table, The Prison and The Needle for a sunnier day does have a ring of sense about it.
My course was to carry me over humps and bumps as far as Beinn Edra. For whatever reason, the stroll felt a long one. Whether it was because the day before had spoilt me with its delights or the ground underfoot was less compatible with rapid progress is not something that I can answer readily. Either way, I dropped into Glen Conon on the way to Uig under breaking cloud cover.
The sun was out by the time that I reached Uig and, with time to spend before the next bus to Portree, I found my way to a shady glade at the foot of Glen Uig where I rested a while. It was to be August 2008 when I would be here next and that would be when I made my first, and so far only, trip to Harris. Explorations were set to continue.
The way back to Broadford cannot have been eventful for I have little recollection of it now. After my last evening in Broadford, it was time to start heading south again. That must have been a journey without much ardour too for next to no detail remains in memory. That autumn, I was set to embark on a career move so the changes were set to continue.
None of the changes in 2005 were anything as dramatic as those in 2016. My life was set to continue in a readily steady direction with one thing leading to another. Good memories remain and yet may call me back to those places where they were first made.
Train from Macclesfield to Edinburgh. Scottish Citylink coach journey from Edinburgh to Broadford with a change of coach in Fort William. Highland Country bus services from Broadford to Elgol, Sligachan to Broadford, Broadford to Portree, Portree to Brogaig, Uig to Portree and Portree to Broadford. Scottish Citylink coach journey from Broadford to Glasgow with a change of coach in Fort William. Train from Glasgow to Macclesfield.