Today was one of those rare traveller’s days when everything works perfectly, and the only surprises are pleasant ones. I had breakfast (typically Scottish – smoked haddock with poached egg) early because the weather forecast was for sun in the morning followed by rain in the afternoon. I then headed straight off through Portree to the north-east tip of the island; I planned to do the popular Old Man of Storr hike in the morning and then drive around the island in the afternoon. On leaving Portree, the countryside immediately became very wild. I could soon see the range of rocks which contained the single tower called the Old Man of Storr in the distance, and before I knew it, I had parked the car and was hiking uphill. The higher I climbed, the better the views became.
I arrived at a junction from where several trails branched off. I thought I could see the path up to the Old Man, but after setting off I soon realised that I was wrong. The path was extremely steep, and there were few firm footholds in the loose soil. I dropped onto all fours (a natural position for a bear) but still struggled. When I put my weight on a seemingly solid rock, it would come loose and clatter downhill. On one such occasion I caused a small rockslide and looked on worried as smaller rocks nudged bigger rocks into motion. The bouncing mass of rocks headed towards a female human who had been unwise enough to follow me up the slope. She got of the way of the biggest rocks just in time, but was struck a glancing blow on the ankle by one of the smaller stragglers. I checked that she was OK before heading on up and reaching the summit, where I finally saw the path that I should have taken. I stopped to photograph the other pillars making up this spectacular rock formation and admire the view of the ocean. In the distance, on the Scottish mainland across the sea, rose range upon range of mountains; the tallest ones in the far distance were still sprinkled with snow. I knew that in a few days’ time I would driving through this region and felt a shudder of anticipation.
I regained my car and continued driving north. The sun was still shining brightly as I easily found the Lealt falls and Kilt Rock view points on the main road for yet more brilliant views.
The road continued to the small town of Staffin, before narrowing and winding its way around the far norther of the island, past small farms and isolated beaches. I stopped at one beach for a sandwich lunch.
Then I carried on around the north coast until I reached the small town of Uig, one of the main arrival points for ferries to Skye.
Near Uig, I found a tiny side road leading back into the hills, to the “Fairy Glen” – a pretty valley with many odd conical, grass covered mounds that legend says were made by fairies.
I spent a pleasant hour exploring the valley before heading on again, along another small mountain road, to the Quiraing, a spectacular rock formation formed when a landslide destroyed the side of one of Skye’s mountains.
The sun was still shining brightly, so I set off on a circular walk that initially led between the remains of the mountain on the left and many strange pillars and spires left by the landslide on the right. The views in all directions were jaw-dropping – whether out over the sea to neighbouring islands, or back across the bright green hills of Skye, or up to the mountain towering over me.
The path then turned back on itself and rose sharply up to the summit, for more amazing views.
The walk took me two and a half hours and it was now early evening. I had thoroughly explored the north-east corner of Skye and was very happy with my day – I had seen everything I planned to see, and had had the unexpected bonus of one of the most beautiful walks I had ever done. I thought I had thoroughly earned my dinner back in the hotel.