I’m always musing on alternative careers/business adventures and I’m sure that the above would be a winner. I love pies and having recently visited I can confidently say I love Skye too. Therefore a business making and selling pies filled with Skye based produce would surely contribute greatly to society and potentially soften the edges of an increasingly sharp world one delightful pastry item at a time.
However in this post and shall mainly be focusing on the non food related portion of my Easter trip to Skye. What my trip lacked in pastry it more than made up for in scenery, wildness and weather.
As you can see from my photoblog here Skye has scenery to rival the best in the world. Captured in the right light I can honestly say the cliffs of Trotternish or the jagged spikes of the snow capped Cuillin ridge rivals anything I have seen on my worldly travels. For me Skye’s depth of beauty lies in its wild places. Despite there already being a large number of international tourists early in the season a walk beyond a designated parking spot always led to almost immediate wilderness and calm.
I’m going to focus this post on logistics and walking to share a few things I think really helped shape my trip and make it memorable.
Arrive slowly and in daylight
The journey to Skye is part of the trip. All routes to Skye pass spectacular scenery whether approaching from Inverness via Loch Ness, Glen Shiel and Kintail or from Glasgow via Loch Lomond, Rannoch More and Glen Coe. Initially I was travelling on my own and had a very comofortable journey from Glasgow Airport direct to Uig in the north of Skye using Citylink coaches. Coaches leave Glasgow airport daily and stop in Fort William to change drivers allowing a quick trip into Fort William to pick up supplies (and if you time it right a free calendar from Nevisport). Yes the journey takes most of the day but what a drive, looking out the window is a genuine pleasure and passes the time easily.
Stay somewhere remote
Skye’s towns – Broadford and Portree are functional and practical but for a real Skye feeling make some time to stay somewhere a little harder to access, a little more remote. I chose to stay at The Cowshed in Uig. It was quite possible the most beautiful hostel I have stayed in both inside and out. Opened in July 2015 after a complete refit of an old SYHA hostel it has really set a standard that all other hostels should aspire to reach. From its large open plan kitchen diner and snug lounge area there are panoramic views over Uig Bay. The bedrooms all feature individual sleeping compartments; almost like tiny cabins in a ship with privacy curtain, shelf, reading light and lovely soft cotton sheets. The decor is reminiscent of an interiors magazine and certainly puts my own house to shame in the design stakes.
Embrace your waterproofs
It will rain. It may even rain for the majority of your trip. You will still have a lovely time but you need to embrace the weather. Come prepared with waterproof jackets, trousers and shoes. Then, whatever the weather, Skye is your oyster. There are plenty of low level walks that are beautiful whatever the weather. Heading up high in rain and wind isn’t my idea of fun (although I appreciate others love it – at least in the pub afterwards). To me the best thing to do on Skye is to walk, short or long, high or low it doesn’t matter but just get out there to appreciate the beauty, wildness and calm that is often missing from our day to day lives.
Walk every day
I found two books really helpful when planning walking routes; firstly Cicerone’s Isle of Skye which has the widest variety of routes – from multi day traverses of the Cuillin Ridge to car park potters. I also love the Pocket Mountains series, I’m beginning to build quite a collection of their titles but their The Islands book was of particular help and inspiration on this trip.
In a 4 day trip I planned two longish walks, one medium and a few short walks. This gave a lovely balance between feeling I’d really got out the car and explored but also gave some flexibility for when the weather was getting a little testing.
Trotternish Ridge from Fairy Glen – a 20km or so circular walk well described in the pocket mountains book above. I decided to do the route backwards to that described in the book. Starting with the fairy glen thus leaving some back out options if the weather changed. Thankfully the weather was on my side and although windy the views from the ridge were spectacular; as far south as The Storr, as far north as Quinraig and widereaching vistas of both coastlines and outying islands and peninsulas.
Seacliffs of Portree – 17km route starting with a well made path out of town to the north around the headland but soon heading off the beaten track on to wild, open seacliffs. An out and back route but with stunning vistas in both directions and some fairly challenging weather both halves of the walk felt and looked completely different!
A circuit of the fairy pools – 8km route. I have to admit my heart sank a little as we battled to find a car parking space with hoards of other visitors to Skye over Easter Bank Holiday weekend. However all was not lost as we took a circular route described in the Cicerone guidebook which took us up a well marked but unused path towards a saddle which had views down as far as Silgachan before traversing along the 400m contour line along the bottom of the screen slopes of the Cuillin before returning down the more well used path alongside the fairy pools. The pools themselves were undeniably spectacular, a series of differing waterfalls, pools and chasms unlike anything I have seen before.
Talisker Bay – 3km return. We actually did this easy route as a run. See next point. Nonetheless in slightly less adverse weather it would make a delightful stroll to a spectacularly wild beach.
Coral Beaches – 3km return. The closest Skye will ever come to the Caribbean.
Plan a wild swim whatever the weather
We chose two locations for a wild swim, firstly Talisker Bay and secondly the Coral Beaches. The Fairy pools were a planned third but ultimately when the time came we were just too wet and cold to go through with it.
Having arrived the car park at Talisker Bay, damp and cold we decided the only possible way we would swim was if we arrived at the beach warm. Thankfully the beach is located approximately 20 minutes walk down a long track. We decided to jog down there much to the amusement of fellow visitors. The site of three girls all in full waterproofs and hiking boots jogging was probably not what they were expecting. Our strategy paid off and arriving at the beach warm meant we could embrace the rugged, life affirming experience that awaited us. I can honestly say I think I had an out of body experience. It may have had something to do with the Talisker Whiskey sampling that had gone before our mad dash but suffice to say the other visitors to the beach were greeted by a lunatic in a bikini running around in circles trying to warm herself up shouting about how invigorated she felt at the top of her voice.
The second swim at the Coral Beaches was (according to the pictures) much less extreme. I can vouch for the presence of sunshine but can confidently tell you that it did not, in any way, alter the temperature of the water which still fell into the ‘absolutely baltic’ category.
If you want any tips of how to incorporate a wild swim into a day out you might just like this post here.
In summary I loved Skye, I loved its wildness and sense of peace and calm. Its weather is predictably unpredictable but that only increases its charm. Like in life you never know quite what you’re going to get.
I can’t wait to return; firstly to explore more of its wild delights and secondly to explore some of its more food based credentials and most certainly to do some market research for my pies!
What do you think of Skye? Where should I go next time? Have you been inspired to go?