Sightseeing in the north of Skye

  • Map             A map of the day’s journey can be found here – it may take a few moments to load into a separate window. The map displays on most browsers, but not unfortunately Internet Explorer.

Looking south along the Trotternish escarpment

Dun Beag on the Isle of Skye - Iron Age broch - only 100m from the roadside

Today we had planned to climb the classic Round of Coire Lagan taking in the summits of Sgurr Alasdair, Sgurr Mhic Choinnich and Sgurr Dearg (with its The Inaccessible Pinnacle – a particularly exposed and narrow blade of rock that requires you to rock climb up one side and abseil off the other). However, even though the weather was dry and bright it was extremely windy and would have made a climb of the Inaccessible Pinnacle a bit too “uncomfortable”! So we agreed that today was not the ideal day to undertake such a climb and instead headed out to do some sightseeing round the north of the island.

Inside the circular perimeter stone wall of Dun Beag - an ancient Iron Age broch on the Isle of Skye

A tiny entrance 'door' leads to a circular room Inside Dun Beag - an ancient Iron Age broch on the Isle of Skye

We decided to do an anti-clockwise tour around the north side taking in the Waternish peninsula on the northwest and then the Trotternish peninsula on the northeast. Heading from our overnight camp near Sligachan we passed through Struan and just beyond here stopped at the Iron Age broch of Dun Beag (meaning “Small Fort”). [In a previous blog, 16 June 2011 – On the Glenelg peninsular], Cameron has already mentioned about brochs.] The Dun Beag broch overlooks Loch Bracadale [a sea-loch with a number of islands that have near vertical seaward cliffs and gently sloping landward sides] and is regarded as the best-preserved example of a broch on Skye. Whilst admiring this elaborate construction, we spotted a male wheatear bobbing around the ramparts with what appeared to be an insect in its mouth. We stood still for a few moments and saw it enter and then leave a small gap in the inside wall of the broch. On closer inspection we saw three adorable chicks quietly nestled inside awaiting the return of their parents with more food. Even as an Iron Aged ruin the broch is still useful for housing!

A stairwell sits between the two circular stone walls of Dun Beag - an ancient Iron Age broch on the Isle of Skye

As we headed to Dunvegan we saw the marvellous twin flat-topped basalt hills, Healabhal Mhor and Healabhal Bheag, better known as MacLeod’s Tables. They certainly dominate the skyline in this part of the island. After a brief stop at Dunvegan (we didn’t visit Dunvegan Castle but it does look architecturally impressive) we continued to the little township of Stein where we had lunch at the Stein Inn, which claims to be the oldest inn on Skye. Having enjoyed a lovely fish lunch a visit to the nearby tannery, Skyeskyns, was next on the agenda. This family owned tannery still uses traditional methods of preparing sheepskins and leather goods. The tour round the tannery was fascinating and the staff were extremely friendly and knowledgeable. The shop above the tannery has an amazing showroom displaying a vast range of sheepskin products. Well worth a visit.

The outer circular perimeter stone wall of Dun Beag - an ancient Iron Age broch on the Isle of Skye

Three tiny wheatear chicks nestle in the circular perimeter stone wall of Dun Beag - an ancient Iron Age broch on the Isle of Skye

We then headed round the island passed the Loch Greshornish campsite that we had stayed at last week before turning left at Brove onto the A87 towards Uig. Uig has wonderful views across the Minch and Loch Snizort and is the ferry gateway to the Western Isles.  After a quick look around and a much-needed coffee we then took the unclassified link road to Staffin, which cuts through the Quiraing escarpment. The Quiraing is a collection of incredible rock formations caused by a landslip (in this case, the result of basalt resting on top of weaker layers of shale and sandstone) on the eastern face of Meall na Suiramach, the northernmost summit of the Trotternish Ridge. This is the largest landslip in the British Isles. Various parts of the Quirang have distinctive features that have given rise to their descriptive names such as: The Needle, The Table and The Prison. Cameron and I have walked to these rock features many times in the past and it is certainly worth a half-day to visit this “geological theatre”. The descent road from the Quirang is also quite dramatic with its many hairpin bends!

Looking north along the Trotternish escarpment to the Quiraing

Once we arrived at Staffin we called into the Columbia 1400 building as Cameron had read in a magazine that it had wi-fi. Locating wi-fi hotspots on Skye has been tricky to say the least so we took this opportunity to upload some of our blog material onto our website. Columbia 1400 is a charity founded to “help young people transform their lives through inspirational and dynamic courses and programmes”. The building itself is lovely and it has a café situated on the ground floor, which serves fine food if you are looking for somewhere to eat around this area.

The Quiraing from below

Having spent a couple of hours catching up with emails and blogs, we then carried on our journey stopping next at Kilt Rock. This is a section of 200ft high cliffs that resemble pleats of a kilt with a waterfall that cascades over the cliff face to the seashore below: it is a very impressive sight to see. As we headed to Portree, the capital of the island, we passed the Old Man of Storr: a 60m high pillar of basalt lava rock, which stands in front of the Storr Ridge. This rock feature is very recognisable on the landscape and is easily distinguishable from many miles south of Portree. When we arrived at Portree we popped into the Aros Centre (the local cinema, theatre and exhibition centre) to buy tickets to see the four piece band “Pokey LaFarge and the South City Three” who are performing here tomorrow night. They are from St Louis, Missouri and play the musical genres of string ragtime, country blues, early American roots, folk and jazz. We have never heard of them before but from the reviews it should be a good night.

Kilt rock and waterfall from the cliff-side viewpoint

Looking south from the Kilt Rock viewpoint

The Old Man of Storr (pillar) with The Storr (719m) on the right

About Elaine Speirs

Elaine comes from Hamilton near Glasgow and her interests in the outdoor scene began at University. She is a keen mountaineer, climber, cyclist and skier. Her first mountaineering exploit was going up the North Face of Ben Nevis after which she was “hooked” on the mountains. She has also climbed outside of the UK, particularly in the Dolomites, Chamonix and Majorca.
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