With the fortunes of a very lucky and over-rated English football side now resolved I turned my attentions to continuing my trek around the coastline of Skye. I drove slowly up from Shropshire with the intention of seeing how far I got before pulling over and sleeping in the back of the car. By 10 pm I had made it to Glen Shiel and parked in the car park below the bealach linking the North Glen Shiel ridge.
At 4 am in the following morning I set off for Skye . I drove to my original intended destination of Portnalong, at the tip of the Minginish Peninsular, and dumped my bike. I then drove around to the starting point of the walk in Glen Brittle.
I knew today was going to be a tough walk as I would be linking a number of Glens across trackless terrain, plus I would be including the Marilyn Beinn Bhreac (448m). I parked in the public car park at Glen Brittle and prepared a quick brew before crossing the River Brittle and heading for the low-lying Bealach na h-Airigh Mhurain. I headed into the cloud and mist which meant I had to follow a compass bearing across the open moor. I had opted to use my “wet” boots; boots that I knew would leak and they didn’t let me down! I was saving my best boots for a couple of days time. Walking underfoot conditions were very wet and uneven and although my photos look like it was a stroll through nice green grass, it was tough going.
I was pleased to emerge from the clag with a view down towards some sheep pens that my compass bearing had been leading me. I could also look down on Loch Eynort, bathed in sunshine. I could see that some of the cloud which had shrouded Beinn Bhreac on the far side of the loch was beginning to break up. I dropped down onto a well made track coming from a small radio transmitter and made my way through sheep pens to Eynort. To get across Loch Eynort required a long 3 mile walk through forestry tracks, which went almost a mile into Coire Mor before crossing a river. I could see no evidence of the much shorter forest track indicated on the map, closer to the loch shore. As I walked through the forest road I could look up and see a great view of the crags of Gula a’Choire Mhoir of the Marilyn An Cruachan.
I walked through the small hamlet of Eynort and carried on along the loch shore until I came to two small ruined mediaeval churches with an old graveyard, dedicated to St. Maelrubha. Some of the head stones were of the small crude irregular type with virtually no marking remaining, usually meaning they were very old. I now had to climb up to another bealach – the Bealach na Croiche. It was getting quite hot as I reached the bealach, but I was rewarded with some fine views back towards the Cuillins. As I went over a small brow a Golden Eagle took off, surrounded by two crows who appeared to be driving it off, quite brave really as Crows are sometimes on an Eagle’s prey list. I have never been that close to a Golden Eagle in the wild before and I was absolutely amazed at the size of the bird. I have often seen birds of prey from a distance and wondered “is it a Buzzard or an Eagle?”, no doubt about this – an incredible sight. I watched it fly away from me accompanied by the two crows. By the time I got my camera out it had disappeared into the landscape.
I headed towards the slopes of Beinn na Cuinneag and then onto the steeper slopes of Beinn Bhreac. Suddenly, a fox bolted about 30 metres away, I think this was the first time I had ever come across a fox on a Scottish mountain. I was having second thoughts now about climbing Beinn Bhreac, I was getting tired and I still had a long way to go. I decided to carry on to the top and visited a couple of tops on the summit of the Beinn Bhreac. I knew that the Trig Point was lower than the official top and so did not visit it. The views were quite amazing and I had great views north to Duirinsh and Trotternish, the Cuillin’s and west out to the Outer Hebrides. A shepherd on a quad bike with Collies onboard passed below me some 400m away.
I now headed north down grassy slopes and avoiding a few isolated crags . I was heading towards Preshal More (320m) a prominent hill above Talisker. The closer I got to Preshal More the more I could examine its high and dramatic cliff face. I could see straight away that the cliff face was a huge outcrop of columnar tholeiitic olivine Basalt. The outcrop was part of the much wider Skye Lava Group and was quite amazing with the columns rising 100m or more. I dropped down to the road that runs to the nearby hamlet of Talisker. My first job was to remove my boots, wring out the sole liner and socks and re-lace. Using these cheapo-boots on this terrain was a big mistake and my left foot was hurting.
I passed a few parked cars of beach-goers and continued past a farm and cottage to begin the ascent to another bealach. Fortunately I was now on a good track which would lead me to Fiscavaig and the public road. I met and chatted to three gents out for a walk to Talisker and back . As I neared Fiscavaig, the large peninsular of Duirinish loomed to the north across Loch Bracadale. I could make out MacLeod’s Maidens and Tables in the distance. At Fiscavaig I spoke to a chap from Chester who had recently bought a house in Fiscavaig. I headed towards the small pier at Rubha Ban and then turned up the road into Portnalong. I decided to call into the Croft Bunkhouse and check in . I was staying in one of the WigWams for the night.
I picked my bike up and continued along the road towards Carbost, pushing my bike. Just before I arrived at Carbost I investigated a “Blessing Box”, which was a colourful homemade box with mostly grocery provisions inside. The contents were available free of charge to anyone that needed any of the items, and the message was “just leave what you did not need”. A very kind gesture, open to abuse maybe, but still a good gesture. It became very tough going now and I was quite exhausted by the time I reached Carbost. Foolishly I decided to get a pint at the Old Inn. By 7:30 in the evening the light was becoming dimmer and I had no lights on my bike. I had been walking for about 11.5 hours and I still had the 7 or 8 miles to cycle down to Glen Brittle. For the next 40 minutes I spent more time pushing the bike, even up the small gradients as a head-wind had picked up. I was mightily relieved to reach the top of the Glen and get the long down hill stretch to the car. By the time I reached the Bunkhouse I doubted I could continue on the next days walk…..
Footnote: Somewhere along the road to Carbost I clocked up my 4000th mile!
NB: I also publish all my Scottish Blog entries on the excellent Scottish Hills website, I use the same narrative, but larger photos and a few extra ones. They can be found here:
Distance today = 24 miles
Total distance = 4,002 miles