230: Skye: Dunvegan to Skye: Stein

I had decided that I was going to get Skye finished on this trip. I had planned for 5 days and each day would be long and arduous, averaging 30 km or so per day. I wasn’t sure if I could hack it over 5 days as the first two days would involve some off-road work over trackless terrain. To get back to my car would also involve some bike work and hopefully the use of  public transport.

I  had half an eye on the weather which looked good with light rain showers and a stiff breeze. However, I knew I would have a problem stuck in a tent for 4 nights if the weather turned bad…so….I bought myself a Coleman 3 man tent with sleeping area and vestibule, lots of space and  where I could almost stand upright. Great for camping out of the back of your car! I also decided  to join the Camping and Caravanning Club. You can book a pitch online and your pitches are a decent size. I have never been that keen on their rigid rules, but if I hoped to finish off Skye on this trip I needed somewhere quiet and spacious to get my head down for the night.

I drove up the day before and had no problems with traffic this time. I got to Glen Shiel by 22:00 and settled down for the night in the back of the car. It rained heavily throughout the night and was still raining the following morning. I  headed for Skye and drove to the Waternish Peninsula and dropped my bike off close to the village of Stein. I then drove around to Dunvegan and parked my car just before the castle.

I set off along the quiet road to Claigan passing many campervans and cars  occupying nearly available pull-off spots. The first of the showers hit me after 30 minutes, but it was short-lived. The sun came out again and I had a great view back to Dunvegan Castle. At Claigan, I passed through a number of unwelcoming signs, particularly if you were a dog owner. The gate leading to a track onto the hill had barbed wire coiled around the top, something I particularly hate. I wish I’d had a pair of decent wire cutters with me. I was heading up to a broad ridge that runs the length of this small peninsular, sandwiched between Duirinish and Waternish, and onto the Marilyn Beinn Bhreac (329m). I left the good track after a kilometer and headed up  across knee-length heather, long grass, bracken and deep spongy moss. It was quite tough climbing up to the higher points. The top of the ridge was very flat and broad. It was quite difficult to find the actual top, which was a small pile of rocks, set above a peat hag. I headed south-east from the top aiming for a de-afforested area. I could see the road, the B886, I needed to be on to my left, but the direct route was guarded by a dense plantation and The Bay River. After picking my through the de-afforested area I arrived at The Fairy Bridge, close to the junction with the A850. Besides being a ford for the fairies, there is another story set in Skye folklore about the bridge:-

“In folklore a Chief of the MacLeods married a fairy and they lived together on Skye. She was only permitted to be together with him for a year after which she had to return to her people. – the bridge marks where she departed. She left their son wrapped in a silken shawl which, as the Fairy Flag, could be used three times to save or protect the clan. The Fairy Flag can still be seeing Dunvegan Castle. It features in two significant events for the Clan, one in particular for Waternish being the burning of Trumpan Church and the Battle of the Spoiling of the Dyke”. (SourceWaternish website)

The bridge was also a focal point for meetings of the crofting community during the disruptive periods of the 19th century.

Looking back at Dunvegan Castle
At Clairgan heading up to Beinn Bhreac
The summit of Beinn Bhreac
The Fairy Bridge
Looking back up to Beinn Bhreac

I continued up the B886, and it was good to have solid ground beneath me after the trackless moor I had just come down off. A short, sharp and very heavy shower hit me as I passed through the hamlet of Lusta. I did manage to shelter in a BT phone box, but I was already very wet. I was not particularly bothered though as it was still quite warm. Most of the cars that passed me were heading to the small village of Stein  and its lochside Inn, which I looked down on from higher up the hillside.

At Stein the B886 ended and the road continued on, as I did, up a minor road. I checked my bike was still there, as I was about to do a loop of the Waternish Peninsular. I continued along the strung out settlement to the end of the public road at Trumpan. A good track continued out towards Waternish Point, with a few boggy bits on route. I passed two Brochs, Dun Borrafiach and Dun Gearymore, both were just piles of rubble and I was too tired to examine them close up. The clouds had cleared now and I got superb views over Loch Dunvegan, Duirinish and the Western Isles. I continued on to the ruin at Unish, close to the end of the Waternish Peninsular.

Looking down on Stein with Dunvegan Head in the background
Looking north towards Hallistra
Zoomed shot out to the Western Isles with the church and radio tower at Rodel on South Harris just visible
Lamb with single black leg colouring
Memorial to Roderick MaCleod

At Unish the track ended and I turned south heading over trackless open moor. The going was good at first, but gradually deteriorated over the next 3km through knee-high heather, bog and deep spongy moss. I was really glad to arrive at the sheep pens near the end of the public road at Geary.

Cal Mac ferry rounding Waternish Point bound for Loch Maddy – North Uist
Arriving at the sheep pens close to Geary, after some tough walking

I was really flagging at this point and then something wonderful happened!! In the hamlet of Geary I saw a type of bird I had never ever seen before. It was the size of a Blackbird, but had a PINK BODY. I was intrigued and took a couple of photos. Back home I posted a photo of the bird on a Bird forum site. Immediately, I had a response back. This was a Rosy Starling – a bird I had never even heard of and a very rare visitor to these shores. A sighting last year in Ipswich had 200 people turning up in some estate cul-de-sac to try to get a sighting. Someone on the forum had posted they had contacted the Recorder for the Isle of Skye and that I may be contacted for further details. I feel really privileged to have seen this bird – I just wish I had taken more and better photos of this rare visitor.

A Rosy Starling – a very rare bird to these shores

After the excitement of the funny-coloured bird (although at the time I was not aware of the significance of the sighting) I turned my attention to getting the last 3 or more miles done. I was quite tired, but the views across The Ascrib Islands and across to Trotternish were stunning. I continued through the hamlet of Gillen and then down a rough track to Stein. The bike ride back to the car was not bad, as the road had few ups and downs and a tail wind.

Looking across Loch Snizort and the Ascrib Islands to the Trotternish Peninsular
My new big tent at Edinbane close to Loch Greshornish

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:

http://www.scottishhills.com/html/modules.php?name=Forums&file=viewtopic&t=24279

Distance today =  25 miles
Total distance =  4,114miles

 

 

 

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