This day was going to be the big one. I was aiming to get to Sligachan with just two more days of walking and to achieve that I needed to do a big mileage. In my planning I did not do an accurate mileage calculation, I was concentrating more on the logistics of the public transport. The good news was that Trotternish has two bus services, that run clockwise (#57C) and anticlockwise (#57A); the other good news was that I would not have to use my bike. I also had to take into account this would be a Saturday service which was slightly more restrictive.
I drove around to and parked at the Old Man of Storr Car Park, the car park was already filling up with coaches, cars and camper vans. I caught the #57A bus, which was quite full for the time of the morning. I sat close to a small group of Italians who appeared to be heading out to Rubha Hunish to begin the Skye Trail. As the bus rounded the northern tip of Skye, I started to have serious doubts about completing this walk, the journey time would be 1hr and 20 minutes and we had not even reached Uig yet! My misgivings grew!
I finally got off the bus at Hinnisdal Bridge and started my trek back the way I come up the A87. Mercifully the skies were slightly overcast and a cool breeze was at my back. The road also was still quiet at this time of the morning. My legs felt good and I was soon looking down at Uig. I passed the ruin of Uig Tower or Captain Fraser’s Folly,( a nineteenth century folly) which was basically a show of wealth and a place were local tenants had to go to pay their rent to the Factor.
I had been to Uig twice previously, both times to catch the ferry to Tarbert on the Isle of Harris, in 1976 on my walk around Skye and in 2012 when I headed out to The Western Isles to climb the Corbett – An Clisham. There were various signs up for a Gala or Fete in the village this day and I could see preparations taking place on the sports field. I called in at the local store to buy some sweets and savouries. I was now faced with a steep climb up and out of Uig along the A855, a road I would be on for the rest of the day.
As I climbed up the road, I met a marshall in a high vis jacket, he was directing runners who were emerging from the top of the hill. This was a road race that had begun at the bealach below The Quiraing and was finishing at the Gala sports field. I took a short cut missing out the various loops of the main road as it climbed up a steep bank out of Uig. As I headed north the road became single track, with passing places. I had excellent views out to the Western Isles. As the morning moved on the volume of traffic gradually increased. I thought I would do an impromptu count of the vehicles passing over a 30 minute period. I found that a vehicle would pass me, on average, in either direction every 20 to 30 seconds.
I entered a small settlement along the road called Kilvaxter, which had a recently discovered Souterrain in it. I vaguely remember reading about a Souterrain before, so I went to investigate. On the site of a small Iron Age farmstead some 2000 years ago, this Souterrain was a 17 metre long underground winding tunnel leading to a small chamber. It is believed the purpose of these underground chambers was to store diary foodstuffs over the winter period. The small iron grate was open, I stooped down and peered in. It’s entrance was very low, wet underfoot and pitch black inside. I do not have a head torch or fancy crawling through groundwater on my knees so I continued on.
I passed by the Museum of Island Life, close to the cemetery where Flora Macdonald and the fashion designer Alexander McQueen are buried. Shortly afterwards the road dropped down close to the sea at Score Bay. The tide was not quite out so I could not spot any dinosaur footprints, but I did get a good view of the ruins of Duntulm Castle. The castle was very busy and there were many people making their way out to the ruins of the former Macdonald stronghold. Close by was the Duntulm Castle Hotel, sold by auction 2014, but still sitting derelict and closed.
I now turned east and this marked far north the road goes at the end of the Trotternish peninsula. If I had more energy I would walk out to the northern tip of Skye at Rubha Hunish, but I was feeling a bit tired by then. At Kilmaluag I had a great view northeast up The Minch and could see the mainland stretching out into the distance. Using the Rubha Reidh Lighthouse as a reference point I could see the hills of Assynt including Quinag, Suilven and Canisp. Looking further to the north I can also pick out the hills of West Sutherland including Foinavon some 72 miles away, very faintly to the left of Foinavon I can pick up a lower hill which I suspect is Creag Riabhach (485m) and just 7 miles south of the Cape Wrath ( where I want to be by Christmas). But I was a long way north and must now head south to return to the Scottish mainland. I had a wee rest at Balmaqueen as a small herd of cattle was drove down the main road to transfer between fields.
The late afternoon was turning into early evening as the dramatic cliffs of the Meall na Suiramach and the Quiriang come into view. I entered the strung out township of Staffin, composed of many settlements. It seemed to go on forever. The light had become very dull now but I still managed to get good views to the north. I recognise the unmistakable shape of the hill Beinn Ghobhlach and Ben Mor Coigach, both hills standing astride Loch Broom and the ferry port of Ullapool and a milestone for me.
There were much fewer cars on the road as I dropped down into Lealt. I could see that the layby for the waterfalls were closed and a new wooden over-hanging structure had been built. The site was closed, but as no one was around I thought I would have a crafty peek. The next 3 or 4 miles were tough, but I kept a good pace up. My mind took to thinking about what to have for supper, there was no way I could cook that night. So I looked forward to a fish supper in Portree.
I arrived in a nearly deserted Car Park at Old Man of Storr. My legs and joints ached but I was more concerned with getting to the chippy before they closed. Getting out of the car in Portree was painful, as was the wait in the queue for my food. There were about 39 Chinese ahead of me all trying to order, asking questions etc…..40 minutes later I emerged with my fish supper. I got back to the tent and just lay on my mattress. I knew now that tomorrow was a much easier day and I could complete Skye. I rubbed my knees with some deep heat and tried to sleep.
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 = 31 miles
Total distance = 4,171 miles