In this second part of a trip to Skye, we will concentrate on the Trotternish Peninsula which makes up the north east of the island. We will visit the Old Man of Storr, Kilt Rock, the Quiraing, the Skye Museum of Island Life & a secret waterfall.
So, it has to be said, this is probably one of the classic Skye tours. The old Man of Storr and the Quiraing are probably a couple of the busiest attractions on this incredible island, bringing a huge number of visitors each year, and understandably so. They truly are astonishingly beautiful, with their breath taking views and weird and wonderful geology, enchanting history and intriguing legends and myths.
I have said it before, my aim is not to preach about where you should visit on your highly anticipated vacation, but know this, some of these tourist spots can be rather busy. So, if it’s tranquility and to enjoy solitude that you wish for, then you may want to consider visiting the above mentioned places out of the main tourist season or look for the path less traveled. I will write about this in a future blog.
I will also be perfectly honest, these places are well worth considering as stops on your itinerary, but for me, they are too busy. I prefer to be far from the madding crowd, where I can escape life for a while and enjoy the beauty of nature, embrace loneliness for a short space of time and reset my mind. But that is just me.
Having said all of that, we have lived and worked in America and Italy. We visited New York, Washington DC, Chicago, Niagra Falls Florida, New England, Pompei, Amalfi, Rome. You get the picture. We did all of this first, in a frenzy of list ticking, photo snapping and FaceBook bragging. We got all of that out of our systems. Then we slowed down, we breathed and, when we had the time to travel and explore, we really began to experience the hidden gems and get to the roots of the local culture. I wouldn’t have missed the ‘tourist’ destinations for the world though. That’s what we were after all, tourists, having fun, meeting people and enjoying life.
So, without further ado, lets go.
The Old Man of Storr
Our first stop today is the Old Man of Storr. Less than fifteen minutes drive from Portree along the A855. The pinnacle of rock that is the Old Man is visible for most of the drive, drawing you closer. Parking is at the edge of the road and is now paid parking and at the height of summer it fills up quickly, so best to get there early.
The walk to the Storr takes around 45 minutes each way, depending on how many stops you make to admire the stunning views.
For a detailed description of the walk click here.
The Old Man is a part of a massive landslip that forms the Trotternish Peninsula. Or was it a landslip? Myth and legend surrounds it’s formation. Priests and devils, giants, brownies, broken hearts and wicked fairies, could all have been how the Storr was formed!
Next stop is Kilt Rock. Only a fifteen minute drive from the Old Man, this itinerary really does minimise your time spent in the car and maximizes time enjoying the landscape.
There is a large car park and a safely fenced off viewing area. At 90 meters high, with dashing rocks at it’s base, the fence literally saves lives. The sight and sound of Mealt Waterfall, fed by nearby Mealt Loch, is a wonder to behold. Admittedly not quite Niagra Falls, but spectacular non the less, and you don’t need to wear a yellow poncho to keep dry, unless of course it’s raining, which it may well be!
To drone or not to drone? That is the question. Well, the answer is, locals would respectfully request not. They disturb wildlife and when you’ve got half a dozen buzzing around at the same time, they are noisy and quite frankly spoil the experience for others. Witnesses have seen drones being flown directly above the heads of dolphins and peering into the nests of golden eagles to film precious chicks. Lets respectfully give wildlife the space it deserves.
It is but a ten minute drive from Elishader, Kilt Rock, to the parking for the Quiraing. Having said that, the road does become incredibly twisty, turny and narrow. So depending on how busy it is, how many times you have to back up to passing places, it may take more time than that. It is a braver individual than I, who attempts to drive a camper van up here!
Again, I have to be honest, if you are visiting at the height of the tourist season and especially if the weather is good, the chances are it’s going to be busy. The last time I was there, some six months ago, a lot of work was going on to build a larger car park, so that should help to ease road blockages caused by folk parking in passing places, and generally keep things moving along much smoother.
Pronounced ‘cwurang’, the Gaelic word A’Chuith-Raing, translates as the pillared enclosure. Similarly, the Norse translation means round fold, and hints of Skye’s Viking history. Stories tell of islanders hiding their cattle from viking raiders within the Quiraings many nooks and crannies, or pillared enclosures.
If you wish to complete the whole circular walk, which is approximately four miles, I think that you do need to have a reasonable level of fitness. Although the initial part of the path is good, it deteriorates as the hike goes on and becomes merely a well trodden track, rough and rocky in parts and muddy in others. There are also some steeper sections that are more of a scramble than an amble. The top section of the walk is quite marshy and boggy too, so fore warned is fore armed. You will need to wear decent hiking shoes or boots and carry waterproof jacket and maybe a small back pack so that you can carry water and perhaps a spot of lunch. You will be spoilt for choice when it comes to picnic spots with heart stopping vistas.
There are three key features of the Quiraing. The Needle, a jagged 37 meter high pinnacle. The Table, a grassy, flat area that has slipped down from the main plateau. The third is The Prison, which really does give you the sense of impenetrable fortress walls.
The landscape here is awe-inspiring. It feels as though it has dropped onto Earth from another planet, or that you are part of a magical realm in another life.
It is part of the Trotternish landslip, the same that created The Old Man of Storr. Astonishingly, the land here is still on the move. It shifts a few centimeters every year. Subsequently, the road at the base requires annual reapir.
If you do complete the whole circular walk, it will take from two hours to complete, depending on how many stops you make, and trust me, with views to die for, you will want to pause often. If you have an appetite when you return to the car park, there is a small catering van which offers not a particularly foody experience, but sustenance if required.
The Skye Museum of Island Life
Continuing the journey along the A855, which circumnavigates the Trotternish peninsula, we are heading for the preserved Highland village In the township of Kilmuir. Incidentally, we pass through Duntulm which is where Donald’s paternal Grandfather hails from.
The museum was opened in 1965. There are few examples remaining of such dwellings, due to their destruction during the Highland clearances and to people emigrating and their homes falling into sad decay. The main aim at Kilmuir was to preserve the township of thatched cottages and to illustrate how islanders lived 100 years ago. Each cottage allows you the opportunity to step back in time to the close of the 19th century.
The sturdy cottages, built low to the ground, stood staunch and resolute, taking all that the weather could throw at them. They offered warmth and protection from the harsh elements, a place to cook, sleep and to gather together to play instruments, sing and regale stories, to while away long, dark winter nights.
Our Secret Waterfalls
Well, they are not a total secret to be fair, and they are not really ours. However, each time we have visited, we were the only souls there. Rha Waterfall, as it is named, is a double waterfall on the river Rha. It’s easy to park just on the lane and a well marked path takes you on the short walk to the falls. Click here for a street map. Especially after heavy rain, the sound of the water is thunderous and you may well need your waterproofs to prevent the spray from drenching you. Our dogs don’t mind getting wet though, and enjoy a little paddle in the shallow pools.
Well worth a visit, if you enjoy craft beer and gin is Skye Ale, a small brewery down on the pier in Uig.
There is much more to do in this part of Skye, not least of all Staffin Beach with it’s dinosaur footprints and of course The Fairy Glen which, depending on how long you spent at the fore mentioned locations, you may like to visit, it’s not far from Rha Falls. Also possibly of interest to you, might be Flora MacDonald’s grave and memorial. Flora was of course, Bonny Prince Charlies protector and The Skye Boat Song tells of her heroism and of saving the future king.
Speed bonny boat, like a bird on the wing
Onward the sailors cry
Carry the lad that was born to be king
Over the sea to SkyeFirst verse, The Skye Boat Song
So, that’s the Trotternish Peninsula in a nutshell. Of course, if you are following this route, you are likely to spy sign posts for many other little gems that may interest you. Just follow your nose and see where you end up.
I would love to hear about your experiences on our beautiful Isle of Skye. did you find it too busy? How did you find negotiating the roads? What hidden gems did you discover? Share them with us, or maybe you would prefer to keep them just that. Hidden gems.