Skye Trail - July 2023
My Skye Trail
Most people do the trail from North to South, but I had organised permission to leave my car in the excellent Broadford community campsite on the south of the Isle.
Sunday 9am, with fair weather and the sun on my back, I was feeling strong and also had a great feed at Mrs. Mack's burger van on the coast road past the hamlet of Torrin. I made my mind up to keep going, plodding past the foot of the beautiful Bla Bheinn and on to Kilmarie. I took a shorter route over the hills to Camusunary Bay. By now the rain was on me. After 11 hours or so and over 30km of mixed terrain it was time to pitch camp on possibly one of the most beautiful shores I had ever seen. I slept like there was no tomorrow, the sound of the sea swishing through my dreams.
Next morning was wet so it was 10am when I broke camp. I had a lonely glen until I reached Sligachan, where I crossed the islands main road. I pushed on, it was a day of several deep river crossings and my feet were soaked and beginning to hurt. By tea time I reached the cul de sac at the end of Loch Sligachan. Then a horrendous road walk to Portree campsite. 10 pm 30+ km and 12 hours after starting I was putting up my tent in the rain and wondering what the hell I had brought this misery on myself for.
Next morning, after some advice I decided to take the bus up to the North of the island and then walk back towards Portree, an unorthodox way of doing the trail but at least I'd finish in civilization! My feet were torn and bloody and I hobbled onto the bus in my crocs with my boots in my hand. I got off at the famous red phone box and sat in the grass trying to medicate my feet then hobbled for the first few kilometres, breaking every hour or so as my left shoulder was now throbbing with the 15kg rucksack. The saving grace was that it was my third day but my first without rain, and I had warm sun on my face. This was a beautiful coastal section, along gorgeous cliffs and on soft turf. I finished by the beautiful lakes at the foot of the atmospheric and Tolkienesque Quaraing, camping on the stony shore of a lake. A relatively short day of less than 20km and only about 6 hours walking. It was a superb wild camp, and sleep was no problem again.
Next day, was going to be the beast, another 30km day with nearly 2000m climbing up and down over a half dozen tough hills until I reached the Old Man of Storr. I managed it, but just before my last big climb I got enveloped in the cloud and the rain came back, heavy and ruthless. I was dog-tired and I sat down to ponder. Two lads going in the other direction stopped and asked my advice on continuing over where I had come from. I advised they retreat to lower ground to camp. I felt better so I pushed on, dusk falling as I dragged my sorry self by the Old Man of Storr. There was nowhere to camp so I set up literally on the path's edge, with the last sightseers to the rock pointing at me in my tent and some even taking pictures of the mad Irishman camping on a trail to the island's busiest beauty spot!
Poor sleep, I got up at 5am and although it was only about a 15km, 500m ascent day, I was in poor shape. The first few kms my feet had ultra pins and needles and I thought they would give way, but when I reached moorland it was easier. I had a couple of hills to negotiate but my mind was set on my finish in Portree. I met a couple from Wales who I walked the last section with. To be honest, although I was happy walking on my own the previous 4 days, having human interaction again at this point got me through those last few hours.
It was an anticlimactic feeling finishing. I was too tired to enjoy it, all I could imagine was a hot shower and the drive back home the next day. But in hindsight it was an incredible experience, 130km in 4 and a half days, superb scenery, marred somewhat by the awful rain but, still, for me a great achievement.