Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Scotland: the Highlands and The Isle of Skye . . .

The Highlands in Scotland evokes visions of towering mountain ranges, unspoilt and dramatic countryside, blue sparkling rivers and lochs, a vibrant culture, abundant wildlife and breathtaking scenery. The opportunity to visit such a place was irristable to me. I have heard that the weather is pretty unpredictable in the Highlands and there is a high likelihood of cold weather, high winds and maybe some rain but on the bright side of things it will make the experience more intriguing. The rain will bring out the best in the waterfalls that I will get to see and the mist will create great photo opportunities as I watch it flow gently through the towering cliffs, quaint harbors and sparkling lochs. Don't get me wrong, no rain and clear skies would be fabulous too! :)

The Isle of Skye (an t-Eilean Sgiathanach in Gaelic) takes its name from the old Norese sky-a, meaning "cloud island". The Romanticism of the region and the beautiful scenery is what makes Skye a popular destination among visitors. As soon as I decided to visit Scotland I knew that I wanted to visit the Highlands and then when I heard about the Isle of Skye, the largest of the Inner Hebrides, I knew that I wanted to see it.

"The northern Isle of Skye is primarily composed of Tertiary volcanic rock, with a thick layer of basalt lava forming the peninsulas of Trotternish, Waternish, and Duirinish. This lava plateau reaches over 2000 feet in places, and falls away in steep cliffs to the sea below. But the most striking geological feature of the island is the igneous landscape of mountains and lochs formed by the Cuillin Hills to the south. The Cuillins are the remainders of Tertiary volcanoes, eroded over time to form irregular peaks, crags, and gullies that offer some of the most breathtaking scenic views in Scotland. The island is 50 miles long and theoretically it is 25 miles wide at its broadest point. ~ British Express

The ferry ride from Mallaig to Armendale will take approximately 45 minutes. While on the Ferry I hope to capture some nice photos and video of the surrounding scenery as I leave Mallaig and approach the Isle of Skye. So what awaits me . . . here's a pretty cool video!

Upon arriving at the port of Armendale, I will head up north towards the town of Portee, the largest town on the Isle. Here I will spend 5 days exploring all parts of the Isle. I will have a car for the entire stay here so the "Sky is the limit" (pardon the pun) in terms of where I'll be driving to and what I'll be exploring. I created a map of the primary areas of interest for me . . .

I will base in a small hotel located on the far end of the town which is set within fifteen acres of private grounds overlooking Portree Bay and with fabulous views over the Sound of Raasay to the Cuillin Mountain range. The town of Portee is itself very picturesque and beautiful so I will take the time to explore around and enjoy it's quaint harbor and surrounding areas. And if the weather holds up, I will attempt the Scorrybreac Circuit Portee Walking Route ~ Walking Highlands.

My plan is to explore one region each day. On the First day my plans are to head North on A855 toward the town of Staffin where I will then take a smaller road through the Quiraing. The most northerly of the Skye peninsula is a high ridge of volcanic rock known as the Trotternish Ridge. This ridge is one of the most popular walking areas on the island. On this route I will pass several memorable sights on the island, most notably the approach to the Old Man of Storr in the south, and The Needle and The Prison in the Quiraing in the north.

My first stop will be at Loch Fada, a small inland loch at the southern end of the Trotternish ridge. Here I will be able to have a nice view of what lies ahead of me, the Old Man of Storr, which is an impressive monolith rising to 160 feet. It was created through erosion of this basalt plateau. North again, near Staffin I will find the spectacular Kilt Rock, an amazing cliff of columnar basalt whose vertical ribbing looks like the pleats of a Kilt. From the viewing area I will also be able to see a very beautiful waterfall here.

Next, Staffin Bay, which is dominated by the Quiraing whose impressive land-slipped cliffs and pinnacles constitutes Skye's most remarkable landscapes. From a parking area at the highest point of the minor road between Staffin and Uig there is a trail which leads to the top of the plateau where I might be able to see this jagged finger of stone called the "Needle". Of course I would only attempt this walk if the weather permits. I then continue on towards Uig where the landscape opens up and where there are more beautiful waterfalls to see.

I will then drive north to Kilmuir to see the Duntulum Castle.

"Duntulm Castle was a MacLeod possession, but became the chief residence of the MacDonalds in 1539, who held it until their support for the Jacobite cause resulted in Duntulm and all of their Trotternish possessions being seized by the English crown. The castle is defended by steep cliffs on three sides, with a drop of 50 feet to the rocks below. Local legend tells that Duntulm was abandoned in the early 18th century after a careless nursemaid dropped the infant heir to the castle from a window onto the jagged rocks." ~ British Express

If time permits, also on my must see list, Lealt Gorge and Falls, The Fairy Glen, Rha valley waterfall and the Kensaleyre standing stones.

And so ends Day one on the Isle of Skye. A nice dinner back at the hotel or maybe somewhere in town will probably sound great right about now.

More to come . . . Dunvegan Castle, the Cullin Hills, Elgo, Scottish Sheep, Highland Cows and a bit of sweet and smokey Scotch Whisky!

1 comment:

  1. I am just catching up on your blog, and I wanted to start at the beginning.

    It sounds like you did a ton of research about the places you wanted to visit.


It's me Trekcapri (aka Kathy). Thanks so much for visiting and leaving a comment.