A long walk on the Isle of Skye 2012

Day Zero: 7th May

Weather: OK. A little moist north of the border

Route: Manchester to Arisaig


As with most LDP's day zero is all about getting down to the start and relaxing before a new journey begins.

Day zero took me from Manchester to Arisaig on the coast of the North West Highlands of Scotland. I finished work on the rig on Friday, flew back to Manchester on Saturday and then spent a manic day and a half packing, waterproofing, checking my gear, shopping for bits and bobs – all good fun and anticipation building all the while. Thankfully I had a night babysitting with my granddaughter to settle me down for the journey today.

I’ve been watching the weather pattern develop since the end of April as a good friend is walking from the North to the South of the Island – I must admit to pangs of envy as I saw high pressure developing from the Atlantic, and although it was chilly, he had a sackful of sunshine and plenty of dry land. I’m just hoping for more of the same during my visit, but unfortunately the high has swapped places with the low, so expectations are lower. My worst scenario would be low cloud and no views – I accept the rain when it comes, but hope that it is showers and not turning to persistent rain.

I’ve also spent the last week or so on the rig studying the coastlines and general terrain on the Sleat peninsula, where I shall be walking along for the first two days. This is generally acknowledged as a pathless, boggy area that will be quite energy sapping, but to balance that out will be the thoughts of a new journey, spectacular scenery and landscape unchanged for many, many years. I have been advised that there are more paths on the ground than is generally advertised, so we shall see. I’ve gained some valuable information from Ian Stephenson, a local mountain guide from Carbost on Skye…and generally all round nice guy. If ever you fancy climbing in the Cuillins but are unsure then Ian could sort you out – have a look at his site here – http://www.mountainfreedom.co.uk/home.htm

A special feature for me will be looking out for the traces of the old clearance villages along the way and how the crofting community used this area. There’s also some splendid woods along the route and much coastal walking, giving the opportunity of seeing more wildlife than I’m used to seeing on a long distance path. I’ve never seen an eagle out in the wilds in the UK, and am quite excited at the prospect of watching these soar high above me…hopefully, and because the route is relatively remote I shall be anticipating all manner of birdlife, seals and maybe an otter or two. I’ve already seen a couple of Swallows perched in the boatyard and some House Martins ferreting about the eaves

Of course all of this may well make a long day, but there is no pressure of time and I will be soaking up whatever comes my way.

The gear list grew with the weather forecast and I’ve packed my winter walking gear, as well as my lighter stuff. I’ve decided not to wear shorts for this one as I don’t want to get ‘ticked’ off even though I have a tick removal tool, I’d rather not ferret around the crevices of my lower body – not for ticks anyway. I’ve packed several pairs of boots, waxed and sparyed to within an inch of their life – I’m expecting wet going for a few of the days, and as I have access to transport I can take advantage of this. But I will try to stick to what I would carry had I been doing this journey solo, carrying all my gear unaided. That will make it more realistic for me and for people wishing to know how tough or not this journey will be.

The drive up was uneventful, with rain predicted to greet us on arrival at Arisaig, in reality it started to rain at Glasgow and through the Highlands, but wasn’t too bad when we got there. Much of the motorway journey was spent looking at the signs above the road – ‘Check your mirrors for bikes’ – really? I’d think I’d know if there was a bike hanging off the side of the car. No views of the mountains and a clear enough run through, sitting by Loch Lubnaig near Callander having a sarnie in the rain. The temperature wasn’t exactly splitting the rocks either, a whopping 5 deg as we wound our way up the glens. Luckily I have WiFi (or Whiffy as an Italian prospective renter asked my daughter the other day – ‘Do you have Whiffy in this flat?’) Good job he didn’t ask for a sheet on the bed, or a fork on the table.

As it’s going to be slightly damp tomorrow, I’m going to wear my Paramo pyjamas, to save faffing around in the morning. My bag is packed, maps checked, GPS and camera on full charge, snacks at the ready, juice in my pockets – rucksack pockets. I’ve got a net to wear as well, but I don’t think I’ll need it.

Up and at ‘em tomorrow – the masses have left, and hopefully a nice smooth passage across the Sound of Sleat. Now for a mooch around the shoreline where there is a recent (2009) memorial to the Czech and Slovak soldiers, trained here as special forces to counter the Nazis there was also a boat called ‘BlueMoon’ – it’s an omen for next Sunday - the English Premiership decider! I’ve had a pint of Oban ‘Kilt Lifter’ – nice beer but not sure of the title.


It looks calm enough for the crossing - Arisaig boatyard on the right with the Isle of Rum on the horizon


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