A long walk on the Isle of Skye 2012

Day Six: 13th May

Weather: As bad as it gets in the UK - wet and windy

Route: Portree to the Storr - 9 miles with 2360ft of ascent

It was just as well it was only 9 miles today as the forecast proved to be stunningly accurate -

''Headline, The Northwest Highlands - Very severe most of day: storm force winds; torrential rain, low cloud.
How Windy? Westerly, 60 to 80mph, gusts up to 110mph; strongest afternoon. Slight easing evening (a bit late then).
Effect Of Wind? Considerable buffeting from low levels. Any mobility extensively very difficult on the hills; sudden ferocious gusts even in relatively sheltered areas. Severe wind chill.
How Wet? Constant rain. Often torrential western mountains. Incessant heavy rain; concentrated western mountains where total rainfall will widely exceed 1 inch, in places 2 inches, and in Rambling Pete’s back 3 inches. Intermittently snow highest summits. Will ease to showers in evening – I’ll have finished before the evening thanks.''

Well I don’t often go out in weather like that, but didn’t want to waste a day of my walk, as it would definitely have been null and void in my eyes. Sitting at breakfast with all the other guests, they looked a bit askance when I said I was off out walking – it was nice and cosy looking out of steamed up windows, the trees outside bending over in the strong wind, and the rain pattering against the window in pulses. But I couldn’t make breakfast last all day, so it was on with everything waterproof that I had, knowing that by the time I’d finish most of it would be sopping wet anyway.

I don’t know if you remember Tiswas, the saturday morning TV programme where Chris Tarrant threw buckets of water over people in a cage. Well it was just like that, only without the cage. There were to be no spectacular coastal views today, and I’d be lucky to get a view at all. I decided early on to just use my I-phone for pictures today, as the compact would have given up the ghost in the wet. I had the phone in an ‘AquaPac’ cover, and it’s brilliant for really bad weather. I have quite a few blurry wet pictures though, but at least there’s some to put up, which was a minor miracle in itself.

Out into the wind and the rain, the streets of Portree were quiet, and the hills around provided some protection from the wind, but not the rain. There’s a nice little circular walk you can do along here, around Ben Chracaig and back, so the path is well defined and used. Up on top of Ben Chracaig there are plenty of old lumps and bumps with the remnants of Dun Torvaig, but my route stuck to the coast and as I turned past the island of Sgeir Mhor I got my first look at the big cliffs ahead. I was still a little sheltered down by the sea and wouldn’t feel the full force of the wind until up on the cliffs. A little further on are a line of green pasture called the ‘Bile Pasture’, nice and springy to walk across and probably nice on a sunny day to sit and ponder and watch out for the Sea Eagles of Portree. The only view I had was down to the fish farms and a misty Ben Tianavaig, whilst up ahead at Sron a Bhainne the waterfall was flowing uphill – I knew then that the walk up from the Bile Pasture would be interesting. With the lack of views out to the mainland or the Isle of Raasay I decided it wasn’t worth the risk of straying too close to the edge, so once I’d got up on top at Bealach Cumhang I stayed about 10yds from the abyss, on good short cropped grass. This must be a real joy to walk on when it’s normal weather – today was an effort to keep both feet and walking poles grounded. The path itself up on the edge is fine, sheep cropped grass, and brilliant to walk on. The general direction of the route today is north and undulates up and down between higher hills, the biggest of which is Sithean Bhealaich Chumhaing. Further on is Craig Ulatota and Fiurnean where the path drops down over a steep slope and veers towards the north west. There is a distinct grassy cleft in the escarpment and although steep it's easy enough to drop down. The ground changes character and the path becomes a little unclear, and a little more boggy. At this stage the wind really picked up and I don’t think there was much of me that was dry anymore, except my phone, snug in it’s pack. I was struggling to keep my poles grounded and it was quite testing leaning into the wind all the time. Down to my right there was another line of cliffs that could be walked along another time, and in a moment of clarity I could see the main road and the Loch Leathan, the feeder for the hydro scheme. I stayed high until I could see the hydro service road and then got down to the road as soon as I could then turned into the wind to walk up to the main road. What a struggle against the wind, bent over to make progress, crossing over the dam and the rowing boats at rest – no takers today. Five minutes later I passed by a villa with a young girl looking out of the window, stunned at anyone out in this weather. At the main road there appeared a magical bus shelter – almost blown off it’s mounting, but a great refuge to await my chariot. Some time later back at the B&B I drained my boots, squeezed out my socks, pants, base layer, merino and strung out the rest of my gear to dry – and settled down to listen to the football on Radio Five live whilst typing up the days events – I don’t believe it, only Manchester City can do it this way…. in the final minute, of the final game, with the final goal what a finish…CHAMPIONS at last!! I've supported MCFC since I was 11years old, and I've waited 44years for them to win the title again. Lets hope they're like London buses.

Excuse the pictures as I was so wet, soggy and windblown I could hardly stand straight, hence the pictures are a tad blurry and double edged on the hills. You'll also notice that some of  the first few are ok quality as they were taken with the Sony compact, before it sought refuge in my pack at the Bile Pastures. The strange looking pole in some of the pictures shows the ferocity of the wind, as these poles were blown horizontal while dangling from the arm whilst taking a picture.

it was warm and snug in the B&B looking down over the sheltered harbour

down the lane that leads to the coastal path below the Cuillin Hills Hotel

it was a little windier the further round I got - my B&B was the pinky one up on the hillside in Portree

the Saltire fluttering proudly

some well or something commemorating something - I was already past caring at this point

the excellent path leading around the coast. Ben Tianavaig is just about visible across the bay

the small island of Sgeir Mhor ahead

no salmon leaping today, or Sea Eagles either

into the wind as I turn the corner

into the breeze now with the Bile Pastures just around the corner

the bile pastures ahead

Ben Tianavaig across the water

the Bile Pastures - note the waterfall flowing uphill on the far crag of Creag Mhor

ooh windy and wet

at least the path across the fields was good - looking back to Ben Chracaig

the path follows the fence up the hillside to the top and then turns right

looking back down on the Bile Pastures

the view from the top where the full wind hit

and ahead there wasn't much of a view

up to the first height

and down to Bealach Cumhang

getting very hard to take a picture of any sort - Sithian Bhealaich Chumhaing

more low cloud, and rain and wind

I think this is Craig Ulatota - he probably made a folk song sometime

there are big drops away to the left as I look back. It would be a pleasure to walk along here on a clear day

not too much up and down today, and nowhere to hide from the weather

the view to the west, with the main road not very far away

more horizontal walking poles - the walk over to Fiurnean

and looking back along the cliffs

Loch Fada so I knew I wasn't at Fiurnean yet

some geological interest along the way at Fiurnean

approaching the cliffline below Fiurnean I can see Loch Leathan and the end in the distance. Holm Island is down to the right

I followed the crest of the escarpment to the west until finding a grassy gully to walk steeply down

which had a vague path across on the soggy moorland to the higher ground of a small ridge

you can see the grassy gully that I took down from the top of the scarp. It was wet ground across here

I tried to stay on the higher ground of a small ridge, but there are some boggy sections ahead

looking back to the escarpment below Fiurnean

Holm Island down below - the path is 600ft above the coast

looking back along the coast to Fiurnean

not far now and still rough ground

 a post to aim for  - only one post as the other is a ghost 

a look down to the west and I could see the boat house at Storr Lochs dam

at the post I could see the Hydro House down below where there is a service road

and I was glad to get down there in the end - the loch serves a Hydro electric scheme here

I was bent double into the wind up the road to Storr Lochs Dam

you can't really see how rough this was today

crossing the Dam

no takers for a row today

and the view from my very own bus shelter - very thoughtfully placed for the end of a days walk


this was the next morning showing my shelter in all its glory - shame the weather wasn't as good

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