The Quiraing

We awoke to another day of beautiful sunshine and despite being up early still managed to be the last people to leave the campsite from our little section. Following a chat with one of our camping neighbours, we’d planned a little loop for today – to drive around the north coast of Skye to Uig, then to cut back cross country to the Quiraing and then on to the Old Man of Storr. Our neighbour had said that going in this way would be much better for Buttercup as there was a series of hairpins on a steep gradient. It’s always good to have people who can give you tips like this. I need to mention at this point that it was hot. Very hot. We found out later that the temperature in parts of Skye had been around 80. So of course, this is the day we decide to climb not one but two pretty spectacular hills.

The drive around the coast was pretty and it made us think that Skye is a reflection of mainland Scotland. The bottom half is busy and bustling with towns and the greatest population whereas the north is virtually deserted. Cutting in from Uig to the Quiraing we knew we’d arrived when a big and busy parking area appeared. We managed to find a spot and wearing hiking boots rather than walking shoes we set off. The Quiraing (pronounced Kerang like the heavy metal magazine), is an ancient land slip in an area known as Trotternish. It’s the most northerly summit on Skye and is very popular with walkers.

Before we even started on the path we had to take a minute to just enjoy the surrounding views.

The paths are really well maintained and they are doing their best to protect the natural environment by urging people to stick to the designated footways. There were tourists from all around the world and although this is obviously a huge generalisation this is what we noted. UK, New Zealand, Australian, Canadian, German, Dutch and Austrian hikers are normally kitted out in full hiking boots, sometimes walking poles, day back packs and lots of  water – looing elegant is not high on the list. French, Italian and Spanish are precise to a pin. Neat, tidy and generally looking stylish and glamourous though not much evidence of proper walking shoes. Italians are inclined to wear white including white trainers and never ever seem to get so much as a spec of dust on themselves. Japanese and Korean were either dressed for the Arctic in full on waterproof and windproof jackets and trousers or in their own unique goth Anime style. Americans were more of a mix with hiking boots and glam hats or scarves. Fascinating as a human study.

Anyway back to the spectacular climb. This took us along paths which were thankfully dry and easy to pass but I can only imagine would be incredibly hazardous if it had been raining. One section of path crossed what would normally be a torrent of water and a German couple were looking at it wondering how on earth to get over. They let us go first and as usual Dom’s long legs were a great help. I on the other hand had to use the bum shuffle, flamingo type leg stretch and lizard like lunge. It’s very elegant trust me! But it was worth it. As we climbed higher and scrambled up a pretty steep and rugged rock face, the views just got better and better.

We could have walked to the headland in the photos but when we came to a stile, we had had a choice – right for the headland or left to carry on up. We’d headed left to get the full impact of the view and what a view it was. As we stood there taking it all in some of the rock formations reminded us of Machu Picchu in South America. This whole walk had given me a similar feel – one of amazement that nature had so much beauty and it lets us just wander around in it.

By now it was really hot and we were thankful for the breeze which was sometimes gentle and sometimes more of a gust which threatened to blow our hats away. At the top there was a little cairn about 50 yards back from the path. I normally like to add a little stone to the pile but there weren’t any on the ground so I had to be content to leave my footprints instead. The path down took us on gentle slopes which were a little bit boggy, then stony paths and finally a rocky, stony clamber down before rejoining the path to the car park.

What a walk! We both agreed that after Machu Picchu this was our second favourite we’d ever done. If you are on Skye and walking is your thing don’t miss this gem, it’s spectacular. But wear hiking boots or shoes with a really good grip and ankle support. And unlike us don’t leave your walking poles in the van!

Back at the carpark we removed our boots, hydrated and snacked then decided to head to Portree for a proper lunch. But first the hairpins awaited us. When we first set off on this adventure the thought of getting Buttercup around bends and gradients like this would have filled us with a bit of apprehension. Would she make it? Would she just refuse? Would we hold up the traffic behind us as we tried to reverse back to a passing place? But our confidence in her has grown and now we didn’t even think twice, it was just another road. But what a road. Scream if you want to go faster!

I was going to upload the video but it’s too big for the blog so you’ll have to take it from me that the road was fun!

For information about my school visits across Merseyside, Cheshire, Lancashire, North Wales and beyond please visit Author visits in schools

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