Quiraing, Isle of Skye

Spoiler alert!  The isle of Skye is an absolute delight. Forgive me if I’ve just dropped a bombshell but Skye was discovered in prehistoric times so you’ve had a good while to find out.  Some have compared the isle to the sweeping, rugged landscape of Iceland or they say the symphony of rich greens and charcoals matches the Norwegian fjords.  Though it boasts all of these features, Skye is a completely unique paragon all of its own.

Avoiding the tourist car park you get to walk up from the base of the mountain.

We had the good fortune to accidentally stumble onto a really special B&B.  Dunedin run by Rob and Yvonne, is a pretty hotel facing out onto the Broadford Bay with one of the best breakfasts I’ve ever had (traditional Scottish porridge made with whiskey, which helped me understand how the Scots are so casual about the cold weather).  It was our last day and we hoped to find a great spot to knock our socks off.  Rob and Yvonne are so warm and friendly we lost ourselves talking about great walks and climbs around the isle.  Rob suggested we visit Quiraing on the Trotternish ridge instead of the tourist heavy The Old Man Of Stoor for a last day jaunt.

We highly recommend Dunedin B&B to stay for a night or more!

The day before, we had hit the fairy pools in torrential rain.  It lashed down so hard I didn’t want to get out the car but Adam (wearing a pair of shorts and a t-shirt) went into full on ‘holiday dad’ mode and insisted it was just a trickle and would clear up in a moment.  After ten minutes our boots were sodden, hair stuck to our heads and my mascara had gone full Alice Cooper. We watched a windswept family wade through a flooded stream holding hands like a scene from The Day After Tomorrow.  That sealed the deal and we admitted defeat.

Once you get up into the basin it really is like being on a set of Game of Thrones.

Thankfully, the weather that day was dry though very misty.  Rob had suggested we park by the graveyard at the bottom of the hill and as we pulled up, I swear Bela Lugosi got out the Fiat Punto in front of us.  It was possibly just a man in a leather jacket with prominent teeth but it was hard to tell with all that fog.  Parking at the graveyard is a good option if you’d like to get an amazing view of Quiraing and avoid the busy tourist path or instead you can follow the road to the carpark that twists up the mountain.

The alternative route led us through deep green, rolling fields and was an easy walk.  It was empty except for Bela who glided along in front of us.  Through the mist we could make out the shadows of the colossal rock structure known as ‘The Prison’ and just about spot silent walkers, high up on the path.  As more fog rolled in and we began our ascent up the hillside the mountain came into view.

The Prison, looks more like Castle Grayskull.

Adam had gone completely silent.  I could see he was in complete awe.  My arms were covered in goosebumps too, having never seen anywhere quite like Quiraing.  The wall of the mountain is a long, impenetrable fortress with a deep basin falling behind it and a succession of slate grey and ink black towers jutting upwards like the points of a gothic crown. The most famous stack is probably The Needle, a dartlike structure pointing heavenward.  It silently unveiled itself between breaks in the mist as Bela Lugosi snapped pictures on his iPhone, which only added to the dramatic atmosphere of the place.

The Needle pops out of the rolling mist for just a few seconds.

We climbed up and walked through the basin in almost silence for an hour or so taking the whole place in and also because my mouth was full of biscuits.  The landscape on the circular walk is like taking a trundle on the Iron Islands from Game Of Thrones.  Unfortunately, the top of the mountain was too muddy to walk across and most walkers had turned back.  This wasn’t a problem though as it gave us another chance to climb some of the Castle Greyskull-like structures we’d missed earlier and this was my highlight of the walk.  The views from the top are really special.  As you look East you can see the islands of Raasay, Rona and then beyond the hills of Torridon.  If you work your way up the slope and look down you can see ‘The Table’ a flat, grassy plateau which is a secret ledge, hidden from below.  They say that hundreds of years ago this is where locals hid their sheep and cattle from invaders. It’s covered in a tablecloth of thick, dark green grass and is worth the scramble down.

Looking back through the basin with The Needle to the left.

As we headed back across the hillside toward the graveyard, we left with the feeling that we’d just witnessed something really special together.  Our time on Skye had been unforgettable.  I couldn’t help but notice that Bela Lugosi was also back at his car and changing into his dry shoes.  As he opened the door and clambered into his Punto, I looked in his wing mirror and I’m almost certain he had no reflection.