I am woken by hail rattling on the window and the howling of a cold north wind... kidding, kidding, I am actually woken by the bright sun of another hot and more or less cloudless day.
According to the TV news there are moor fires raging in Glen Sheil and Torridon as well as some in England. Hillwalkers needed to be air lifted to safety in Torridon. I think about my walk from Kinloch Hourn to Glenelg in that dried out country and am very glad there was no fire there. Perhaps that is what the Coast Guard helicopter was doing?

Another fine breakfast. In fact Luib house, a bit of an extravagance for me as I could have stayed at the hostel in Broadford, is very comfortable. It is a fair bit more expensive than Glenelg but that is now officially the best B and B of my entire walk as I do not anticipate staying in any more. And it is another sociable breakfast as I chat to a couple of touring Australians as I eat too much fried meat once more. Not good for my cholesterol this B and B thing.
Fortified and stocked up with water I set off. The first Two kilometres is road. Boring fast road except for the views which are soon impressive.

And, as yesterday, at least the road has well cut grass verges that I can step on when the traffic comes howling towards me.

Still, this is not my idea of fun. A bright blue, sport little car pulls up ahead of me, parks in a layby and the driver gets out and crosses the road. What is he doing, I wonder? Looking for somewhere to have a wee?
Soon it becomes clear. He has crossed the road to take a photo of the view. But why did he need to cross the road? Because it is not really the view he is photographing but his car. He must love his little blue car and the view is just the setting. Well, I guess it is not news that there are people around who like cars more than me!

A blue and yellow coach speeds past. The City Link Uig to Glasgow service which I have used often. It gives me a lift to see it for some reason.
I am a bit anxious about the next bit. This is because it involves a walk over a bealach and there is no path marked on the map, nor could I see one from Google satellite view.
There is a waterfall at the point I need to leave the road and beyond it a car is parked and three people are picking their way along the bank of the burn. Is that a path? I do not think so so veer off before the waterfall as the topography is kinder.
It is rough going. Heathery and soft. I have put my trousers in my socks as I do not have gaiters and I am hoping this will make life harder for ticks to attack my lower legs. I have no desire at all to get Lyme’s disease.
I have lost sight of the other people? Where did they go? It seems strange. But then I come across a faint, but distinct path headed my way.
This makes life easier. It follows the burn and though it vanishes from time to time I keep finding it again and, at first, the gradient is easy if the terrain is a bit bumpy.
Soon enough though I have to turn north west to ascend the bealach of Mam a Phoibull.
Hot again and I am feel deeply tired. I hoped I might have got a spring in my legs after so many days of exercise, but obviously I am needing a rest day.
I come across the severed head of a lamb. No body within in sight. I suppose it must have been dropped by a buzzard or even an eagle.
This is hard. Harder than it should be as this bealach is not that high. As I grind slowly up the hills something becomes very clear to me.
I am not going to be able to tackle the Storr and the Trotternish ridge tomorrow. I could have a rest day. Do Portree to Uig next time I come up. Or do a bit of it perhaps. There are a host of options but it is obvious that the one that I had hoped for, a walk up the ridge and then down a spur to Uig, would be idiotic to attempt. If I can barely get up 250 metres here a long walk to The Storr and over 700 metres before a long ridge walk through trackless country is just not going to happen.

At last I get to the top and look out for a path. The bealach itself is flat and easy to explore and I soon pick up a path that runs down the, steeper , north eastern side of the corrie.
This path soon proves to be a bit of a deception. It is fine for a while then disappears completely, obliterated by steep scree runs that I have to pick my way across with care.

I find it again but I am not convinced it is the main path and I wish I had stuck closer to the burn course below me. In most cases this would probably not be such a good idea but it is so dry that the chance of finding a decent path must outweigh the danger of getting mired in boggy bottom.

But it is very steep so while there is a path I keep to it, simply choosing lower options when it splits.

The views, on the other hand, are getting better as the path deteriorates. Sgurr Nan Gillean is dead ahead and as I go north I get more and more sight of the heart of the Black Cuillin up Glen Sligachan

I don’t know these mountains at all so recognise few, but they are every bit as awesome as their reputation.

Eventually with some outraged creaking from my knees, I make it down to the burn and yes, there is a better path here. Now I the going is fairly flat I can up my pace and stride on into the bottome of Glen Sligachan.
I see no one, but am startled by a jet plane that suddenly screams out of the glen.
At long last I reach the main path that runs up to the Sligachan Hotel. This gives access to some of the Cuillin to climbers and walkers so I was hopeful that it would be decent, as indeed it is. It is a well made path that takes me off, nearly due north now, towards the hotel.

I can see a building almost immediately and glimpse the hotel shortly afterwards, but it is deceptive and it seems a long trudge before I get to a berberis cloaked gorge and then reach the old bridge over the River Sligachan.

I want a coffee but I need water so I go into the bar and have a pint of soda water and lime, with delightful ice, before a cappuccino.
I consider eating too but have rolls left over from yesterday so go back to the old bridge to have a brief picnic.
Rested and rehydrated I take a deep breath. I am not anticipating that the next leg will be fun. It is a long stretch along a fast road up to Portree. A sign informs me that it is 9 miles away and Uig 25.

Well, there is nothing for it but to start walking.
To start with, just to make it perfect, the road walk is up a fairly steep incline, it levels but still goes up for nearly two kilometres. Fuck it is hot and my feet hurt already.

There is a long, long strip of conifer plantation and when I get there I have to make a decision. On the larger scale map there is a track marked, going round it (nothing on my old 1: 50,000). I have looked at this hard on Google satellite view and, well, it was not very hopeful. There clearly was a track at some point. A forestry land rover track perhaps. But though is looks helpful enough in places, in others it seems to have disintegrated into nothing.
If this was my walk for today I would risk it but I am already tired with 8 miles or so to go, so I decide to stick to the road as the safer option. At least I still have the blessed Skye road grass verge.
And the views back at down Glen Sligachan are fantastic.
And even better, a short while after I reach the forestry, I start to get views of the Storr ahead of me.
If you have to walk down fast a roads with no footpath, not something that I am ever going to be keen on, you could do a lot worse than this. Great views fore and aft. Buzzards in the conifers at either side. Sunny weather and a nice grass verge to jump onto to avoid maniacal drivers.
The only trouble is that the glimpses I am getting of the Storr make me all the more sorry that I won’t be going that way to Uig.
In truth, although the road is fairly monotonous, the main part of this trek seems to pass quickly. And it is not long before I can see Portree ahead and below me, with The Storr, looking much closer than I know it to be, towering above it.

As the road begins its descent it also becomes less pleasant for walking. In places now there is no grass verge but instead a surface of sharp stones, no fun to walk on. Barriers guard curves and leave no place for pedestrians to go.
I hate this. Clearly lots of money has been spent on this road very recently, and no thought at all has been given to walkers or cyclists. It has been designed so car drivers can go as fast as possible and that is all that matters. I would not want to cycle it at all and it is no fun to walk, but there is no sensible alternative to get from Sligachan to Portree (I could have walked on a footpath to reach the Braes road, but that is much longer and only mountain bikers could manage the path part).
So this bit is not much fun. But the views ahead are great and though I am tired I am happy because I know that I am going to make Portree and that I have a day and half of walking left to get to Uig.
Almost before I know it I am at a junction. A small road goes off to join the Braes road and I can use it to avoid the main road for a little while.
I stop to drink water and consider. The sign for the Braes is lit up by the sun and has turned iridescent.

No cars at all come up the little road while I am resting, which settles the question.
As I approach the junction the views of the Storr get even better
It is great. Hardly any traffic and the couple of cars I do meet are unhurried tourists. The little road takes me to the Braes road itslf which gets a little busier, I guess with returning commuters from Portree.

This road drops down to a river and a bridge.
And then it is back to the old A85.

But it is not so bad now. Lambs gambol in the field below me.
Almost before I know it I come to the centre, and the start of the Portree pavement. Followed by the signs.

Limping a bit now I press on and into town, stopping to take photos of distant Cuillins.

 I complain at myself for not making a note of where the hostel is, but suppose that I can ask if I don’t see a sign. But there is no need as, just at the turning for the main square, there it is, a vibrant yellow building.
I find my bed, take my washing round to the launderette below the hostel, and while the wash is on, hobble round to the chip shop for fine fish and chips. Portree is basking in the evening sunshine and it occurs to me that, though I have been through it many, many times over the years, I have never really appreciated what a handsome little town it is.
In this light, with no further to walk today, fish and chips to eat and the remainder of yesterday’s wine to drink, it seems to me to be positively delightful.


  1. Anonymous said...

    Sounds a tough leg, but I imagine just striking out over the hills would be too slow?

    I was up near the latter part of one of your very early stages yesterday, a huge old chalk pit between Luton and Harlington. I bet that seems a long time ago and a long way away.


  2. Spencer said...

    It was pretty tough. I did strike over the hills for the first part, but once I got to Sligachan it was the road or a very long detour. A lesser detour would have been along a footpath to meet the small Braes Road, and I did consider that hard. But I had got the bit between my teeth at this point and if I got to Portree that day I knew I could get to Uig before going back to London.
    So I just ground it out.  

  3. Edwin Moore said...

    Great stuff Spencer. Dunno when I will be next in Skye alas.  


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