Our last day on the Isle of Skye began with a disappointing voicemail. Well actually the day began with an epic struggle to remove ourselves from bed into the shower and out into the car for 7am. Five days of driving, walking, late night card games and excessive biscuit consumption was starting to take it's toll! We were driving to Elgol where we were booked on a boat for the Isle of Rum: star location in BBC's Autumnwatch series, as well as many other wildlife programmes. Another contributing factor in the mornings' fatigue was a night of hyperactive anticipation at seeing deer, White Tailed and Golden Eagles, otters, ponies, goats and much more! However the bubble of boyish excitement burst about 5 minutes into the drive when CB picked up a voicemail from the skipper warning that the seas were likely to be too rough to sail (or whatever correct term for a boat without sails is?!) out to Rum. After a particularly stunning drive, we arrived at Elgol with low expectations. Just as well as all charters to the Isle of Rum were cancelled for the day. Not wanting to waste our efforts, we decided to jump on a boat headed for Loch Coruisk. The boat trip on the Bella Jane was great, we saw a couple of Shags (for those with a similar maturity level to myself, I mean Phalacrocorax aristotelis), a Great Northern Diver (this is a bird) which was a real thrill and plenty of Harbour seals which are always a welcome sight to me! Once we arrived at Loch Coruisk we had one and half hours to scramble/ ramble. With an estimate time of 3 hours to walk the circumference of the Loch, your options for exploration are a wee bit limited. With hindsight we would've done the longer trip. For anyone considering the walk back to Elgol from Loch Coruisk, consider well, because I saw the 'bad step' section of that walk and I would say 'danger of death step' might be a bit more appropriate! But then, I'm not really known for my love of heights, quite the contrary in fact and apparently in the good ole days herdsmen would walk their sheep and cattle this route. The area is simply stunning, and it's easy enough to reach some mountaineering-esque viewpoints! After taking it all in and getting over the awesomeness of such rare views (for us anyway) we decided to walk away from the Loch and our rambling shipmates. We happened to stumble upon a beautiful sandy cove (with no footprints!!) it was the most peaceful experience of the holiday by far; until we noticed the time and had to peg it back to the mooring! Our serendipitous visit to Loch Coruisk was possibly the highlight of the Skye trip and is a real 'must see' for any Skye Walking Jedi!
"Oh we're not real twitchers" protested Mum as she passed one of two telescopes to Dad and placed a spotting scope in her pocket to protect it from the incessant rain! I'm not sure anyone other than 'real' twitchers would have travelled one and a half hours to Bempton Cliffs fully aware that only cold winds and rain awaited their arrival... I say only wind and rain, but actually rather a lot awaited us at the RSPB cliffside reserve, and my noted lack of protest probably serves as a marker on my journey to becoming a 'real twitcher'! Having passed through the cosy and friendly (only thing missing being a tasty local beer served on tap!) RSPB centre/shop that serves as the entrance, I found myself mesmerised by thousands of sea birds rising and sinking from the sharp line drawn by the cliffs. The wind and rain evaporated (metaphorically speaking, unfortunately) as we watched gannets, fulmars, razor bills and guillemots! The walking at Bempton Cliffs is relatively easy (in a good way) and captivating. The RSPB also offers guided walks but given my folks' tendency to stop without warning for twenty, thirty minutes at a time meant we thought it best to decline. On one such stoppage, we (Mum) managed to pick out a puffin nesting with her telescope. I should probably point out, being May, (I know, it's August now (!) this post has been on the back burner for a little bit) there were only a few puffins around, so we were thrilled to find one! This is a great area for a family walk, even in miserable weather! There's also plenty of walking options for those looking for a longer/more challenging ramble too. There is no question that I'll be returning! It's the norm for me to mention a pint of local ale consumed at the end of my walks, but with my parents being more tea and scone people, I thought I'd refer to another custom equally common to that of a pint. On many of our walks I end up buying CB one of the little RSPB pin badges (found in RSPB centres and all good local pubs); on this occasion I bought her a gannet pin- no reflection on her eating habits, honest.
It's not hard to find Legend in Skye and everything about the Old Man of Storr feels legendary! Storr is the remnants of an ancient landslip that stands on the Trotternish Peninsula and I don't think there is anywhere else in the world quite like it. I wasn't surprised (but was incredibly excited!) to see the Old Man of Storr hit global cinema screens not only at the beginning of Ridley Scott's epic film Prometheus but also in the equally epic (but not quite as good - but still pretty cool) Snow White and the Huntsman. Like many of the famous spots on the extraordinary Isle of Skye, The Old Man of Storr is popular and you have to join the conveyor belt of tourists and sight seekers to see it. But don't let this put you off because it really is awesome to stand in the presence of and if you persevere, the higher you ascend the quieter it becomes!
Last weekend I visited the Armley Mills Museum to see an exhibition there by Lord Whitney. The exhibition is really cool and well worth checking out, as is the museum itself! In approaching the Armley Mills museum entrance you walk over a bridge that crosses the Leeds and Liverpool canal. This picturesque scene captured my imagination and I was armed with my trusty Canon G11. So on leaving the museum, I took a very short walk along the canal... I couldn't of walked more than a few hundred metres before I had to turn around and rush back to go pick CB up from work; but It's encouraging to see how getting out with a camera for just a short while can spark the imagination and generate some new ideas!
Whenever anyone goes away, advice is often given and received rather like Christmas presents. And thus your holiday begins with the pressure of 1. Trying to remember who gave what advice and brewing up interesting anecdotes that illustrate just how useful their advice was. 2. Finding good enough reasons to explain why you were unable to make it to that place they recommended. While our Daily Mail and Telegraph reading friends warned us of the deep trenches at the side of the roads and obstinate road-dwelling sheep... many of our Guardian reader friends encouraged us: "You must visit the Fairy Pools when you go to Skye, it's in the Wild Swim book by Kate Rew, have you read it? " ... So here we were, putting on our boots in the car park for the Fairy Pools with the rain pouring down more consistently than the micro climate weather we'd experienced so far; and as yet we hadn't knocked over a sheep or gotten stuck down a trench (phew)! Our trip to the Fairy Pools occurred on a day of firsts. The morning was marked with my first ever sighting of a cuckoo and in the evening I saw, for the first time, a baked potato explode. If you ever come to use an 'all in one' microwave, oven and grill, be warned! There are clearly more Guardian readers than Daily Mail readers speculate, as The Fairy Pools are popular! And while popularity is something that can often turn myself (and many other Guardian readers) off a place, the Fairy pools are so awesome it's hard to be put off by anything! As the rain eased we even managed to find a quiet spot for our packed lunch, out of the way of walking traffic. Although that didn't stop the odd venturer poking their head over the rocks and looking down green eyed at our pretty good picnic spot! Maybe we shouldn't have lunched by the actual pool Kate Rew was photographed in for her book! Sometimes there are walks where you get so engrossed in the scenery and experience of the place you are walking in, that you end up ditching the planned walk and just dreamily wander around and then wander back. Well Fairy Pools is such a place. This place IS magical!
It's hard to imagine a nation with quirkier hobbies than the UK... That said, I saw a news piece once about a man in Belgium who dressed up and behaved as a penguin at weekends; but maybe that's more a comment on the news than hobbies. I digress, what I'm trying to say is that there seems to be something distinctly characteristic about many popular British pastimes. Continue reading Counting Hobbies at Thursley Common National Nature Reserve
One of the great things (for me at least) on Skye was the amount of daylight hours. By May sunset is already at around 10pm! Which meant we could fit a lot more into the day. So having already experienced the micro climate of Waternish Point, dried off, downed a cuppa and scoffed some Viennese biscuits we took a trip to Dunvegan. The centre looked like it'd seen more lucrative days, but it was interesting enough and we found a shortish walk called the Two Churches Walk. This pleasant and interesting walk finishes by the ruin of St Mary's church built in 1682 and well worth a browse. With still more time before sundown we explored more of the Dunvegan area and found the Coral Beaches walk. A really lovely walk to end the day. An easy going but very enjoyable walk along Loch Dunvegan which resulted in spending a considerable time sitting and watching a number of inquisitive seals; a beautiful end to our second day.
The expression ‘micro climate’ is something synonymous with conversation about British weather. I’m sure I’ve used the phrase myself it but I will never use it in the same way again after our Waternish walk. We set off reasonably early (reasonable for a holiday) with the warm sun on our backs, bright blue skies ahead and a bounce in our step, triggered by word that previous walkers on this route had recently caught sight of a basking shark from Waternish Point. We followed a track either made for or made by the farmer’s quad bike; the origins of the track becoming more unclear as we encountered impromptu homemade bridges over various bogs, crevices and other obstacles. The cliff side farmland we passed through was vast and largely wild, with some of the largest cows I’ve ever had to nervously pass! The walk to Waternish Point seems to be very much a 'wing it' walk. As you move away from the quad bike trail, there doesn't seem to be a distinct footpath, and judging by the few other ramblers we noticed, everyone found their own path to the point - which was great, if not at times a little disconcerting! Upon reaching the point, which overlooks the Western Isles, we sat down for some lunch and watched a common seal hunting among the rock pools below us. Having been absorbed and mesmerized for sometime by the seal, we happened to glance up and notice a thick, dark, grey, Independence Day sized cloud hurtling towards us! We promptly got up and raced off, in the vain attempt to make it back to the car being before enveloped in whatever was brewing on the now not so distant horizon... About half way through our rush to shelter we started to feel and hear the inevitable pitter patter, and within seconds a gust of wind slammed a torrent of 45 degree rain at our backs. Within minutes this turned to hail, then sleet and then to snow! As we neared the end of our journey, cold and damp, the snow eased and blue skies suddenly appeared. By the time we made it to the car we were pretty much dry. It was one of the more surreal walks I've done, that's for sure! As the Byre was on the way to Dunvegan (our next destination), we took a pit stop. A nice hot brew and more Viennese sandwich biscuits than necessary and we were off! Dunvegan and more to follow in Episode 2, part deux!
Much like popular opinion of George Lucas' revisit to his cult classic space saga, there isn't a great deal to write about our late-ish arrival on the Isle of Skye. After a gorgeous but rather long drive, the highlight of which was a sighting of two wild red deer stags, we arrived in the sun soaked village of Stein. Here, The Old Byre, a small self-catering cottage overlooking Loch Bay, would be our home for the next five nights. The small but deluxe split level cottage came with everything we could want, including a small bunny that came out everyday to play on our front lawn. We were greeted with a large cup of tea, more homemade biscuits than I should have partaken of and a friendly natter with the owner next door. Then we dumped our bags and headed straight out, only too aware that this day might be the only one when the sun showed its face! Our first exploration on Skye involved walking down and checking out the local - the appropriately named Stein Inn, a friendly and charming pub that sits right on the loch and is a popular place to sit in hope of sighting the elusive Sea and Golden Eagles. If you are not so lucky, the very tasty Red Cuillin (Skye brewery) available on tap offers a great consolation! And that is as far as our first Skye ramble got really! Watch out for episode two though because the second day was epic!
I had wanted to give a more detailed account of our walk on Rombald's Moor. Though I envisage sighs of relief from friends and family as they read this opening line; I had hoped to give a more, or moor (that one's for CB!) descriptive account of the walk that started in Riddleston, that took us past lambs just hours old, of the beams of light that pierced through the densely wooded... err.. wood, as well as the astonishing aerial display from several lapwings as they tried to divert a red kite (the bird of prey) away from their nesting area. I even wanted depict the delights had from the pint of Black Moor, brewed by Goose Eye brewery in nearby Keighley which was supped in the Crown Inn, Addingham and wasn't bad! Alas though, I'm off to Skye in a couple of days and do not have time to spend on such a whim! However, I imagine after 8 days wandering round the famously scenic Isle, there will be no end to the drivel making it's way onto this site; so remember this gift of briefness when you wade through the swamp of waffle in the forthcoming posts! And here are the Pics....