Highlands Part 2: Isle of Skye

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From Oban, we drove up through the Highlands with a brief detour through some spectacular sections of Glencoe. After taking the ferry from Mallaig (you can also drive to Skye from Kyle of Lochalsh) and settling in the middle, we went to visit Portree for lunch.

Above: colorful houses along Portree’s harbour.

We had an excellent lunch (small portions, but very delicious) at Dulse & Brose.

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We stayed in a few places in Sligachan, which is particularly popular with climbers and walkers as it’s right at the foot of the Cuillin Hills.

Above: me on our first walk through the Cullin Hills! This valley walk, if we followed it right to the end, takes you down to the coast.

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We had one night in Sligachan Lodge (left), then moved to the bunkhouse: self-catering and only £22 a night (hidden, on the right). There’s also a campsite in Sligachan Valley that’s only about £6 a night to camp (if you don’t mind the cold, rain, or likely midges).

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A panorama of the Cuillin Hills. One section comprises the red Cullins, and the other the black, but I could not tell you which was which. All I can say is that the climbing is very challenging and given the harrowing stories pined around the bunkhouse, it’s not only essential to be in great shape and know what you’re getting into, but to have equipment including at least a sleeping bag and bivoac in case you lose visibility and have to stay put. The tops of the mountains are knife-sharp and craggy, so it’s very dangerous to stumble around them if you don’t have visibility.

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Bog cotton!

The peaks of the Black Cullins are composed of a rock called gabbro and basalt – the former great for gripping mountaineers, and the latter extremely slippery when wet. Twelve of the Black range are Munros.

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Marsco, apparently one of the best of the Grahams (peaks reaching between 2,000 – 2,500 feet, with at least 150 metres of descent on all sides. So, essentially free-standing.).

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These guys at the end of our first afternoon on Skye and a few hours of the Cullin Hills valley walk.

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First day, approaching the Old Man of Storr.

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There’s some pretty wild rock formations around Storr.

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This is easily the most popular (and crowded) walk you’ll find on Skye, but an ideal introduction to the ancient-looking landscape of the island.

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Wider view of the Old Man and the distant Sound of Raasay.

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On our way around the north end, we stopped to visit Lealt Falls and Kilt Rock.

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Also crowded with selfie sticks; thankfully day 1 was the worst for crowds.

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Visiting the Dunvegan Castle on a rainy day. The castle is extremely well maintained, but no photos allowed. Worth visiting, but if you can only go to one castle, I’d say visit the ruins of Dunscaith Castle. Dunvegan does have a little locket with a lock o Bonnie Prince Charlie’s hair and various sundries.

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At the back of the castle, you can catch boat rides out to see the seals for £7.50. We didn’t do it, but here’s the site.

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From Dunvegan, we headed over to the fairy pools. We were told that sunset is the ideal time to visit to avoid crowds, but the time we visited was pretty much ideal for midge activity. Midges are tiny, flying insects found mostly in fens, bogs and marshes, and if you definitely want to avoid them, you should know when not to expose yourself to them: dawn or sunset, in late spring or early summer, on a windless day, in low humidity, and near standing water. We were not doing it right.

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Visiting the fairy pools in Glen Brittle – a name I swear Candy Land should’ve stolen.

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The Fairy Pools are an ideal spot for wild swimming.

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And if it had been a sunny day when we visited….
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Another reason we stayed in Sligachan, aside from location and low cost, was its proximity to Seumas’ Bar attached to the Sligachan Hotel. For four consecutive years, Seumas’ has won Whisky Bar of the Year in Scotland, and with a menu boasting more than 400 whiskys (photo) from every corner of Scotland, it is well worth staying close.

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Next day: our misty, blustery hike through the Quiraing in the landslip on the Trotternish. The Quiraing, in addition to its bizarre name, is an unreal, menacing landscape of pinnacles, cliffs and great buttresses with steep heather slopes covering the sides.

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Here’s the circular walk.

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Jack in front of the Needle

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An overview for you…

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And reaching the end, where the path descends to the coast near Flodigarry.

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The Quiraing again, this time after the fog lifted.

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Our last day, we went on a circular walk up to the northernmost point on Skye to visit Rubha Hunish. There’s your Dunscaith Castle from afar.

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We had good advice about how to find the descending path down to the peninsula, but here’s an even better one with photos.

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A distant view of Rubha Hunish.

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The best day

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Looking out over the bay

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Baby black sheep and a bothy (tiny Scottish mountain hut, free for anyone – hikers, climbers – to stay in).

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The Rubha Peninsula walk is one of the best for seeing dolphins, whales and basking sharks.

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Look at that little face!

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Sea stacks on the eastern side of Rubha Hunish.

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Final afternoon, we had the last tour of the day booked at Talisker Distillery, but first stop: the Oyster Shed! Incredible place set in a great location with even better prices. I got a half lobster for just £8! And delicious £1 oysters.

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YESSSS

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Back on the beach, the homes you can see from Talisker

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Jack and his new pal. This guy is the best travel pal – not only does he love packing his days as much as I do, he’s incredibly patient enduring my occasionally questionable music choices, poor directional sense, and midge meltdowns.

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Talisker Distillery

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Talisker use old Bourbon barrels, usually made of American oak. Little facts for you: Bourbon only comes from the US (if it’s distilled elsewhere it’s not Bourbon), and it must be aged in brand new, unused charred oak barrels, hence the Bourbon barrel supply with a strong market in Scotland.

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Our whisky treats this trip were Talisker Distillers Edition and Lagavulin 8 year old.

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Tiny drams of Talisker Storm.

And that’s it! Already eager to get back and explore more areas of the Highlands. In terms of logistics, we flew into Glasgow, then open jawed out of Inverness. We rented a car at Glasgow airport and for a small fee dropped it off in Inverness.

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