Saturday, June 18, 2016

18 June A Day out in the Quiraing

18 June :

The plan -

Old Man of Storr. Southwards on A87 - A855. See slideshow of ascent to Storr here. Allow 3 hours from start to finish.

Lunch at Portree. Explore Portree quayside via A855 southwards, 15 mins.

What actually happened :

180616 Saturday A day out in the Quiraing

According to my plan, we were supposed to take to the Quiraing and do one thing only – walking. Obviously I overestimated the ability of the slowest member of the group ( me ) and thought that we would call it a day by noon.

But plans were meant to be changed ; it was a good thing when a change of plans meant more spectacular scenery.

After breakfast, we set off to the Old man of Storr. I chose to take the mountain route, having seen the coastal route north of Skye and Portree, the shortest route to Old Man.

Towards and near Uig, we turned to A855 leading to Staffin Bay , off A87. After a couple of hairpin turns, we followed a rickety sign that pointed to 'Staffin Bay via the Quiraing' ( GPS 57.593267, -6.373485 ). It was a paved/gravel,single track road from start to end in the mountains; windy, narrow,undulating. We had to drop our speed to dead slow at times because sheep strayed onto the road or did a last minute jaywalk in front of the car ( which they do all the time ).

It may be Saturday but we had the road to ourselves most of the time and Pat was spared having to use the one of many lay-bys so that oncoming cars can pass. Even so, it was a very tiring chore for him. I thought the tiny tracks were well maintained and thought out.

Midway through the Quiraing, we stopped in a huge parking area. We joined the many mountain folks and walked up the slopes in search of amazing views. By now, I have no new expressions for the scenery that opened before my eyes. Stupefying, perhaps? Clearly , standing on the mountain and looking at nearby hills and distant glens, lochs and the sea that merged with the sky, I was at a loss for words.

Here, I will attempt to describe the grandeur before my eyes. Standing on a spot of endless green punctuated with bald, sandy patches made so by a thousand boots before me, I saw loch leum na luirginn and loch cleat. They were like a big brother and small sister laying close, water pristine and calm. There,  mid-mountain, the lochs were 2 shiny discs reflecting the sun. Cold wind billowed constantly in the bright sunshine. I had to pull my coat tight to prevent it from puffing me up.

The tiny dirt trail at our left starting from the view point / car park continued its windy course around the mountain waist, disappearing behind a knoll and reappearing again, like a brown line erased by a green triangular eraser. Occasionally, little bees lifted themselves among the smattering dandelions, buttercups and hollyhocks. Eastwards, a deeper shade of watery blue Staffin Bay peeped between distant hummocks and knolls. It was postcard perfect, all that was before me.

LH was like a gazelle and leapt from rock to rock, effortlessly ascending to the next vantage point. With ipad in hand, she captured the scenery while waiting for us to catch up. Pat watched my back as I huffed and puffed, laboring at every change in terrain. Each rock or boulder in my way posed a new challenge.

Every progress meant that it was getting more difficult to turn back. The urge to gain new heights was compelling but the Old Man beckoned us to cut short this unscheduled distraction. On the way down, we met a friendly and tame baby ram and played with it for quite a while. The pleasure to hold a lamb so close to my body was so immense I wanted to do that all morning. It even smelt better than my new woollen scarf acquired from the gift shop at the museum! We met a pretty lone hiker from England who took over the petting. All in all, we spent 45 min in what was to be a 10 min stop.

We continued east then south, cut past the Quiraing , the bay and reached the Old Man of Storr parking ( GPS 57.497585, -6.159027) area before noon. Many cars were parked on both sides of the dual carriage way – thank God we found a precious  lot though far away from the beginning of the walk.

The steep gravel track stood before me like a dusty wall, bidding me to challenge it. It was not an auspicious start for me. LH and H were almost leaping up like mountain goats but Pat stayed to push me up from the word Go! I could not imagine myself in that state for the 1 km walk up the steep, granite path to the Old Man. As soon as I started, I wanted to call it a day!

Granite walk on the bare and  ( exotic coniferous ) logged mountain ( to give way to local trees ) soon turned to sand-stone paths that needed more effort.  I guess we were not even 1/5th of the way up when I called for a  lunch break. My company had no choice but had to stop for me. I simply could not press on with an empty stomach.

For the first time, midges descended on us and no amount of flapping helped. To our horror we realized that all forms of repellant were left in the car. Pat gallantly offered to walk back to the car to get the spray while we ate, while the midges ate us. It was a difficult task going down and then up but the chivalrous man did it without a complaint.

By the time we finished our huge Aberdeen Angus burger, he was back with our spray which we used gratefully. To make up for lost time, Pat ate and tracked up. H bore his camera bag while I took his camera. It was a hot, still day and the going was tough with a burger in hand. A Labrador begged for his burger and we had a little amusement seeing Pat protecting his lunch. For a wee moment, my heart went out to the dog who was disappointed at not having a burger reward. I would have given in due to its cuteness.

I was too preoccupied with watching my steps so I missed most of the scenery while climbing up. LH and H were nowhere in sight – age has its benefits! Pat lifted my backpack to make my ascent easier which helped tremendously.

After the longest time, we reached the ‘summit’ where the base of the Old Man of Storr was. Was it the tall, sharp rock or the tall, roundish rock? I didn't care much except that I made it. What can one say when catching their breath and ignoring the sore thighs were top priorities? The Old man of Storr (?) stood precariously perched on a little green, no moss and remote from the rest of the boulders. My immediate thought ? I wouldn't want to be in its path when an earthquake happens.

Scores of people celebrated the wondrous beauty with selfies. I sat slumped on the floor too exhausted to do anything. The other 3 were full of energy and made  various poses on rocks for photographs. The Old Man loomed large but I was too tired to care.

Now sufficiently rested ( though the legs still felt like jelly ) and Kodak moments taken, we made our way down the mountain. If climbing was hard, going down was worse. The bad knee worked doubly hard supporting my weight down every stone step and then down grassy paths made patchy by countless hiking boots. In the last part, I had to contort myself to counterbalance in case I slid down the loose gravel. Every step down was an achievement. Thank God Pat was there to watch over me.

Later on when I was recounted the hike with H, we concluded that it was a good workout but the walk off Pie in the Skye was much prettier. The Old man walk was all mountain, but the braithrean walk was from greenery to sea. Perhaps we were turned off by the cut down dried up trees falling like dominoes around the Old Man. On the other hand, the clearing meant we managed to see the Sound of Raasay.

It was 2pm and a convenience stop was long overdue. We drove down to Portree and plonked ourselves in CafĂ© Arriba totally spent.  Drinks and toilet breaks later, we scoured the gift shops for keepsakes and mementoes for those who have been following our walks on Facebook.

The second and last item of the day was to check out The Lump, a lookout point at the end of Bank Street. By accident, we took the footpath labeled “The Meall” ( in front of the church ) and looped round the base of The Lump. We ended up at the Hospital’s pharmacy where the entrance to ‘The Lump’ was ( This entrance is actually unmarked, only with a sign that warned it is a private road ). 

Sensing that I have made a mistake, we turned back at that unmarked entrance and went up the wide tree lined tarmac avenue. The midges prewarned  by forumers came to attack us but I used my sweater as a giant fabric fan, spun it before us to ward us of the pesky pests.

The tarmac lane opened up to an open clearing where kids were playing in the glorious sun. Numerous yachts below us parked themselves in the deep blue Portree bay. Beyond lay the island of Raasay and cute little houses.

Then it was back to the same drill – we drove to Food Co-op for dinner things. LH must have known by now nothing gets in the way of our grocery shopping. It has always been in our plans!

Thankfully, it was the best dinner since we came – ribs and pork belly all tender even after baking. We talked and then did laundry before retiring for our night.

And so Isle of Skye drew to a close. I had much reflections but that alone, will be material for another blog.

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