Day 5: from Sligachan to Portree - along the Sound of Raasay

Loch Sligachan from the bedroom windowThe Black Cuillins waving goodbyeWhen we awoke and opened the bedroom window to look out over Loch Sligachan (picture), the weather was of such an utterly blue-skied Greece-like splendour that it was getting ridiculous. This is prime motivation, and after having had smoked kipper for breakfast (one has to try anything once), we set out at 9:30, without even the smallest ounce of sun cream. Looking back, we got a superb wave goodbye from the Black Cuillins, in something looking like the start of a heat-haze (picture).

Ian's description put us up with a prospect of wet feet again due to the crossing of numerous burns Loch Sligachan with Raasay and mainland in the distancethat feed Loch Sligachan, and as we started out we feared the worst, because at high tide (it's a sea Loch; they don't make the distinction with an inland lake in their nomenclature) the path gets lost several times at the start of the walk. In the end, there's nothing to it, since there's not that much space to put the path along the loch. This path proved to be, like the one through the Cuillins, a tiptop one and a luxurious lane when compared to what we had or not had on the first days; of course you're clearly not alone anymore. So - hot weather, lovely loch (picture) and dry feet - can an easygoing-walker wish for more? A lovely couple of ravens perhaps, putting aerodynamics into practice high above An Leitir, the steep slope of Ben Lee. The binoculars did their job, but the camera zoom couldn't make it, so just take my word for it.

Waterfall feeding Loch SligachanSome of the burns you cross on your way form beautiful waterfalls, like the one on the picture - there's other ones, but those are in the head, since I don't want to break my neck getting them on film and furthermore at a certain point you just have to start leaving you artificial eye in your pocket, or you'll end up with a huge bill for printed paper when you get home and a head devoid of images.

Today was going to be quite a long one again, but, as the description read, it would be "a complete contrast in your trek". This was true, albeit, according to us, a bit in a negative sense. Loch Sligachan is profoundly beautiful, no doubt about that, and the fact that views from the east coast to Raasay and the mainland beyond are approaching fills you with some excitement... but also with renewed and heightened expectations. Now, at the point where Loch Sligachan meets the Sound of Raasay, you get onto a tarmac road. I don't mind that, after a couple of days with wet surroundings, but the thing is it runs practically all the way up to Portree. Ok, it prepared us for the "big town" Portree is, but after a couple of days of walking in absolute solitude, even a dead-end tarmac can look a bit too much like civilisation. To put it simple: we hadn't had our full share of remoteness yet, which led to a bit of a disappointment, even with the long stretch of Raasay forming a beautiful backdrop. In any case, the weather was now getting downright hot, and my ears were merrily approaching the state of smoked bacon. I had a hat - but left it in my baggage - smart. Ben Tianavaig - first view of the basalt coast

The country just isn't used to such a heat blaze, so gradually, as we approached Camastianavaig, the haze became more pronounced and it was becoming more and more humid. Nevertheless, the landscape was becoming steadily more interesting as the view presented us with what was to become our mindfuck for the next days: the basaltic outcrops of the Trotternish peninsula (picture). As we went a bit inland, we not only saw our first golden eagle, but also laid eyes on our next day's goal - the highest point of the Trotternish Ridge, the Storr, with the impressive and rightly famous 55m needle rock of the Old Man (picture).

Some sheep with the Storr and the Old Man in the hazy distance

Portree (I)

Because the tarmac had killed our ankles (yep, sensitive little buggers), we decided to do the last bit along the estuary of the Varragil River, as described by Ian, but the ebb presented us with a pungent odour of rotting weed. At some points however I thought it would be rather difficult to take this path at high tide. By the time we came to Portree, the sky was completely covered in a thin white shroud and we were anxious to get to the B&B, after a necessary stop for drink and Compeed in town. The B&B, run by Liz MacDonald, was again a lovely address and one just can never get enough of a fluffy blanket covering an impeccable bed. Each time I'd gotten in after a walk, I'd just curl up and sleep first - the sleep one cannot beat - that of physical fatigue after a day's exercise. When we awoke, we got into the daily tea and biscuits routine (on some days we'd be so hungry after a walk that we just ate a bunch of biscuits of all sorts followed by some packs of crisps and a Fanta lemon before taking the nap).
When we put on the TV for the weather forecast, the whole of Scotland had apparently been having an extremely wet day, with floods in several places, especially in Inverness, where some parts of the main roads and the railroad had just washed away. Meanwhile I was covering my ears, face and arms with my girlfriend's moisturising cream. Cool, mate! We went into town when it was getting dark and some drizzle was coming down, so sightseeing was trimmed down to Hunt For Food. We'd begun to notice that we'd already spent a lot more money the past five days than we had been planning to spend during the whole of the Skye trek - the pound's so utterly expensive that for the money you pay for a decent bar meal + drinks (ok, we sometimes overdo it on the guinness...), you can go to a chique restaurant in Belgium. Not to mention that eating in restaurants is usually so expensive (and not necessarily as good as most bar meals) that you might just as well stay home and buy a BMW cabrio (well, or a decent car). We ended up in the Central Restaurant, which wasn't too bad, and had something of a nice cantinesque atmosphere. Anyway, belly full and to bed after a bit of a read.

Stupidly, we hadn't taken any books with us, to cut down on the weight, but the first thing we did when arriving in Glasgow was buying books - I'd just read Stephen Fry's "The Liar", so I got started on "Making History," which is not nearly half as good, but it'll do on the road. Irony is good stuff, so my girlfriend raced through Tony Hawks' "Round Ireland with a Fridge"... Several books were bought along the way, amounting, with books on wildlife etc, to something of an additional kilo for each. We could have thrown the read books away, but nobody had done that since the nazi's, and it's better not to get into filthy habits. Giving it away is another option that had crossed my mind, but attachment to objects is another filthy habit.


on the sixth day we walked from Portree to the Storr via the basalt cliffs

weather on this day (midnight before the walk) : 850hPa temperature / pressure