To The Point

summer in skye by quietskye.com
View from Harlosh Peninsula

 

Summer has become Autumn, with all the characteristic north west Highland signposts; cooler air, sharp squalls, a multitude of rainbows, changing light and more sustained gusty winds. But what a summer!

Reader, Writer, visitor to the island and friend, Jane, spent some time at home with me in Harlosh in the final days of August.

With the last of summer on the breeze, the turning bracken, the deepening clarity of the sunlight and burgeoning brambles, she took a walk on one perfect day out to Harlosh Point.

Here are her thoughts…

Sara Maitland found her Silence in the Cuillins, which gave her space to think about what is silent, really.  What about the buzzing in your ears when there’s no other sound, or the wind.  Out here on the headland the wind is a constant walking buddy, and then, rounding a mound in the terrain, another wind winds up to a whistle; a wind that could creep around a haunted house.  Sheep chatter amongst themselves, setting off associations in my heart with other walking holidays; other farming village homes.

Past number 6, quiet on a weekday – or off season perhaps – the air is suddenly scented with rose oil.  Pink tea roses still flowering, groups of new buds, and rose-hips forming ready for autumn.  Further on a furry leaved mint is thriving across the road from a cottage garden; i drape my lightweight top through it gently, to borrow some of its scent.

MacLeod’s Tables from the house in Harlosh

The sea is denim blue today, and diamond white where it smashes against the black rock cliffs.

Rocks, blocks, some black as coal, and draped in red-brown as if the seaweed has wrapped a fur coat around their shoulders.  In some places its hems lie on the water, slowly disintegrating.  Amongst some of the rocks a tiny pool is lined with green, bright and young as an unripe lime. 

Cuillins from Harlosh

I go through the gate into a “No dogs” enclosure.  I feel safe here, with only the sheep to negotiate. I lie down on the soft green mattress and stare up at cloudless blue.  I scramble down the grass into a cove with fishing debris caught on the rocks and look out to the sharp jags of the Cuillins.  I pick my way down to a tiny bay, take my shoes off and feel the hardness of the rock and the moth-toned silk patches of lichen.  Not wanting to put my shoes back on I follow the sheep tracks across the grass, trusting them to keep their hooves and mine out of the bog.

Jane opens with a reference to Sara Maitland, who wrote A Book of Silence in 2008 following a prolonged period of silence, including 6 weeks in a cottage on Skye. Among her thoughts on the nature of quiet she describes ‘bad silence’, hearing voices and their almost hallucinogenic effects but she bookends these ideas with the observation that a positive encounter with silence is something like a state of bliss.

I read this book before I took the decision to move to Skye and I think it had some part to play in that. I wanted away from my own noise-filled world to find quietude and space and thought I would find some here. While there are places on the island where you can truly find yourself alone and while there are times of ear-splitting silence when one can imagine a pre-industrial age, really I suppose my greater understanding after 6 years here is that there is always the noise within and unless one can find calm and quiet inside, it doesn’t matter where you are.

View to Cuillin Mountains from Harlosh

It’s proved difficult over the years to entice friends to visit, since it involves an epic journey for most and most have little precious free time and so it was a real moment to see Jane here, for her to share the pleasure I have had from the land and seascape of Skye. And gratifying it is to have words from her in exchange and to share them here with you…

 

With thanks to Dr. J Herlihy of Walthamstow, London Town, Englandshire.

August 2018

A Quiet Skye Summer…

This blog is a mashup of different stuff I’ve been up to so far this summer.

Solstice dawn looked like this…

solstice in the sound by quietskye.com
Solstice in the Sound of Sleat

We sailed off the mooring in Kyleakin before dawn and crept down through the narrows at Kylerhea on the southerly ebb, reaching Isle Ornsay by sun-up and this was what we saw, looking back over our shoulders. The wind got up strongly later and we had a robust day of sailing in the Sound, out towards the Small Isles, finally ending up in Isle Ornsay overnight.

With a view to more ‘microadventuring’, I also, finally, got my kit together for a walk and an overnight…

kit bag contents by quietskye.com
Kit for an adventure!

To which I would add a warm hat and a tick-device, just in case. I was out with the kit near Ashaig and found that a few extra tent pegs would be a bonus, so I’d add those as well. But using the hiking poles with slings or bungees to create the ‘basha’ works really well. With the fine dry weather continuing, it’s worth just mentioning the danger of wildfire, so do take lots of care if you’re using a stove or building a fire. Everything is tinder dry right now and the risk is high.

After six years on Skye there are still a few places I’ve never visited so I made the trip last week to Kyleakin to the Bright Water Centre, which celebrates the work of writer Gavin Maxwell – Ring of Bright Water – and was surprised to find a lovely wee space, full of interactive learning, creative area and well presented information. It would make an excellent visit for families because it has younger learners in mind with a lot of its content but it will suit everyone. It was good to see an emphasis on environmental concerns, raising awareness of the impact of sea litter…

impact of sea litter by quietskye.com
Impact of Sea Litter

The Bright Water Centre is down on the Old Pier at Kyleakin.

bright water centre by quietskye.com
The Bright Water Centre, Kyleakin

After this, I drove over to Kylerhea – I think this road is possibly my favourite on all Skye – to visit the otter hide. It is on Forestry Commission woodland, overlooking the Kylerhea narrows and it gives a wonderful view of all the wildlife that lives and depends upon this tidal phenomenon; seals, herons, otters, a whole range of seabirds, porpoise and dolphin. And of course, Sea Eagles.

otter hide at kylerhea by quietskye.com
Otter hide at Kylerhea
Otter on Eilean Ban

I think I saw an otter although it might have been a seal. I definitely saw lots of seals, some lying ashore and ‘singing’ to each other, others in the water making forays into the tidal eddies to hunt. The otter hide has a wealth of information about the enigmatic little beasts, how to tell an otter from a seal in their behaviour and appearance.

inside otter hide by quietskye.com
Inside the Kylerhea otter hide

With temperatures set to soar at the weekend,  I headed out around 0730 on Saturday into Glen Sligachan to use the cooler conditions to go up Marsco. When I got to the fork at the ford, I thought it would be fairly dry given it’s been so lovely lately but it was all bogged out. So I opted for a longer walk along the Glen and the day turned into a wildflower learning opportunity.

bog asphodel by quietskye.com
Bog Asphodel in Glen Sligachan

Every time I saw something different, I stopped and photographed it. I knew just one or two but my knowledge of wild flowers is pretty basic so I needed to do the research when I got home and found this lovely website.

Self Heal by quietskye.com
Self Heal in Glen Sligachan
Lousewort by quietskye.com
Lousewort in Glen Sligachan
Cross leaved heath heather by quietskye.com
Cross Leaved Heath Heather in Glen Sligachan
Buttercup by quietskye.com
Bulbous Buttercup in Glen Sligachan

I got as far as Sgurr Hain. The improvements to paths and drainage along this route is brilliant, all credit to those who have done all the  hard work, I really appreciated it so much.

From Sgurr Hain by quietskye.com
Panoramic view from Sgurr Hain in Glen Sligachan

Finally around mid afternoon I began to feel some effects of exposure to sun and needed to turn back and a few hours later I crawled into the shade of the bar at the Sligachan Inn to cool down. This place has made some changes over the last year and I really like what they’ve done. Decent food, good prices, good facilities, music and massive screen for sports and events.

Definitely recommend a visit to the Glen and Inn alike!

 

 

 

 

 

Solstice & Skye’s Standing Stones

Solstice at Stonehenge

Years ago, I was a fledgling renting a box room in London. I was as confused as the birds that kept me awake all night because it did not get dark. The radiation glow of street lighting that never switched off made insomniacs of us all and briefly, each solstice, I remember this as my sleep patterns shift into summer gear and my usual early-to-bed-early-to-rise rhythms get thrown out of shape.

The steps we take towards solstice or Midsummer – strange because doesn’t it mark the start of summer, not the midpoint? – are baby steps. All through May and early June the day length stretches almost imperceptibly; islander activity, birds and blooms alike, they all eke out the extra minutes until finally solstice arrives and for a brief moment we are suspended under a midnight sun or, more likely, an eerie half light reminiscent of an eclipse.

Pagan imagery
Pagan symbolism of the cycles of nature

Grian-stad means literally sun-stay, the Scots Gaelic aligning with the barebones meaning of solstice, Sol-Stitium or sun stands still; when the sun is directly above the northernmost point, marking the beginning of summer and giving cause for celebration.

Mayan Sun Deity
Mayan Sun God

Druids, Mayans, Romans and Egyptians, all aligned their sacred sites to the solstice sun and held celebrations to honour the light, the strength of the sun and its power to create life. At the Great Pyramids the solstice sun crowns the head of Sphinx. At Stonehenge, which predates the Druids 5000 years ago,  thousands visit to mark the event and celebrate the cycles of nature and witness the turning of the wheel of time. The Heel Stone and the Slaughter Stone are aligned with the sunrise and it is believed to have been an astronomical calculator as different stones are aligned with different dates in the calendar.

Stonehenge from Pixabay

There are several groups of stones on Skye that may have played their part in the island’s past at Solstice times of the year. North of Kensaleyre you will find the Eyre Alignment, or Sornaichean Coir Fhinn.

Standing Stones at Eyre from Megalithic Portal
The Eyre Alignment. Latitude 57.488809 N Longitude 6.316369 W

Now 2 stones standing but there once were 3, forming a row. They stand a few feet from the edge of Loch Eyre and close by are 2 burial cairns, which are thought to be Bronze Age. Local folklore talks of the stones being erected by the mighty Fingal, as uprights for his massive cooking pot for his boiling venison.

Fingal was the hero of an epic poem by James McPherson (1792), based on the character of legend, Fionn mac Cumhail.

Standing Stones at Kilmarie from Megalithic Portal
Na Clachan Bhreige. Latitude 57.183920 N Longitude 6. 066956 W

Another set of stones stand near Kilmarie at Strathaird. Na Clachan Bhreige are 3 stones standing with one fallen. In researching the name, I could only find reference to false stones or men turned to stone but could unearth little background for this intriguing idea, sadly.

Stones at Dun Cruinn from Megalithic Portal
Dun Cruinn Stones. Latitude 57.482260 N Longitude 6.321139 W

There are other examples below Dun Cruinn, the Iron Age Hill Fort at Loch Snizort Beag, there’s a single beautiful stone stands above the village of Uig and another Stone Row at Borve.

Peinsoraig Stone above Uig. Latitude 57. 579808 N Longitude 6. 361179 W

Besides these, many other stones stand on Skye with varied histories attached to them, like the folklore around the rock-scape of The Old Man of Storr, which tells a tale of a giant buried, following a skirmish with Men, leaving his thumb exposed, as the stack we see today!

Old Man of Storr from Pixabay

With just a few days until solstice, I’m willing the skies clear enough for me to be there at dawn to see some Skye standing stones in the light of a solstice sun and make my own celebration of the turning of nature’s wheel.

Standing Stone images courtesy of the Megalithic Portal website.

How to spend a wet summer day on Skye…

I know it’s hard right now but picture this not wholly unbelievable scenario…after a few days exploring Skye in glorious weather, a bank of cloud begins to form to the west and the unthinkable happens, it begins to rain. Forecast suggests at least a day or so of the wet stuff but there might be a way around it…

Kyle Train Station by quietskye.com

There are around 3 trains a day each way between Kyle and Inverness but if you jump on the early service out of Kyle and get the last one back again, you will have a full day in town, all the shopping, cafes, buskers and Highland Capital vibe you can handle. Also, it probably won’t be raining.

But seriously, think about taking the trip just because.

Because it’s a line of jaw dropping beauty, through some of the most rugged landscape in the country, with interesting history, with photo opportunity and with ‘request stops’ for flips sake! 

I live on the island ergo sometimes I need to get off and I love taking this train ride. Here’s how it, er, goes…

Islets around Kyle by quietskye.com

From Kyle, the single track line follows the shoreline towards Plockton, passing islets and wee bays, yachts at mooring, kayakers exploring, seals and herons, with Duncaan and the Cuillins as a backdrop. We pass through rock cuttings, deep gorges in places where the navvies back in 1893 had to blast their way through when they extended the line from Stromeferry to Kyle.

Gorse in abundance on both sides and carpets of bluebells pressing through the wire safety nets, drilled into the rock to help prevent slides. This is a great time to make this journey for the flora alone!

Rhodedendron along Kyle Line by quietskye.com

Yellow Marsh Iris beginning to appear in the flat boggy areas inland of the rails and swathes of rhodendron around Plockton, in amongst the beautiful mixed woodland as we wind along the shore of Loch Carron.

The woodland grows denser into thick canopy, cows and calves in the burn and on the beach past Duncraig, one of several ‘request stops’.

Next stop, Stromeferry was once the end of the line from Dingwall, built in 1870 ‘to promote tourism and convey fish and livestock to markets distant more quickly’. Later, the tortured extension through to Kyle was begun and took around 30 years to complete, building 29 bridges and 31 rock cuttings. It cost £20,000 per mile back then, around £18 M today. Do check out The Kyle Line for a more assured history.

From Stromeferry we pass Attadale Gardens  and reach the head of Loch Carron at Strathcarron station. Dog Rose grows beside the tracks and we head inland up Glen Carron.

Gorse from Kyle Line by quietskye.com

The hills get bigger, the landscape opens up to broad glen, bog cotton laces the flatlands with outbreaks of dense conifer and broadleaf trees. The railway runs parallel to the road, alongside Loch Dughaill and the River Carron up towards the next stop, Achnashellach.

Glen Carron view by quietskye.com

Further along we rumble through Glen Carron and to the east there are amazing views over towards Sgurr A Chaorachain, a big lump of a Munro with what looks like a lovely long ridge line. Lots of old forestry scars in the landscape with old forestry roads. Plenty of commercial forestry awaiting harvest too.

Sgurr a Chaorachain by quietskye.com

The last time I took this train ride was back in early Spring and I saw more wildlife, huge herds of deer quite close to the train and some impressively large stags, all perfectly camouflaged, their winter coats still needed, snow on the ground and rusty browns and dark greens about them. This time they are absent and I guess they are higher up the glen on their summer grazing grounds.

Achnasheen station with Munro behind by quietskye.com

We approach Achnasheen and a big peak stands alone east of the station, Sgurr A Mhuillin, though not a Munro at 879. Through Lochluichart and on to Garve, where we must now be more  east than west. The landscape is changing, more agricultural, different grazing lands, wildflower meadows and more cultivation. Still the hills are deep in conifer, commercial for the most part.

East of Garve on Kyle Line by quietskye.com

As the warmest part of the day approaches, the woodland floor is dappled with patches of light, showing the full palette of greens from luminescent to almost grey. The rail tracks meander more on the approach to Dingwall as we navigate the topography.

A patchwork of bright green fields with neighbouring brown fine-tilled soil are eye catching. We potter around the head of the Cromarty Firth and after Dingwall the train is fast to Conon Bridge and beyond, whizzing over the River Conon and passing huge mature birch woods with farms and steadings outside Muir of Ord, home to the Singleton Distillery.

Distillery at Muir of Ord by quietskye.com

Fast to Beauly, crossing the head of the Beauly Firth, lush green fields with bright bursts of Buttercup, Cow Parsley and Marsh Iris in the boggy bits, impossible to capture on camera at this mph!

Moray Firth from train by quietskye.com

We speed around the banks of the Moray Firth, past the muddy flats of low tide, slowing gradually for the approach to Inverness, over the canal at the marina and on into ever more urban surroundings and into the heart of the city.

Arriving at Inverness by quietskye.com

It’s not the bullet train, it mostly goes slooooooow. All the more time to love the views as you ramble through the landscape. So next time it looks like rain and you feel like a change of scenery, maybe take the Kyle Line.

As Scotrail will have you believe, it’s ‘a better way to go’.

Quiet Skye Investigates : 2

Here’s the next investigation and this time it asks the question…

How easy is it to go cycling on Skye?

The new season and better weather is bringing the cyclists back to Skye, I’ve seen quite a number of tourers already and plenty of wee pelotons of road-riders over recent weekends. I’m a bit in awe of the tourers but I’ve got my fist in my mouth when I pull up behind them up on the bends between Luib and Sconser.

Skye isn’t the first place you think of when you think about cycling; road or mountain bike. In fact, on the Singletrack forum one recommendation I found  for Skye was to head over the bridge from Kyle, take the Sleat road, get on a ferry and ride around Ardnamurchan!

But then I also found this so they clearly got over themselves.

One obviously great fan of Skye is the Human Cyclist, who claims it’s a paradise and declares there are fewer better road routes in the UK – read his brilliant blog on Skye here.

Macs Adventure, a tour operator in Glasgow sells self-guided cycle holidays on Skye, a 200 mile tour route around the island and for knocking £700 you’ll get 7 nights accommodation, breakfast, maps and baggage transfer but you don’t get a bike so you’d need to bring your own or arrange hire. Hmm, sounds kinda expensive. I’d be more up for a self-guided, self-sufficient, possibly £200 holiday rather than the above, taking in the great campsites on offer, some adjacent to great mountain biking, like at Glenbrittle for instance.

So maybe try out  the island’s own 2-wheel enthusiasts to help you get out on some of Skye’s amazing trails and roads, to see the sights and feel the south westerlies through your hair, I found three operators in a heartbeat. There may be more, apologies if I’ve not found you. Check out these for cycle hire, guided rides and great ideas for routes and trails:

Skye Bike Shack

South Skye Cycles

Skye MTB Adventures

Some of Quiet Skye’s trails are really well suited to cycling too, I’d especially rate the Kinloch loop for a shorter blast and the Marble Line for a more sustained circuit.

Up and active is the Skye Cycle Way group who are campaigning for a cycle route between Kyleakin and Broadford, to adopt the old road along the A87 in places where it’s viable and to build a path where it’s not. The group is made up of passionate volunteers and has broad support in the community. It’s a fast road and there are serious health and safety debates being had, surveys are happening to garner community feedback and raise awareness. You can find more about Skye Cycle Way here .

Just a day or two ago the Scottish Government announced the new Community Links Fund which could provide an important boost to Skye Cycle Way if the group, together with Broadford and Strath Community Company, are able to access it,  £36M across Scotland for improvements to walking and cycle paths.

Anything that improves the safety for cyclists on Skye and promotes cleaner and healthier ways to get around, that slows us down and allows us to take in the landscape with a little more consideration deserves support. There are Action Days to help clear the old road for the Skye Cycle Way and I’m hoping to roll sleeves up soon! 

The Skye Bothies

Corryhully Bothy from Pixabay
Corryhully Bothy, Glenfinnan

If you know and love the wild side of the UK, you will know about the Bothy.

Historically, rural homes and farm cottages located in the remotest places,  once for agricultural workers who travelled around from job to job, the buildings later fell into disrepair and in some cases became vagabond shelters.

Unknown Bothy from Pixabay

Today the majority of bothies are in the care of the Mountain Bothies Association , who celebrate 50 years of amazing service this year. Founded by Bernard and Betty Heath, themselves walkers, the MBA doesn’t own any buildings but in agreement with the land owners, organises working parties, raises funds and maintains bothies all around the United Kingdom.

‘To maintain simple shelters in remote country for the use & benefit of all who love wild & lonely places.’  is their mission.

Corrour Bothy from Pixabay
Corrour Bothy, Mar Lodge Estate, Aberdeenshire

The MBA look after around 100 bothies, providing basic shelter for walkers and adventurers for free. There is somewhere to sleep, sometimes a fireplace – otherwise known as Bothy TV – and perhaps a spade for dealing with the necessaries but little more than four walls and a roof above.

You can join the MBA for £25 per year and this money goes towards the incredible maintenance programme they carry out on all the buildings under their stewardship. Members receive a copy of the Members Handbook so you can get out on the hill and find these special places, a quarterly Newsletter, which contains MBA News, bothy related stories and notification of planned work parties and projects, and the Annual Report and Review.

So, if you’re heading for the hills with a plan to use a bothy, you’ll need to make sure you bring the kit you need. You may also need to find water and fuel for the fire along the way or bring a camp stove with you. There’s a clear code to help walkers be upstanding custodians of the bothy tradition  including always taking your rubbish out with you and making room for others that may arrive.

Going back, the location of a bothy was traditionally shared only by word of mouth and to some extent, there is still an appetite for some secrecy however there are now publications such as Geoff Allan’s The Scottish Bothy Bible  and Phoebe Smith’s The Book of the Bothy .

Skye is home to three bothies:

Ollisdal bothy on Skye from Pixabay
The Ollisdal Bothy in the north west of Skye

Ollisdal, in the north west of the island, is part of the Glendale Estate, which was Scotland’s first community land buy-out, finally concluded during the 1950s. It is now under local volunteer management and newcomers to Glendale can become ‘common-owners’.

The Ollisdal bothy is along the clifftop trail between Ramasaig and Orbost, it has an open fire and is used by shepherds. Because of this, it’s worth noting that no dogs are allowed into Ollisdal.

Bothies on Skye from Walk Highlands
New Camasunary bothy in the foreground and old bothy in the distance

Camasunary in the south west, can be reached via various routes starting at Strathaird , Elgol or Sligachan. There are actually two bothies here, an old and a new. The owner, Alan Johnson, has taken the old bothy back into family ownership and funded the building of a new replacement in 2014.

This was built by 59 Commando Field Squadron, Royal Engineers, creating a link with the Second World War when Commandos came to Camasunary for a Live Fire training exercise, landing on the beach and attacking a nearby boathouse!

Lookout Bothy on Skye from Walk Highlands
View out from The Lookout bothy at Rubha Hunish

The Lookout is in the far north of the island at Rubha Hunish. This bothy, a former coastguard watch station was built in 1928. There are beautiful views across the Minch to Lewis and Harris and it provides excellent opportunities for spotting sea-life; Minke whales and Orca, basking sharks, dolphin and porpoise as well as varied sea birds. Nearby you’ll find the ruins of the village of Erisco, a crofting community that dates back to the 1600s, it was victim to the Clearances in 1875. There is no fire at The Lookout and you will need to bring in your own water.

Lookout Bothy Skye from Walk Highlands

Here are a couple of great short films on bothies and bothy culture, the first by photographer Nicolas White called Black Dots Project, which was sponsored by Rab.

The second is by adventurer Alastair Humphreys, called Mountain Bikes and Bothy Nights. 

By lovely coincidence, Alastair’s film features Skye’s bothies!

Come and find them for yourself!

 

For the love of Van…

The season is underway and personally I really like the arrival of visitors;
4-wheels, 2-wheels, more wheels or none.

This year visitor numbers are projected to rise again, a happy outcome for a community reliant on the tourist economy but there are necessary conversations to be had about dispersal,  environmental safeguarding and the perennial conversations about camper vans are in the air again.

However, at the Tourism conference I went to in March, the CEO of the Scottish Tourism Alliance seemed to be saying that the big rise is in day-tripper numbers while the domestic spend is down and this chimes with things I hear from friends and neighbours in their own shops and businesses; people are coming in to look but are on a quick whizz around, they’re not staying on the island and it’s not practical for them to be carrying goods away.

So,  whether on a bus tour or in a car coming from a base off the island, possibly because they weren’t able to find accommodation, the day-trippers are the headline rather than the camper vanners.

Either way you look at it most of us depend in some way on the season in order to survive, so we need that economic interaction . I’ve overheard many a comment over the years about how the camper van contributes little and blots the landscape and sometimes I have agreed. But as to whether they contribute, the vast majority of them are staying on a site and therefore contributing while relatively few are ‘free camping’. Those who are, generally stay just a night and move on.

Nobody needs to persuade me of the beauty and benefit of a camper van, I’ve had one since 2005 and I’ve been to places I’d never have gone without it but I acknowledge there are issues affecting the area and solutions needed. In France they have the Aire and in Italy the Sosta. In Spain it’s a bit more haphazard but you can usually get away with free camping at the big service stations while here and around the UK we just don’t have a similar attitude towards the vans.

So what might it take?

Some level hard-standing and some basic facilities; it shouldn’t be a camp site and it wouldn’t make an attractive long-term prospect but it would help divert the bigger vans away from more spots that aren’t really suitable.

There’s an interesting article here on ways to manage the free-camping situation in the Highlands…

Out there online there is a lot to read on this subject and many well-intentioned thread hosts and contributors have had their fingers burned either defending camper vans or attempting to raise awareness of a perceived problem. It is certainly a sensitive topic  and stories of waste dumping, littering and parking problems haven’t helped the PR campaign.

After I heard about a couple of cases of waste dumped in a Skye beauty spot I made the assumption that perhaps the island campsites might not all offer chemical waste disposal but some minimal research suggests I was wrong,  they almost entirely do. However, this service is included in the pitch price so unless you’re staying at the campsite, you don’t have access to it. So how about a pay-per-dump fee for a camper van who needs to deal with their waste but doesn’t want a pitch?

Really important to point out that this isn’t an issue as such, it occurred but isn’t a perceived problem.

Maybe also there needs to be a stronger ‘code’ promoted by the Rental companies, which seem to be doing really great business and new ones are appearing all the time.

Wild About Scotland tackles the issues here….

And Open Road Scotland have a code for their rental clients…

The changes to access that came into force recently for tent campers around Loch Lomond shook everyone up at the time but seem sensible, the damage being done there was evident so now you need a permit in certain locations. This seems like a workable solution for sites where there is a consistent issue with littering or environmental damage.

So if there is a sensitive site that attracts vans, then maybe a levy or permit system is a possible solution in those cases, to keep the environment at the head of the agenda and safe-guard it.

 

 

 

Quiet Skye Investigates : 1

Here’s the first in a series of blogs about things to do on Skye, aimed at visitors who want to get a view of the island from a fresh perspective. So in this post I’m going to be finding out about how to get on the water…

How easy is it to go SAILING?

Zarene on the Round Raasay race
Big boat sailing with spinnaker in the Sound of Raasay

Getting on the water when you are holidaying on an island shouldn’t be a problem but not every island destination  in the Highlands can cater for those interested in sailing. For years intrepid yachties have cruised these waters, often venturing north from the Clyde but increasingly from far flung home ports on the continent. After all, the west coast of Scotland provides some of the most challenging and most beautiful sailing in the world.

But for visitors on a land-based holiday, what kind of access is there?

Depends what kind of sailing you’d like to try; Skye has dinghy sailing, yacht charter and sail experiences to offer throughout the season. Read on to find out more about each…

What about Yacht Charter?

Isle of Skye Yachts based in Ardvasar offer both bareboat and skippered charter with a fleet of seven boats. Prices vary across the season, with offers available at quieter times. They are a long established and reputable company and well placed being close to the ferry and train services in Mallaig.

Sunset en route to Eigg by quietskye.com
Sunset heading across the water from Armadale to Eigg.

Armadale, where the fleet are on moorings, is an excellent starting point for a cruising holiday, perfect for any level of challenge with the Small Isles close by, Knoydart, Mallaig and the Sound of Sleat. Or jump across to Barra and explore the Outer Isles or head south to Mull, Coll & Tiree. There is a wide breadth of choice of cruising ground with bolt-holes if needed.

Want to try dinghy sailing?

Skye Sailing Club, based in the island capital, Portree, is an award winning, ambitious club with a varied fleet for its size. If you are new to sailing you can try a Taster session for the price of a donation or book a half/full day hands-on session with an instructor to get confident on the water.

Cadet with SSC
SSC Cadet decides to paddle back to the clubhouse!

If you’ve had some experience before, bring your RYA certificate along and take a boat out during a sailing session  – which take place during week nights at the club and sometimes extra sessions happen at weekends, weather willing. Costs and details available via the Skye Sailing Club website or drop them an email via their contact form to check.

Or, for a unique fishing and sailing trip, you can go aboard the ‘Oigh Niseach’, traditional Hebridean lugger, based at Raasay House , you could be fishing for mackerel and pollock or hauling up creels to check for prawn and lobster while learning traditional sailing techniques in the Sound of Raasay.

How about a Sail Experience?

In Portree Bay sits a modern cruising yacht, Brise. The skipper Jasper, is a fully qualified RYA Cruising Instructor and operates out of the bay, sailing into the Sound of Raasay and beyond for an introduction to big boat sailing. Find out more about how to get out on board Brise through the Viewfield House website.

Alternatively…

Skye Sailing Club also offer the RYA Powerboat training, if you’re interested in skilling up and learning to pilot a RIB, this 2 day course is full of practical training and enough theory to make you safe on the water. Required and useful for jobs within tourism, marine industry and fish-farming or simply  because you want to be safer in your boat.

Human-Power

Skye is famous for its’ beautiful sea-lochs and coastline and there are various kayak clubs in the north and south but if you’d like to book a day either as a novice or with experience try contacting Skyak. They are based in Breakish in the south of Skye, have a full breadth of knowledge and equipment and they put together an exciting day for all. Or alternatively try Sea Kayak Plockton , who frequently take kayakers out around Skye & Lochalsh.

A few options for getting out on the waters around Skye!

You’re welcome.

SAINTS preserve us…

Slow Adventure SAINTS

Slow Adventure in Northern Territories or SAINTS is the tourism project I was banging on about after being at the SkyeConnect conference last week.

I found out a bit more and this is just a micro-look at what they are doing ;  11 partners and 7 countries involved; Scotland, Ireland, Northern Ireland, Norway, Iceland, Sweden and Finland, all putting resources in to building relationships with micro-businesses who are involved in a range of adventure activities, to help promote Slow Adventure.

SAINTS project by quietskye.com

So what is it?

The polar explorer Amundsen once said adventure is just bad planning and I guess, in the context of his own ambition there really wasn’t any room for spontaneity or purposeful distraction. But today, in our world of uber-connectedness, minimal logistics and time-frame-free travel begin to feel like nirvana.

Slow Adventure is about wild food cooked naturally and traditionally, wild life, human-powered  or nature-powered travel. It’s about being in nature within its own time-frame, being in its seasons and weather and the transformation that takes place when all those elements come together without a programme or goal. It’s about deepening the human experience of nature and outdoors.

woodland flowers by quietskye.com

The SAINT project objectives are to improve the business opportunities for offering adventure to new visitors, to lengthen the season and extend the numbers across the nation boundaries, sharing their resources and understanding. I’m looking forward to keeping up with their news as the projects progress and hoping to find myself out on a Slow Adventure, perhaps even in my own territory!

Let’s Go Slow are bloggers working together with the SAINTS project, this particular beautiful photo-blog documents a Norwegian adventure but this is just one of a whole library of amazing blogs and films, including the ones  above, set in Finland and on Canna, if you can spare the time, every one is a gem!

I think this is my new favourite website, with such high production values, original and personal content, it feels like a rare find.

 

 

 

Anyone for ‘Espresso’?

Ian on Kilmarie trail by quietskye.com

Adventure, the word carries weight… it can be intimidating.

It doesn’t need to be. There are different approaches and one that captured my imagination entirely, thanks to writer and adventurer Alastair Humphreys, is the concept of Microadventure.

wildcamp at Storr by dreamstime.com
Image courtesy of dreamstime.com

It’s inspiring because it’s so simple, it’s an espresso,  a distillation, it keeps the essence of adventure and eliminates complicated logistics or planning and it requires a very simple kit list.

As Humphreys points out, the original idea was to create space in the working day for the urbanite, think 5-9 rather than 9-5 and make memories from adventuring out of town after work, it wasn’t conceived with the West Highlands in mind!

But it can build on an experience of Skye in the simplest of ways, revealing more about the island through the windows of dawn and dusk and a night in the wild under the stars. Alastair talks about it in terms of thinking time, especially during the vernal and autumnal equinoxes when day and night are almost the same length. This is a great series of short films

In the coming weeks Quiet Skye will feature a number of ideas for microadventures on the island with hikes, rides and swims so however you are holidaying, you’ll need just a day and night to try one out if you have the kit with you. You probably already have a sleeping bag but not everyone has a bivvy or a tarp and pegs to make up a basha.

The ideas for microadventures will work with most of the trails that you can find in Pages.

open fire by quietskye.com

As always, check out the Outdoor Access Code for the important stuff and remember that almost all trails on Skye traverse grazings for cattle and sheep and they will be calving and lambing throughout the season so check here for info on dogs .

Add another dimension to the trip, it’s easy and even for the seasoned camper, bivvying is a bit out there. Somewhere in amongst all the other wise words I read on www.alastairhumphreys.com, he also said tents are just a rubbish version of indoors but bivvying is really being outside!