Isle of Skye, Scotlands remote outdoor playground
On the West Coast of Scotland, nestled in the Inner Hebrides Island chain, and recently voted the ‘4th’ best Island in the world by National Geographic.. Stands the Isle of Skye. Mythically rugged and naturally raw, jarring peaks, and harsh Scottish weather combine to create an outdoor playground like no other. And thats not to mention it features the UK’s toughest mountaineering challenge as well. But fear not, Skye doesnt miss out on your favourite dosage of Scottish weather, either. The tourism board itself describes it as ‘ The climate is mild, wet and windy.’ A bit of an understatement if I ever heard one. Dominating the bulk of Skye’s landscape, the Cuilin mountain range, and the Trotternish ridge in the North creates a virtual bullseye for storms brewing in the Atlantic to beat against. The harsh weather has created dramatic scenery and has produced an almost outdoor theme-park of activities for outdoor enthusiasts.
Isle of Skye Highlights/Activities
1) Cuilin Ridge traverse.
The Cuilin Ridge is a (somewhat) continuos ridge-crest famous with thrill seekers, munro (scottish peaks) baggers and rock climbers. Although low altitude, the Cuilins can be considered the only alpine quality route in the UK. But dont let the lone wolf fool you. Because of its fickle position the Cuilins are subjected to harsh weather, strong winds and unpredictably fast changes of weather year-round. The ridge itself is a 12km mix of scrambling, climbing, and alpine grade climbing (depending on route/direction taken). Normally completed over two days with an overnight Bivi on the ridge, this is only for competent mountaineers to attempt. Oh and did I forget to mention the 4000 vertical meters of ascent and descent?
2) The old Man of Storr
A unique rock formation, featured in the recent film ‘Prometheus’ is the real life star of Northern Skye. An impressive walk from the carpark at the bottom, the Storr is even more of a sight when rounding the final corner of the Trotternish Ridge traverse, as the Stor marks the end of a long 30km hike and a welcome rest to come.
3) The Trotternish Ridge
The ridge itself is an exposed 30km ridge line crossing quite literally no-mans land. There is no trail to follow, only a map and compass will guide you along the route. Im sure it is a beautiful hike, but I made the mistake of completing it in 50 mph (80 km hr) winds, and white-out fog. And I wondered why I didnt see anybody else on the route. The fog lifted at one point to give me my only picture of the ridge (below). 8 hours of hell. Attempt in good weather only.
4) Portree town
Picturesque harbour and a small village feel – with a great backpackers too – make this the ideal place to call home while staying on Skye. Unless you have a tent of course.
5) The Quirang
Another of Skye’s unique rock formations that makes a good bus-tourist favourite.. A short walk to approach and a scenic view to reward. But the best way is to approach from the North and take the trail through the Mountains starting from Flodigarry . Allow 2-3 hours and hitchhike back down to when finished.
6) The Skye Trail
The Skye trail is another unofficial and unmarked trail that begins in the North and finishes in the South, a complete traverse of the Island taking in most of the major scenic sights. A hike that takes approximately 7 days and takes a keen sense of navigation, as most stages are un-marked. I attempted this hike but only got half way down the Island in my allotted time, the rest of the days I lost to bad weather (although I gave it a good crack on the Trotternish ridge!). Grab the map ‘The Skye Trail’ by Harvey Maps to see the route. The only true way to see Skye.
7) Rainy day special, Talisker Distillery.
A trip to Skye isnt complete without visiting the traditional distillery of Talisker whiskey. Famous worldwide, you are sure to have a rainy day or two during your trip to warranty an excursion for a factory tour..