March 10, 2022 4 min read
Scotland is renowned for the magnificent landscapes of its Highlands and Islands, surely amongst the most beautiful parts of Europe. The Isle of Skye, however, has always had a special magic of its own, from the unearthly drama of the Trotternish Peninsula, to its remarkably undiscovered rugged coastline. At its heart of course the Cuillin – the most Alpine mountains in Britain – quite literally a magnetic attraction that even sets compass needles spinning. Whilst the island has become increasingly popular with visitors in recent years, undoubtedly the best way to discover it is taking your time on foot. We set up the Walkhighlands website when we lived at Staffin on the island; here’s our choice of walks from our new guidebook, Day Walks on the Isle of Skye.
Our favourite walk on Skye is a visit to the northernmost point of the island, where an ancient and airy path descends beneath dramatic cliffs of columnar basalt beneath an old coastal lookout station. There are sea-stacks, arches and twisting inlets (known as geos), but best of all for us is the wildlife here. Shags and other sea birds nest on the cliffs, otters can be seen fishing offshore, whilst in the summer months this is the best place in Britain to watch for minke whales, feeding on the plankton where the tidal currents meet.
The bizarre landscape of the Quiraing has become a Scottish icon. Most visitors, though, venture only a short distance along the base of this remarkable landscape, caused by Europe’s largest landslip. If you venture further, however, you can climb up and return over the summit to provide a truly unforgettable circular outing. Look down over a crazy mass of pinnacles arranged around a raised green platform known as the Table. This is a landscape that is still evolving, gradually slipping towards the sea over thousands of years.
This coastline on the Duirinish peninsula in the far northwest of Skye is a truly wild and remote place, well away from Skye’s busier hotspots. This linear coastal walk is a long one, requiring more effort and stamina than many mountain ascents, and there are some potentially difficult burn crossings, but the reward is what some claim to be Britain’s most dramatic clifftop scenery.
Cliffs on the Apprach to the Maidens. @Walkhighlands
The Cuillin are Britain’s steepest and most Alpine mountains, strung along an awesome ridge of bare rock and scree; several of them require rock-climbing to reach their summits, whilst all provide a challenge quite different from mainland hillwalking. Bruach na Frithe is regarded as one of the easiest of the main summits to reach, but the ascent still crosses much extremely rough terrain. Navigation is very difficult in mist, especially as compasses do not function correctly on the ridge, but the views of peaks such as the Basteir Tooth will never be forgotten.
The Old Man of Storr – a rock pinnacle well seen from the road around the Trotternish peninsula – is a staple image on hundreds of calendars. Far fewer people bother to climb to the summit of the mountain behind it though – known simply as The Storr. This spectacular walk heads through the amazing landscape of the Sanctuary before continuing up to the summit, for superb views of mountain, sea and islands.
The statue of Norman Collie and John MacKenzie – two of the legends from the golden age of Scottish mountaineering – stands in the shadow of the mountains at Sligachan. Marsco isn’t the most immediately obvious of the great peaks seen from here, but it’s distinctive outline and position, set apart from the ‘black’ Cuillin, makes for a great objective. Celebrated in song by local Celtic rock band Runrig, it provides a stunning objective.
Collie andd Mackenzie backed by Marsco. @Walkhighlands
The darker side of Skye’s history is explored on this circuit on the Strathaird peninsula. The atmospheric ruins of Boreraig tell a heart-breaking story. In 1851, 120 people lived in twenty-two households here. But like many places in the Highlands, the laird of the time ‘cleared’ the inhabitants to make way for sheep to feed the textile boom further south. Many were evicted from their homes, some of which were burnt to the ground.
This low outlier of the Cuillin may be only 494m high, but it’s become renowned by discerning landscape lovers and photographers alike for its unrivalled view of the great Cuillin ridge across the gulf of Loch Coruisk – regarded by many as the finest in Scotland. There’s a long approach walk up Glen Sligachan before the paths finally give out on the final rugged and rocky terrain as the summit is approached.
If you want more information on the walks mentioned here or more examples of other amazing walks around Skye click here to discover Walkhighlands' brilliant new book Day Walks on the Isle of Skye.
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