Beyond the Trotternish Ridge
Hiking the southern part of the Skye Trail, from Sligachan to Broadford, takes you again trough magnificent landscapes of mountains, lochs, burns and moors. My stormy and kind of scary at times solo adventure over the Trotternish Ridge did not put me off hiking the Skye Trail. As much as the Isle of Skye can be challenging, it is also immensely beautiful and it takes much more than a rough hike in heavy rain to scare me off 😉
Picking and skipping
While I recuperated in the Flodigarry Hostel, getting all my clothes clean and dry, I wondered what to do next. My flight date was getting closer and I knew I had to make some compromises, as I would not be able to do the whole Isle of Skye Trail. Again the lovely managers of the hostel came to the rescue. I was advised on which parts of the southern part of the Skye Trail are the most interesting and worth hiking, and which I can cut short to save on time. Richer in this knowledge I got on the bus to Sligachan.
Battling the elements among the stunning scenery of the Sligachan Glen
When I arrived there it seemed like I would have a repetition of the Trotternish Ridge hike. The weather was nasty – very heavy rains with storm-strength winds. I was wondering if it was smart to push on, or if I the sensible thing would be to resign. (By the way: There is a big restaurant at the Sligachan hotel where you may stop for a coffee or a meal.) In the end, I decided to go on the trail – against all odds.
This part of the Skye Trail leads you through the stunning Sligachan Glen to the bay at Camasunary where there is an MBA bothy. This was my goal for the day, although many choose to push all the way to Elgol.
Is that still hiking or maybe water sports already?
The path provides beautiful views of Sgurr nan Gillean to the right and the Red Hills to the left. I was, unfortunately, unable to take many photos because of the torrential rains. This section of The Isle of Skye Trail crosses some minor streams on the way, but thanks to the rains falling steadily for a few days by that moment, I was basically hiking in a stream all the time. It’s a miracle (or rather high quality) my boots stayed dry on the inside throughout the whole hike.
There are some over-stones crossings which proved pretty hard in spate. At one moment I took my boots off and crossed barefoot, as there was no way to cross without water pouring over my ankles and into the boots. At other time I put a plastic bag on my left foot to provide some extra protection (it worked!).
The path was a mixture of stony and boggy areas and at some points, I had to wander off a bit to find my own way to cross streams or go around lochans’ much-risen water levels flooding the original path.
But the views, oh, the views!
Despite the difficulties, I really liked the hike. After some time the rain stopped and I only had to battle the heavy winds and some mist or light drizzle. I was truly awed (again) with the glorious views of mountains surrounding me. At one point you can choose to leave the main trail behind and go right to climb Sgurr na Stri, which is supposed to provide fantastic views.
I chose to stay on the main path, battling the elements and enjoying the landscape. At this point, the Bla Bheinn munro demands the walker’s full attention, although the two lochs: Loch an Athain and Loch na Creitheach you pass by also provide striking vistas.
Reaching the Camasunary Bay
Finally, you reach the Camasunary Bay and the bothy after about 15 km of hiking. I was truly saddened with the amount of plastic rubbish I saw everywhere. Strong waves and wind were bringing all that crap on the beach and then pushed it farther inland.
The MBA bothy is a new one and pretty big. It has two rooms – one with sturdy wooden sleeping platforms and one for eating, cooking and socializing. There is, of course, no bathroom or running water – so one must be prepared. I met a lovely bunch of people there and had a nice evening of chatting with a truly international group of hikers. As usual, I was the last one the next day to get my s*it together and move on 😉
A real cliff-hanger (or hugger?)
The walk to Elgol was brilliant. The path leads over exposed cliff and provides dazzling views of the bay and to the Cuillin. I was lucky that after the previous day’s rains this day offered the sunshine and perfect hiking weather. Hiking the 6km to Elgol, over a muddy and narrow path, is often eroded and dotted with streams but not requiring any bigger effort, and was just wonderful.
Elgol is a small village where you can find a café with basic food supply store (I got a good soup there). It also offers boat trips from its harbor to Loch Coruisk and out to some of the small islands. There is also a bus stop – which was my goal.
Dark history and stunning landscapes
I went by bus to Torrin and was glad that the driver knew better where to let me out than I did 😉 I skipped the Elgol – Torrin stage by the advice from Flodigarry manager. The walk was really pleasant and provided stunning views of Loch Slapin and surrounding mountains: the southern end of the Cuillin, Bla Bheinn and the Red Hills.
This part of the Skye Trail has also deeper historical meaning – it leads through the cleared villages of Suisnish and Boreraig, which ruins are witnesses to the painful history of Scotland. In 1853 the population of Suisnish village was forcefully removed from their land as part of the Highland clearances.
One of the most beautiful wild camping spots
I have decided to stop at this spot to make my camp. I chose a hidden spot behind a ruined house with stellar views over the water. But when a pair of hikers decided to wild camp not more than 20m from me I was less than happy. Why would you do it when you had a lot of other great spots around? Don’t people wild camp to be *alone*? There is a reason why I hike solo. (grumble grumble)
Can you spot my little Vango there? 🙂
The next day I moved on along the trail to Broadford. I reached the second cleared village of Boreraig and was charmed by the view of dozens of cows with their calves grazing. This day the weather was not as good as the previous day but still pretty good for the Scottish summer 😉
Is that it?
Instead of going into Broadford which had no camping site, I pitched my tent some 4km away from it, on a lovely spot with the view of mountains and grazing sheep.
Next to me their tent pitched hikers I met at the bothy and together we went by bus to Broadford. I was surprised how tiny it was – although it had a good sized coop store, pubs, and restaurant. But surprisingly – no internet access anywhere! I wanted to check on my flight and check-in already.
On the need to check, double check and book in advance.
The next day I packed and went to Broadford and was able to get online (and get a gluten-free toast breakfast!)… which was really good as I realized I mixed up dates and my flight was still one day away! I don’t even want to think what I would have done if the mistake was the other way… I decided to go to Portree for a day as it had a camping site. When I was there, almost as an afterthought I booked a ticket for the bus to Glasgow. This proved a savior – the next day people were turned away from the bus for lack of seats!
This is the end… or is it?
And that’s it, folks. My first big Scottish solo hiking adventure came to the end. It’s been some months from that moment and it still is strong with me. I found Scotland to be even more beautiful than I expected. It was also my first big solo trip and I felt I had a lot to prove to myself and others – who thought this idea either stupid or dangerous. This trip gave me strength and confidence in my own skills and capabilities. It gave me a kick to do more, to travel more, to hike more… and to be proud of myself for what I achieved.
I definitely don’t feel satisfied or don’t feel I somehow “did” Scotland. I just got a taste of this wonderful land and hope to go again and again to discover more.
Read more about my adventures on the Isle of Skye:
I’ll be back, Scotland!
FYI: All photos in this post were taken with the help of this little gem.