Solo on Skye: Surviving the Trotternish Ridge on Isle of Skye

It started all nice… the way all disaster stories do.

When I left the lovely Flodigarry hostel’s campsite in the morning on a gloomy August day I had no way of predicting that the next 48h would be the toughest of my whole stay in Scotland.

 

My plan was to hike as much as possible of the Skye Trail. I didn’t have enough time for it because I chose to stay longer in Portree and see the Highland Games. But I hoped to do the whole Trotternish Ridge and then bits and pieces of the southern part of the trail.

 

The Skye Trail

The Skye Trail is a really challenging path, with no official markers anywhere. One can do it in about a week, depending on fitness levels and style of hiking. I’ve done the first part – Rubha Hunish to Flodigarry and absolutely loved it! Now I wanted to do three days hiking from Flodigarry, through Storr to Portree either through the coastal path or farther down along the Trotternish Ridge. I wanted to decide around Storr how I felt about it all. The first part – Flodigarry to Storr was a given, also because there really is no other way – once you are up there, you walk till you get to the very end 😉

Hiking the Isle of Skye's Trotternish Ridge - not for the faint of heart! awomanafoot.com

The second stage of the Skye Trail is about 30 km long and very difficult. As I was hiking with a heavy backpack I knew there was no chance I would make it in one day. I was planning to wild camp “somewhere up there”. In fair weather that might be an absolutely marvelous idea, as the views were just stunning… Unfortunately, I was not lucky to have that kind of weather, as you will soon find out…

Alternative way to do the Trotternish Ridge

When I was still staying at the hostel’s campsite, there were two women also preparing to hike this path. The lovely gentleman at the hostel  (can’t remember his name, sorry!) advised them to leave their heavy stuff behind, go by bus to the Old Man of Storr and walk back to Flodigarry. With just some snacks and water to carry they could walk fast and did the hike in one day – I met them later on along the trail. I must say this was a brilliant idea and I highly recommend doing it.

Hiking the Isle of Skye's Trotternish Ridge - not for the faint of heart! awomanafoot.com

Hiking the Isle of Skye's Trotternish Ridge - not for the faint of heart! awomanafoot.com

Climbing up the Trotternish Ridge

When I left the campsite the weather wasn’t all that bad – it was cold and gloomy, but I was already used to that. In the beginning, you follow a trail leading to Loch Langaig, which you soon pass on your way up. The walk among dramatic ridges of Quirang is purely magical but difficult at moments. You are rewarded with tremendous vistas for all your hardships, though.

Hiking the Isle of Skye's Trotternish Ridge - not for the faint of heart! awomanafoot.com

Hiking the Isle of Skye's Trotternish Ridge - not for the faint of heart! awomanafoot.com

The path leads you then along the steep slopes providing more and more of jaw-dropping views. It finally reaches a parking area by the Staffin – Uig road. The weather was already going down by then – not raining yet but windy and cold. I bought seriously over-priced sausages and tea from a food truck before I got on the path on the other side of the road.

Hiking the Isle of Skye's Trotternish Ridge - not for the faint of heart! awomanafoot.com

Hiking the Isle of Skye's Trotternish Ridge - not for the faint of heart! awomanafoot.com

Trotternish Ridge: Now the fun begins

When one looks at photos of the ridge it looks like gentle hills one after another… what a misleading illusion! Many of the ascents are very steep and tricky – I was glad (again!) I had my trekking poles as they helped me a lot. At some points the climb was so steep I would be using my hands if I didn’t have the poles! With the heavy backpack, I was “hugging” the slopes to not fall over. You can imagine that the descent on such steep, grassy and muddy slopes was not a walk in the park, either. Once again I was glad that in addition to the trekking poles I also had the best possible hiking boots, providing support and holding on even on the steepest muddy mess of a path (or lack of it, most of the time…).

Hiking the Isle of Skye's Trotternish Ridge - not for the faint of heart! awomanafoot.com

Hiking the Isle of Skye's Trotternish Ridge - not for the faint of heart! awomanafoot.com

The skies over the Trotternish Ridge have an extra supply of water

Anyway – soon after I started walking toward the Bioda Buidhe summit it started to rain. Then to pour. Then the winds got so strong I was struggling to stay vertical. After I got completely soaked it stopped! I was relieved, hoping it was all that they skies had for me for that day. Oh, how wrong I was!

Hiking the Isle of Skye's Trotternish Ridge - not for the faint of heart! awomanafoot.com

Hiking the Isle of Skye's Trotternish Ridge - not for the faint of heart! awomanafoot.com

I used the misleading dry weather to change socks (rain got inside the boots because my pants were completely soaked) and to eat a snack. Over the next hour or so my pants almost completely dried. I was optimistic and cheerful. Oh, sweet naivety!

Hiking the Isle of Skye's Trotternish Ridge - not for the faint of heart! awomanafoot.com

After a while, the rains and winds returned. The temperature seemed to drop significantly and the drops felt like tiny needles on my cheeks. In a few minutes, I was soaked again. Walking steep slopes and open ridge with such heavy wind was really tiring. As there was no natural hiding spot, any rocks, trees or caves, I had to trudge on. When I reached the only structure protruding from the ground: a man-made, meter-high cement marker, I decided to “hide” behind it to have some rest.

Hiking the Isle of Skye's Trotternish Ridge - not for the faint of heart! awomanafoot.com

The rain was falling horizontally at this point and I was really tired. I took my backpack off and removed a thick plastic bag I used to protect my pack during a flight. It was just about half a meter wide, but I still put it on my back, hugged my backpack and squatted behind the monument. I think I actually dozed off for a while.

BTW: I’m sorry for the misleading photos: I obviously wasn’t taking any when it was pouring rain, so one may think it wasn’t all that bad! 😀 It was. I am glad my camera survived anyway – I used it in light rain multiple times…

Hiking the Isle of Skye's Trotternish Ridge - not for the faint of heart! awomanafoot.com

Finding a camping spot at the Trotternish Ridge

I hoped the rain would ease, but no way. So after 40 min or so of this hard rest, I moved on. When it got to 6 pm the rain weakened to just mist with winds still hollowing. I decided it was the perfect time to find a camping spot before the rains return (no room for optimism anymore). The air had the color of milk which didn’t help much in seeing better spots from a distance.

Hiking the Isle of Skye's Trotternish Ridge - not for the faint of heart! awomanafoot.com

The ground all over the ridge is extremely boggy and wet. Another misleading illusion from looking at photos! It made walking extremely hard but finding a good spot for a tent even harder. I spent the next hour walking in circles at every flat spot, hoping to find some slightly sheltered place… or at least not a swampy pool.

Hiking the Isle of Skye's Trotternish Ridge - not for the faint of heart! awomanafoot.com

I have a feeling we are not on Skye anymore…

Finally, I found a place covered with moss, but not pool-deep standing water. There was also a rocky spot there where someone built a circle with rocks – I’m not sure if it was for camping unless it was a self-standing tent and the people had some mighty thick sleeping mats. I used the rocks to hold my tent down – I was seriously worried it would fly away. Possibly with me in it. It was a night to test my little tent’s strength.

Hiking the Isle of Skye's Trotternish Ridge - not for the faint of heart! awomanafoot.com

You can’t even imagine the relief I felt when I finally lied down in my sleeping bag… I was dry, safe (I hoped), and really comfortable – as the wet moss made it like sleeping on a water bed. I didn’t boil water because of the weather, so I only ate some coconut cookies and sweets for the supper.

The next morning was foggy, chilly and windy – but no rain. To my relief, I woke up dry and not in a pool of water. The little budget Vango tent proved it was a good choice!

Hiking the Isle of Skye's Trotternish Ridge - not for the faint of heart! awomanafoot.com

I boiled myself water for breakfast and coffee – there was only a standing water pool, but I used my filter to clean it. I must say I felt pretty good, thinking the worst was behind me.

The silly optimism

I wasn’t sure where exactly I was but I still thought walking past Storr and down the Trotternish Ridge a possibility. I packed and moved on along the muddy, treacherous and strenuous path.

Hiking the Isle of Skye's Trotternish Ridge - not for the faint of heart! awomanafoot.com

After couple hours I was truly exhausted. I walked just a few miles but felt like it was thrice that. I had to rest often, especially after the steep climbs. I decided there was no sense moving on along the ridge and that I should walk down by the Old Man of Storr. The tricky part was to notice the path before the peak and walk left around it to descend to the parking area.

The dangers of navigating in bad weather

The air was white and visibility extremely poor. The good thing about walking along the ridge is that you don’t really need a path – just walk close to the ridge, making sure you don’t step over it. But to descent by the Storr, you have to leave the ridge and just see the proper path. I miscalculated the peaks I walked and was sure I had one more to do before hitting Storr. I was wrong – I already did Hartaval and was supposed to look for a path turning left but missed it.

Hiking the Isle of Skye's Trotternish Ridge - not for the faint of heart! awomanafoot.com

I was so tired I couldn’t think clearly. I saw a group of four women walking behind me and didn’t find it strange. Instead of stopping and waiting for them to ask where they came from, I just walked on. I probably felt bad I was walking so slowly by then that I tried to climb faster the “Hartaval” (and really Storr). In reality, I was supposed to take the path these women came from – later on I found out they were doing a short circular path around Storr.

The brain had enough

The women were from Austria and pretty experienced hikers. They had maps, compass, and GPS and knew well how to use those – and still got lost. The visibility was absolutely horrible! Finally, we reached the peak of Storr but there was no way to climb down. I probably should have walked down the same way I came to find the path I was supposed to take in the first place… but was so tired! I decided to just stay with those women as they also wanted to get to the parking lot. They were fast walkers, with no heavy backpacks and I had a hard time keeping up with them but was unsure of my own skills at that moment, so stuck with them. It was pouring heavily and all the “paths” we were taking were horribly muddy and the soil was soft and slipping. We were all covered in mud up to our knees (well, almost).

Hiking the Isle of Skye's Trotternish Ridge - not for the faint of heart! awomanafoot.com

Hiking the Isle of Skye's Trotternish Ridge - not for the faint of heart! awomanafoot.com

Freezing mid-August: Summer in Scotland

In the end, we did reach the main path to the Storr which was almost a shock to me! I saw those poor tourists in fancy loafers or toms and felt really bad for them. I was lucky I climbed to the Storr a couple days before in a beautiful, sunny weather. Now it was a muddy, gloomy and rainy disaster.

Hiking the Isle of Skye's Trotternish Ridge - not for the faint of heart! awomanafoot.com

Hiking the Isle of Skye's Trotternish Ridge - not for the faint of heart! awomanafoot.com

I was dreaming only about a bed. Even though the Portree campsite was the one close by, I wanted to go back to Flodigarry hostel and sleep in a bed. I was waiting for an hour for the bus, shivering uncontrollably. I was soaked, really cold and generally miserable. It was only three pm, but I felt like I was climbing for days. When I got to Flodigarry the hostel was still closed (it opens at 5 pm) so I went to the hotel’s pub and sat by hot tea for an hour slowly reclaiming control over my muscles and digits.

Hiking the Isle of Skye's Trotternish Ridge - not for the faint of heart! awomanafoot.com

I want a bed! I DESERVE a bed!

… and there were no free beds at the hostel. I really didn’t want to pitch my tent as I felt I deserved a proper bed! In the end, I was lucky: in the back, they had an old camper and it was all mine for the mere (ahem) £30. I was broke, but this won. A few hours later I had my clothes washed and dried; I ate warm food and had a hot shower and felt somewhat normal. The lovely folks at the hostel are always ready to help and to advise – so thanks to them I knew which parts of the rest of the Skye Trail were the best. Next step: Sligachan to Elgol.

Hiking the Isle of Skye's Trotternish Ridge - not for the faint of heart! awomanafoot.com

BTW – as bad as it was, I want to (obviously) do it again. But this time: south to north and with a day pack only, in one day.

Hiking the Isle of Skye's Trotternish Ridge - not for the faint of heart! awomanafoot.com

Have you done it? And? 🙂

Read more about my adventures on the Isle of Skye:

Enjoying the Isle of Skye Highland Games in Portree (even in pouring rain!)

Hiking and camping solo along the Skye Trail: Rubha Hunish

Hiking and camping solo along the Skye Trail: Hiking the Old Man of Storr

Hiking and Camping solo along the Skye Trail: Hiking in the south of the Isle of Skye

Just FYI – All photos in this post were taken with this little gem.

Note: The links above contain affiliate links, meaning if you purchase an item, I receive a small commission at no extra cost to you. 

Solo on Skye: Hiking the Isle of Skye's Trotternish Ridge - not for the faint of heart! awomanafoot.com

Hiking the Isle of Skye's Trotternish Ridge - not for the faint of heart! awomanafoot.com Hiking the Isle of Skye's Trotternish Ridge - not for the faint of heart! awomanafoot.com

 

16 Comment

  1. What an incredible journey! I commend your strength and determination! I’d love to hike Scotland but I don’t know if I have it in me to do what you did. I’d probably opt for the day hike. But those views and stunning lush green peaks are just stunning!

    1. Thank you, Stephanie! But don’t get discouraged because of my adventures on the Trotternish Ridge! Scotland is beautiful and has plethora of trails for every difficulty level possible. There are day hikes and multiple-day hikes of regular, nice hiking adventure. And views are stunning everywhere 😉 Have you read my descriptions of West Highland Way or the Great Glen Way? Those are great as well.

  2. […] was so happy with it that later on, when I climbed down from the Old Man of Storr soaked, cold and tired (spoiler!), I decided to go back here instead of the much closer campsite in […]

  3. […] There is only one belt pocket which is a down side. It was fine to hold my compact camera and lip balm, but a second one would be useful. I missed a place to hold snacks or such. On the left side of the belt there is a kind of a sleeve open from both sides. Not very practical – if you try to hold your map in there it may fall out very easily. I used it to hold my bendy tripod in that sleeve so I could reach it whenever I needed… sadly, it fell out somewhere over the Trotternish Ridge on Skye. […]

  4. […] I was hiking on the Trotternish Ridge last year the weather was dreadful. I got confused and misplaced myself in relation to the map […]

  5. […] more time up there… You can walk up the actual Storr peak from there as later on I actually did without knowing it because the air was milky white 😉 I have seen photos taken from the Storr down toward the […]

  6. Maria says: Reply

    Wow!! You are cool! That’s a pretty amazing feat to be doing such a walk, and then in horrible weather. At least the views were gorgeous when the visibility wasn’t zero 🙂

    1. Thanks! The views make up for all those mishaps and anxious hours!

  7. […] that’s summer on Skye, I don’t want to be there in February… (check out the rocks holding my tent […]

  8. Mishaps aside, sounds like a wonderful adventure!

    1. Yes it was! Astonishingly beautiful landscapes all over 🙂

  9. Great post! You did so well to keep going. I would love to hike and wild camp on Skye but not sure if I have stamina for it! Ha!

    1. It is a longer trek – but it is doable. Best done with a light pack, hiking with the heavy backpack was really difficult. Camping on Skye can be (and was for me) beautiful in many ways – the one on Trotternish Ridge was very hard, but that was not the rule 🙂

  10. […] 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 […]

  11. […] Hiking and camping solo along the Skye Trail: Surviving the Trotternish Ridge […]

  12. […] Along the Trotternish Ridge – soon to be completely soaked… […]

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