Hiking Scotland

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Ross

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May 18, 2012
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The occasional non-US trip report comes up here, so with overnight travel in Britain still banned until next week and all travel abroad including to my favourite South-West states not possible, I thought I'd post on a trip to Scotland last year.
It is still a fair old drive from London with UK traffic and slow roads to the Scottish island of Skye - my favourite British scenery. At least a 10 hour drive to our rented static RV in northern Skye.
But after Glasgow the scenery improves as two-lane roads wind around the Scottish lochs.
The main danger in Scotland is even a summer week can be washed out by rain - and certainly the first overnight stop we were drenched.
But we got lucky after that and en route was the famous Eilean Donan castle.


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On my only previous trip up here I'd climbed one of these peaks from the back side when looked at in this photo (no great feat as you only have to go from sea level to around 1,000m), but more tricky for climbers is the arc route going around all the peaks in the semi-circle which I believe has some technical sections).
From the peak I reached that time I looked down at this lake - there are no roads to it - and thought it must be a wonderful place to go to, surrounded by steep mountains.

It is only an 8 mile hike one way around the outside of the mountain horseshoe then over a ridge, but with two kids and potentially changeable treacherous weather - which wasn't good when we woke - we took a windy, choppy, cold and rainy boat trip by sea which dropped us off nearer to this lake behind where I took this photo. Access was then by a much shorter hike. These two shots show only a fraction of the length of the lake and I wanted to summit a peak well behind where I took this shot at the opposite end of the lake to what you see. From there would have been a panoramic shot taking in sea, peaks and lakes. But the weather was still windy and rainy and could get worse and there is no clear trail, so it could have been slippery for kids. (next time). I'm always surprised how many people need rescuing and get injured on UK peaks of under 1,400m but I guess when the cloud and fog set in and you are not good with maps and compass to hike "blind" you can get cliffed out still. I tend to avoid those conditions as if you can't see more than 50ft & there's no view, I'd rather go another time.

Instead we decided to loop the lake which also has no clear trail. It involves river crossings at both ends. A small waterfall drops into the sea, but that was too violent. However, further upstream, with the help of a group of Czech guys - the only people around - who saw the kids struggling, we got the four of us across with me the only one to get wet feet.
After that the rain cleared and there were even moments of sunshine breaking through.




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This shows the crossing at the far end which was easy - narrow, with no flow, ankle deep and rocks to hop over.



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With that done, the next hike of just a half day was the steep but rewarding view from above the Old Man of Storr rock pinnacle, with views across to the Scottish Highlands on the mainland.


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One advantage over the South-West is it's not so hot you get moaning kids, and you're not carrying water for four people!
But it just shows how travel has grown as when I last went here around 20 years ago, there was just myself, my girlfriend and we just saw one other father and son
This time cars lined both sides of the road for half a mile.

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The other hike I wanted to do was a loop of a few hours around the Quiraing. I think because of time constraints and a desire to get good light for photos I set off at dawn, having driven to the trailhead the evening before, so the next shots are a mixture of sunrise and sunset. Before the short dawn drive to the trailhead I thought it was worth looking at the waterfall that spills into the sea just a half mile from where we were staying. The first view looks south, the waterfall view north.


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When I set off, I took this shot of the path. I'm not really sure why, and don't remember even taking it, but when I got home it was my favourite photo just because it is unusual with the green, the cloud and sea in the background.

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This is from further along this trail looking right. No roads cross this stretch of cliffs in the next photo. But below that is the one road that does, which passes the trailhead


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half way round the roads and cars disappear, you climb quite steeply and get views out to sea.


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This is from the evening before "scouting" drive over the hills along a single track road. It's taken on the other east side of Skye looking out to the Outer Hebrides islands of Lewis and Harris which we got a ferry to, but I've not posted any pictures of as although nice, remote, and sparsely populated with desolate beaches, we didn't really do any hiking, backpacking or climbing, so I'm not sure short walks from the car would be in the spirit of backcountrypost !!

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But I will throw in a couple from our journey back south for any Harry Potter fans. This is the viaduct that the Hogwarts Express goes over and Harry flies over it in a car. This is the oldy worldy steam train that takes tourists over it twice a day.
And from the best viewpoint of the viaduct if you turn 180 degrees you see the Glenfinnian Monument which commemorates the Jacobite Uprising of 1745 on Loch Shiel.


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scatman

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Thanks for the report. Beautiful country and a place I need to visit in the future.
 

Ugly

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Absolutely well-taken and wonderful. Really glad you shared.
 

ramblinman

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Thanks for sharing--it's new to me. That shot of the trail with very green grass and sea clouds is beautiful.
 

Titans

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Wow, spectacular scenery! You were so lucky with the weather. Beautiful photos and the green/cloud/sea photo is my favorite too, it would look amazing printed on a large canvas. Thanks for sharing. What did the kids enjoy the most?
 

Ross

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@Titans Well I just asked and they said the apartment at Loch Ness, the RV, hot chocolate on the boat back and seeing me slip and fill by boots with water !! :coffee: :) But they didn't find any hikes too tiring to lose interest - perhaps I should have added about 8 other photos of places that were really nice & quite different (great beaches/waterfalls/ancient stones) which they enjoyed & thinking about it some were hikes of a few hours.

Strangely one of the main reasons I went was that I found out Scotland has just started doing a bit of easy canyoneering in wet canyons (the only place in Britain) & so to prepare for the South-West I wanted a private day lesson & give my daughter her first experience of a few easy rappels/water slides & jumps which she would love. But that first night of torrential rain made it too dangerous, so instead she endured a very boring 3 hours practising things down a short muddy bank in a park which was only 45 degrees!
 
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Ross

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Thanks for sharing--it's new to me. That shot of the trail with very green grass and sea clouds is beautiful.
It's really the only UK scenery that excites me, apart form some nice coastal beaches. I like barren, so that's maybe why I like South-West sandstone & Scotland and Iceland.

It's funny how you can accidentally get a good shot that you never intended. I went to that trail early intending to see pink and orange clouds around dawn, but the cloud was so thick there wasn't really anything. But then in that shot the sun would have been straight into the lens once above the horizon if it wasn't for the thick cloud which made the light and shadows. (although that shot got one of the fewest likes I've had on Instagram!!). Maybe in the photography forum we should have "plans that didin't turn out but resulted in nice shots"
 

fossana

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Beautiful photos! The Isle of Skye is a wonderful place. I did a quick trip there over 2.5 days during a business trip to London to attempt the Cuillin Traverse. I managed to hit a magic weather window in April. I clearly need to go back for a longer trip.

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zionsky

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Great TR! Brings back great memories. I loved the narrow roads, small cars, and little towns.
 

Rockskipper

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My grandparents are from Caledonia :) and my mom and I spent three weeks there once driving all over, totally lost most of the time. My fav place of all was Skye. I'd give a leg or two to go back. I love the one you took kind of by accident, it would make an awesome print. I'd buy one (hint hint). MPIX.com
 

DuneElliot

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Was on the WHW last year. There is something so magical about Scotland (pre and post midge-season). I was supposed to be up there early May to do a wild version of the East Highland Way...next year I guess unless there is a gorgeous week in October (ha ha).

Any interest in doing the CWT or the TGO Challenge? I'd like to do both. (I'm down in the South East but hope to move north to places more reminiscent of home in the Wyoming mountains).
 

Ross

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My grandparents are from Caledonia :) and my mom and I spent three weeks there once driving all over, totally lost most of the time. My fav place of all was Skye. I'd give a leg or two to go back. I love the one you took kind of by accident, it would make an awesome print. I'd buy one (hint hint). MPIX.com
Will PM about the photo
 

Miya

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So many breathtaking views and photos, but the one of your kids? is so fantastic! An epic photo that I am sure they will cherish when they are older.
Thanks for sharing!!
 

Ross

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So many breathtaking views and photos, but the one of your kids? is so fantastic! An epic photo that I am sure they will cherish when they are older.
Thanks for sharing!!
Thanks Miya. Shame my daughter doesn't look a bit happier! (or less serious), but my son made it.
 

Miya

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Thanks Miya. Shame my daughter doesn't look a bit happier! (or less serious), but my son made it.
Nah, she looks hardcore and beautiful to a stranger. Gonna protect her brother on this epic Scotland quest, at all costs! Haha
 

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