Tracey, Andy and Emma; Having had a tempting view “over the sea to Skye” after our spectacular journey on the Jacobite steam hauled train to Mallaig in 2015, we decided this would make an excellent destination for our 2017 holiday. It ticked the boxes of having the rugged mountain landscapes we love together with the appeal of an island, something that has drawn us to many of our UK holiday destinations over the years.
The Island of Skye is 50 miles long and the largest of the Inner Hebrides. It can be reached by a ferry journey of 30 minutes from Mallaig to Armadale. Alternatively,you can drive further North to Kyle of Lochalsh and cross to Skye via the bridge. DO make a reservation for the ferry in advance. We made the mistake of not doing so and having to do an 84 mile round trip to get back to the route north to the Kyle of Lochalsh for the bridge.
We went to Skye in August 2017, the same week that the BBC Radio 4 morning news reported that Skye was “full”. Whilst it was clear that the hotels and guest houses had no vacancies, and the campsites were generally pretty busy, as with many areas of beautiful countryside, you only had to walk half a mile from any parking area to find splendid seclusion amid breath-taking scenery. Having said that I would avoid visiting in August in the future.
We broke our journey (Google maps gives the distance from Nottingham to Mallaig as 429 miles) at Glencoe, and stayed at the Caravan Club site there. The site is wooded with good facilities as you might expect from a Caravan Club site. We encountered our first midges here, and after a few bites we ceased laughing at the chap with the full midge hat. I have looked on Ebay to find you can get these for only a couple of quid, so that’s going on my next Christmas list.
A short wooded walk parallel to the road takes you to Glencoe itself, and the Gathering which does not look especially promising from the outside, is a lively bar with a good selection of real ale. We did not eat here but the food looked good.
There are not many campsites on Skye but the four we stayed on were all fantastically located. We had not pre-booked on any, although we did find ourselves arriving and reserving a place earlier in the day than we might have had Skye not been quite so full.
Set amid jagged mountain peaks, with a fast flowing river alongside, the campsite’s spectacular surroundings make up for its fairly basic facilities and somewhat boggy conditions underfoot.
It’s spectacular surroundings impress in the good weather…
And in the not so good…
With the added bonus of the Sligachen hotel with its extensive range of Scottish Malt Whiskies on offer… what’s not to like?
Uig is situated in the northern part of Skye on the Trotternish peninsula. It is a ferry port for onward travel to Harris in the outer Hebrides (that’s a trip for another year), and is home to the Syke brewery.
The facilities here are good, the ground is well drained and its location is great for exploring the Trotternish peninsula. A short walk to the other side of the port takes you to the Ferry Inn where we enjoyed an excellent meal washed down by local Skye beers and rounded off with fine Scottish malt whiskey.
Another beautiful campsite with views over the loch, close to Dunvegan in north west Skye. Again, the facilities here were good and the pitches well-drained. Unfortunately, our one night here was VERY stormy. We decided against leaving the elevating roof up lest it got damaged. Sadly, Emma our daughter who was in her small ridge tent had to abandon tent at approximately 2.00am. And a rock and roll bed is not quite big enough for three!! But you can sleep surprisingly well on the little fold down stool with your head resting on the end of the bed!
Our final campsite on Skye was again very special. The facilities were basic but the spectacular views of mountains and sea, the adjacent beach and the well-spaced pitches made the journey down the 7 mile single track road well worth it. Plus there is the added bonus of the onsite café serving fresh coffee and pastries!
We broke our return journey at Tyndrum, arriving a little late at the campsite here, but luckily the manager was around to give us a pitch. So it was just a short stay over here before resuming our southerly journey.
Where We Ate
We mainly ate in the camper: a bit of forward planning plus some strategic pre-purchasing on non-perishable food made for a tasty and varied menu.
We ate out on a few occasions as follows:
- Seumas Bar at the Sligachen hotel serves wholesome dishes in surroundings reminiscent of an Alpine ski chalet. My Cullen Skink was tasty and filling.
It was pretty busy when we visited, probably because it was pouring with Scottish rain, but the service was efficient and tables became available pretty quickly. There was a good choice of real ales from the Cuillin brewery which is also on site, plus a range of over 400 malt whiskies.
- The Ferry Inn, Uig. Having called in to the Ferry on the previous evening for a drink, the attentive owners overheard our conversation about whether to plan to eat there the following evening and brought us over a menu to whet our appetites. The menu was not extensive, but the mouth-watering descriptions of the dishes containing mainly local products secured our booking.The food was of excellent quality, perfectly cooked and presented and the service excellent. It was within easy walking distance of the campsite so we could all enjoy a drink and a pleasant walk back along the bay.
Walks On Skye
- Elgol to Loch Courisk
This seven mile walk and return by passenger ferry to Elgol was one of the most exciting walks I have ever done. Hugging the shore line on a little used path to Camasunary, the dramatic jagged peaks of the Black Cuillins present an ever-changing vista as the light changes and clouds obscure and reveal its peaks in rapid succession.
There is a river to be crossed at Camasunary which was fast flowing and painful to our soft feet. Another time I would make sure I had some beach shoes to wear for this to avoid the pain of the stones underfoot and to speed up the crossing.
Continuing along the shoreline, the next obstacle is a vast slab of rock which crosses the path and slopes down to the sea, known as the” bad step”. We were lucky enough to have some guidance on how to traverse this tricky obstacle from a boatman in the area, otherwise I think we may have gotten into difficulties. When you know how, its relatively easy, but I would advise anyone attempting the walk to either go with someone who has already done it, or watch the many You Tube clips first which show the route.
Unfortunately, by this point we were cutting it fine for our return ferry journey so it was a bit a yomp to get to the landing stage including wading another river, but fully clothed this time to avoid having to walk back the seven difficult miles to Elgol. The cup of tea on the ferry was one of the finest I have enjoyed with the receding views of the Black Cuillins as dramatic as ever, seals basking on the rocks and the prospect of clean dry clothes awaiting in the campervan in Elgol.
- Rubna Hunish (Described in the book, “Isle of Skye . Outstanding Circular Walks.” Ordnance Survey)
This walk is at the most northerly point of Skye and we did it as a beautiful evening walk as the sun was starting to set. There was hardly anyone else around and the warm air and peaceful surroundings with views across to the Outer Hebrides provided a calm contrast to our excitement of the previous days walk to Loch Courisk.
- The Quirang (Described in the book, “Isle of Skye . Outstanding Circular Walks.” Ordnance Survey)
Even if you only plan a short walk the Quirang with its weirdly shaped and aptly named rock formations is well worth a visit. The Prison, the Table and the Needle tower up around you as you ascend between the rocks to a ridge with fine views out to sea and across the strangely almost folded landscape. Like many parts of Skye, there were lots of people around the start of the walk, but relatively few make it far from the road, leaving this fabulous landscape to be enjoyed in peace.
- Rubh’ an Dunain (Described in the book, “Isle of Skye . Outstanding Circular Walks.” Ordnance Survey)
This linear walk from Glenbrittle we enjoyed almost in total isolation, seeing possibly only two other groups of walkers over the 7 mile walk. On the outward journey the view is of the sea with views of neighbouring islands offshore. The return journey provides a spectacular view of the jagged Black Cuillins, ominous, foreboding yet beautiful and tempting.
Places To Visit
We enjoyed visits to:
- Talisker Distillery – interesting tour and talk about the process of producing malt whiskey but a bit “corporate” for my liking. Plus the Talisker Skye malt that we bought was much cheaper when on offer in Tesco back home. Pre-booking is advisable.
- Dunvegan Castle – interesting family home of the MacCleod clan as well as beautiful gardens.
- The Skye Museum of Island Life – one of the best £2.50’s I have ever spent. A cluster of traditional thatched island buildings house reconstructions of the life and work of the islanders together with displays about many aspects of the island’s history.
- The fairy glen – a rather quirky area of hillocks, humps and little craggy outcrops to explore and scale!
- Fairy pools – an essential visit for those who enjoy an exhilarating dip in the outdoors. And the perfect vehicle to visit in is a VW campervan so those not dipping can have a hot chocolate ready for those who are.
However, the pools are rather popular and the pools you encounter on the walk 4 from Glenbrittle described above may prove a more enjoyable experience.
- Portree – a quick trip to Portree, the island’s capital to stock up on provisions lasted longer than expected when our one key for ignition and all the locks snapped off in the sliding door. Whilst Emma and I enjoyed browsing in the tasteful gift shops and walking around the pretty harbour, our resident VW expert dismantled the steering column to remove the steering lock which is not designed to be removed easily. The local hardware shop provided the electrical connections needed to hot wire the ignition easily which we had to do for the rest of the trip. Fortunately, with careful manipulation the sliding door could still be locked with half a key, and the tailgate was locked at the time so we could still secure the vehicle.
And so back home, by ferry (pre-booked this time) to Mallaig where a tasty meal of fish and chips was enjoyed before our long return journey to Nottingham, with an overnight stop en route.