Thursday, 19 August 2010

Stones and Skye

I managed to squeeze in a long weekend on Skye even though it is August and was treated to a couple of days of fantastic weather.  Even when the weather gave up on us a day earlier than forecast, we made the most of it with a visit to the Brochs of Glenelg- over on the mainland  from Kylerhea in a wee ferry that just happens to be community owned.

Arriving on the island on the Thursday night, we made straight for Glenbrittle.  The quiet campsite nestling by the sea at the foot of the Cuillins is just about my favourite place on earth.  We had hoped to get straight in to the mountains but on the first morning big black clouds hung ominously over the corries and there was rain in the air so we headed down the peninsula, where the sun was shining, to explore ruined villages and an ancient Dun (below).

The wildife found around Glenbrittle is very special and it is one of the best places I know to view golden eagles.  On this occasion the eagles were a bit shy, but we watched gannets and porpoises fishing in the Soay Sound, and stumbled over a Jack Snipe- an unusual passing migrant that crops up in the islands from time to time.

Our second day was blessed with better weather and we headed up in to Coir a Ghrunnda, the rockiest of the Black Cuillin Corries, to do some climbing. With the rock seeping moisture from the day before, we chose an easy route- a 240m Moderate called Slab Buttress. The route was a delightful meander up easy slabs, if a bit indistinct in the middle. The rock was really good, and mostly of the roughest purple brown gabbro for which Skye is famous.

The views in to the inner corrie and Sgurr Dubh Mor were magnificent, and we climbed all afternoon in the sunshine.

The third day, unfortunately, I have no photos!  This was because we failed miserably to find anything to climb, having picked a route in Coire Lagan that turned out to be too wet, and then picked another that turned out to be too hard and we retreated.... The day wasn't a failure, we enjoyed lazing around in the sun in Coire Lagan- one of the most beautiful places imaginable, and walked back via the Eas Mor waterfall. I have posted pictures of these already here on a different visit.

We weren't worried about wasting a day, because we had seen the forecast for Monday and it was going to be fine.  Of course Monday dawned wet and horrible so plan B was hastily concocted involving various tourist attractions, the Sea Eagle Exhibition at the Aros Centre, (ace), a boat trip to watch Sea Eagles (eagles ace, but boat trip was not the best customer service experience), 2 hours in a midge infested hide waiting for otters that didn't appear, but watching lots of seals, black guillemots and other wildlife (ace) and finally, the wee ferry to Glenelg to visit the Brochs of Glenelg which were very very special indeed.

The brochs are pictish habitations dating back 2,000 years standing some 25-30 feet high.  Built entirely of stone, with no windows or mortar, they are masterpieces of drystane walling. They were probably high status dwellings. They look amazing, and although are no longer complete- in some ways this is a bonus as it is possible to see the internal staircase that was used to help construct them.
There is lots of info on the web about them, but none of it really does them justice. I should have known that they would be so surprising- Scotland is full of incredible sites like this tucked away and unknown.  If you get a chance to visit them- do!

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