Tuesday, 18 November 2014

The Northern Peninsulas of Skye

Day 2 of my summer break to the Scottish Highlands.

Experience has taught me that just because you are sitting having your breakfast at the hotel with the sunlight shining through the window, does not necessarily mean the weather will be the same 5 miles down the road 30mins later! Today was to be one of those days.
Having travelled only about half a dozen miles from the hotel, which I had left in sunshine, I arrived at the Sligachan Bridge and the rain was belting down.

No chance of any photos this morning so a re-think of my plans was in order. Instead of having a wasted journey down to Elgol, I plumped for heading North for Neist Point and the Waternish Peninsula. It's amazing how the weather lifts as soon as you head away from the Cuillin Hills. Looking for photo opportunities, I took an exploratory drive down a small side road to the coast and arrived at a crofting village called Ullinish. The rain had eased off which allowed me to get out of the car for a wander. The conditions for photography weren't very good but I should imagine you would get a fabulous sunset from here. I shall return.

Then it was on to Waternish and a lunchtime pint in the Stein Inn. Built in 1790, it is the oldest Inn on Skye and usually has a good selection of beers. It has become a ritual of mine to call in and have a pint and sit in the beer garden overlooking the Loch. Nothing really took my fancy though so I settled for a nice cool pint of cider and just sat by the side of the loch in the sunshine. If there is a nicer beer garden, I have yet to come across it.

Then it was on to the ancient church at Trumpan at the far end of the peninsula with its torrid history (see below).

"In the 1500s, the MacDonalds and MacLeods were engaged in fierce clan rivalry. This came to a head in 1577 when a raiding party of MacLeods of Skye landed on the island of Eigg. The resident MacDonalds took refuge in a cave on the south side of the island. The raiding party lit a fire in the entrance to the cave in an attempt to force those hiding inside to come out. The result was the suffocation of 395 MacDonalds, the entire population of the island. The cave, now known as Massacre Cave, can still be visited on Eigg.
Revenge was not long in coming. On the first Sunday in May 1578, eight birlinns or war galleys of the Clan MacDonald of Uist landed in Ardmore Bay, immediately to the west of Trumpan. The resident MacLeods were gathered for Sunday worship in the church when the raiding party blocked the door and set fire to the thatched roof. The only MacLeod to escape alive was a young girl who managed to squeeze through a window. She raised the alarm, by some accounts after running to Dunvegan, ten miles away, and MacLeods from the wider area swiftly gathered. By now the MacDonald's had returned to their ships in Ardmore Bay, only to find them left high and dry by a retreating tide. The MacLeods are said to have unfurled their famed Fairy Flag, and in the battle that followed the entire MacDonald raiding party was killed.
The bodies of the dead MacDonalds were lined up beside a dry stone wall or dyke, and were buried by the simple expedient of having the dyke pushed over on top of them. The battle has since been remembered as "The Battle of the Spoiling of the Dyke"."

Trumpan is another wild place and is surrounded on two sides by step cliffs dropping down to the sea. Skye seems to be full of them! 

Then it was on to my last port of call, Neist Point and Moonan Bay on the Waterstein Peninsula. Small backroads with passing places took me through the delightful crofting area of Geldale, then to the small harbour of Millovaig on the shore of Loch Pooltiel. More photos here and then to Neist Point and it's lighthouse. What a stunning area this is, the cliffs drop straight down to the sea and the lighthouse is perfectly situated on a large outcrop of rock. A walk along the clifftop accompanied by the usual gale force wind took me to a perfect point for photographs. A very steady hand and steady legs are needed I should hasten to add as the gales are a common occurrence! There was a bit of brightness but the conditions weren't ideal for taking photos. Moonan Bay is also a grand area for spotting seals, minke whales, dolphins, porpoises and basking sharks.

On my way back to the hotel I manage to stop at Sligachan. The rain had passed and I was fortunate enough to get a bit of late evening sun. The downside was that I was bitten to hell by the midges! It's the price us walkers and photographers have to pay I'm afraid. A long day but well worth it.

Breakfast view

Silver light on Portree Harbour

Setting sail


Millovaig and Loch Pooltiel

Neist Point Lighthouse

Stein, Waternish


Refreshments at the Stein Hotel

Stein, Waternish

St Conan's Church, Trumpan, Waternish

St Conan's Church, Trumpan, Waternish

Marsco from Loch nan Eilean

River Sligachan and Sgurr nan Gillean

A journey of two halves.

It was one of those all too frequent occasions when the weather forecast had a big wad of thick cloud and rain hanging over Cumbria whilst ...