Hiking Scotland's Isle of Skye: Dramatic, Spellbinding Scenery

September 5, 2018

by Tiahli Martyn

I’d spent a fairly long time carousing about in Spain, soaking up the sun, when I decided what I really needed was a sobering dose of Scottish downpours to bring me back to reality —a more literal kind of soaking, if you will.

I kid, I kid. In spite of its reputation for rain, I’ve always been fascinated by Scotland — the land of bonnie accents, kilts, haggis, Scotch, the Edinburgh Fringe and of course, scenery rivalling that of New Zealand, my home country. I’ll reluctantly admit I knew next to nothing about the rugged, scenic Isle of Skye until the kindness of strangers presented me with the opportunity to visit.

Quiraing Landslip Cliff

Scotland for solo travellers

Pottering around Edinburgh on my own for a few days, I was hit by a sort of midway post-travel depression. I’d just capped off an incredible experience of working at a hostel in Barcelona, where I’d been constantly supported by a family of amazing volunteers. While my Edinburgh accommodation was nice, it didn’t match that homely vibe I’d complacently enjoyed in Barcelona. I found myself giving up on making new friendships. I didn’t want friends, I wanted to mope around on my own like a moody teenager.

Well, that was all well and good for about a day until I became unbearably bored of my own company and instead latched on to the nearest travellers who’d tolerate me — who just happened to be Dakota and Hayley, two American girls in my dorm. Poor things.

Hitchhiker’s guide to hiking with strangers

For the majority of my travels, I’d followed that classic, free-spirited mentality of having no clue where I was off to next. I mentioned this to Dakota, who asked, ‘Hey, why don’t you just come with us to Skye?’

I’d literally met them that day, but these kindhearted girls were happy for me to gatecrash their otherwise well-planned holiday. I was glad to follow whatever plan they had. And so, essentially hitchhiking with them to Skye (although I paid my fair share of the car hire fees), I experienced the most dramatic scenery I’ve seen so far in the United Kingdom. I felt so at home.

Edinburgh to Isle of Skye

We caught the train to Inverness, driving from there across the bridge to Skye. We then stayed in Kyleakin, on the east coast. Beauty abounds on this island, and it’s all free to visit! The Skye is the limit (hehe). It is possible to use public transport on the island, but if you can afford car hire, do ride in comfort and independence.

What to pack for Skye

Pinnacles at the Storr in Skye

It was May, not a particularly busy month for tourism. The sun was consistently reluctant to show its face. I was definitely not prepared for hiking. I had my trusty Timberlands, a warm downy jacket, and layers — but the rain, man, the rain!

We went to the Fairy Pools. It rained. We hiked at the Quiraing. It rained. Looking for the Storr? It’s raining. If there’s anything I learned, it’s that when packing for a trip to Skye (or anywhere in Scotland for that matter) don’t forget wet weather gear or you’ll end up using a towel for a scarf and your own hair as a hat.

Much as I grumble about the weather, to be honest, the greyness and fog gifted a certain bleak beauty, complementing Skye’s natural topography. Summer visitors will experience something distinct, but my photos all came out with a natural moodiness — no filter required. The whole island is an Instagrammer’s paradise, so embrace your vain side and have a photo shoot.

An absolute must for your packing list is good walking shoes or hiking boots. While the walks are not difficult, you’ll thank yourself for selecting a waterproof pair.

Places to visit

Aeons ago, natural disasters — earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, etcetera — created much of the world’s natural beauty. For Skye, the earth was rocked by landslides, resulting in an enchanting, undulating landscape fit for a fairy kingdom, showcased in the following places:

Trotternish Peninsula

For mind-boggling, captivating views, don’t miss this section of northern Skye. We hiked at two spots: the Storr, and the Quiraing landslip. The latter, made up of stomach-dropping cliffs, plateaus and pinnacles tucked away from view, was my favourite part of Skye. We climbed to a lofty plateau for a photoshoot, taking in the deep valleys and pools of water below.

Of course, towards the end of the hike, these views suddenly disappeared when the Skye sky unleashed a massive load of fog and rain. Momentarily blinded, I hadn’t a clue where we were going. Luckily, we re-encountered the path, and didn’t end up hiking off a cliff! Despite its vast expanse and a few steep, uphill sections, the Quiraing hike is a novice-proof loop that’ll lead you back to the carpark, rain or shine.

For a pinnacled landscape with views out over the ocean, the Storr is another must visit. The highest pinnacle, called The Old Man of Storr, was masked somewhat when old mate fog reappeared. Luckily, it made the site more eerily captivating.

Fairy Pools and Fairy Glen

It’s no wonder Skye celebrates folklore when the beauty of its scenery is so bizarre and bewitching. The Cuillin Mountain Range, source of the river Brittle, empties out to produce the famous Fairy Pools. You can swim in them — not that we did, didn’t want to disturb the fairies (oh who am I kidding, it was raining and far too cold, of course). We had a whole day of hiking ahead of us, but if you’re more prepared for a dip, go for it!

Continue your fairy experience amongst dipping hills, creeks, and stone formations at the Fairy Glen of Uig. The permanent feature is a rock spiral. Scrambling up to the peak pinnacle, you’ll enjoy a vantage point over a green sea of dips and diving hills. Although not as impressive as the Quiraing, it’s still worth a visit for a picnic undisturbed by hoards of tourists.

Neist Point Lighthouse

High on a hill was a lonely lighthouse, lay ee odl lay ee odl lay hee hoo!

Built in 1909, the lighthouse and keepers’ cottages sit atop cliff edges at the tip of Neist Point. The lighthouse became automated in the 90s, and so the keepers left. Eerily, the rooms appeared to have been suddenly abandoned overnight — beds were made up, furniture remained in living rooms — but vandals had left the place derelict. Long scrolls of paper were strewn across the living quarters. Windows were smashed or left wide open. I was a bit creeped out, but the craggy cliffs surrounding the buildings and nearby beach were great for exploring. Visit this spot for an eldritch peek at history and dramatic views out over the sea.

Trusting new travel buddies

Exhausted after hiking in the relentless Scottish rain all week, I opted to chill in the car while the others went to get snacks. They left me with the keys and I thought to myself, wow, I might know them fairly well now, and they hopefully know I’d never do anything, but that’s pretty trusting to leave a practical stranger with all your things. The following day when we parted ways, I brought this up. They cracked up laughing and said “We though the exact same thing!” Hayley had paused when leaving the car and said, “Is it really a good idea to leave this stranger in the car?” Dakota replied, “Well, good thing we trust her.”

I’m very grateful they let me rain on their parade for a week. Going with the flow, I hadn’t realised how unmissable Skye was before I’d experienced it. Take my word for it and plan your trip to Scotland!

Tiahli Martyn

By Tiahli Martyn

I am a 23 year old student from Auckland, New Zealand, with a thirst to discover new places, and experience as much as possible out of life! That sounds cheesy, I know, but I feel it is reflected a lot in what I have spent the past few years doing, on exchange in Spain and travelling for a year, and now living in the U.K. since September 2017. In my free time I'm usually listening to and playing music, exploring, trying to stay fit and missing my dog.

Read more at untilznexttime.com

Leave a Comment...

Kim

September 11, 2018

A great read - interesting, great detail and all told with great humour!!

Nalis MIRANDA

September 11, 2018

I was transported to Skye- thanks Tiahli. Beautifully described . Clearly travel/ writing/ travel writing in the genes !

Neena Gopal

September 11, 2018

Wet,wet,wet or not, next stop Scotland!

Mano Singham

September 11, 2018

Thanks for this Interesting glimpse of Skye. Although I had visited Scotland as a boy, we never got to Skye so this was a good, albeit second-hand, experience, since the only thing I had heard about the place was from the Skye Boat Song.

The sheer rugged beauty of the place comes through in your words and photos despite, or perhaps accentuated by, the gloom. What struck me about the images was the complete lack of trees anywhere. Was this always the case or was it a case of once-extant forests later disappearing, as in Easter Island?

But here are my key questions about Scotland: Did you eat haggis? Did you get to toss a caber, even a small one? Did you hear anyone actually say \"Hoots mon!\"

As you can see, my knowledge of Scottish stereotypes is vast!

Rose Draviam

September 11, 2018

Dear Tiahli , I enjoyed reading your beautiful experience on hiking in the Isle of Skye. You really are a talented writer. I can feel your mom in you. I am a friend of hers from Dubai, but now living in USA. Wish you GOD’s blessings in your career. With love. Aunty Pushparanee

Lakshman

September 11, 2018

Very readable and conveys a super idea of what Scotland and Skye have to offer apart from the constant rain. Makes me want to visit Scotland again.

Rose

September 11, 2018

Dear Tiahli, My passport is twitching in the file drawer... Wonderful descriptions here that make me want to dig out the hiking boots and set off to explore. Thank you so much for sharing your adventures. I\'m looking forward to the next batch. Perhaps it will be the Faroe Islands or Iceland... Anyway, safe travels! I love the fact that you say you are missing your dog, and there\'s no mention of your mum and dad!! :)

jill Malcolm

September 11, 2018

i really enjoyed this informative and well- written story. Could wee have more from this writer please?

Godfrey

September 11, 2018

Hi Tiahli. It was lovely reading of your adventure to Scotland and Skye. We appreciate your taking us there. The places you mention are those I have never heard, though we have been to Scotland on a short vacation. But, the interesting thing is that your writing has roused our curiosity to one day perhaps venture into this unknown paradise. You have painted a picture of it being calm and serene, a place undisturbed by modern attractions, and nature highlighting and projecting its own self. In the world of today\'s tourism & publicity this may not be some place many are looking for, but once found who wants to let it go ........ Hello Skye, we may see you one day - and you have only the writer to thank, for leading us there. To Tiahli: thank you, and you have done a fine job painting a beautiful picture of a place unknown to the world.