Day three of the Isle of Skye road trip and the plan for today was to explore the eastern side of the island. On the previous day, the western coastline had a greater variety closer to the shoreline to explore, whereas the eastern coastline is dominated by towering cliffs tops and mountain ranges. Today I would end up doing some hiking to get to some of the better locations that I wanted to see. There weren’t too many locations to go to but the distances to drive and time on each site would be greater.
First up was the seaside port of Portree, 22 miles from Dunvegan. Being the Isle’s largest port side town I thought it would be a great starting point to pick up some breakfast, more ham and cheese for lunch and then head north to hike up The Storr (Rocky Hill) to see the Old Man of Storr. I’d then head further up the coast to the Kilt Rock lookout, around to the other side of the point to the town of Uig and then finish up back at Dunvegan.
With a belly full of bacon butty goodness and a bag full of supplies purchased in Portree, I made my way up north towards The Storr. It was finally good to get on some straighter roads so I could catch a few glimpses of the coastline. It’s where I could see the breadth of coastline for miles. It was now starting to feel like a proper road trip with streaming the Glastonbury Festival through BBC Radio 1. In the distance I could see the Old Man of Storr a few miles away. From afar, the fingers of jagged basalt rock seemed as though they were signalling me to come closer.
With an extra jacket and chocolates packed for the blustery conditions, I started the ascent along the trail which would take me about five hundred metres above sea level. Foxglove flowers and prickly thistles dotted the landscape and the further I hiked up, there were more signs to keep an eye out for falling rocks from the hill. Between the hiking tail and the towering rock face, there is nothing nothing preventing falling boulders from tumbling down the hill, smashing into me like tenpins and I didn’t think my travel insurance covered “Plummeting boulders from steep cliff tops”. The upside with taking a chance from getting crushed was that the views of the south-eastern side of the Isle was breathtaking.
I probably spent about an hour scoping out a few locations and taking a few photos and ended up finding an idea place and waited for a while for the perfect light to cast itself over the location. Maybe I was procrastinating a bit but I was enjoying spending time up there by myself and gobbling down a couple of Snickers bars. Seeing I was spending so much time in a place and had nothing else to do, I made a little video with some commentary.
About twenty minutes further up the road alongside some more impressive scenery is the Kilt Rock. It’s called that because basalt columns of rock forms what resembles pleats of a kilt. In the photos, there is usually a waterfall that drops down 60m into the sea but being fairly dry, I think I came at the wrong time so decided to scoot on out of there. It was a typical tourist stop with plenty of selfies being taken so I didn’t hang around for too long.
On my way to Uig, I saw a sign that pointed to a cemetery so I decided to take a U-turn to check it out. Since I arrived in Scotland, I have had a strange fascination for cemeteries because there were so many of them and in relatively accessible locations in open public spaces that I’d just stumble onto them exploring a city or town. It turns out, most of the McLeod clan were buried in this particular cemetery so I spent about ten minutes trying to trace the family line throughout the small cemetery. The cemetery location overlooked the distant ocean and to the rear, the mountain range where we were kept climbing higher up, so decided to follow the winding road to the top. At the peak was a place called Quiraing, which presenting the most incredible views of the eastern coastline. Mind. Blown.
There were quite a few people at the location who were hiking on the trail along the ridge line so I decided to follow them around. Apparently there was an sheltered plateau where back in the day, locals would use it to hide their cattle from the vikings that would regularly raid and plunder the surrounding area. About an hour on, I was on the other side of the mountain, all alone , with no plateau in sight and feeling a little lost and on the edge of a narrow ledge where one slip would mean the end of me. I thought it would be the right time to head back around where the sun was warm, the grass soft and luscious and where I could have another ham and cheese sandwich as it was well past lunch and I hadn’t eaten yet.
I’m glad I spent some unexpected time in Quiraing because Uig looked unexciting as I drove through so I kept driving without thinking twice. In another unexpected change of plans, I decided to go back to Neist Point Lighthouse because the locals said that the best sunsets were from that location. It was “only” 40 miles away but I’d only get one last crack at it and I hadn’t caught any decent shots of a sunset here yet.
When I arrived, there were already couple of fellas dressed more appropriately for the conditions than I was who had the same idea. The wind was already quite fresh but I had a good location for the photo composition and shelter. It was 9:30pm and the sun was still up, so I just enjoyed a bar of chocolate and a cup of wine while I waited…and waited until 11:30pm when the light the sun was setting and the light was perfect.
The past three days would have to be one of my highlight of the past fifteen months. I would rate the Isle of Skye up there on par with Patagonia, where I spent most of the time there by myself, no distractions and could do things that I wanted to do and at my own pace. The favourable weather contributed greatly to the overall enjoyment levels but everything seemed to work out well with planning, unexpected change of plans, breathtaking landscapes and meeting some great local characters. It will be a while though until I can touch another ham and cheese sandwich.
If I were to come to the Isle of Skye again then I would spend an extra couple of days there as there were surrounding islands that the locals and other visitors kept talking about. Another five days and I could also spend more time in the northern highlands and do an extended whiskey distillery tour, but that will have to wait until next time.
What are your thoughts of the Isle of Skye? Would you consider it if you visit Scotland?
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