Skye 2019: Part Eight
23 June 2019
OK.. I wont lie. I pre judged the Quiraing. Based on photos I saw online, I was left with a rather ‘meh.. its pretty, but no different to anywhere else pretty’ I was far more interested in Skye for the other, interesting, dramatic hotspots it had to offer, and the Quiraing, actually didn’t even make the cut on places I wanted to visit. Yea, yea…I know! I can hear you all screaming at me….. (Lesson. Do not judge a place based on others photos or your own preconceptions.) Actually.. that’s not a bad lesson for life either. One shouldn’t judge anything or anyone at all…
The Quiraing ended up on my back up list… the ‘I suppose I should go, just to tick the ‘I’ve been there’ box…’ Oh how foolish I was eh?!
Needless to say, when I drove through this random unnamed road on 20th June having taken a wrong turning, I was quite taken aback by this unexpected, stunning landscape that came into view, so much so, I had to stop for a quick snap so I could revisit later on. As I stopped, I noticed lots of other people and cars. What IS this place? I asked myself…
Then I recognised it. ‘THIS is the Quiraing! Oh. My. God. I had misjudged this place COMPLETELY!!!!’ The Angels of Fate had clearly been tutting at my stupidity, and felt the need to intervene to highlight this stupidity to me personally… thus distracting me with old memories and disabling the sat nav deliberately, so that I would take a wrong turn.
Thus a new love affair began, and it immediately went to the top of my must see and explore list. (am I forgiven now?)
Despite the way I had perceived images on the online photos, the Quiraing is huge. The land around here is a massive landslide, that’s still slowly slipping down at a rate of about one cm a year, and this gives this area its beautiful appeal with beautiful slopes heading down to Staffin, and the torn, craggy rocks and stacks at the top. My understanding is this was also what formed the Old Man of Stor, although the land there has now settled, and isn’t slipping any more. (rock falls do still happen of course, but they are caused by different events) It makes sense now, that the two areas look very similar.
On the morning of the 23rd therefore, I parked up at the top, and began my exploratory hike across following a very easy footpath. River happily plodded on behind, and although the day started fairly cloudy and chilly, it actually opened up to a blisteringly hot one. I totally underestimated the walk, and went without much fluid and only a couple of basic snacks (trail mix essentially). On hearing water falling somewhere, I just resigned myself to letting River drink from those. As the hike progressed however, every area I thought was a fall, looked dry, so I have no idea where the water was falling from, or indeed where it was going to, and in the very rare puddle we did find, the poor pooch just laid in them to cool down. 3/4 of the way across, we found a small dribble of a waterfall, and the poor dog filled up her reserves by essentially licking rocks and waiting.
I took the camera out from time to time, although I wasn’t really trying to get ‘the shot’. The light was either very harsh, or very muted due to the haze, and it left the land looking pretty flat. Today was just about going on this walk, and seeing what was here. I wasn’t going to worry. I eventually planned on scouting to the end, and photographing anything of real interest on my way back. I had heard of a few specific areas that I hoped to reach, although I had no idea how far they were. These included a lone tree, and the different rock formations named The Needle, The Prison and The Table. I spotted the tree (nearly missed it actually) and mentally added it to my list to grab on the way back, as it wasn’t far from the start of the walk. It is a classic and popular shot, and as I stood looking at it, I could understand why. Its a pretty perfect composition!
We continued on, regularly pausing to look at the view. Hours later, as we approached the Prison, the path turned to scree, and proved a little slippery (and steep) to get up, so I took my time, and we got half way up before bumping into some other tourists coming the other way, just as we were catching our breath. Seeing River panting, One lady in their party offered to give her some bottled water, and River just lapped every drop up. I never felt so much like a bad mummy, but was SO eternally grateful for the offer. The lady was understanding, and I didn’t feel like she was judging me… You find the nicest and most thoughtful, generous people on the top of hills and mountains sometimes!! As they left we ploughed onwards, and made it up to the back of the prison formation. We were pretty exhausted by now, and the heat and Rivers lack of water was beginning to concern me. We still had to get back, but I hadn’t reached the Needle or Table yet…Oh the dilemma! As luck would have it, the hike was brought to an end by a stile across the path not long after the Prison. Under normal circumstances River might have been able to get over it, but someone had thought it a good idea to add a wire fence to the top, so that none but adult humans could step over. I think even children would struggle, and would have had to have been lifted. I wasn’t about to attempt to lift River over though! She’s a heavy girl!!!
So, after yet another pause, we turned and started to make our way back. We had taken about 4 hours so far, but the walk back didn’t seem to take that long, perhaps it was because I didn’t stop every 5 minutes to soak up the view (!!)
On the way back, I found myself walking with a greater purpose than the wandering I had done so far. I mostly forgot about the camera on my back, and was just desperately aiming for a cuppa back at the camper. River seemed better, and in all I think it was only another 1.5 hours to get back. The water from the hikers bottle, and the small dribble waterfall on the way seemed to revive her, and she was happy to keep this (slightly) faster pace. Lets face it..even at speed I am a plodder…so when I say ‘pace’ I don’t mean the one everyone else walks at! I wonder how long that walk I did, would take most folks… 2-4 hours in total????
At the end, I got my camera back out to snap the view there at least, then realised I had forgotten to photograph the tree. Was I going to go back for that????…Nahhhhh! The light wasn’t that good, and there was no hope for a nice sunset for quite a few hours yet, so in all honesty… was it worth it…? I didn’t need to persuade myself really. The next time I might get here, I would plan things better to (hopefully) get more out of my shots.
As River sat happily resting with me however, I did snap a picture of her on my phone, and it ended up being my favourite picture from today. Her face pretty much summed up how relaxed we were, and how enjoyable the hike had been despite the heat, and lack of water.
This is definitely a walk I will do again. even if I leave the camera behind. I wonder how much further The Table and Needle might be…..?