Walking in Trotternish

Isle of Skye

Warning: This web page is only intended to give a general impression of the walking that is available. The terrain has many steep cliffs and slippery slopes, and should be treated with respect as wilderness country. It is easy to get lost. Before setting out, check with guidebooks, maps, local information services and weather reports that your proposed walk is within your capabilities. Do not rely on the information given here.

 

Quiraing, Trotternish, Isle of SkyeThe Trotternish Ridge Walk is a unique 20-mile high-level walk which involves no climbing or scrambling, yet which takes you into wild and primeval landscapes, and at every stage affords panoramic views that embrace the Cuillins, the Western Isles, and the mountains of Wester Ross.

Although no climbing skills are needed, the full ridge walk should only be undertaken by experienced and fully-equipped hill-walkers who have a map and guide book. Two days should be allowed for the full walk, and the weather reports studied closely. Mist can often descend rapidly, reducing visibility to effectively zero.

It is, however, possible in a single day to get up to the ridge, walk part of it, and come down again. An excellent way to do this is to go from Uig up the road through Glen Conon, a peaceful crofting valley set in a dramatic landscape. After two miles the road becomes a track, and eventually it disappears altogether, leaving you to plod through some boggy ground before you finally hit the ridge at one of its lowest points, Bealach Uige. From here you are rewarded with stunning views in all directions. The view of the Quiraing, to the north, from here is particularly fine.

Bog-cottonNote that the although the Ordnance Survey map shows a path going all the way from Glen Conon to Bealach Uige, this is not correct. The last bit is uncharted bog and needs good waterproof footwear. The view at the top will be worth all the effort, and in the meantime enjoy the sundews, cottongrass and other species which only survive in these wet peaty conditions.

Once you have reached the ridge, turn right and continue along the clifftop for about a mile. The highest point you reach is called Ben Edra, which is either from the Gaelic for "the hill in between" or the Norse for "the outer hill"; you can decide for yourself which is the more likely.

Castle Ewen, Fairy Glen, Uig, SkyeAfter descending from Ben Edra, you leave the ridge where the slope levels out, and head back towards Uig via a long straight turf dyke. At the end of this dyke you have to cross a burn, and then you pick up a path which leads to Balnacnoc, where it becomes a road and winds through the Fairy Glen, a remarkable landscape of small conical hills with a magical atmosphere. The rock known as Castle Ewen, shown in the picture on the left, is also in the Fairy Glen, and good fun for children to scramble on. The road eventually brings you out onto the main road close to the centre of Uig.

In clear weather this is a superb day's walk, but do not rely on the information given here to find your way. You should take a map or a good guide book with diagrams.

You can, of course, do short walks from Uig up into Glen Conon or the Fairy Glen, without going all the way to the ridge. Many visitors say that these walks take them into another world. Even the small and peaceful village of Uig feels like "harsh reality" when you return into it from Glen Conon or the Fairy Glen. There are good views of waterfalls at the ends of these roads, and otters can sometimes be seen playing in the river below.

View south from QuiraingAn even easier way to walk part of the Trotternish Ridge is to take advantage of the hill road from Uig to Staffin, which crosses the ridge at a point near one of its most spectacular features, the Quiraing. You can park at the top of this road and walk along the ridge for whatever distance you wish, bearing in mind the weather and the kind of clothing you are wearing. From here you will appreciate how the earth's crust has been torn apart by the landslip which has been going on for thousands of years and is still continuing.

The rocks surrounding the "Table", QuiraingFrom the summit the road descends very steeply before it begins to level out again. Here you can park in the cemetery car-park and walk in among the rocks of the Quiraing itself. The rock formations here have names like The Prison, The Needle and The Table. You can make this walk as long or short as you like. If you have three hours or so to spare, you can walk right through the Quiraing to the northern end of the ridge and come back along the top. The picture shows the rock walls that guard the "Table", a lush green steep-sided plateau where cattle used to be hidden in the days of Clan warfare.

Path into Quiraing from FlodigarryIf it is too misty to go up high, as in the picture above, then when you reach Loch Hasco bear north-east to Loch Langaig and you will rejoin the road at Flodigarry, where you can get some well-earned refreshment at the Flodigarry Hotel. There is also a backpacker's hostel at Flodigarry. If you have to return to your car at the cemetery car park, you can either try for a different route back through the maze of pillars and crags, or walk back along the road (3 miles). The picture on the right shows the footpath from Flodigarry towards the Quiraing. Flodigarry is an unbeatable base for a walking holiday, whether you stay at the hostel or the hotel.

Hill of the Red Fox from Creag a'LainIf you feel like walking a less frequented part of the ridge, take the turning for Glenhinnisdale, four miles south of Uig, drive to the end of the road, then walk through the gate and follow the track until you are clear of all the fences and fields. Keep the forestry plantation to your right until it ends, then continue along beside the burn till you reach its source. At this point you are almost at the ridge; just make for the pass in front of you between the crags on either side. If you then turn south along the ridge, after about a mile you will come to a protruding plateau known as the Hill of the Red Fox, made famous through the children's adventure story of that name by Alasdair MacLean. This is an excellent viewpoint and a truly wild place.

Looking north from the Hill of the Red FoxTurning north instead, after following the ridge for about two miles, you will come to the descent into the Fairy Glen, mentioned above. This makes a good alternative day out to the Fairy Glen/Glenconon circular route, for people who are not encumbered with a car (since you end up a long way from where you started!). Map and hill-walking experience essential. The picture above shows the Hill of the Red Fox from Creag a'Lain, in winter, and the one on the right shows the view northwards from the Hill of the Red Fox.

The Storr, view from southThe Old Man of Storr is nearer the south end of the ridge. A few miles north of Portree on the Staffin road, there is car park beside a forestry plantation. From here there is a path up through the forest towards the Old Man. If the ground is not too wet, you can return along the northern edge of the forest, to make it a circular walk. Before doing so, there are plenty of other weird and wonderful rocks to look at besides the Old Man himself. Near here is one of the ridge's few passes where a walker can get from the bottom to the top or vice versa. The Storr Mountain itself, which looms behind the Old Man, is the ridge's highest point.

There are countless other good walks in the Trotternish area. We can only mention a handful of them here. There are footpaths from Uig leading into the steep wooded valleys of the rivers Rha and Conon. The Rha walk leads to a thunderous waterfall where fuschias bloom and the Dipper fishes.  There is also a walk through these woods on the south side of the main road, start by going down the road to "Uig Community Centre", then follow the path through the trees alongside the shore and then take the path that follows the Conon back to the main road.  This is an easy but very attractive walk to do when the weather is too uncertain to venture out for long.

Don't be put off by our weather warnings, which are given for obvious safety reasons. The ridge is clear most days, and very often the whole of Skye is bathed in sunshine all day long, particularly in May and June, when the long hours of daylight give ideal conditions for the full ridge walk. Sometimes the weather is so hot that the ridge is the most pleasant place to be.

Duntulm - castle, island and hotelA good low-level walk is to drive to Duntulm (7 miles north of Uig), explore the ruined castle, then descend the steps to the shore and walk round the headland. You pass close to Tulm Island, just offshore, which is always teeming with bird activity. At first the coast is gentle grassland, but when it turns eastward, cliffs take over, which are strikingly patterned in places. You are now at the northernpost point on Skye, and this is the best place on the island to view whales and dolphins, but don't expect them to be there on demand - see the wildlife page for a better way to sight them. Halfway along these cliffs there is an old coastguard station.

Coastline at KilmaluagYou can either carry on right the way round till the shore meets the road again at Kilmaluag, or cut across inland to Shulista, or walk back the way you came to Duntulm. Refreshment can be obtained at the Duntulm Hotel, shown in the picture above. If it is a sunny day sit at the tables outside with your drink. You will think you are at the edge of the world and that time has been suspended.

Bearreraig Bay, Trotternish, SkyeClose to the start of the footpath to the Old Man of Storr, on the opposite side of the road, there is another short but energetic walk. A track takes you along the north side of Loch Leathann and then a long flight of steps takes you down the cliff face to the hydro-electic power station. This is one of the few places where you can get to the shore between Portree and Staffin, for the coastline has sheer cliffs for almost the whole twenty-mile stretch, duplicating the similar escarpment inland but less easy of access from below. This particular spot is known as Bearreraig Bay, and is a good place to hunt for fossils.

If you have been on any of these walks, or any other walks in Trotternish, feel free to email us with your comments.

Climbing in Trotternish

Almost anywhere on the inland cliffs of the Trotternish Ridge is a challenging rock-climb. For a list of other rock-climbs in Trotternish, mainly coastal, visit the website www.pentire.com/stack12.htm

For further pictures of the Trotternish Ridge, see the Trotternish Ridge Picture Album

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Trotternish - The Scenery
Birds of Trotternish
Plant Life of Trotternish
Skye Scene Highland Ceilidh
A Short History of Crofting in Skye
The Early Church in Skye
Trotternish Ridge Picture Album
Skye Museum of Island Life
Bed and Breakfast Accommodation
Self-Catering Accommodation
Walks on Skye

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Pictures strictly copyright Patrick Butler (4-8,12), Sue Watkins (3,10,11), Anne Morrison (1), Carl Farmer (2) and Bill McGonagle (9)

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