Wednesday, 11 April 2012

The Red Cuillin of Skye

Beautifully calm under the Skye bridge
Last Wednesday, Hubby dear was supposed to be travelling up to Skye to sit his 5* assessment, I was going up with him to be one of the mock students. Typical of Scottish weather, it was forecast to be lovely!, not what was required. 8am, Wednesday morning, he got the call he didn't want, but was expecting. The course was cancelled.
As we had already organised time off work, we decided to carry on to Skye and do our own thing. I had got booked into a small B & B for the Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday evening. It was quite late by the time we arrived in Uig, but still before last orders!
As I said, the course was cancelled due to our wonderful weather. Britain was in the middle of a heat wave with the temp getting up into the 20's. Someone forgot to tell Skye this when we were there. Britain was looking good, Skye had a dirty great big grey thumbprint stuck across it. When we got up on Thursday, the hill cloud was sitting on the sea. The Ascrib islands we planned to paddle out to had disappeared.
Outside the B & B
 Off we set, from the back garden of the B & B and headed out across Loch Snizort. The cloud was coming and going a bit by now, enough to let me spot my first, very lonely looking Puffin of the year. 8K later, we arrived on South Ascrib. Time for a quick coffee before setting off in the mist again and headed south for 5K with a seal escort to our lunch spot. Further south next to a magnificent waterfall, where we watched a pair of sea eagles. We then cut across the bottom of the loch, skipping past the smaller islands and made our way back up to Uig, hoping to time our arrival to be different from the Hebrides ferry which docks just along from the B & B. After about 28K, a wee visit to the local after dinner was just deserved.

On Friday, Hubby dear took the car over to Portree and got the bus back. We launched again from the back garden, complete with all our camping gear. The weather was clearer today, but a bit windier. We set off again and headed north to paddle round the Trotternish peninsula. It didn't take long for the waves to start hitting us. There wasn't going to be many rest spots. We "bounced " along with a fair few braces being used. In amongst all this, I spotted my second , equally lonely Puffin. It could very well have been the same one as the previous day as I never saw any more.
Why do photos always make it look calmer than it really was?
We managed a landing on the beach at Osmigarry for a breather, although launching was probably enough to undo any rest we had. We carried on round Tulm bay where we rafted up to pump out the boats. We still never found Tulm island! After we rounded the Hunish point we found a lovely sheltered bay with crystal clear waters to stop for a very welcome lunch. This is where I thought we still had a hard section to go, but my map is printed in mega size, to take into account the fact I'm blind as a bat without my glasses. I was so pleased to see that, that last section was the hard bit. We just get through my maps quicker than Hubby dear's.

A welcome breather
Rounding the top point into Kilmaluag Bay was wonderful, like a completely different day. We were getting sheltered from the NEwinds. We actually managed to take photos!
 Further down we paddled in and out of caves, through the rocks and under the arches. Another massive waterfall and more Sea eagles. We passed Flodigarry island and arrived at Staffin island, where we were camping for the night. It had been a long and very tiring day. Dinner and toasted marshmallows were very welcome. Just as we were about to crash out for the night, we checked our messages to find we had received some lousy news and nothing we could do about it. With this all going round in my head, the fact the wind was picking up and the regular low fly over by geese, meant no sleep.

Blue skies, blue seas, still looking calmer than it really was, honestly!!!
Feeling a bit deflated with the wind
In the morning when I stuck my head out of the tent I spotted what I didn't want to see - massive waves. The wind had changed direction. The thought of another intense day on top of no sleep didn't exactly fill me with joy. We had to pack the boats to get back across to Skye, so we decided to paddle  to the point to check the conditions out. It wasn't long before the waves were breaking above head height. The next section was fairly committing with sheer cliffs and no chance of landing if things went pear shaped. We decided to turn and head back into the little jetty in Staffin Bay. Hubby dear thumbed a lift back into Portree to collect the car. The conditions did settle down a bit later on, but it was one of those calls we had decided to make. We could have hung around and it not improve.
Later in the evening, we had our last pints of Red Cuillin, before heading home the next day to see what could be sorted out with our lousy news.
Aaaahhh! those Red Cuillins
Although the assessment never went ahead and the paddling didn't go exactly to plan, it was still a wonderful weekend and I'll definitely be back for another paddle in the area.

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