A lot has happened since our last post, including a long holiday on and around the Isle of Skye. Known to some as “The Misty Isle” and to us as “The Sheepy Isle” (more on that later), Skye has a direct road link from the Scottish mainland via a rather attractive bridge.
The Skye Bridge viewed from the Plock of Kyle
Beanie & Biggles, also viewed from the Plock of Kyle
Despite that fact that we wouldn’t need to use a ferry for our trip, I still didn’t feel brave enough to tow the caravan actually onto Skye itself (lots of single-lane roads with meagre passing places) so we actually set up camp in somewhat-nearby Morvich. As it turned out there are plenty of nice places to visit around Morvich even without driving over to Skye, like the village of Plockton, Eilean Donan Castle, and Kyle.
Eilean Donan Castle
It’s floodlit briefly around sunset, but after about half an hour they turn the lights off to save energy. Damn shame ‘cos it would look really good at night..
Of course the real point of the holiday was to sample the sights, sounds and smells of Skye. We had no problem with the sights and smells, but the sounds were more difficult to appreciate given that our Beagles were soon making sounds of their own. Our first taste of Skye came in the form of a hillwalk up The Storr, passing by the iconic Old Man.
All was well as we emerged from the trees and got our first look at the Storr and the extraordinary rock formations of the Storr “sanctuary”
The Old Man standing tall in the middle with Needle Rock off to the left.
We had the odd little outburst from Biggles on the way up to the Sanctuary when he spotted other walkers ahead of us (his Biggleship should always be in front!) and a couple of sheep, but in general he and Beanie were quite well behaved up to this point. That started to change when I decided to head up to the base of the Old Man to get a couple of close-up photos, leaving Susan and the Beagles below. Ordinarily when doing something like this I’d look around for the easiest route, but for some reason this day I was channeling my inner Beanie and I took the direct path straight up, oblivious to the much easier path to the side. It was very scrambly and I had to ditch my backpack around the half-way point, but I made it up and got some shots around the Old Man.
Now it was time to head back down. Unfortunately the thing about scrambly trails is that it’s always easier to go up them than down, but I had to retrace my steps to retrieve my backpack. I made my way down very tentatively, keeping one hand on my camera to keep from swinging into the rocks. On the way up I’d felt like a vigorous semi-fit person but this descent burst my bubble completely; I was moving like a nervous pensioner with a zimmer frame. At least I didn’t have any Beagles tied to me, but Biggles was still able to “assist” my concentration by warbling loudly from below whenever I got to a particularly difficult bit. Just before I reached my stranded backpack I got a really strong feeling that I was being watched. Instinctively I looked back up to the base of the Old Man and sure enough there was a stereotypical rock climber type – complete with designer wrap-around shades – sitting watching me as he munched his breakfast. In all likelihood he’d just climbed down from the very top of the Old Man, and here I was, laboring over a bit of scree on a path I didn’t even need to use, with a noisy Beagle boy calling attention to me every time I used the bum method for the “difficult” bits. Very embarrassing.
Even before Biggles had fully calmed down from his current warbling, we ran into sheep. Lots and lots of sheep. The warbling turned into baying and pulling. Beanie joined in, and their cries echoed round the hills pretty much all the way up to the summit of the Storr.
Amazing rock formations all around, but it’s the blummin’ sheep that have Beanie & Biggles’ attention.
The top of the Storr was mercifully free of sheep, but not sheep poo, so the baying was swapped for rolling. At one point it looked like there a Beagle break-dancing competition going on up there.
Biggles chills and takes in the view, while Beanie creates a view of her own.
The conspicuous presence of sheep was an issue on our other Skye walks too. The Quirang, the land around Kilt Rock and even the Fairy Pools were all infested by the woolly jacket club. At times it seemed like every square metre of Skye had a sheep on it. I half-expected that we’d return to our car only to find that it had been stolen by delinquent sheep out for a joy ride. Even our campsite – though not actually on Skye – was surrounded by sheep. Curiously though Beanie and Biggles were oblivious to the sheep near our caravan. What’s more, at night and early in the morning the site was visited by hares – the very prey Beagles are meant to hunt – but our two pups stayed completely cool around them. For some reason however the sheep on Skye nearly always elicited a noisy reaction.
The falls at Kilt Rock, the Fairy Pools and The Quiraing
Our next major walk on Skye was to the Coire Lagan – a lochan sitting 2/3 of the way up a mountain in the Cuillin range. We set off very early for this one hoping to catch the lochan in the flattering morning light. Amazingly we passed only two sheep on our way up, and our little boy was able to give his vocal chords a well earned rest. Even when we reached the little scrambly bit just before the lochan plateau, both our pups kept their warbling, baying and pulling in check. I had a feeling they might start up on the return journey (traditionally a tough test, particularly for Biggles), but I figured we’d at least get to enjoy the lake itself in peace. I was however, quite wrong.
As we clambered over the final layer of rocks and reached the plateau the view of the lake with huge rock walls towering over was absolutely stunning. To get an idea of scale, take a close look at the next picture. On the right hand side you can see a trail, and about 2/3 up the trail there are a couple of dots. Those dots are group of people scrambling up the scree slope to the top of the mountain! Needless to say, after my experience at the Old Man of Storr I decided against following them up!
Biggles took one look at the Coire Lagan, recognized it as probably the greatest natural opera house in the world, and threw his head back. What followed was the loudest baying I’ve ever heard. I seriously doubt that even two full packs of Beagles could have made more noise. Let’s face it, even The Who in their heyday couldn’t have been any louder.
There was no sign of his baying winding down even after a couple of minutes, so Susan broke out our “bothy in a bag” and enclosed herself and the Beagles in it in an attempt to calm him down. Biggles wasn’t going to let a big orange bag deprive the world of his performance however, and he repeatedly tried to escape through one of the air vents while singing his own unique cover version of Queen’s “Don’t stop me now”. I’ve no idea what other walkers thought was going on inside that shelter as Susan wrestled with the baying Bigglet but they did seem to quicken their pace as they passed it. Of course Susan eventually gave up and Biggles’ less than melodic voice once again filled the rocky sound chamber.
Coire Lagan: the ultimate venue for the ambitious Beagle vocal artiste
In due course we packed up and started on the return journey. Biggles was still in an excited and noisy state which was bound to make the scramble down from the plateau “interesting”, but there was no alternative.
If it’s worth saying once, it’s worth saying a thousand times…
It looks like a long way down, but it can be a really, really short journey if you have a baying Beagle tied to your waist!
Amazingly we all made it through the difficult bits without incident and once we lost a bit of height Biggles started to calm down – until that is we ran into sheep again. In truth there weren’t all that many of them this time, but they insisted on staying just ahead of us on the path which of course kept Biggles in an excited state right until we made it back to the car.
For our final day on Skye we decided to revisit the Old Man of Storr to get some sunrise photos. I headed up first on my own at about 3am in a cloud of midges, with plans for Susan and the Beagles to come join me later when there was more light. I cautioned Susan to lock the car as I departed, but in my rush to beat the sun I forgot about closing the hatchback, which kind of negated the whole security thing. It also let a swarm of midges into the car – some of which feasted on Susan and the Beagles – though I think Beanie caught and snacked on some of the little buggers so I guess the score card is even. I made it up past the Sanctuary in plenty of time, managed to find a small area that was sheep free, and began taking shots.
A couple of minutes after sunrise, the first rays hit the sanctuary
A little later, in glorious golden light
The lochan below the sanctuary
I thought it was just me, sheep and midges up on the Storr, but then I heard a raucous, squeaking/warbling sound coming from below. I checked my watch and sure enough it was about time for Susan to be heading up with the Beagles. I headed down to meet them and to my amazement discovered that for once my boy was pretty quiet. Maybe there was another Beagle on Skye that morning, or maybe his warbling was still echoing round Coire Lagan and had only just made over to the north of the island. Either way, it was time for a nap. And some midge bite cream.