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  • Writer's pictureHiker Heather

The Skye Trail

Blog detailing my thru-hike of the Skye Trail including trail information, itinerary & wild camping spots :)

'Ello, mates! This illusive blog post has been a very long time in the making, nearly almost as long as the trail had been in the making hahaha! The Skye Trail was almost a year in the making as my mate, Jim, and I had agreed not long after completing the Cape Wrath Trail last year, to meet again this year to hike the Skye Trail, to say that I was excited was an understatement - not only was I excited to be reunited with Jim, after almost a year, the Skye Trail had been high on my list for a very long time too!!!! :)


I know that lots of you have your eyes on the Skye Trail and hope to hike it next year - I can only recommend that you do, it was nothing short of magic! I also hope that hope this blog serves useful for the purpose of planning your own adventure on the trail...


About the Skye Trail

The Skye Trail is a challenging, unofficial, unmarked and often pathless long distance hike, which is said to be aimed at more experienced hillwalkers. The trail is around 80 miles/ 128km in length and starts at the most northerly tip of the island, Rubha Hunish and ends in the village of Broadford, passing through some of the most breath-taking landscapes that this mighty wee island has to offer...


Access to and from the Trail

Both the beginning and end of the trail are served by public transport, Jim used public transport, to travel from Orkney, where he lives with his wife, to Portree where we met the day prior to starting the trail. The following morning, we would then take the Bus 57a from Portree to the red phone box, which marks the start of the trail. Whilst the red phone box isn't an official bus stop, if you let the bus driver know that this is where you are heading they are usually happy to stop for you :)


I had chose to drive as it would work out cheaper when I compared the fuel cost vs public transport cost so I drove to Skye and parked my car at the end of the trail in Broadford for a week, I parked in the layby parking area just before the Coop. Please note that this is free, unattended parking and therefore you are leaving your car at your own risk.


Navigation

The Skye Trail is completely unwaymarked - good navigation skills are essential. I used my usual iconic duo - the HARVEY Maps Skye Trail Map & the Skye Trail Guidebook by Cicerone (I was very kindly gifted products)...

In addition, I had GPX of the route downloaded onto my phone. You can find the GPX files for the trail on the Walk Highlands website.


Itinerary


Day 1 - The Red Phone Box - Loch Langaig (9 miles)

Jim & I had met in Portree the day prior and camped at Portree campsite, where we had both pre-booked (please note that ALL campsites on Skye get full very quickly in the summer months, as I would later learn, so be sure to plan and book ahead if intending to use campsites!!!) I can't tell you how ace it was to be to be reunited with Jim! We spent most of the evening in true Jim & Heather fashion, chatting mainly about gear and letting each other know about any gear updates since we had last seen each other, almost a year ago.... The following morning we took a bus from just outside the campsite to the red phone box, which marks the start of the trail - we were both eager and excited to start the trail, our excitement can be seen on the photo below! :D

From the phone box, you soon approach Rubha Hunish, the most northerly tip of the island, where the quaint little Lookout Bothy stands. The Lookout Bothy was constructed in the early 20th century as a watch station for the coastguard, in the 1970's, however, it was no longer required and became a popular spot for whale-watching before succumbing to storms in 2005 and soon after falling into disrepair... It was eventually restored and converted into the bothy it is today... I was excited to see and explore the little bothy but it was extremely busy so we continued along the trail, hugging the stunning, panoramic coastline...

It wasn't be long before we soon arrived at Flodigarry, which is where many hikers will chose to spend their first night as there is a hostel here, which also allows camping outside. Jim and I always tend to prefer to wild camp and had agreed that we would continue on for a little while longer, hoping to get as close to the Trotternish Ridge as possible, without committing, so that we could tackle the unearthly beast of the ridge on fresh legs, however, just as we made our way along the small road section toward Loch Langaig the most almighty gusts began... We decided that we would still attempt to still get further up toward the ridge and hoped to find somewhere sheltered but the wind continued, we attempted to set camp at Loch Hasco but struggled to find a suitable pitch, we eventually decided to backtrack down to Loch Langaig where we had noticed space for a couple of tents when we had passed a short time earlier... We successfully managed to pitch and soon the gusts died down allowing us a peaceful night...


Day 2 - Loch Langaig - Bealach Chaiplin (9 miles)

We woke up to sunshine and blue skies - what a place to be!!!! Leaving our little pitch beside the loch we made the gradual ascent up toward the majestic Quiraing! To say that I was excited to be here was an understatement - I had wanted to visit this spectacular place for so long!

The Quiraing was busy with tourists, as would be expected as it is one of Skye's tourist honeypots. We stopped at the burger van which is parked at the car park for a grilled cheese sandwich and marvelled at the otherworldy landscape for a little while longer before continuing on to the notorious Trotternish Ridge... The Trotternish Ridge is considered a challenging hike in itself, being 22 miles long and including 2417m of ascent, it is also incredibly exposed and largely pathless. We had already heard stories of Skye Trail hikers choosing to skip the ridge due to the changing weather but Jim and I seemed to have hit lucky, the sky was blue and the forecast seeming viable to allow us to camp on the ridge and hopefully a safe passage off the ridge the following day...

The ridge was absolutely immense, otherworldy to say the least, I danced down the trail in utter glee, Jim and I had a right old laugh. The ridge was one of my highlights of the trip, again, it was somewhere I had dreamed of visiting for so long! It wasn't long before we encountered eagles flying ahead, we stood in awe... At this point I turned to Jim and said how epic it would be to see a cuckoo since their song had always been with us when we were on trail together, yet despite this, I had still not been lucky enough to see one... just as I uttered those words one flew out from the ridge right below us! I couldn't really believe it!!! I squealed with childlike joy!!!! Such funny looking birds too with wings that look far too small for their body and their little upturned tails... However, lets not forget the savage fact that female cuckoos lay their eggs in the nests of other birds before abandoning them, thus forcing that other bird to care for their babies! This fact aside, I was very happy to finally see one! 4pm soon arrived, at which point both Jim and I are usually very happy to start looking for a pitch, we soon we came across the most perfect pitch at Bealach Chaiplin, where we swiftly pitched and then went looking for water, which was not an easy task for weary feet, despite there appearing to be springs only around 200m away, it took us a while to find them, hidden in the grass and flowing slowly due to the lack of recent rainfall but we eventually hit gold and managed to fill our bottles enough to last us the night and the next morning until we would hit out next water source...

This evening we weren't confined to our tents due to the weather so we enjoyed the luxury of the afternoon sun, ate dinner and chatted for a while before saying goodnight. It was here sat chatting on the ridge that we would first say hello to Sebastien, Seb was a solo hiker from France, he chuckled at the early time of day that Jim and I had chosen to set pitch before heading onward along the ridge... We didn't expect to see Seb again due to mine and Jim's relaxed approach on trail, we don't usually leave camp until around 9.30am and then we are often pitched at 3pm or 4pm as we both enjoy relaxing and being at camp, we both admit that we like a good old faff with our kit on an evening too, in and amongst chatting and have dinner! Haha!


Day 3 - Bealach Chaiplin -Portree (16 miles)

This mornings weather on the ridge was a stark contrast to yesterdays... today was dark, moody and maybe even a little foreboding! We left our stunning little pitch to conquer the rest of the magnificent ridge, which would prove be undulating at times, to say the least, I imagine that the ridge would seem pretty bleak and incomprehensible in bad weather!

The final descent from Hartival and the subsquent ascent up to The Storr was a bit of a beast, we were propelled forward only by the thought of there perhaps being a burger van at the Old Man of Storr and of course, excited to see The Old Man itself!

The Old Man was busy with tourists, as would be expected, we marvelled and took a few photos before swiftly making the descent down to the Old Man of Storr car park, where we hoped some kind of refreshments would be available. We managed to get a coffee and cake from a little vendor before heading on toward Portree, which would be our destination for the evening. Jim had booked in at a hostel for the evening (and omitted to tell me and was now fully booked hahaha) and so it was my plan to camp as close to Portree as possible and then meet Jim in Portree the following morning. This next section along the coast to Portree would again be incredibly undulating, it felt neverending at times... It was here that we bumped into Seb again who was also feeling the effects of the undulating trail after also conquering the remainder of the Trotternish Ridge that morning... Eventually Portree came into sight, I decided to pitch just before MacCoitir's Cave in a field near the remains of the Bile Chapel (sounds awful, I know, but it wasn't that bad haha, it was just a field!) where I spent a midge fest of an evening tucked away in my tent before falling into a very deep sleep following todays efforts...


Day 4 - Portree - Sligachan (12 miles)

Jim and I had planned to meet in Portree that morning for breakfast, I also resupplied in Coop whilst I had the chance and picked up more blister plasters from Boots as my feet were now starting to suffer a little... It was around 11am when we finally left Portree but we had felt in no hurry since the day would largely consist of road waking out of Portree...

We soon arrived at the shores of Loch Sligachan which we would hug for some time. Here on the shores of Loch Sligachan I noticed two perfect dappled, fairly large eggs sat on the shores of the loch...

I called Jim over and expressed my concern - what were these eggs doing here?! were they okay? what bird did they belong to??? Jim reassured me that they were absolutely fine, they were oyster catcher eggs and that it was normal that they had been laid in such a place, camouflaged in and amongst the stones... I felt relieved to know that these eggs were hopefully safe... We soon arrived in Sligachan itself, where we once again bumped into Seb. After a little debate, we decided to camp at the Sligachan campsite for the evening. The three of us tried to get a meal from the pub across the road but were unsuccessful in our attempts... we headed back to our tents for another freeze dried meal :)


Day 5 - Sligachan - Camansunary Bay via The Bad Step (11 miles)

Today we left Sligachan campsite as a group of 3 and would remain as a trio until the end of the trail... Today we would head toward the majestic Cuillin which would be the backdrop for most of this epic day... I was both excited and a little nervous, anticipating the fact that we would soon need to make the decision whether or not to take the Bad Step variant, I was excited and happy to be back in amongst the mountains proper though!

Whilst the weather was a little overcast and wet as we set out, it soon changed once again and we were treat to the most beautiful blue skies, as we had been back on day 2... We soon reached the junction in the trail where we needed to decided whether or not to take The Bad Step variant, we decided as a group that we would all like to give it a go, especially since the weather was so good and so it was that we began the ascent up beside Sgurr Hain before eventually descending down to the otherworldly Loch Coruisk - I had never seen anything quite like this majestic place in my entire life... I was in complete and utter awe, despite the fact that my knee had *really* started to cause me pain on the rough descent down to Loch Coruisk...

Skirting around the side of the loch it wasn't long before we arrived at the Bad Step... Seb seemed confident and went ahead and managed to cross the Bad Step with ease, however, my brain wasn't quite comprehending it in the same fashion as Seb, it was the weight of my pack that was concerning me the most and my knee wasn't exactly filling me with confidence either. Jim assessed the situation and decided that he wouldn't be attempting the Bad Step but would instead would try some commando scrambling and deal with the underhang and water underneath the Bad Step, Jim managed to get across no bother, despite getting wet feet, which just left me there at the other side considering the Bad Step alone hahaha, Seb quickly came to me help and offered to take my pack whilst also staying beside me whilst I made it across the Bad Step, what a legend - thank you so much Seb!

Continuing once again to hug the coastline, Camansunary Bay soon came into sight which is where we would pitch for the evening... It was so sad to see this beautiful little bay covered in plastic that had been washed up :(


Day 6 - Camansunary Bay - Loch Slapin (11 miles)

This morning we called into the bothy, which had been full the night before, for a quick look around before continuing along the trail where we continued to hug the dramatic coastline, along narrow, undulating cliff paths with a steep drop to the sea just one false step away... The trail continued in this fashion until we reached the tiny hamlet of Elgol, we stopped off at the only cafe in the hamlet for some refreshments, I true geeky fashion, I bought myself a t-shirt as a souvenir, as I have often been known to do... After Elgol followed a decent amount of road walking before eventually taking a path beside Loch Slapin...

I was feeling pretty done for the day by the time we got to Kilmarie, despite it only being early hahaha but we continued on, despite me trying to persuade Jim & Seb to stop even earlier than we usually would hahaha.. making an ascent and an eventual descent through woodland until we reached the visitor area and parking for Blaven, we walked only a short while along the road before deciding to pitch beside the shores of Loch Slapin... It was a bright, warm evening for our final evening on the trail, we made the most of it and spent the evening chatting and eating together, we couldn't believe that this mega adventure was very nearly over...


Day 7 - Loch Slapin - Broadford (12 miles)

We had heard that there was a burger van not far from where we were camped, we all prayed that it would be open this morning so that we could fill our bellies properly before tackling the last few miles of the trail - we were in luck!!!! Whilst we sat outside the van devouring our breakfasts, we bumped into another friendly group of Skye Trail hikers, we spent some time chatting to them before continuing this morning's road walk into Torrin before eventually breaking off to continue hugging the coastline for one last time...

We eventually arrived into the village of Broadford, despite a bit of bad navigation on my part but we had done it!!!! We had hiked the entire length of this majestic little island!!!! Woooohooo!!! We celebrated with fish and chips and an Irn Bru (when in Rome) in Broadford... Although, the adventure wasn't entirely over at this point... we collected my car from the layby I had left it in and drove to Broadford Campsite, where we had intended on spending the evening, despite Seb and I not having bookings... Although we had been reassured by other hikers that the campsite always leave space for hikers of the trail... Unfortunately, because I had brought my car, this seemed to indicate to the campsite staff that I was not a hiker of the trail and was not therefore deserving of a pitch that evening, they would however let Seb camp since he didn't have a car... I started to say my sad goodyes to Jim and Seb, I reassured them that I would be fine, I would just either camp in my car or hope that there would be space over at Shiel Bridge campsite over on the mainland.... The lady working at the campsite then changed her mind and allowed me to say which I was so grateful for as I just wanted to say bye to Jim and Seb properly after such an epic adventure together! So, the moral of the story - either make a booking in advance if you intend to stay at this campsite or turn up on foot only! ;)

I feel so grateful to have shared such an epic adventure with two amazing people and I only hope that we can meet to hike again in the future :) Thank you so much, Jim & Seb - I miss you both! xxx



If you have any questions then please do use the contact form to drop me a line, I will get back to you as soon as possible. You can follow my adventures live over on my Instagram @hiker_heather




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Seb Cap
Seb Cap
Oct 29, 2023

I loved so much this trek in Skye!! It was a pleasure to hike with you and Jim, hope we will have other opportunities in the future 😁

Seb

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