Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Torridon

Empty Country of Torridon
North of the Isle of Skye the rugged and mountainous region of Torridon is reached.  Here one finds big mountains and all but treeless glens.  It was another location I had seen images from and knew I wanted to visit.

I drove up from the Isle of Skye in the rain.  Make that pouring, heavy rain.  It actually turned out to be a good day to drive as photography was all but out of the question with only one good stop at a waterfall for ten minutes.  Lets just say good rain gear is well worth the price as it was the only way to stay dry.
The treeless route

As I arrived in the little village of Torridon the rain let up and I was able to set up my tent.  The town runs a little campsite.  I hear it is busy in the summer but at the end of October it was all but empty with just one other camper there.  I found a somewhat dry patch and put the tent up.

Then it was out to the glen and I caught some nice light at sunset.

I had three nights here and that would give me two full days to explore.  I had picked out a hike I wanted to do around Beinn Eighe to the Triple Buttress on the north side of the mountain.  It was about 9 miles round trip.  I spent a little time in the glen in the morning and left mid-morning spending the rest of the day on the hike.
Torridon Waterfall

This was a treeless hike.  Not one tree seen the entire way.  Just big mountains, streams, waterfalls, rocks and emptiness.  It was fantastic!  The weather was windy and mostly cloudy but I did get just a few minutes where the sun popped out along the hike.

When I reached the Triple Buttress, I found shelter from the howling wind on the leeward side of a rock to have a snack, drink some water, and look at the surrounding peaks.  Next trip I think I will backpack up for a night of wild camping here.

I spent most of the afternoon making my way back down to the car getting there right at sunset.  I photographed and took my time.  This was what I had been hoping for and this was a good day.  That night as I sat by my tent cooking Scotch Broth I was still in awe with the area.

There were several possible hikes I had seen in the area and (again just like Skye) did not have enough time to do them all.  I decided to do a hike north west of the village into the region under Beinn Alligin.  Here was a long valley between towering peaks.  There was a very small section of remnant forest here.  As in just a few acres and it was fenced to keep the deer out.  The rest was again all but treeless.
River Gorge

I followed a stream through the valley that had waterfall after waterfall.  The stream entered a small gorge and just kept getting more scenic.  I stopped for so many pictures that by lunch I had not even gone two miles.

I also found what I thought would be a great location for a sunset and planned to go back.  It was very overcast but I hoped the light might happen at sunset.

During an afternoon rain, I spent some time in the afternoon exploring one of those small sections of forest.  Really amazing that a forest might only be 4 acres.

As the day waned I hiked back up the Valley under Beinn Alligin to a wasterfall with a view west hoping for sunset, but it never happened.  It was just a gray sunset.  I hiked back to the car in the gathering dark still as content as one could hope for.  No it was not a sunset, but I was in the Scottish Highlands camping in the rain!!!

Loch Torridon
The next morning I was by the loch taking images in early gray light.  Then I went back up to the same waterfall hoping the clouds might break but again they stayed gray.

So I wrapped up my day time in Torridon in a light fog and mist.  I packed my wet tent up and headed north again.  I was off to find second breakfast in Ullapool.







Sunday, May 7, 2017

Isle of Skye

Quiraing
In the fall of 2016 I did a trip way outside the box for me, I flew to the UK and spent two weeks in the Scottish Highlands, finally getting a stamp in my passport.

This is one of those trips I had thought about for years and never taken.  Last year I made it happen.  It was easier and cheaper than I thought.  I did cash in some airline miles for free airfare then rented a car for two weeks and camped in the Highlands.

This was a solo trip too.  I could not get anyone to go with me.  So here I am traveling internationally for the first time in life, going solo and going to live in a one man tent for two weeks at the end of October.

Needless to say my friends thought I was crazy......
Sky coastal cliffs

When I think Scotland I wanted the lonely mountains, castles and wild country of the Highlands.  So I decided to skip the typical tourist spots and the cities and to concentrate on visiting four areas:  Isle of Skye, Torridon, Assynt, and Glencoe.

This let me stay in each location 3 nights and gave me a chance to explore a few areas rather than hurry through the country trying to do too much.

I started on the Isle of Skye.

Skye is one of those locations I had heard of and seen some amazing images of.  Since I wanted to camp I looked for one of the campgrounds there.  I found that Uig Bay campsite was open all year.  Like most of the campsites in Scotland, it is private.  It had a grassy area for tents (I was the only person in a tent) and a parking area for camper vans (4 or 5 of those).  They had showers and a laundry on site.  Nice people too.

I set up camp and began to explore the island.

Dunscaith Castle- the Shadow Fortress
Now I had a car but for those who have never driven in the UK, it is a bit disconcerting when you first get out on the road in a right hand drive car, driving on the "wrong" side of the road, in a manual where you shift with your left hand.  

Honestly it was not too bad.  The first 15 minutes are the worst, but keep saying...stay left...  

On Skye some of the roads become single track.  There are turn outs every few hundred yards.  When I saw an oncoming car, I always pulled into pull out to let them past.

Wizards Tower in the Fairy Glen
So on the Isle of Skye I had marked several areas I wanted to visit but even with three days it was not enough to see them all.  On my next trip to Scotland I will do 4 nights there.

One of the places I had seen on the map was Dunscaith Castle.  It sits on a cliff over the sea.  It means the Shadow Fortress.  Now what Tolkien fan can resist a name like that? :-)  I made my way there on morning and took the short walk out to the castle ruins.  I made my way up the hill past what were the stone ruins of a draw bridge and listened to the waves crashing in below.

Off to the north the peaks of the Cuillins had dark clouds hanging over them and I can see how it gets it name of Shadow Fortress.  I easily spend a couple of hours exploring the location and imagining the stories the stones could tell.

I spent an afternoon in the Fairy Glen.  This is an area of unique little hills and rocks that also looks like something out of Tolkien.  If you saw elves and hobbits running around you would not be surprised.  I stayed here through a cloudy evening with no sunset and still loved the moody quality to it.

I planned a morning photography hike along the Quiraing a cliff of green with more unique rock formations.  I made the drive in the early morning rain and 40+ mph winds.  There was little indication of a sunrise.  Despite the wind and rain, I geared up and started hiking under the rim.  The rain stopped, the clouds parted and glorious light light the hills.  For ten minutes I was going crazy taking images.  Then the clouds closed back in and the rain started again.

Cuillins
That is typical Scottish weather.  In fact it rained at least part of every day there over my two weeks.  I only saw the stars once.

I made the drive to Mealt Falls and Kilt Rock.  The viewpoint is such only one person at a time can really get a good picture of the falls, but it is still a good stop.

I also had a rainy morning near the Cuillins.  These are said to be the most rugged mountains in Britian and on this rainy, windy morning certainly looked ominous.  

The few days on the island were just not enough to see it all.  I have several more locations on my list, but they will have to wait until my next trip.

I drove back over the Skye bridge and headed north.