THE SKYE TRAIL
Sometimes in life you gotta escape. Close the laptop screen, turn off your phone and put the world on hold. Lose yourself within nature and rediscover the treasures we’ve taken for granted over the years. Smell the fresh ocean air, feel the mountainous winds in your face and drink water straight from the Earth. This doesn’t mean it’s all rest and relaxation though, it’s hard work and reward. No better destination is better suited then the rugged interior of the Isle of Skye in Northwest Scotland.
The Skye Trail is a challenging route across the vast region of the UK’s most demanding landscape. A seven day, 130km hike that covers coastal cliffs and death-defying ridges across various terrain. Most importantly though, the trail offers miraculous displays of the Scottish jewel not seen by road or rail. It should also be mentioned that the weather can have a drastic impact on your journey. Howling winds, torrential downpours, flooding rivers, mud and slippery surfaces can all slow down your progress. There are also a very limited number of signs after the initial stages and many sections do not have a clear path. The ability to navigate with a compass and read topographical maps is highly recommended.
While the trail is laid out in sections to ensure you can reach accommodations in small towns at the end of each day, there is no better way to experience the island then sleeping in solitude. With this in mind you may need to create your own schedule of points you’d like to reach at the end of each day to ensure you find a solid place to set up camp and find water. Additionally some stages have a Bothy for you to rest in, and perhaps run into other hikers on their travels. A Bothy can be a fantastic place to meet fellow wanderers and converse over candlelight, it can also be extremely eerie arriving alone in the middle of the night…
The second day is by far the longest and hardest, with a strenuous section of ridges and valleys. It is demanding and testing overall, yet it is also the most remarkable and engaging section of the trip. You’re gonna want to stop and soak this in while you can!
Portree is the islands largest town and the midway point of the hike, a great place to divide up the adventure. Enjoy a shower, do some laundry and get a solid meal. If you’re looking for something to eat there are a few joints to pick from, but there’s no better choice then grabbing fish and chips at the pier.
Needless to say, great care should be taken throughout the trek. Weather conditions can affect everyone’s journey in many ways, and certain sections (specifically Stage 5 from Sligachan to Elgol) deserve your undivided attention. The path is very narrow, often composed of slippery rocks at the edge of a steep cliff. Take your time and focus.
From starting at “The red phone booth” at the islands northern tip to strolling into Broadford’s finishing point, you will come across a vast array of land formations and natural beauty. Embrace the rugged landscape that Scotland is renowned for, high five a sheep, skip a stone into the ocean and walk through the cleared villages of a time we’ll never know. Skye is a place to feel free. A place you’ll leave little to no mark on but will have a massive impact in exchange. It is a place you will remember.
What to do when it’s all said and done? When the clothes are dry and blisters are healed? Explore Skye some more, stay in Portree a little longer, visit the Fairy pools and learn all about Scotch at the Talisker Factory. Whatever you do, make sure you celebrate!
Have you been to Skye or thought about trekking across the island? Share your thoughts in the comments below!
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As always, the opinion is that of the author.