I’ve been a bit tardy with this post: it relates to a wee trip to the West Coast Isle of Skye that Dave Smith and I had on Monday 18th / Tuesday 19th April, with a brief footnote about a walk Sonia and I had today, Sunday 24th.
Dave had arranged a night in the Youth Hostel at Glenbrittle https://www.syha.org.uk/where-to-stay/islands/glenbrittle.aspx and surprisingly, given our ages, they let us stay.
Those of you unfamiliar with Youth Hostels – I don’t believe there are any in Sri Lanka for instance – may appreciate a little background. Back in the 1930s, the Scottish Youth Hostel Association (SYHA) was formed to provide cheap accommodation mainly for young people to encourage them to get out into the countryside. In those days, the accommodation was very basic, each guest was expected to do a chore – a small job, such as sweeping a dormitory, cleaning the kitchen etc. – and the hostels only opened in the late afternoon, requiring all guests to be out of the building by 9am or so. Guests did their own cooking and the rules about how the place was used were very strict. Nowadays, many of the hostels – like Glenbrittle – have family, twin or even single rooms. Most will provide cooked meals, opening hours are more relaxed, some sell alcohol and you’re allowed to arrive by car etc.
Dave had some business in Skye, so we met on Monday in Broadford at about 6pm and had an evening meal in the hotel at Sligachan, then drove to Glenbrittle.
So, Dave and I spent a night in Glenbrittle YH: it was comfortable, warm and ideally located for a day in the mountains on Skye. On Tuesday morning we set off to climb one – possibly two – of the Munros (mountains over 3000feet or 914m, named after the man who first surveyed the mountains of Scotland). Our main target was Sgurr a’ Mhadaidh (pron. Skoor a Vaady, Peak of the Fox), with Sgurr a’ Ghreadaidh (pron. Skoor a Graytee, Peak of Torment) as a second possible. I nicknamed them “Fatty” and “Greedy”.
It was a good day with occasional sunshine and – at least when the sun was out – almost warm.Visibility was good and we didn’t get any rain: that in itself is a rare occurrence on Skye! However, the tops of the hills still had some snow lying in sheltered spots and, as we had decided not to take crampons or ice axes with us, we found the routes onto the ridge limited.
When we eventually reached the ridge of “Fatty”, we took one look and decided that we were not going to do the next section of climbing as it looked pretty difficult and dangerous for us: after all we are hill-walkers, not rock climbers. So, regretfully, we turned round and descended again to the car which was parked at the YH.
Although we didn’t make it to the top of a hill, we had a great day: the scenery on Skye is very dramatic, as some of the photos may show, and the rivers tumbling down from the peaks are beautifully clear: so much so that there are so-called “Fairy Pools” which we visited. Back at the car, we continued along the last mile of road to the beach, where we had more superb views of both the mountains and the sea.
I’ve done quite a bit of hill-walking in Scotland, but I’ve got it into my head that the Skye mountains are more difficult and more dangerous than the mainland ones. I’m sorry to say that this little outing has confirmed that view!
However, there is a camp site at the end of Glenbrittle and I think that, come the summer, Sonia and I might spend a night or two there if the weather is good: it’s an idyllic spot.
Today Sonia and I went for a brief walk on the edge of the Cairngorms National Park. We went to the protected site where ospreys nest and watched them through binoculars and even on CCTV. It was fascinating to see these birds. Which are beginning to re-establish themselves in Scotland (there are about 250 breeding pairs) after almost becoming extinct in this part of the world.